The dog walking industry should be a beautiful harmonious place but in reality it’s two faced, backstabbing and very bitchy.
The reason for this, is that the industry has boomed over the last few years, so lots of inexperienced business owners are unethically trying to climb to the top.
Back in 2009 when I started, there were just a handful of professional dog walking companies in Glasgow, now there are literally hundreds. The problem being that there is no regulation in Glasgow so anyone can set up as a professional dog walker. I’ve seen it happen many times, people with no knowledge, experience or qualifications set up a business and start trading from models that they’ve taken from other walkers.
I’ve had staff a few times gain their training and experience with me then set up on their own and take clients with them.
The owners look at the cheaper prices and think that as they’ve been handling the dogs anyway that everything will be fine. Due to lack of regulation, no one stops to think about training, qualifications or experience let alone, health and safety or insurance! …and unfortunately because it is dogs, everyone thinks they are entitled to an opinion. I’ve never seen an industry where the public think it’s ok to hurl abuse either in person or online in the way dog walkers receive it.
Not everyone who owns a dog is knowledgeable or trained in canine behaviour or psychology.
People need to stop and think at times, do they make mistakes in their own daily working lives? Of course they do, none of us are perfect. We could walk 100 dogs perfectly but that 1 time we slip up and someone witnesses it, it’ll be all over social media and the insults will commence.
Real people realise that life happens, dogs like kids can be unpredictable and also play up.
So yes, one might wander off on a walk or sustain an injury but it’s highly unlikely that this is a result of negligence by the walker. Sometimes things just happen that are outwith our control. We are real people behind our businesses with families to support and mortgages to pay just like everyone else.
Do we deserve to have abuse hurled at us or have our business slated online because someone somewhere has either started a Chinese whisper or has witnessed a situation that they misinterpreted or that maybe the human behind the dog walker has accidentally made a mistake?! This is what people need to take on board and this is where the real support from other business owners needs to come in. We should be looking out for each other and supporting one another.
The old guard like myself tend to stay away from groups claiming to network together as experience has seen that these places are judgemental, unsupportive and used for putting others down.
I firmly believe that business owners should build each other up and support each other where possible. Not tear strips off one another because it makes them look better.
Over the years I’ve made it my mission to help others set up and build their businesses, in fact some of my closest friends are direct competitors. As we are now in the age of the rise of the female entrepreneur, I champion women who come into business and love healthy competition. Those who have the same ethical business ideals as I do are wonderful to have around me.
We support and encourage each other, we provide advice and assistance wherever possible and it’s always good to have someone to recommend if there’s something I can’t help a client with but I know exactly who can.
We don’t need a Facebook group to trumpet our support for each other or to validate our existence.
We do it because we are kind and absolutely love what we do for a living.
As I’ve been around for so long and have a successful business, sadly this has made me a target for those who are jealous. Often I will hear on the grapevine that untruths are being told or that I’ve been spoken about on a group etc. This does sadden me but I’ve learned over the years to rise above it and ignore others. I know I’m bloody good at what I do, I’ve been doing it for 10 years so that speaks for itself.
Staff come and go as do clients. I am passionate about dogs and dog care and I won’t compromise on my values.
Sometimes this makes me unpopular as I won’t bow to unethical or unrealistic demands but it’s a privilege to work with dogs every day so I will not compromise their health or safety for anything and if people don’t like me for that, then that’s their issue. I choose my network and trusted friends wisely. This is based on their own ethical values, a dark sense of humour and a love of Prosecco!
There are two very special ladies (both direct competitors) who have become great friends to me over the years. In fact aside from a few family members and my own team , Ashley and Charlene are the only 2 people in the world I trust to look after my own boys.
Ziggy and Zane adore them both, it’s so good to know this and have them in our lives as going on holiday is guilt free and stress less as we know the Z’s are well looked after and have lots of fun.
With the current lack of regulation, it’s important to seek out like minded individuals to have in your network. Being self employed can be a lonely hurtful place, so having people who you love and trust and who love and trust you is vital for those days when you could just hide under a fort blanket.
Competition is a wonderful thing, it’s how we learn and grow and it also gives customers choice and options. It is however important to get it right and also do your due diligence before deciding who to trust into your circle.
So, if Stardust can’t help you and your pup – we’ll certainly know someone who can!