View Issue PDF View Issue Flipbook Back to Latest Issue
Just Walkin' the Dog
How to be a "dog person" and responsible condo owner at the same time
By Gilleen Witkowski | Other articles by Gilleen Witkowski
Anyone who has ever known and loved a dog also knows the benefits of having them in our lives. Many of the complaints about dogs in condo buildings that come about are because dogs are barking or not attended to during the day. But thanks to modern services (and a little common sense), it is possible to own dogs responsibly in condos – usually with a little bit of extra training, dog-walking or cleaning help.
Dog ownership can also present concerns, even the logistics of moving dogs through condo common areas can get a little hairy. Dog owners can borrow many tricks of the trade from professional dog walkers to encourage good pet behaviour. Awareness of other pets is key, and it is important to respect their body language. Dogs will show signs of distress if they are not in the mood to be around other dogs or people. Gently pull your dog to the side and reward it (with treats and attention) for paying attention to you instead of that other dog you come across.
Here are some ways we manage the process of picking up and dropping off dogs in condos, and observations made along the way. As licensed service providers coming in and out of a condominium with one or more dogs, we reinforce basic walk training to keep the dogs focused on us. The dogs are on-leash at all times, and attached to their walker with carabineers – this prevents any of the pups from unexpectedly taking off running.
We often take dogs on group walks, and we bring them through shared condo spaces on our way to pick up and drop off members of the group. Our City of Toronto licenses and insurance require that each group have a maximum of six dogs. However, you will find that a group of that size is rare, and you are ILLUSTRATION BY TOMIO NITTO more likely to encounter groups of three or four.
Dog owners know that dogs have unique personalities. We only walk dogs together that are similar in size and get along well. And we keep our eyes and ears peeled – if anything negative happens, we take a break and leave immediately. We also ask the unit resident/dog owner to make us aware of a condo's declaration and rules with respect to pets in units or in common areas. If there are limits on pets, we make adjustments to our schedule so that we respect all condo rules and regulations.
Typically, our walkers spend a maximum of five minutes inside each condo suite, so the maximum time that visitor dogs spend in a condo's common areas is about ten minutes total (and most of that time is in suite, meeting and preparing the dog to go out or bringing it back home after the walk). We want to maximize the time the dogs get outdoors!
Security is everything. Our clients provide us with a copy of their keys so that we can pick up and drop off their dog when they are not at home. We keep these keys locked in our secure office location when not in use. Condo owners should make sure that doing so complies with the key or fob use provisions in the building's declaration and rules and speak to their manager if this poses any concerns.
We have observed that having dogs and dog walkers in condos encourages an organic community feel. Normally, when you walk into an elevator everyone is staring at the door or the screen. When we enter an elevator with a dog (of course, asking everyone within the elevator if they're comfortable with dogs being close to them before stepping in), the energy changes every time. Usually people are happier, more interested, and drawn in despite themselves.
Inadvertently, people on site ask questions and make comments. They often tell stories – "I had a Lab when I was growing up, best dog in the world." Even though it's only for a short time, when people get to look at or pet the dogs it makes their day. And then when our walkers leave the elevator, it's common that everyone remaining (neighbours, friends, staff who work in the building, visitors) are now chatting amongst themselves. If a building allows pets, those pets are part of the community. A wellattended and responsibly owned pet can make a positive impression on all those around it.