Imagine you are out walking your dog, and another strange dog approaches aggressively. Or what if your best friend steps on something and injures their paw? While out walking your dog, it is best to be prepared for anything. As a professional pet sitter and dog walker, I have experienced many out of the ordinary situations that some wouldn't think to prepare for. Some have been surprising, some even dangerous. Over the years I have established some basic dog walker essentials that I try to carry with me at all times! Let's jump right in to what I carry and what I suggest other professionals and pet owners carry as well.
First things first, you have got to have a good dog walking pack. The kind of pack you carry will mostly have to do with what is comfortable for you, and the amount of supplies you need for your particular set of circumstances. I carry a dog walking pouch around my waist, and also a backpack. I've tried many pouches, but my favorite is by Paw Lifestyles. It has space for everything you need in immediate reach, such as treats, poop bags, your phone, and keys. It can be fastened by its' metal belt clip, or around your waist or shoulder with the buckling strap. It has a separate compartment for poop bags, which allows it to dispense them one at a time. My must-have feature is the swivel clips that connect the strap to the sides of the bag. Sounds inconsequential, but it keeps the strap from becoming twisted and seems to last much longer!
In addition to the walking pouch, I also like to carry a backpack for additional neccessities. This could be a day pack, shoulder sling bag, or anything you desire, as long as it has the space and features you need! I recently got this bag, by Miracol, and I LOVE it! It came with a 2L water bladder, although it could hold a larger one if I ever chose to do so. It's comfortable, has two wrap-around straps, one that goes around the waist and the other around the chest, and it has enough storage to carry everything I need for a day of dog walking! It has lots of nifty places to clip additional items, like my mini hand sanitizer bottle, and two additional pouches on either side of the strap that wraps around the waist. I LOVE it!
Now, let's go over what I carry inside of the bag! I consider these items essential to bring along on hikes, walks, and even on road trips with the dogs.
1: Lots of water.
I fill up the 2L water bladder, that I mostly drink myself, and I bring an additional 20oz bottle of water for the pups in the bag as well. Beam's trick is to stick the water bladder in the freezer for a bit before heading out for the day. This means you get nice, cold water, and it keeps your back cool as well! I always bring an extra gallon of water along with me to keep in the car and refill the water bottle if needed. It's important to stay hydrated, for humans, and for animals! When it is hot outside, heat related illnesses can occur quickly. It is important to stop for water every 10-15 minutes, depending on your individual dog's needs.
2: Collapsible bowl.
You've got the water, but don't forget the bowl! Some dogs will not drink water being poured out of a bottle and prefer a bowl. It also saves more water! Most collapsible bowls are similar in design and most will come with a clip that you can use to easily attach the bowl to your bag. Another option is this really cool dog water bottle. It is a bottle and bowl in one and I am excited to try it soon!
3: Pet first aid kit.
Of course we like to think that nothing bad will happen while we are out, but it is always best to be prepared for the unexpected! After becoming CPR and First Aid Certified, I realized that his is a must-have item for any pet parent. Your dog could step on a sharp object, injuring their paw pad, be bitten by a tick while out for a hike, or succumb to inclimate weather. A pet first aid kit should include all of the essentials to care for small wounds and to aid in other emergency situations. There are quite a few first aid kits on the market, designed specifically for pets. It can actually be cheaper to assemble your own supplies in your kit, but the prepared kits are incredibly convenient and you don't have to do as much research about the supplies, knowing that you can trust they are all pet friendly. Some things to make sure you have in your kit are; gauze pads, bandages, gloves, non-alcoholic antiseptic, tweezers, scissors, and an emergency blanket. I also like to add a paw balm, like Musher's Secret, to the case. This can protect your dog's paws from less than ideal conditions. You will also want to have a soft muzzle included in your kit. Even the sweetest, most well-behaved pup can become frightened or defensive when in pain.
4: Poop bags.
I carry a roll of poop bags in my waist pouch, in a designated pocket, that allows the bags to be dispensed individually. In the past, I found that I ALWAYS ran out at the most inconveneient of times, so I like to carry additional rolls in my back pack as well. The bags I use are biodegradable. I am so glad I made this eco-friendly switch! When walking dogs all day, you quickly realize how many bags you go through! This is just a small way we can leave a smaller footprint on our planet and environment. These are the bags I use!
