Cami the Husky from Attawapiskat: Positivity and Consistency Reign


Cami the Husky from Attawapiskat: Positivity and Consistency Reign

When I got a call from Jonathan, a potential new client who had just adopted a dog from Moosonee Puppy Rescue, I was a bit skeptical it would work out. Nevertheless, I agreed to meet with them just because he was so nice and Cami, their new dog, sounded like a lovely gal. 

No one is completely sure of what went on in Cami’s past, but it’s believed she lived mostly outdoors, tied to a porch. She was rescued with her litter of pups and that’s about all we know.  Dogs who’ve had this kind of start in life are often difficult to integrate into city living and into a dog walking group, as they often come with a lot of “baggage.” They can be very fearful of loud city noises, aggressive around food, or lack the social skills needed to get by in a dog-park setting. (don’t get me wrong, sometimes they’re perfect.)

Upon arriving to meet with Jonathan, Eryn and Cami, we were all pleasantly surprised that Cami greeted me a the door. Until this time, she was still shy and kept her distance from guests.

We talked for a long time about the structure of my walks and how I would help Cami acclimate to life in the city. All the while she laid between the three of us soaking in the affection and belly rubs. 

After the first week, I didn’t really know if Cami was benefiting from the walks or even enjoying them, but she wasn’t miserable and I knew Jonathan and Eryn badly wanted her to get out during the day and interact with other dogs. I stuck with it. On each walk, she would go off on her own and sniff the perimeter of the park and then eventually plant herself someplace and look off into the distance. I would approach her at least 20 times on a walk and offer her a small treat. She took about 8 out of 10. If there was another dog too close, she refused the treat, or if there was a strange noise coming from somewhere, she would spit it out. 

One day, a couple of weeks in, Cami played with a dog who was not in our group and it warmed my heart. I knew in that moment she was having fun and, there was hope. As the weeks went by, I continued rewarding her for things like making eye contact and just for “being.”  She was however, still completely ignoring me when I called her to “come.” But she wasn’t running away from me and she was happily getting into the car when it was time for her walk … I thought, she can’t be hating this so I’ll keep trying.

Then about 3 or 4 weeks ago, Cami began playing with Gus, a dog from OUR group. My heart nearly exploded. Especially since Gus’s owner doesn’t think he really plays with other dogs  From then on, I made a point to walk them together as often as possible. The first few days was just wrestling and bouncing, but then it really started! Cami began running big wide circles, and Gus couldn’t resist chasing. A week later, Rueben, a 4-month-old Ridgeback joined the gang. For whatever reason, they welcome him into their play sessions, encourage it even. They’re like the three musketeers, still.

Here’s where it gets really good: About 2 weeks after Cami started really enjoying her walks, I thought “this is a good time to start trying out her recall again.” From a large distance, no response. So I began to close the gap. Finally from about 2 feet away, “Cami come” actually worked. I know, you’re thinking “who cares!?” I CARED  

Once I had her happily coming in for a reward from 2 feet, I gradually increased it to 3, then 4, then 5…. and now, from across the park! This process took about 4-5 walks. 

And here’s where it gets totally awesome: Not only is she happy to come when called, she follows the pack as we move around the park and constantly “checks in” on her own. She’s loving it and she likes me and the rest of the dogs! Which is good, ’cause we adore her.

What brought Cami around and gave her confidence? A loving home with loving, patient, calm, owners and positive conditioning. Never doubt the power of positivity. 




It was a somber day for dog walkers today. We were all thinking about Langley. As we bumped into our friends and colleagues on the trails and in the parks, we all knew what the other was thinking. Public scrutiny was heavier than usual. Understandable, I suppose. When the story first came out that the dogs had been stolen from the dog walker’s truck, my heart ached for the owners and the dog walker. Then last night, the news broke that all 6 dogs (including the dog walker’s own) had perished due to negligence. Like you, I was reeling. Never in the 11 years I’ve been professionally walking dogs, have I heard a more horrific story involving another professional. How could this happen? How to find a good dog walker? Many media outlets responded by asking pet care professionals how one choses a good dog walker. Many of answers are fairly generic – dog walkers should have a permit, insurance and references. All true. But any dog walker can provide you with an insurance certificate and a permit, because all it takes to obtain these things is money. If you are looking for a good dog walker, don’t stop there.

Listen to your gut. I can’t count the number of calls I’ve taken over the years from new clients who are finally parting ways with their old dog walker over an incident that was, in their words, “the last straw.” There’s a common element to all of these stories – the client always had a “weird feeling” that something was amiss with their walker. All I can say is this: one of the most important aspects of choosing a good dog walker is paying attention to your intuition about the person.

I often ask people why they waited so long to sack a bad dog walker. Their answers almost always have something to do with feeling badly, and not being really sure if their weird feelings were justified. Listen to your gut. You need to have a dog walker who you trust completely.

Healthy Fear. I am paid to keep dogs happy and safe. Every good dog walker puts the safety of their dogs above everything else during a walk - above fun, above how we look to people in the park, and above our pride. Yes, if I have to swim into a freezing lake to rescue a dog that looks like he’s having trouble, I’m doing it. If we’ve been at the park for only 30 minutes, and an aggressive dog arrives, we’re leaving. I love my job and most of the time it’s happy and joyful. But make no mistake, when you see us at the beach or on the trails, tossing balls and running around and having a great time, I’m always on guard. Because at any second, something could change. I’m constantly counting heads (and tails) and keeping a watchful eye the horizon. Anyone who doesn’t have a healthy fear of the things that might go wrong is not cut out for professional dog walking.

You can find out if your dog walker has this instinct by asking the right questions. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you want to discuss it further.

Relationships with you and your dog. Here at OMD, we’re always in contact with our clients. We bond with the humans as well as their dogs. I know everything about my dogs - what they like, what they’re afraid of, how to recall them, what they eat, where they don’t like to be touched, what kinds of people make them uncomfortable, etc... . Your dog walker should have an active, ongoing relationship with you and with your dogs.

To me, those are the most important factors for choosing a dog walker, and/or staying with your current one.

R.I.P. Mia, Buddy, Oscar, Teemo, Salty and Molly



The TDWA's First Community Event!

Last week the TDWA held its first community event - Spring Clean in Trinity Bellwoods Park. To say it was a success would be an understatement. Our members worked hard to create an event that would help shine a positive light on the dog walking industry and help make a difference at the same time. We were touched by the support we received:

Our next event will be a bit of a sneak attack, so watch out for us! In the meantime, thanks to everyone who came out. And for those of you who dug into your pockets for change and bills, we raised $145 for T.E.A.M. Dog Rescue! Your support means the world.



Toronto Dog Walkers Association

TDWA_logo_colour copyWe talked about it for years, and last year we finally did it, we formed an association. As the industry grew, the need for a professional, governing presence become more prevalent. Even though there are more of us, it's actually become more difficult to navigate the scene and choose a qualified and knowledgable dog walker. I encourage you to visit the site and learn about what it means to be a TDWA Member.