Example of a good dog-to-human ratio at a dog park. (Animal Aid South Clinic)

Example of a good dog-to-human ratio at a dog park. (Animal Aid South Clinic)

Last week, I visited a popular Dallas dog park with two of my students on two separate days.

I broke one of my dog park rules rules upon arrival. Rule No. 1: Observe Before Entering: If I practiced what I preach on those days instead of letting my busy schedule get the best of me I wouldn’t have entered the park. Two employees of a dog-walking company had brought an estimated 20 dogs with them to the park. On the first day I visited the park that week it wasn’t much of an issue. But on the second day, the dogs in their care were turned up, so to speak. I extinguished three fights within one minute of being there. The supervisors of the dogs were so preoccupied that they did not notice what was happening. The simple truth is two people cannot possibly supervise 20 dogs properly. That’s Rule No. 2: Two Dogs per Person.

This situation made me think about vetting practices when it comes to choosing a dog-walking company.

Usually, what sounds too good to be true is too good to be true. If you ask a busy Uptown resident if they’d like their guilt to be taken away from them for a mere $20 per day by allowing their dog to go to the dog park in the middle of the afternoon they are going to say yes. I mean, after all, what could go wrong? How hard can it be to take care of dogs, right? Actually, there’s a lot to it. When it’s not your dog and you’ve been paid to take care of that dog, the stakes are even higher. Many people love dogs and love the idea of being self-employed. This is how a dog-walking business is born. These entrepreneurs often believe there is no skill or knowledge required to manage dogs.

There is a great deal that goes into keeping dogs that don’t belong to you safe. Tight collars and short leashes are a good start. Some basic education in dog handling will do a dog walker well. Never allow them off leash outside of their home and visits to the dog park are highly discouraged. Dogs tend to be less obedient and more likely to get into mischief when they are not with their owners, and there is something to be said for knowing a dog very, very well before taking it to cavort with strange dogs.

DogPawCatPaw Pet Services has operated in Dallas for 14 years. Owner and operator Sherri Haskins practices and standards are strict. Her top priority is the safety of her clients’ pets and the safety of her employees. She does not allow her walkers to take trips to the dog park with client’s dogs because of the liability and she knows the limits of handling a certain number of animals at once. Her sitters and walkers are background checked and trained on the job.

A potential customer needs to inquire about the background of their dog walker and dog-walking company. What is their experience? How long have they been in business? Are they insured? Finally, get references; not referrals, references. Take your time to do as much research as you can about their practices before scheduling an initial interview. Think of your dog’s safety and decide carefully which services are right for your dog.

The dog park already contains risk, but when it’s done in large groups something bad is going to happen sooner or later. Save the dog park visits for when you are alone with your dog and use dog-walking services for dog walking.