It’s been a hectic year in more ways than one! Rather than burble on in my usual fashion, here are some highlights and fascinating (or not!) facts from the year.
We walk an average of 16 dogs every day. Currently our youngest dog is Dolly the Miniature Pinscher, 11 weeks old, and our oldest is Labrador Kipper, who is 12 years old. We see 25 dogs for walking every week (our regulars) and sometimes have ‘occasionals’ too. The most dogs we walked in one week was 30, most dogs in one day was 28. That was a VERY busy day! Although that might sound like any dog walked with us is just a face in a crowd, we walk 4 dogs per person, and often less. We just do a lot of walking! Exceptions are when we are training new staff when we’ll take 6 between us, or if we’re at my private training field we’ll take them all out for some games (always in a ratio of 4 dogs per walker). Puppies are always walked alone until 6 months old, except the ‘social walks’ where my dogs go out with them as part of their education.
We had 95 bookings for home boarding in 2012 (approx. 40-45 dogs in total), the longest board was for 31 days, the shortest, 19 hours (overnight). Our most frequent visitor came to stay 19 times during this year, and we had 9 puppies under 6 months old come to stay.
We have 63 ‘active’ dogs, ie we have seen them this year and expect to see them next year, but had over 100 dogs pass through our hands in 2012. Others have started with us as puppies, but being out of our area we have passed them to a more local dog walker when they’ve grown up, we’ve had some move out of the area, others we’ve only been needed for a one off booking, and sadly we lost two to Rainbow Bridge this year.
Our longest standing dog has been with us for 3 years and 9 months; we’ve been running for 4 years and 3 months, so I don’t think that’s bad going! He was our 9th dog after I started the business in Sept 2008 – of the dogs before him, 5 moved, 2 were rehomed (one to me, my Scamp), and the last one we were no longer needed.
I got my 4th dog, a puppy called Tinker, who has fitted right into our lifestyle, and I’m determined he will be the last new dog for a few years!
We end the year with 5 staff members (plus me), 6 if we count school summer holiday staff.
What does 2013 hold for Boredom Busters? I’m hoping to take on an apprentice so we can expand daycare a little more, take on an assistant for my dog training classes, and (perhaps obviously) retain the wonderful staff I have. I would like to start up a lunchtime dog walking ’round’ in Shenfield (ie, we need 2 more full time dogs from that area), and find more wonderful host boarding families so we will never have to say ‘we’re fully booked, sorry’ to our regulars.
We have what will be a wonderful Fun Dog Show planned for 28th April, and I hope to repeat the A Grand Day Out sponsored dog walk in September. We also have a stand booked at All About Dogs at the Brentwood Centre in May, and the possibility of a smaller dog show at an event in August. I am also developing my ‘So you want to be a dog walker’ training course, so anyone wanting to start up in the same business has somewhere to go to get practical experience, on the job training, and some of the business ideas behind the scenes.
I’d love to hear your plans for 2013, and if you have any suggestions of things you’d like us to offer!
We try our best to clean each dog off before they come home, we have a large stock of towels and vet bed (designed to let moisture wick through away from the dogs), and also a mobile pressure washer is in the van. Many of the dogs object to being towelled clean – sometimes with teeth (if we are bitten we will stop cleaning!), usually with wriggling and trying to run away, and will often sit on one back leg and refuse to move, so they get 3 clean legs and one still mucky. None of them like being hosed down with the washer, and some dog breeds have been bred for looks or temperament, not for weather resistant fur, keeping some breeds clipped can change the nature of the fur, leading to a dog that mud simply clings to. So we do still unfortunately, despite our very best efforts, sometimes have to return a dog home – along with some mud.
I really appreciate that no-one wants to come home to a muddy dog or house, but owning a dog and having offlead walks in the park in rainy weather does mean they will run through puddles, streams and ditches. We avoid ponds and known rivers, but heavy rain often leads to new streams and ponds appearing almost overnight! If you leave towels out, we’ll have one last wipe before we leave. We’ll happily leave dogs in easily cleaned areas instead of living rooms or bedrooms, close doors and gatesinside the house, or go in the back door if it helps.
Now please think about our relationship with mud. We get jumped up at by happy, muddy dogs, we get kissed by dogs with muddy beards, and we get splattered by dogs running past on soggy ground – leading to us being covered in mud often up to our eyeballs, along with all our clothes, gloves and hats. Our hands get filthy, even washing with the pressure washer but being unable to use soap leaves us mucky, which is then transfered to the cab of the van when we touch it. Mud dries and falls off us and the dogs, leaving dust and muck from top to bottom and end to end in the van – the back end gets especially filthy as wet paws jump in and out. The water bowls get mud dropped in them from dirty dog faces, needing to be frequently emptied and refilled.
Once home, my washing machine is on every single day, washing towels and vet bed – heavy items, so has to be a half load every time. If the weather is persistant rain, the washing then spends at least two days hanging round my house drying on airers and radiators. This raises the moisture level in my house – encouraging house dust mites – as I have asthma this is not ideal, it also smells, and takes up a lot of space. Before I can wash any of my family’s clothes, I have to scrub out the washing machine as it’s full of mud, dust and dog hairs, and often put it on empty at 90 degrees before I can use it. I have to unblock mud and dog hairs from my drain every 2 or 3 days. My washing machine guarentee is void because I am using it for ‘non-domestic’ use, and I have to replace the rubber door seal every year because of the mud and dog hairs. The whole machine usually needs replacing after 3 years – before I was a dog walker I got 10 years each out of two machines.
Despite all the extra time needed, the extra wear and tear on my washing machine, and those of our walkers, the cost of all those towels, bedding (£65 for the last roll I bought) water bowls, cleaning equipment, electricity and water, plus extra time to scrub out the van, bowls, washing machine, living with damp towels for half the year and the unpleasant task of having to frequently have my hands down the drain – we don’t put the price up in bad weather. So please, if you get home, and we have missed cleaning some mud off your dog, remember it is your dog who enjoys being out on a walk with other dogs, being exercised, getting mental stimulation and company, and, if a breed like a Spaniel or a Labrador, they have it in their genes to enjoy getting themselves wet and muddy, please remember that’s one very small part of our own relationship with mud, and be forgiving.
Very rare dog walking space available Mon-Fri lunchtimes in Brentwood. Spaces for new dogs are very rare because once our clients have tried our services, they don’t want to leave. Short term bookings often turn into ‘can you keep walking our dog’ because they have a lot of fun with us, and return home tired but happy. We don’t just walk the dogs, we play with them too!
We have a small team of fully trained dog walkers, who all get to know you and your dog, so there will never be an unexpected interruption to your service. There will always be someone your dog knows available to collect them for their walk – we will never cancel your booking at short notice or send a stranger to your dog or into your home.
Please call or check our dog walking in Brentwood page for more information. We don’t discriminate by breed, age, gender, neuter status or anything else. As long as your dog is a friendly family pet, we can take care of them.