The Definitive Guide
NYC Dog Walking
By Gabby Etzel
My life is a lot like that Daniel Radcliffe cameo in Judd Appatow’s Trainwreck (2015).
Bizarre interactions and an affinity for monochromatic aesthetics included, yes—but really, it’s the job title of "dog walker" in NYC that Radcliffe’s character and I have in common.
I began walking dogs in Manhattan three years ago via WAG, a dog walking agency that essentially acts as Uber for dogs. With my documenting each walk in an Instagram story highlight, the pups have earned themselves quite a few fans. It’s not surprising that dog walking content is so well-liked, especially in The Big Apple, where the dogs have just as much personality as the city itself does.
I’d be lying, though, if I said that this job is all fluff and games. There’s a very refined level of skill required to work the dog walk like it’s a catwalk. Whether you’re looking to become a dog walker in the city yourself, or you’re just seeking an inside look at the art form, look no further.
Absolutely Anything presents: The Definitive Guide to NYC Dog Walking.
1. Red Carpet Rovers
Everyone knows that a real NYC dweller will pay no mind when they walk past a celebrity on the street. To be a real NYC dog walker, though, it’s in your best interest to pay copious amounts of attention to the celebrities in this city— it may just be their pooch that you’re taking for a stroll.
Most of the time, you won’t know. Frequent flyers at the dog park might say, “How is [famous actor] doing?” You might, at first, be confused. How are you supposed to know how they’re doing? Are you being mistaken for a related A-Lister? Feeling a tug on the leash in your hand, your attention will turn to the purebred pup that you picked up from a SoHo penthouse, and—Oh. So, that’s why there was an Oscar sitting on the shelf above Buddy’s food bowl.
Now, here’s where a certain level of skill kicks in. For those of you without drama degrees, bear with me.
You’ll look up at your interrogator, down to the dog, and back up again. You’ll smile. Softly. Softer. Perfect. With a rehearsed sense of ease, you’ll finally speak:
“I don't know. I’m just the dog walker.”
But your eyes will say differently. You’re hiding something. The inquirer knows that you know exactly how Al Paci—I mean, [redacted celebrity]—is doing. Throw in a shrug with a little twinkle in your eye, and just like that, you’ve booked yourself a new client and earned an honorary Oscar of your own. If such a big name can trust you with not only their baby and access to their home, but personal information on how they are “doing,” then surely, Pete from the dog park can trust you with Luna the bulldog’s post-lunch poo.
The truth is, though, that your approach to walking dogs should not change just because you know you’re walking a celebrity’s dog. Every dog deserves red carpet treatment, whether or not their owner had your favorite look at the Met Gala.
Although, in the event that you do know that there’s a household name’s dog on the other end of that leash… Keep in mind that you’re a tipped worker.
This actress' little pug requested the star treatment of being carried during her walk.
This sweet boy may have a TV star owner, but he's a star at the dog park, himself.
2. Wipe Your Paws
Now that we’ve gotten the glam out of the way, let’s talk about the grime.
Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes are indispensable.
You may think that you’re earthy enough to get by without them, or you may think that being one of the lucky souls spared from post-pandemic germaphobia will give you an edge. Just do yourself a favor and imagine yourself in the following situations before you commit to going into a walk empty-handed:
1. Leo the Collie has lunged for something on the sidewalk before you could stop him. You spend the next minute and a half prying a half-eaten moldy Big Mac from his slobbery grasp.
2. Lucy’s mommy forgot to mention that Lucy has had a bit of an upset stomach. Lucy didn’t forget to let you know, though—She made it extra clear with some bright green vomit on your combat boots.
3. You can’t praise Bodhi enough for being such a good boy as you’re taking out a doggy bag to clean up his poo. Bodhi is flattered. Flattered enough, even, to surprise you with a kiss that makes you drop your apartment key right into the soft little pile of artwork that you had just been praising him for.
It's okay, Bodhi. I came prepared.
Yeah. I prefer to buy in bulk.
3. Whelps and Weather
New York City exists in a lucky little corner of the world that experiences all four seasons, sometimes within the same day.
When there’s a severe weather warning, heed it.
If class is cancelled while the sun is shining because experts anticipate a severe and sudden snow squall, you probably shouldn’t write off that warning and decide to walk two high-energy German Shepherds instead.
If you do, in the middle of the walk, it might go from a perfectly mild day to a snowstorm so severe that you can’t see five inches in front of your face, let alone see those German Shepherds on the other end of the leash. So, as you attempt to find your way out of the squall and back to their home, you’ll have no idea that they’ve just seen something that has caught their attention across the way.
That is, you won’t know, until they begin running towards it, causing you to slip on the sleet and be dragged at high speeds for a city block on the snow-covered sidewalk.
Stock photo style.
So, bring an extra bottle of water for the heat waves, and stay home for the snow squalls—That is, unless you find enough worth in the kisses that the German Shepherds give you to apologize.
I sure do.
4. Leave the Niceties at the Doggy Door
New York City’s dogs can be just as stubborn as the city’s human residents.
See the following examples of pups refusing to walk:
These urbanite canines will undoubtedly put up a fight when it comes to getting their steps in for the day, and most of the time, would prefer for you to pick them up and do the walking for them.
For longer walks and bigger dogs, though, this can be pretty unsustainable. When this happens, there’s nothing left to do but toughen up. Here are some highly abrasive phrases that I like to say to my furry clients to get them moving when they simply refuse to walk—Some may argue that I “go too far,” or that my methods are “cruel,” but it’s all a part of the job:
“Please move your little footsies, squishy pup.”
“Up! Please! Pretty please!”
“Hey little baby, let’s walk! No? Okay. Belly rubs instead. That’s fine.”
"Yeah, I kinda just wanna lay here, too."
In the event that this tough love doesn’t work, you should probably pull out the treats.
Treats always work.
5. Stop to Sniff the Flowers
Take a page out of Mila's book.
Above all, remember to enjoy the walk. You’re in the greatest city in the world, hanging out with the most unproblematic creatures on earth.
Ethel will not walk without her binky.
If you feel the need to walk through Central Park while singing Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas aloud in the middle of September, the pup by your side will support you the whole way. You may think that you’re doing the dog a favor by taking them out for their evening walk, but really, there’s no favor like a pair of floppy listening ears for you to unload your day onto without judgment. This is the only job on earth where the puppy therapy pays you.
Daniella is a sweet and shy regular of mine that I've become very close to!
With the right attitude, a few choice hygiene products, careful attention to a weather app, and a good amount of grit, dog walking is the perfect solution to making it out of the Dog Days with your tail wagging.
To see my dog walking highlight and keep up with new pup-centric adventures, head to my Instagram, here:
Speaking of Dog Days, check out the Absolutely Anything playlist, "Dog Days of Summer," curated by Cathleen, here: