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Six Things Your Dog Walker Wishes You Knew

Hear it from Amira Dutra e Mello, a master dog trainer and behaviorist who founded Fountain Square Dog Training and Walking Services.

Hear it from Amira Dutra e Mello, a master dog trainer and behaviorist who founded Fountain Square Dog Training and Walking Services.

Your dog could be craving a walk right now, even if it’s freezing. “Some breeds are better in the heat; some breeds are better in the winter. I take care of four Labradors—they freaking love the winter. Their pads are made for it. During high heat-index days, I’m not going to risk the dogs’ pads. If I put my hand down and it burns my hand, I can’t walk your dog in that. Maybe someone else would, but I’m not going to be responsible for that.”

I don’t care what your house looks like. Really. “I’ve had some clients go, ‘You can’t come over this week because the house is a mess.’ We’re there for the dogs. If you have everything out we need, we’re in and out. There’s no reason for me to be all over the house.”

When I tell you I’m walking your dog, I’m walking your dog. “I average 15,000 to 20,000 steps a day Monday through Friday. I’ve probably lost 25 pounds.”

Call me! “People don’t realize that our schedules are pretty rigid, and you may need to book as many as three months out. It’s actually a real job. It’s not Grandma sitting around going, ‘Ooh, I’m going to visit a dog today.’ I had 11 yesterday. And it could have been more—I had to say no to some people.”

My training comes in handy. “One time, a German shepherd came running up to the dog I was walking. We had been working with him a long time on not being dog-reactive. I told him to sit. He did, and I stepped in front of him. The German shepherd was coming in for an attack, hackles raised and ears back. There’s a place on their chest you can tap—like a kick, but not a full-on kick—and he stopped. It’s scary. Unfortunately, we do have a problem with loose dogs.”

There’s a reason it’s called “tough love.” “Owners project a lot of emotions onto their animals. They want a behavior to change, but they don’t want to do the work. They don’t want to be the bad guy. You’re going to have to say no to your dog, just like you can’t raise children with positives only. It’s a lack of basic training that gets a lot of dogs dumped.”  

— As told to Laura Kruty


 

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