Dog attacks – how to keep yourself safe

From Dog groomers to behaviourists, we are all at risk! Are you doing enough to keep yourself safe?

 The recent event in January 2023 of a dog walker being attacked and sustaining fatal injuries has led me to write this post.

It’s tragic and a very sensitive situation, my heart goes out to all the people involved. I have been a dog walker for 20 years now and can honestly say that things like this are rare, however the risks have always been there! I know when I started out, I took way more risks than I do now, and I would never put some of my team in the situations I used to put myself in!

I have listened to colleagues over the last few days really concerned about their own welfare. I’ve also heard from colleagues considering changing their careers as a result- which could be a real loss to the industry!

As unfortunate as this event is, it should make us all think long and hard about our processes and protocols when we are working with dogs. I am awaiting the full report on the event so that I can assess if I am doing enough to protect myself and my amazing team of dog professionals. Since my full-time job is to help owners with dogs with complex behavioural issues, I always send information ahead of my consults so the owners can move the dogs or cats (yes cats!!) into a location, allowing me to go into the household safely. It’s made me realise that this doesn’t always happen and that I need to be stricter with this rule going forwards. If I cannot enter the house safely then I would say that the first consult with me would be online.

Training: If you haven’t had any training in terms of aggression and body language then you really need to jump on this now. Get yourself trained!!!! There are multiple courses online try the APBC, FABC websites for behaviour-based webinars and courses and try IMDT for body language courses. I am more than happy to offer some 1-1 training sessions with any of you that live nearby.

Reports and equipment: If you are a dog walker and you have not put things into place such as health and safety plans, incident reporting, equipment use and so on now is the time to get this sorted!! They should also be assessed every year, so that you can make sure you are checking over individual dogs’ behaviour regularly.

Number limits: All dog walkers should have a number limit, most insurance companies only allow up to 6 dogs but even then this could be too many if you have the wrong mix of dogs. This number isn’t just specific to walkers though mixing large numbers of dogs in any setting can be dangerous and ups the health and safety risk, so day care settings, home-boarders and groomers also need to think about keeping large groups separated, just in case something happens.

Walking spaces: All Dog Walkers should ensure that they walk in locations that are safe and secure and they are away from members of the public and other dogs. This does not mean you cannot walk in public but just avoid large groups meeting other dogs and other people. Planning ahead is key

Inductions: Every dog walking company should do an induction to meet the dog ahead of the walk. This is also to take down information from the owner about their behaviour and background.

Travel safe: The dogs’ journey for their walk starts as soon as you put them into your vehicle if you provide group walks. At this point if a dog is really worried this could spill over and turn into negative energy, and this is before you’ve even started their walk. Make sure that you have a van that is safe secure and comfortable for each dog that you transport. This means they get their own comfortable space during transportation.

Know when to say no: All dog professional should know when to say no. If there is a dog that is displaying behavioural issues all you’re worried about their behaviour, there should be no shame in telling the owner and refusing the dog.