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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 Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.

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