_A copy of a letter sent to a dedicated owner of two pugs who may be sharing our trail hikes.
"Starting January, I will be adding a fox terrier to our hiking group. That's around Ossington and Dupont, right near you, I guess. A few questions - what are your dogs' recall like? Are you comfortable with my letting them off leash if we're on a trail? The dogs I walk (except for one who has just been re-homed and is learning) will wander a bit, but will generally stay within viewing range and return when called.
The dog who has just found her new home cannot go off-leash yet, as I worry for her safety. Having one dog like that on our hikes is no problem, but I've decided that dogs hiking with me should be able to be off-leash. They love to run in the forest and open spaces, and I feel city dogs need this. I think this is one important aspect, and the other would relate to the nature of the dog. It's hard for me to walk aggressive dogs. The pleasure of the walk is really vital for all the dogs in the group, so I seek dogs that get along with others. I do walk some dogs who have certain difficulties, but they hike alone with me and my lab Frida (and the fee is slightly more).
And lastly, what time would be best for your dogs and how many times a week are you thinking of? Trail hiking is such a joy really and I must share this - this weekend I am boarding a Springer Spaniel who arrived crying and unsure and unable to settle. I was wondering what to do, really. But as always, my voice and ways are gentle and when boisterous, still gentle and loving, and I decided to go on three hikes a day with the Spaniel (and my Frida). The dog also suffered intense anxiety on the drive to and from the hike.
Well, he just loved crashing through the forest! It was such a joy to watch him relax in a natural element. This is his second day here. He has stopped crying; he is learning how to play (with his mouth and front paws rather than attempting to mount other dogs); and for the first time, he sat beside me in the front seat without barking, panting, and crying! He sat there, alert and curious. I am so proud of him! I tell you, it's the hike!
On our weekly hikes are a Golden, a pug/french bulldog, Chihuahua, until mid-December a Bernease/Border Collie/Shepherd mix, a fox terrier, a Boston, and my lab Frida. I take out only 3 at a time (plus my Frida) so our walks so I can attend and relate personally to all the dogs hiking with me.
To get started, I come over to meet with you and your dogs, at which time I also take your dogs out for a short walk in a nearby park. I am not concerned whether they heel while walking. I want my Frida to walk beside me when we're on the sidewalk, but on the trail, that's not important. Recall is.
Also there are some forms on my site which you could fill out for me - one is for boarding, so that one is not necessary.
I think your love for your dogs shines through in your brief letter about them and I really value that!
Thank you for your patience in reading all of this. I look forward to learning more about your Beau and Belle "
There have been occasions when I've been asked to walk one dog in a two-dog family. Today the young dog was the most anxious to get out and used the outdoor washroom facilities immediately. The older dog was pleased to be out, but not as urgently as the younger six-year old.
It's true a dog may sleep during the family's absence, but that's not optimal. A dog owner once proudly told me her dog sleeps twenty hours a day and is none the worse for it. She has now acquired a second dog whom she wishes to be a "crated" dog. I know the hype about crates, but their use really should be limited - but that's another post.
Having a dog is a real commitment. A dog is more than a wagging tail when you come home. It may seem expensive to hire a daily dog walker, but if you can't come home mid-day, hiring a dog walker is a generous and loving act.
Janice is the founder of and primary caregiver at Happy Trail Dogs Service. She is also the founder of an arts-related non-profit and worked in the fitness industry for over two decades. She is an artist, editor, writer, and mother of two wonderful women and a glorious lab named Frida.