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Karen B. London
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Dog Walkers With Multiple Dogs
How many is too many?

There are so many ways to get people who care about dogs to voice strong opinions, and one hot topic lately relates to dog walkers who walk many dogs all at once. Many people have questions and concerns about this, and I am no exception.

 
It worries me when I see a person walking more than four or so dogs, which is a very challenging thing to do. Many people who walk dogs are very knowledgeable about canine behavior and do what it takes to keep it safe and fun for all the dogs under their care. That includes walking dogs who are compatible with each other, keeping the number of dogs walked simultaneously at no more than four, and preferably even fewer most of the time, and constantly monitoring the dogs for any behavior that could lead to trouble between the dogs, including signs of stress. It takes a lot of education and experience to be able to handle this, and that’s why the best dog walkers are more than worth their fees.
 
Regrettably, not everyone who walks dogs is up to this standard of care. Many people seem to feel that just loving dogs is enough of a qualification to take large numbers of them on a walk, whether the dogs are familiar with each other or not. Still other dog walkers may be putting profits over safety. Obviously with more dogs being walked at once, more money can be made.
 
This raises many questions, especially in situations where a single person is walking many dogs on leashes at the same time. Can one person watch so many dogs at once in order to monitor their behavior? What if the dogs react to each other or to another dog? How could one person manage such a situation? Are these dog walkers picking up all the poop from so many dogs?
 
Many other dogs are uncomfortable around such large groups of dogs and become intimidated. This is especially relevant at dog parks, and many people worry about taking their dogs to places where such large groups of dogs are present.
 
Some places limit dog walkers to four dogs, though it is common in other places to see dog walkers with 8, 10, or even more dogs all at once. Should there be limits on the number of dogs that can be walked by a single person simultaneously in places such as dog parks and other public areas? I think that these kind of limits could help prevent problems, and help keep the dog walkers who truly are responsible from being outcompeted by people who are charging less but perhaps putting dogs at risk. What do you think? How many dogs is too many?

 

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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Submitted by Pamela | September 8 2010 |

I wonder exactly what is being accomplished by dogs being walked in large groups like this. Is it purely to allow them to relieve themselves? Because I can't imagine they get many chances to sniff. And for big dogs, leash walks aren't usually vigorous enough to provide serious exercise.

I guess it's only about the poop.

Some communities are passing laws mandating limits but I think the key will be for dog guardians to think seriously about what they're hoping to do for their dogs and make sure the dog walker provides that experience.

Submitted by Anonymous | September 10 2010 |

How many dogs is to many for a dog walker to handle. I have been a pet care professional for over a decade. Yes, there are many issues with inexperienced walkers with no education in canine behavior walking far to many dogs. There are also extremely responsible and experienced dog walkers who are also certified trainers walking groups that are matched for compatibility.
I sometimes just walk my three dogs and my foster (four in total) and get asked how I do it.
Just like any job you love you educate yourself and when you have done it as long as I have and know your dogs it is a breeze and a blast. You also do what's best for each individual dog.
If a dog is terrified around other dogs he/she should be privately walked, period.
I think certification should be mandatory. To prevent those of us who are responsible and take our business in the dog world seriously from getting lumped into the "all dog walkers are horrible crowd".
I have to say I have seen private owners who shouldn't even walk one dog and the same goes for walkers.
On the subject of you get what you pay for, this is true but in my experience most people will go cheaper then for a high quality service because they don't do their research:(

Thanks

Submitted by Deborah | September 12 2010 |

I would never pay someone to walk my dogs when he/she is walking several at the same time. No way.

Submitted by anonymous | September 13 2010 |

My struggles are with dog walkers at the dog park. They'll have as many as ten dogs. How are they supposed to manage ten dogs in the narrow sections of the park? What if there's a dog fight? How can anyone wrangle ten dogs in that situation? I've had walkers complain about my son in the park because he has a funny gait. It's not a problem for people with one, two or three dogs, but for some reason a walker with ten dogs has a problem with him. I think they should limit the numbers of dogs any one person can bring to the park, especially for profit!!

Submitted by SaraG | September 13 2010 |

Anon
I'm with U. I'm tired of seeing walkers dogs poop not collected. Also, I think it would be a good idea to charge a fee for walkers who use public OLAs.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 3 2013 |

A fee really is not appropriate. If a dog walker didn't take the dogs then the same dogs would go there with there owner. Worse still, prices would have to go up to cover the cost and owners would prefer to leave their dog at home without the break.

Submitted by Julia | September 13 2010 |

Hello from Western Australia

My husband and I have 3 dogs of our own plus we foster dogs for rescue groups. We know our limit is 3 dogs each but it is unusual to have that many and often it is an emergency situation for us to have 3 foster dogs in residence. So its more likely that we have our 3 and 1 foster dog.

We vary what we do with the dogs including formal training, & funtime at home and time as a group in an off leash area. We also take them around the local area for a walk. We have several reasons for this. One is to get the foster dog used to all the scary things out there in the world and see from us, and the other 3 dogs, that it's nothing to be worried about. We have also found the walk is a good way to get new dogs to integrate into the "pack" that will be their home until they are adopted.

However, it has taken a lot of effort and hard work to be able to walk 4 dogs at once and I agree with a previous post on how in tune you have to be with body language etc. I have found the "discipline" of the walk for the pack to be an invaluable tool in creating calm, non reactive and confident dogs. Even when idiots decide to "buzz" us on their bikes or yell out to try and get a reaction - we even had someone use a loud horn several times to get the dogs to react - I am proud to say our pack just kept on walking.

However, the walk is only one tool and is not a substitute for other activities as a group or one on one depending on the needs of the dogs. It does take experience and skill but you only get those my actually doing things.

Submitted by Margaret | September 14 2010 |

I totally agree with the statements made in this article and the other commenters' points. I recently moved to northern CA from Seattle and have seen some interesting differences. In Seattle it is not uncommon at all to see dog walkers at the dog parks with 10-12 OR MORE dogs per ONE person (Ive counted as many as 16 dogs to 1 person before). In fact, to see a dog walker at the OLAs with less than 6-8 dogs is an anomaly. However, in California it is LAW that no dog walker have more than 6 dogs. Depending on the city, it is also often law in parks/dog parks for there to be no more than 2-3 dogs per person, and people with more (dog walkers) need a permit and still can not have more than 6 dogs. I was so shocked and PLEASED when I started seeing these laws around here in CA. Other cities & OLAs need to follow suit.

Submitted by Anonymous | September 17 2010 |

I agree. I exercise dogs and I never take more than four, usually two, (however one client has three little dogs, so they are a package deal.) I do what is best for the dogs, not whats best or most convenient for me, and carefully monitor their safety and comfort. I take my job very seriously, i do not make a lot of money doing it, but i do it because i love it. period. it is the source of great joy and entertainment and is very educational too. I find that when off leash, playtime is fun for all and they stay together and romp in a safe area (they must be compatible / friends or they do not walk at the same time) and if really troublesome, i say it is not a good fit and suggest they find someone else. However, i like to give a fair chance to everyone when possible. Often times, the problems originate more with the owners than with the dogs. ahem...I think everyone should become more educated about doggie body language and communication in order to prevent incidents. And yes, I do pick up the poop. I sometimes put a model dog together with another dog who needs doggie social lessons and it works wonders. When a dog is with you, they are top priority just like they are your dog -at that moment, they are... They are your responsibility. Period. I too cringe when i see a picture of someone walking so many dogs, usually in a city. Sometimes people show me a picture on their iphone of this and say, hey, you could do that too and make big bucks, and I say, Nope, thats not for me. sure i know it is possible to do, but i would rather not. Dogs are precious beings and you are responsible for their wellbeing. It is not just about bucks. If you have a mishap, guess what, the bucks stop there. and at what price ? ~ And so I say to other dog walkers, be attentive, and responsible to the needs, happiness and comfort of the doggies you have with you as well as those around you. Be a good steward. You are a human and you are supposed to have good sense. ~~Ahem. There is a lot to be learned from observing dogs. Pay attention and take note.

Submitted by Yvonne | August 15 2013 |

We have enough legislation...leave people and their pets alone.

