Volunteer dog walkers are needed nationwide and beyond. You could volunteer with a local shelter, as exercising shelter dogs keeps them happy and fit, and more likely to be adopted. Or you could sign up with one of the following charities, all of whom need lots more volunteers to help walk dogs of people who can’t walk dogs themselves. Also see how to find good dog walks.
It’s also worth noting that these volunteers often don’t walk dogs. They can perform other services like changing cat litter, cleaning out cages etc, just ask and see what’s offered. Often people adopt dogs and then become ill or get older, or perhaps are disabled. Being a volunteer dog walker means the dog can stay at home, and get walks too. Also most offer pet taxi trips to the vet, and some also foster, if the guardian has to go into hospital. You can sign up at:
- Cinnamon Trust has volunteers nationwide. As the main charity, many recipients call for help, so they are always needing volunteers. Most in need of help must be over 65. It also has a list of pet-friendly nursing homes and can arrange adoption if arranged in advanced, for terminally ill guardians.
- Blue Cross is a national charity that always need volunteers to walk shelter dogs.
- Royal Voluntary Service helps elderly people in all kinds of ways, including walking dogs. Also check local care volunteer agencies, as many also walk dogs.
- The Light of the World Trust (South East and Midlands) is a Christian organisation that offers help.
Tips for Safe Dog Walks
- Positive dog training keeps dogs safe If you see a dog fight, use the ‘wheelbarrow method’ to each grab back legs of each dog to wheel away from each other in a circle, then separate to calm.
- Check tide times (and beach bans) to avoid wasted journeys. Avoid tidal causeways or sinking mud (Weston-super-Mare, Morecambe, Holy Island). If used, ensure dog lifejackets are fitted correctly and comfortable.
- Throwing sticks can cause mouth injuries. Ensure dogs are quality brands, the right size for a dog’s mouth.
- In warm weather, walk early morning or evenings. If pavement is too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for paws. Some companies offer evaporation jackets that keep dogs cool (some dogs find them uncomfortable).
- Wash paws after walks, to remove rock salt (can cause burns indoors at higher temperatures).
- Wear glo-jackets/armbands for you and dogs in poor light or visibility. Avoid iPods (to hear traffic), tell people where you are going, carry a phone and personal alarm.
- Pick up poop. Some councils keep bags on rolls, a good idea if you forget. Dog poop can harm other dogs, wildlife, livestock and children. Dicky Bag (Cornwall) is an award-winning mobile bag that’s lightweight, airtight, washable and leakproof, to use until you find a bin, if you’re somewhere remote.
- If a dog is heading to you, crouch diagonally to let it come to you. If a dog goes for you, put something solid between you (don’t stare, scream or yell). Slowly walk backwards or sideways.
- Avoid walking (esp. small) dogs near hovering birds of prey.
- Train in pet first aid. Get a Dog Walker Certificate and take Canine First Aid and Dog Law courses.
Follow the Countryside Code
- Keep dogs on leads or in sight, at all times.
- Trained dogs come back on recall.
- Check notices, for banned areas.
- Most ‘open access’ land require dogs on short leads between 1 March and 31 July, to protect ground nesting birds (all-year near farm animals).
- Check beach bans before you travel.
- Keep dogs on short leads, near horses.
- Dogs near cattle could be trampled (even without calves). Farmers are allowed to legally shoot dogs that worry livestock. If cattle chase dogs, Blue Cross say dogs are usually safer let off the lead, as they can (usually) run faster. You’ll have to make that call.
- The Ramblers Association has info on safe dog walking near livestock. Close gates behind you and find alternative paths, if cows are nearby.
It’s good to know the 10 hazards to avoid near dogs:
- Over-the-counter medications
- Human food
- Human prescriptions
- Household toxins (paint etc)
- Veterinary products
- Rodenticide exposure
- Garden products