With a name like Peter Walker, you would think that creating his business, Chevy Chase Dog Walkers, was a natural calling.
“I got started in this by accident,” Peter told me as I tried to keep up with him and his pack of six puppies in Rock Creek Park. “I was a landscaper for almost 30 years. I took over an apartment in Chevy Chase, and part of my rent agreement was to do my landlord’s landscaping and take care of her dogs.”
Peter would walk the dogs around lunchtime every day. It was good exercise for him, and the dogs seemed to love it. After several months, one of the neighbors took notice.
The neighbor asked him if he could pet sit his dog for about a month, when he traveled out of the country. Upon the neighbor’s return, he wrote Peter a check for $1500.00.
“That’s when I started advertising for more dog business,” Peter said laughingly.
That was in 2012. Now, Chevy Chase Dog Walkers has an average of 37 regular customers, 8 are part-time – 27 to 30 are full-time.
When I interviewed Peter, it was 10:30 in the morning. He told me that he had two more groups of dogs to walk that day.
Chevy Chase Dog Walkers will pick dogs up at their home. Peter drives a large van that he uses to transport his furry charges to the walking site for the day. After the walks, he takes them back home.
Dog walking routes change all the time depending on the weather, where the dogs live, and what types of dogs are in the group.
The group Peter had the day I accompanied him were all between one and three years old. He works with all ages of dogs, but he prefers that they are no younger than 16 weeks old.
“I like to take the young ones on walks with the ‘mamma dogs’ that have a maternal instinct. They help the little ones find their place in the group.”
One of the skills that Peter’s customers rave about is his ability to help their dogs socialize with other dogs. He does not offer regular solo walks. He has had a number of new customers tell him that their dog would not be able to walk in a group. Most of those people’s dogs are now waiting at the door for Peter’s van to arrive so they can go play with their canine buddies.
“This year I started requiring a minimum of four days a week because it takes at least that much time for it to work. The dogs need to spend enough time together to develop a pack mentality and get along,” Peter explained.
When I asked what the most important quality for a dog walker to have is besides an ability to relate to and work with dogs, Peter was very quick to answer.
“Reliability. It’s reliability. I’m one hundred percent. I took one day off last year. And, that was the first day off in four years,” Peter said.
According to Peter, once a dog gets on a regular exercise schedule and expects to be able to go outside to relieve themselves, a dog walker should do their best to reinforce that behavior.
“If my reliability were to become erratic and unpredictable, my value to the family and the animal drops precipitously,” Peter added. “That’s why my business keeps growing and my customers refer me; I’m there when I say I going to be there.”
Chevy Chase Dog Walkers offers a variety of services including: Group Dog Walking, Pet Sitting, Pet Taxi, and in some cases Pet Overnight Visits.
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