Submitted by Wren | March 23 2014 |

We live out in the country on 120 acres and operate an alpaca farm and sanctuary, so we also have a few donkeys, horses, a rescued hog, chickens, etc. We utilize three LGDs (Great Pyrenees) in order to provide optimum protection of the other animals, especially the alpacas, from the many types of predator wildlife we have here. A public road runs through our property and we have animals on both sides. For years, our LGDs have been guarding our land, and they pretty much just do that - they don't wander away for miles or any such thing. Anyway, we have a neighbor on 50 acres north of us who moved there from the city. This neighbor now has about 14 dogs and she elects to walk her dogs past several farms, including ours, almost every day. She walks ALL of them at the same time. This is quite a spectacle to see, and it has been overall both amusing to look at but worrisome, too. She walks down the middle of the road with the dogs spread out the entire or most of the width of the roadway. This alone is dangerous around certain bends and rises in the roadway, but what became a huge problem and changed everything for us here is she started unclipping two or three of her dogs routinely, right when getting to our property, and our dogs, who we were told were "okay" being on the road to get to our other barns, go to the other side, etc., were still there. That still might have not been an issue had her dogs not run down onto and into our property by many yards and even attacked our senior Pyr, so his partner jumped to his defense and attacked the attacker, pinning him down. No blood, just a bit of pee and a firm tail between his legs and our girl let the boy up to run back to his "handler/mom." Ever since that time and another (similar experience) our dogs do not trust hers...especially those she has continually taken off lead. Yes, ours have been off lead, but they have been home and years ago we were told we weren't doing anything wrong and were okay. NOW she has more dogs and more tension, so the dogs are more nervous and she got really mad at us for our dogs being there, and threatened very loudly to "shoot them." I heard her from inside my home office and looked out - no attack was happening, no violence, just her continually shouting this threat to shoot our dogs as she continued to walk. I thought I should call her number and leave a message that I heard her and didn't feel it helpful...that we would all need to make some changes (like please don't walk them by unleashed) and if we could know WHEN she was coming, perhaps we could have the dogs somewhere else, though this time of year the bear come right off the hill and cross that road to where the alpacas are. Anyway, this enraged her, and she came over here in her truck, got out screaming, banged on two of my doors with her fists yelling at the top of her lungs and when I answered the door and went outside she continued and so violently she was spitting all over my face...she was in an out of control rage so bad that we (three of us here) ultimately had to call the state police...we opted to file a report but not press charges. Truly, we are concerned for her mental state. She had slammed her body into me twice with her fists clinched. We didn't now what she'd do. Anyway, she filed a complaint against us for our dogs and the dog control officer in our tiny little country town called and told us the laws had changed and that we now would have to do whatever necessary to not allow the dogs to get on the road (unless leashed) or even to cross the road to the other half of the property (again, unless leashed). She did not issue a ticket - and I think it's because she remembered telling me a couple of years ago we were "a.o.k." Whatever...but this woman has lied and said she's never had any of her dogs off lead when she does unclip the leashes for at least three of the now 14 or more dogs she has acquired from NYC and NJ. I never see her holding a bag of poop or anything for that, either during her miles long walks. Other farmers and home/property owners have also had problems and told her to keep her dogs off their property, yet unless she walks down the middle of the roadway, she and/or her dogs WILL end up on other people's property, including ours - and that is what our dogs guard quite protectively. She's not a professional dog walker - just a private person who "rescues" all types of dogs all the time. I think that's great, but why on earth doesn't she either get several people to walk two or three each with her on these walks so they can walk on the SIDE edge of the road like they're supposed to? WHY doesn't she obey the leash law on that public access roadway? WHY doesn't she cut trails and maybe a cool agility trial set-up on her 50 acres of fields and woodlands? Why doesn't she make any alterations at all with some understanding of our farm business here and perhaps choose to walk in any of the four other directions she could go in especially considering now that HER dogs started it all and have attacked ours ON OUR PROPERTY and caused the whole distrust among the dogs to begin with? Now we are all having to make major changes and the dogs here are going to be very confused....all because of her irresponsibility. The initial attacks HER dogs instigated, and on our property - not the public road - and we opted not to prosecute her; however now she's called the dog control officer on us...(sigh). Such a disappointment. This is the country - wide open spaces - not a city. I don't know how in the world anyone could or should be allowed to walk 14 or more dogs in any more urban environment, for sure, because it doesn't even work HERE. There is no way she could control a situation should anything happen at all out of the norm or "event-less." She is in danger when she opts to walk so many at once, and so are those dogs the way she walks down these roads. Tractors and other farm vehicles need to go by, horses, Amish in their buggies, regular cars and trucks, like speedy UPS and FedEx delivery guys. We knew we were taking our chances a little bit and I was putting out a prayer every day for protection of our LGDs as they have guarded both sides of the road so well (and so necessarily). Plus, it seemed more logical (and affordable) than trying to fence and gate (dog proof) BOTH sides of over a mile of road frontage, plus we'd need dog-proof gates on our driveways, too! Sorry for the long post, but this is the only experience we've had with a "dog walker with multiple dogs."

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