Some dogs are perfectly happy indoors, while others can’t handle city life at all ? but most enjoy a good stroll.
Professional London dog walker Tracey Lee Egan shares her expertise on city canines, and blows the whistle on some of the less conscientious members of her profession.
With more and more Londoners succumbing to the primal urge to live with a dog ? or, frankly, to make themselves look good by having the most fashionable looking breed on the end of their lead ? the London dog-walking industry is expanding rapidly. But, according to Egan, not all the new arrivals on the scene are everything they claim to be.
‘People have caught on to the fact that you can make money walking dogs,’ she says, ‘and it’s quite frightening because a lot of them don’t know anything about dogs. I see dog walkers arrive at the park with a big van and about 16 dogs, and they pull in, open the van, sometimes tie the dogs to trees, have a cigarette, and put them all back in the van again, and that’s it. I’ve reported a few people. I see other dog walkers whacking the dogs because they get frustrated. If you’re going to use someone to walk your dog, then take references and ask questions about dogs; treat it as if you’re employing a nanny, do reference checks. If it was me, I’d even say that I wanted to come on one of the walks with them. And if you work full-time, maybe take a day off and don’t tell them. I’ve talked to people who have said they came home from work unexpectedly and found their dog walker sitting on the sofa watching tv.’
Egan makes a point of picking up all her dogs on foot, limiting the group to four or five, and letting them romp around the park off the lead for up to two hours. It’s fair to say that Egan’s clients, all based in Chelsea and Kensington, can afford to pamper their pet with the best of everything ? it’s not unheard of for some well pampered pets to spend four hours a week at the grooming parlour, at ?150 a time ? but money is something to consider for anyone contemplating getting a dog.
The other big consideration is breed. ‘Don’t forget certain breeds were actually bred to be city dogs,’ she says, ‘like a chihuahua. The whole point when the Parisians started to breed it was to create a dog that didn’t want to go outside much, so if you have a chihuahua in the country and you’re taking it out for five-hour walks every day it’s not going to be very happy. Yorkshire terriers are quite happy in the city too, whereas working dogs like springers and sporting dogs like vizslas, Weimaraners, pointers, they all need lots of exercise.’
Most people seem happy to see Egan’s well-trained pups out playing. ‘They just love being out and running around together,’ she says as we watch them playing happily in the sunshine. ‘People say it’s cruel to have a dog in London but that’s rubbish. Look at them. I wish people who work in offices could see what sort of day these dogs have.’
Read practical hints in the sphere of house train a dog – this is your personal knowledge pack.