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Dog walker in need of advice

3520 Views 7 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Canyx

I work part time as a dog walker, and I’ve run into a problem with a pair of golden retrievers that I have been walking for last few days so I am looking for advice. I have a golden retriever myself! She’s an English Cream, about 5 years old, and I’m totally obsessed with her. I aim to get her the best life possible. I want to help these other goldens out, but I am not sure how to go about it.

The pups are just over 10 months old. One male and one female. They are brother and sister.

When the owner hired me to walk her dogs during lunch time everyday, I was a little taken aback when she said they only need 10-15 minute walks each. Unfortunately they cannot be walked together because they are huge, extremely energetic, and not trained well at all, which makes it very difficult. These goldens must be mixed with another breed because they are huge! I’d guess 80-90 lbs easily. She hired me for a 30 minute walk total, even though the dogs clearly need more exercise than that, I’m thinking because it’s cheaper than 60 minutes.

Here is the problem. Both dogs are crated all day (from 8-12 hours) and then also at night when the owner goes to sleep. The owner mentioned that her and her husband work a lot. The owner says they need to be crated because they chew up things like the wall, carpet, and furniture. Hence why I was really confused when the owner said that they only need a 10-15 minute walk each. In my opinion the dogs should be walked for 30 minutes each at a bare minimum to get some of their excess energy out. While on walks the dogs seem anxious, distracted, and really frantic. They bite at everything they see and compulsively pick up sticks and other objects on the ground. They don’t walk well unless I hold them on the shortest leash imaginable and they seem afraid of their surroundings (cars, things blowing in the wind, etc). Other than that, they are incredibly sweet. They calm down when you give them affection. They burrow into my chest as I pet them, almost like they are trying to hide or give me a hug.

So here are my questions.
1. I don’t want to call out that the owner isn’t taking good care of her dogs, but it seems that way to me, but also I am no expert. I assume the dogs do not get much exercise on their morning and evening walks as well, but I’m not entirely sure. The owner just seemed to think 10 minutes was enough, which blew my mind. Is it normal for dogs to act this way on walks and also chew up everything in the house at 10+ months old? I always thought that if you paid enough attention to your dog, trained them, and gave them plenty of exercise outdoors, then they would not act like this. I’ve also only had one dog myself, so maybe this behavior is normal for dogs of this age? If this behavior is normal, do you have any advice on how to train them? I’m hoping to help them out so they do not need to be crated all day and night.
2. Is it crating the dogs for such a long time causing the problem? What advice would you give the owner to resolve the issue?
3. And lastly, how do I train the dogs to walk alongside one another? My goal is to convince the owner to hire me for 60 minutes a day so that I can properly walk each dog and hopefully train them to walk together. I’m hoping this will lead to the dogs getting more total exercise each day.

I really appreciate the help and so do the goldens!
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You're talking about dogs that are high energy youngsters, and at 10 months they're still puppies. Kind of doggy pre-teens, so chewing is to be expected, but most of us channel and direct chewing to safe objects until our dogs grow out of it. Since these people aren't often home to supervise or train....

As to your basic problem - I think it's a lousy way to keep dogs, but neither your opinion nor mine matters. The only thing I think you can do is be honest with the owner. Tell her neither one of the dogs is settling until the very end of a 15-minute walk, which makes it difficult to walk them, and it would be better for both them and you if you could take them for half hour walks. Of course you need to decide up front: Are you willing to speak up when it could mean losing the business? If the owner doesn't fire you over it but refuses to pay for longer walks, will you go on as presently, or quit?

If you decide to speak up and only continue if you get the longer walks, don't do it hesitantly and let yourself be bulldozed into continuing. Maybe you're no expert, but you're right.
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1. It may be that the owner only wants the dogs to have a potty walk mid-day, which many owners do when they have to work all day and have young dogs. Also, yes, for goldens that behavior is absolutely normal. They are mouthy, they chew things they are not supposed to, sometimes well into adulthood. In order to keep them from eating the house or eating something that could kill them, the safest option is to crate. It does not always mean that they are being under exercised.

2. No.

3. You need to speak to the owner about this. If you are having difficulty walking both dogs at once due to their size, you need to inform the owner and she needs to decide what to do from there. You obviously can't be walking dogs that pose a danger (like pulling you down), but you have to take your cues from the person who is paying you. Remember, these are HER dogs. Your opinion on how/what they should be trained is not applicable here. Also, if you have to ask an internet forum how to train this behavior, you should absolutely not be attempting this with someone else's dogs unless you have been trained to train dogs or you have put multiple obedience or performance titles on your dog.

To me, it sounds like you're assuming a lot of things here. Assuming that the owner doesn't walk her dogs in the morning or evenings after work, assuming she doesn't train. These dogs are 10 months old....they are not yet the loving, experienced, well behaved companions your 5 year old is. They are babies, and you can't judge the owner for acting their age.

And yes, they may very well be being under-exercised...but they're not your dogs and there isn't a whole lot you can do unless they are being very obviously abused.
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Our Golden was incredibly destructive until about age 2 despite living in a dog-savvy household and getting plenty of attention and exercise. If left unattended and loose for more than a few minutes he would go into terminator mode. He tore all the upholstery off a sofa in less than 30 min. It was just luck that he didn't give himself a blockage or poison himself while in this phase. Goldens in general are notoriously mouthy puppies - if you didn't have this problem with yours, you're very fortunate. That's a lot of time to spend crated, sure...hopefully as the dogs grow up and settle down they'll transition to more freedom. Sounds like the owner currently has a bit too much dog for her situation and is dealing with it as well as she can, including hiring a dog walker to relieve the dogs' long day, eh? It may be as much as she can realistically budget for.

With the boundless energy and athleticism of a healthy young retriever, a leashed walk at human pace of 30 minutes isn't going to tire them out noticeably more than a leashed walk of 15 minutes. It's barely physical exercise to them. The exercise of such a walk is largely mental - getting to sniff things, see things, explore the world outside their home. If you're keeping them on a tight leash, they might be walking more politely, but it's undermining the purpose of the walk. I mean, do what you need to to keep them safe and in hand, but just something to keep in mind.
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Your situation is not complex. You are making the issue more severe.

In short, you are hired to walk each dog for 15 minutes. Your responsibility is satisfied when you walk each dog. Done.

Now, your pet conscious is pushing you to involve in the pet's training and care. Be careful here. At most, I suggest you speak to the owners about the dog's behavior on the walks. DO NOT say anything about how the animals are treated, training or maintained. Above all, DO NOT offer advice about care for the dogs. If you are asked for suggestions, then just relate a situation you had with your dog and how it was handled. Let the owners make the conclusion.

If the owners are open and take proper actions, then you have been successful. If the owners are closed to discussion, then you can terminate your service with them.

I do agree, the walks are too short and too infrequent. I walk my 4 yo mini-schnauzer at least 3X/day for minimum 45 minutes. Now, the weather is becoming more tolerable the walks will increase in duration. When the windchill is pushing into the single and minus digits, the walks are shorter and more often. We average 2-3 hours/day walking.

Good luck
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I agree with what everyone else has said.

You said that the dogs can't be walked together. Do you mean that you walk them separately or just that it's difficult to walk them together? Since the dogs are brother and sister they probably have littermate syndrome, which would explain some of their behaviour if they are separated for walks. However, in this case, separating them for walks is the best thing for them.
They are still puppies even if they are very large. I have a 3 month old Dachshund and she is destructive if not monitored. I also have a 14 month old huge great Pyrenees/ Anatolian Shepherd who is in a acre fenced in lot with another large mixed breed dog to play with she has lots of room to run off excess energy but she still finds things to destroy. So I don't know if you could actually walk them enough to get that energy out...they will eventually grow out of that stage.
I agree with the others comments on you are doing what you were hired to do...just continue giving them the love you can when there. If they look well fed and not abused then you have no say in how the owners are with them.
I recommend that you kindly offer contacts for a professional trainer. Training dogs to walk politely is not part of a dog walker's job - unless you have the expertise and insurance to do that on the side and you advertise as such. If I was a dog walker and I felt my client's dogs were out of hand, and my client was uninterested in training her dogs, I would not take on that family as a client. There is risk to myself, the dogs, and the public if I handle dogs outside of my comfort zone. And I don't know insurance policies that well but if you are operating outside of your job description you might not be covered - it's a good thing to look into.

From a behavior perspective, it's impossible to know the full picture from these details but it sounds like there is a lot more going on than just 'under exercised' and 'not well trained'. Littermates (dependency?), adolescents, perhaps lacking in training, history of destruction and frenetic behavior, large and strong... This family needs a trainer and even a 30 minute walk will likely not solve the problems - if the owner even sees these things as problems.
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