5: Extra leashes.
Another helpful item, having an extra leash or two can truly come in handy. You don't want to fall victim to a suddenly faulty collar or your leash breaking without backup. My extra leash of choice is a slip lead. Nothing fancy, these leashes can double as a collar and even a harness if you have a lengthy one. They can be quite less bulky than a traditional leash, making them perfect for your walking pack. The other reason I love these leashes is for when I come across a lost, stray, or off-leash dog. If the dog is friendly, and it is safe to do so, I can easily leash them up with my slip leash and work to find their home!
Duh. What pup doesn't love treats on their walk? Treats help me to build positive rapport with new dogs, as well as reinforce positive behavior with my current dog clients. Treats go into my waist pouch. I like to use soft treats that can be broken up in to small, training-size pieces. If your dog is on a diet, or you prefer to not use treats, you can also use your dog's regular kibble as well! Set some aside from your dog's daily serving, and you now have treats to train and walk with all throughout the day. Treats can be used to redirect a dog from a trigger, to reinforce positive behaviors, and to encourage new, desirable behaviors, such as heeling.
A lot of things I keep in my dog walking gear is all about the unpredictable. I always carry a few different forms of defense, and always encourage my clients, friends, and family to do so as well. One common scenario that can quickly turn bad is off-leash dogs, and for this I carry Spray Shield. Spray Shield is a spray that works as a dog deterrent. It is a citronella spray and it works by emitting a strong smell that most dogs find offensive. It is safe and specifically formulated to use on dogs. It does not cause irritation or injure the dog in any way, although they definitely do not enjoy the stink! Spray Shield is best used when an off-leash dog of unknown temperament is approaching and is not deterred by yelling. This could potentially save your dog in the unfortunate scenario of an aggressive dog. Spray Shield works well to deter, but it is not always effective if a dog fight or attack is currently in progress. If Spray Shield does not work, my next level of defense is Sabre Protector Dog Pepper Spray. This is not as potent as pepper spray meant to be used on humans, because it does not have to be. It is, however, more irritating than Spray Shield, yet still safe to be used on dogs. Lastly, for my own personal protection, I carry a taser. This is to be used against humans in the, although unlikely, chance of a human attack. I carry this one from Vipertek, and it doubles as a flashlight, which is another essential item to carry in your pack!
8: Phone, Identification, and Emergency Cards.
For in case of an emergency or accident, I always carry a phone, as well as ID and an Emergency Contact Card. I don't like to use my phone while walking. I usually just pull it out for a quick few pictures and then it goes back in my pocket! But it is absolutely essential for in case of emergency. In addition to being able to call an emergency number for help, there are now safety apps, designed for your smart phone, that Beam and I have just begun to utilize. We are currently trying out the GeoPro Lone Worker app. It is designed with lone workers in mind, who may be alone and possibly unable to call for help when needed. When checked-in, the app has GPS tracking which can be monitored, checks-in with you at designated times, and contacts someone if you fail to check in. It detects motion and will alert when there is none for a period of time while checked-in. GeoPro is going great so far! It does cost a monthly fee, but I think the peace of mind is worth it! There are other, free options that are similar aas well. In addition to my phone, I also carry my driver's license/ID and also an emergency card. The emergency card I keep in my pack states that I am walking dogs, and who to contact in case of an accident or emergency. It states who can be reached to care for my own dogs, and I have an emergency plan in place for my animals in case anything ever happened to me. For in case Beam and I are ever togethger when an emergency occurs, it states an additional emergency backup as well.
These are the essentials that I believe every dog walker should have, whether you are a pro or a pet parent. In addition to the things I keep in my walking gear, I also keep a few things in my car, including; super absorbent towels for when it rains, umbrella, water-proof shoe slip-on covers, hypoallergenic cleansing dog wipes for muddy paws, etc., hand sanitizer, pet friendly disinfecting wipes, doggy seatbelts, pet-friendly seat covers, extra harnesses, wet food (for attracting a timid stray), paper towels, and chuck-it balls, for Neto of course, haha!
I hope this list has been helpful and made you feel confident in becoming more prepared. If you have any additional items that you add to your own dog walking gear, or comments or concerns, please feel free to leave a comment! Until next time, humans.