In-Paws to Out-Paws

For the first of my ‘Pawsome Pros’ Series, I spent an extremely enjoyable day shadowing Katy-Jayne Pain – a professional Dog Walker and Pet Sitter here in Colchester.

Katy set up her business In-Paws to Out-Paws in April 2019, after leaving her hospital career as a Study Leave Administrator. Having been raised as an ‘outdoor’ girl, Katy originally started working for a kennel and cattery business. Her Dad, however, wished for her to have a more lucrative career and convinced Katy to study Accountancy. Once qualified, Katy worked in the hospital for 10 years – although she couldn’t leave her passion for animals behind. Katy spent her spare time learning how to make saddles and bridles at a local saddlery.

Looking back, Katy acknowledges that her finance and administrative background has really helped her with the ‘business’ side of her dog venture.

I was really pleased when Katy contacted me about my blog series – and this is the story of our day together -:

I arrived at Katy’s at 9am, excited about the day ahead. She successfully fits her business around her 2 young children, so ends her working day in time to collect them from nursery or childcare. Today, to give us more time together, the childminder had kindly agreed to pick the children up – so we were soon on our way.

The first doggie client of the day was Ted, a 1 year old Labrador. He goes for a daily walk with her and was so excited to hear Katy’s car pull up on the drive, that we could see him repeatedly sticking his nose ( in fact as much of his head as possible) out of the cat-flap.

I couldn’t help laughing – Labradors are just so funny …

Ted is very handsome and on the red side of golden. He’s bouncy and fun to watch as he bounds off to explore the field and undergrowth, stopping to catch a scent here and there. He regularly pops back to see Katy and his good recall means she is always happy to let him off the lead once away from the road. When I ask Katy about what makes her most happy about her job, she replies  “My heart feels really light when a dog’s off the lead – running free”. I can wholeheartedly identify with that. She admitted to being anxious the first time she lets them off though – and will only do so when she believes them to be ready. During his half hour walk, Ted certainly had lots of fun, including a good chase around with a Cocker Spaniel he met on the playing field.

I was keen to get some photos and Ted was great at posing – just like my own Lab, Rusty.

Katy impressed me whilst we were walking Ted, by picking up several lots of dog’s mess that inconsiderate owners had left on the pathways. Perhaps us dog walkers ought to do that more often ?

Once Ted was back in the car, Katy gave his muddy paws, legs and belly a good clean with her ‘magic’ microfibre cloth and a really nifty paw cleaner. I must get one of these for Rusty …

Our next visit was to see Pepper, an 11 week old Dalmatian. Katy visits her twice a day for feeding and toilet training. On the first visit, Pepper is treated to a short walk to get her used to exploring the outside world. I was so excited to have this tiny, spotty puppy rush over in excitement to see me – she was so cute and I couldn’t wait to get some photos once we were outside.

Pepper explored every smell as we made our way from amongst houses to a farm track. Nettles were fascinating until she realised that they would sting her nose ! Katy is happy for Pepper to explore whilst on the lead – and says that walking in a straight line will come later. Luckily, we find an abandoned ball in the hedgerow and Katy lets Pepper off the lead for a short while to play with it. It looks so huge in her mouth, yet she quickly gets the hang of bringing it back to us. After her morning adventure, Katy is happy that Pepper will have a good sleep until her next visit later that afternoon. There is still time for a little game of hide and seek with some treats hidden in Pepper’s crate before we go. Katy is keen to train and teach each time, as well as carrying out the everyday tasks.

Back in the car, we now head to pick up 2 dogs who have become walking companions – Athos and Poppy

Although there is a tight schedule to work to, Katy doesn’t let this get in the way of ensuring each dog gets plenty of care and attention – and it is clear that there is a strong bond between her and each of her canine friends.

Athos is a Whippet who’s 4 years old and nervous of car travel. Katy takes special care to put him as much at ease as is possible and says that she always keeps his journey times to a minimum. When Poppy, the miniature Dachshund is collected, Katy pops her into a small crate – so that Athos doesn’t have an excited dog jumping about near him and keeps his personal space clear.

It’s evident to me already that Katy had a sound knowledge of dog behaviour. Katy has grown up with animals around her and has an innate understanding of the dogs in her care. She explains that she has undertaken training for dealing with nervous & reactive dogs because of issues she had with one of her previous dogs, Bean – who was a Rottweiler/Doberman cross. She certainly has a real insight into canine body language.

