No one walks in L.A.—except dog people. You can pretty much stumble into any neighborhood and find dog owners accompanied by their canines. I met up with my friend Joel Taylor, who owns Silver Lake Dog Walkers, to share what he’s learned about dog walking and pet behavior. Joel started his dog walking business on the Eastside four years ago, and since then has come across all sorts of dogs and their owners. Here are a few insider tips from Joel on walking your dog.
Q: On average, what is a good amount of time to walk your dog per day?
Joel: I would generally recommend at least three walks a day, with a solid walk in the morning, one in the afternoon, and another one at night. Most of the time, you want to take them on serious walks where they don’t run rampant and are behaved.
I also like to give my dog "dog social media time", which is her version of social networking. This is when they "talk" to one another through sniffing around and peeing on bushes. I’ll give my dog the opportunity to do as she pleases. Dogs need their freedom. I also try giving her some off-leash time every day.
Q: What are tips for someone who works most of the day and can’t arrange to have their dog walked in the afternoon?
Joel: If you have an eight-hour workday, you should take your dog out for a solid 45 minutes to one hour in the morning, then again when you get home in the evening for a total of an hour and a half to two hours a day. There are different variations you can try out, such as a playtime or a bicycle train, where your dog walks beside you while you ride your bike.
One thing to note if you’re not home most of the day is indoor temperature control. Sometimes I have clients who leave in the morning when their place is still kind of cool, but by the time I get arrive, it’s really hot. So climate control throughout the day for your pet is something to think about. Dogs don’t sweat, and they can’t communicate directly how hot they are, but you don’t want to take the chance.
Q: What are basic commands a dog should know when out on a walk?
Joel: Basic directions your dog should know are "Sit," "Stay," and "Come." This will help with your dog’s safety. A more tricky command is called "Quartering," which teaches her boundaries. For instance, when your dog is allowed to be 50 yards away from you max. This may come naturally to some dogs. This is something important for your dog to know if you are taking them off-leash. If a dog doesn’t know her bounds and starts chasing a squirrel, who knows when you’ll see her again. [laughs]
Q: What tips do you have on walking several dogs? For instance, if you’re introducing a new dog into your home.
Joel: I’ll introduce two dogs at a time. I’ll have one dog on each side of me. I’ll keep the leash kind of taut and gradually loosen it as the dogs get more comfortable. Once they start walking together, something clicks in the "dog mind." As dogs are pack animals, they don’t normally fight with dogs that they’re walking with. They might fight a little bit the first time, but eventually they’ll kind of click into a pack mindset. As a duo they’ll start barking at other dogs.
Q: What are some ways to tell your dog is not feeling well during a walk?
Joel: It’s rare that an owner will have me walk their dog if she’s obviously ill, but eating grass is a telltale sign that your dog has digestive issues (i.e., the runs or constipation). Grass eating is not good for dogs, so one thing you can try is to mix your dog’s food with some plain pumpkin filler.
Q: What are some things dog owners do wrong when caring for their dogs?
Joel: The thing is that people generally care, it’s just that they make mistakes. They know their dog needs exercise and they don’t feel comfortable leaving their dog at home all day. But owners make mistakes about their dog’s behavioral issues, as though they haven’t spent a lot of time reading up on dogs. You don’t need to baby dogs, you’re in charge.
For instance, there was one dog that was showing aggressive behavior. Although I suggested to the owner to slowly and cautiously introduce their dog to other dogs during walks, the owner felt the dog was too aggressive to be taken out on walks period. So instead of giving the dog a chance to be properly socialized, the dog remained indoors, which made him more cagey and aggressive. It hurt his health and social skills.