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Dog Walking Equipment—The Choice Is Yours (Not Your Clients’)

These days we’re swimming in an almost endless choice of collars, harnesses, and other walking equipment options. There are also endless opinions about which is best. But as a professional dog walker, it’s your opinion that matters. While each client may have preferred tools for walking their own dogs, when you’re doing the walking, the equipment you use should be your call…

Young man looking at a variety of dog leashes and collars at a pet store. The best equipment is your equipment
Your equipment policy doesn’t have to be complicated. We recommend you simply use your own equipment rather than equipment provided by your clients.

If a dog you walk wears a collar or harness around the home with her tags attached, leave that on. But whatever you plan to clip a leash to—and that leash itself—should be yours.

3 reasons to use your own equipment

  1. Safety. You’re the one charged with keeping the dogs in your care safe and in your control. You should have free reign to choose the tools that best help you do that. Using your own equipment also makes it easier to oversee maintenance, replacing pieces as they age and become more at risk for failure, and keeping them sized properly to avoid dogs wriggling free in a moment of excitement or panic.
  2. Convenience. Using your own equipment means never having to go foraging for a harness or leash not left in its usual place by a busy or forgetful client. (Which inevitably happens on the day you’re already running late.) You know you’ll always have everything you need.
  3. Avoiding conflict. If you aren’t using a client’s leash or favorite harness, there’s no chance of it being muddied, torn, or accidentally swapped for another dog’s. And that means no chance of a client becoming upset over such things.

Even better, using your own equipment can also help side-step difficult conversations with clients whose views about equipment and training methods may differ from your own, particularly in the beginning stages of your relationship building. You needn’t tell a client why you don’t want to use their prong collar specifically; you simply let them know that you’ll be using your own equipment.

How to tell clients about your equipment policy
Speaking of speaking to clients about your policy, here are some tips and scripts for doing just that:

At your client meet & greet, as part of the process of going over your client agreement contract, simply mention that you’ll be using your own equipment. For example:

“For safety and also to protect your things from damage or wear-and-tear, I use my own walking equipment. I’ll leave on whatever Trixie normally wears at home, and simply add my equipment to that, so no need to worry about leaving anything out for me when I come to pick her up. Speaking of which, where will Trixie usually be waiting for me—does she have free run of the house, or… ?”

Notice that the trick is not to make a big deal of this policy. You don’t even have to say anything about what kind of equipment you use. And notice also that you aren’t waiting or asking for approval—make the statement and then move on to the next subject.

In most cases, clients will simply follow your lead here. But when they don’t, it’s critical that you stand your professional ground. For example, consider this exchange:

Walker:
“For safety and also to protect your things from damage or wear-and-tear, I use my own walking equipment. I’ll leave on whatever Trixie normally wears at home, and simply add my equipment to that, so no need to worry about leaving anything out for me when I come to pick her up. Speaking of which, where will Trixie usually be waiting for me—does she have free run of the house, or… ?”

Client:
“Oh, Trixie is really strong and pulls very hard. She has to be walked on a prong collar or she’ll pull right out of your hands.”

Walker:
“Right, you mentioned what a puller she is. And with those muscular shoulders and haunches I’m not surprised to hear it! No need to worry, though, I’m quite experienced with strong pullers like Trixie and the equipment I use will absolutely allow me to keep hold of her. So where will I find Trixie when I arrive?”

This should do it, but if the client pushes again…

Client:
“She’ll probably greet you at the door, but really, she needs to be walked on a prong collar. We’ve tried lots of other stuff and I just don’t feel safe having her out if she’s not on one.”

Walker:
“I understand your concern about making sure Trixie is safe. That’s my number one concern for all the dogs I walk, too. But I have a no prong collar policy. [Here you explain at least in part why. It’s not the time to go into a long discourse about the risks and side effects of punishment, though. Keep this simple. For example, as a group dog walker there’s too much risk of other dogs’ teeth and paws getting caught during play. Or you’re a Dog Walking Academy graduate and have signed a business code of ethics pledge not to use them. Or your company policy is not to use equipment that relies on pain for control, since there are so many other equally effective choices available now that do not.] I can assure you that the equipment I use is just as effective at maintaining control, but ultimately you have to feel comfortable. If Trixie being walked on a prong is a priority, I absolutely understand if you’d prefer to go with another walker.”

You’ll find that 90% of clients will bend when you stand your ground firmly but kindly this way. By the time a client has come this far screening a dog walker, they are heavily invested in their choice. Faced with a professional dog walker confident about her policies, most clients will soften and follow. When they very occasionally do not, it’s best to let the client choose someone else. You will enjoy your work far more when you and your clients are a solid match for each other, and when your clients respect your professional choices.

Want some guidance on choosing your walking equipment? We’ve got a blog post to help: Dog Walking Equipment—How To Decide What’s Right For You

More education resources for professional dog walkers:

The Business of Dog Walking book

The Dog Walking Academy course