Katy chooses Highwoods Country Park for our walk with Athos and Poppy and it’s delightfully muddy. I’m impressed with how she’s constantly focusing on the dogs, even when she is chatting to me and trying not to slip over in the quagmire of mud.

Poppy is only 11 months old and is desperate to follow scents, so Katy keeps her on the lead. Athos is allowed a run-about once we get further into the park and Katy works on his recall by playing ball with him. He has a tendency to chase squirrels; but he doesn’t seem interested today and comes back quickly when called. His treat for this is another game with the ball.

Katy knows that dogs need mental stimulation as well as physical exercise and makes sure of this by reinforcing obedience and good behaviour with the dogs, thus ensuring that they get the ongoing training they need. Another important habit is to take dogs on different routes each time she walks them. This keeps them on their toes as to where they are going next.

Poppy is a lovely warm chestnut colour and seems perfectly happy being on the lead, sniffing and paddling in puddles.

Most people know that whippets are sight hounds, yet I was unaware that Dachshunds were bred as working dogs. Apparently, the miniature ones were bred to flush out smaller prey such as rabbits as opposed to their larger counterparts hunting Badgers. They were also bred for their energy and stamina and can cope with more exercise than you’d imagine for a dog with their body so close to the ground.

Athos and Poppy have a lovely hour’s walk before they are safely returned home – and given a good clean to remove all the mud.

 

Simba, the long-haired German Shepherd was the next dog for me to meet. He’s 2 years old.

I realised that I was having an overload of extremely handsome dogs – and Simba was no exception. Huge, fluffy, strong and very friendly, Simba was very switched on and attentive. Extremely intelligent, his owners have taught him lots of tricks to ensure he has mental stimulation as well as lots of physical exercise. We took him to some lovely, peaceful woods – and once there, Katy was able to let him off the lead. She had no worry about him running free as he never strayed far away. He enjoyed walking in the stream and drinking its clear fresh water. I was then able to watch him perform his tricks, my favourite being where he pretends to be shot by rolling over on the ground. Very photogenic, as with all shepherds, he was an expert at posing – with the characteristic huge tongue hanging out. He was always looking to Katy for any instructions she might give – and as they had such a great bond, you could easily imagine that she was his owner. As Katy has been working for around 9 months, many of the dogs she walks have grown up with her around, so it’s not surprising that she’s had a positive influence on them. Katy’s passion is all about being outside in the fresh air and sharing her time with animals. She definitely loves her job !

My last treat of the day was to meet Katy’s own dog, Quill – the Newfoundland/St Bernard Cross puppy. He is super-excited to see her and bounds happily around the playing field near Katy’s home.

Quill is huge fluffy and very playful. Katy calls him “a big goofy floof of a dog”. He’s soft and cuddly and loving. Apparently, they can keep growing until 2 so at around 11 months old, he is bound to grow even bigger!

As he was so excited, it was difficult to get Quill to stay still for a photo – so we decided to get one of Katy cuddling him instead.

Katy explains that she also owns a horse who she visits twice a day over in Dedham. I’m really not sure where she gets all her energy from ! He’s an 8-yr old Shire horse called Orion (aka Lad). As Lad is still young for a horse, Katy hopes to do more work and shows with him in the future. I shall be going to visit him when the weather improves – because Katy tells me he’s covered in mud at present – and won’t look at his best for photographing.

It’s now time for Katy to return to Pepper for her second puppy visit of the day, where she will let her out to the toilet, give her food and play with her for a while. This ensures that she will have sufficient company to break up her day – and learn at the same time. I’m keen to see the cute Dalmatian again, however, I’m exhausted after all our walks and ready to head home for a rest !

I’ve had a great day with Katy and the dogs, as she is extremely friendly and easy to spend time with. Katy has a very calm personality and this is reflected in the dog’s behaviour and obedience around her. They have fun but they also respect her authority.

Many people may think that walking someone else’s dog would be a simple task, yet there are so many things to take into consideration: their individual behaviour, how they act with other dogs (or squirrels), their strength, breed characteristics, recall obedience. You also have the responsibilities toward the dog owner – looking after keys, respecting their homes and making sure the dogs are returned clean and safely.

In this regard, It was obvious to me that Katy offers a premium service to both her doggie & human clients. It was a real pleasure to spend the day with her and meet all her wonderful canine friends.

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