Enfant’s employer Fetching Life shut down its operations for about six weeks in the early spring, and she spent the extra time putting more energy into her side business, selling clothing on Postmark. Sierra Roberts, who started her dog -walking business Retro Pups in 2019 during her senior year at the University of the District of Columbia, picked up some shifts delivering food for DoorDash.
In July, when the city entered Phase Two of reopening, some dog owners began commuting to work and outsourcing their walks again. A significant portion of recent business for her company, Wander pups, has come from local residents who are still teleworking but now need more help.
Multiple dog walkers interviewed for this story noted that some of their clients had moved away during the pandemic, either out to the suburbs or to other neighborhoods. Drake, a 70-pound lab mix that Roberts used to walk almost daily, is now especially elated when she arrives to take him for the occasional jaunt around the neighborhood.
Roberts, a former track athlete for UDC, frequently incorporates running into her walks, and wondered initially if the dogs would still be in shape to keep up with her. Walkers have had to build in more time between walks for bathroom breaks at places such as parks and grocery stores, now that the politics of entering someone’s home at pickup or drop-off have become more complicated.
Perhaps the most dramatic change to the business has been the introduction of owners as a visible, participating party in the dog -walking transaction. After seven months of minimal in-person social interaction, clients’ cravings for live conversation have become a minor occupational hazard: San Pietro has noticed lately that Wander pups walkers have had to build in more time between scheduled walks to accommodate those dog owners who just want a few extra minutes of chatting.
Dog walkers all over the world are wondering if dog walking is considered “essential” and if they should continue walking dogs amidst government mandated shelter in place and lockdown orders due to the coronavirus crisis. First if you're not familiar with these type of Orders, I am in no way suggesting that dog walkers don't provide a valuable, much needed service.
What I'm talking about here are government Orders that define which jobs are seen as “essential” and can continue to operate during a shelter in place, lockdown, or similar situation. My hope in sharing this is that it will help you determine if dog walkers are considered “essential” or “key” workers in your own area as well as to share the considerations and factors I looked at while making my decision, so you can make the best choice for your business.
Keep in mind things may be wildly different based on your location and this is simply the experience I had here in Marin County, California. I can only share my personal experience and recommendations from being under a shelter in place order for the past week, reading Orders and FAQ's for multiple counties, and speaking to my local human health services.
You'll probably be able to find it online by doing a search for “shelter in place order + your county (or your city or town)”. The Order may include verbiage telling you if dog walkers are considered essential.
If it doesn't mention professional dog walking, or it's unclear on whether any reference to pet care would apply to you, you can look for an FAQ about the Order. The County websites I've looked at include both the order and an FAQ clarifying it further.
When contacting my human health services, there was confusion with the rep I spoke with too, who initially said she thought professional dog walking was OK. After putting me on hold and speaking with a supervisor, I was told they would be updating the FAQ to address this and to check back later.
So there's still some gray area here since we have to interpret what exactly “health and sanitation” means as well as “non-essential” home services. As a business owner, it's up to you to do your due diligence to ensure you're complying with any public health Orders that may be enacted, so if you aren't sure, the best course of action is to contact an agency who can tell you.
Even though I directed you to find out if it is legal to continue walking first, health and safety should be your top priorities. All business owners should put the health and safety of themselves, their staff, their clients, and their communities ahead of all else.
Can the dog's most basic needs, such as access to food and water be met without your service? Since my clients are all working from home, they can take care of their own dogs' basic needs, and then some.
However, our message to you today though is that we are here, open for business, ready to see old and new clients and to get those doggies back out on their daily group or single walks! Many of you have already started to get in contact with your local Petals to get your regular walks back, and we can tell you the teams are delighted to hear from you.
Getting to know you or reacquaint with you now, ahead of folks going back to the office will decrease stress for both the dog and for you. When you arrive at the door for advance walks, enter with a special treat, so the dog is more likely to recall that you are a “treat fairy” and associate you with something good (aside from the walk itself).
Wearing a mask when out and about with the dogs you walk is a good idea. Inanimate objects like countertops, tables, or dog hair are, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unlikely transmitters of the virus SARS CoV-2 which causes COVID-19.
Petting a dogs (or cat) is even more unlikely as a source of transmission because their hair is so porous and if the virus does remain activated, it’s not for long. Far more a concern is for your own health, that you socially distance from people as you walk the dogs.
So, if you do allow people to pet a dog that you’re walking be sure to keep that in mind. If the dog you are walking coughs, try to video with your phone.
And after each walk is complete, and you’ve closed doorknobs, handled a toy or food inside the home, again use a hand-wipe just to be safe. But what about those inanimate objects, ranging from light switches to sofas to counter tops to TV remotes, and the list goes on.
Many, especially if they belong to a professional business operation, will be licensed and animal first-aid-trained employees and all should have comprehensive dog walking insurance. The Coronavirus pandemic has already shed light on a lot of things about us: our penchant for panic-buying, how infrequently some people used to wash their hands (ice), our steadfast belief that toilet paper is a panacea for all ills, and just how much we all touch our damn faces.
But it's also thrown into sharp relief just how little of a safety net the people we depend on to make our lives better, more convenient, and more stylish really have. I'm talking about gig workers, the estimated 57 million Americans who walk our dogs, watch our kids, care for our elderly relatives, style our hair, deliver our takeout, wax our eyebrows, and perform myriad other services.
Some 36% of Americans work in the gig economy, and while these jobs have long been branded as side-hustles, the reality is that an increasing number of people depend on them to survive, says Erin Patton, an associate professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo who focuses on the sociology of work. Nationwide, women make up about half of all gig workers, and do the lion's share of childcare work.
That's the case for Panel Duress, a full-time yoga and meditation teacher and Thai bodywork practitioner in Hoboken, New Jersey. On Saturday, March 14, the mayor of Duress' small city across the river from Manhattan ordered all yoga studios to close indefinitely, and her weekly private client canceled for the entire month out of concern for her 4-month-old daughter and elderly mom.
Over the weekend, the House of Representatives passed a major bill aimed at providing free coronavirus testing, food assistance, and emergency paid sick leave, providing relief for the more than 40% of service workers who didn't have any paid sick leave in 2019. Sarah Nash is the owner of Pup Strut, a dog -walking service in Tacoma Park, Maryland.
Now she estimates she's already lost 80% of her clients as growing fears over the spread of germs also lead people to cancel. “Independent contractors must budget their lives in a very different way to compensate for lack of employee benefits.
Nor does it cover the expected costs these workers handle every day: the rent, food, childcare and other basics. That's why Bridget McClain Vetoed her dog walker and house cleaner already, even though neither will be coming to her Maple wood, New Jersey home in the near future.
She says she included a note for her walker about how much her dog misses her, and plans to pay her house cleaner a bonus when she comes back after weeks of the family of four being at home full-time. Nash says that before you go out and panic-buy at a big chain like Target, set aside the money you need to pay the people who empower you to function year-round.
“It can be frustrating to see people investing in superfluous items like toilet paper and alcohol, and then not be able to 'afford' the services they normally need.” Duress, who is working to set up virtual yoga lessons for her clients, hopes her students step up to practice what they preach, even during this uncertain time.
The Coronavirus pandemic is unfolding in real time, and guidelines change by the minute. We promise to give you the latest information at time of publishing, but please refer to the CDC and WHO for updates.