Walking a dog safely for someone else during coronavirus

 Given the rapidly changing situation, please regularly check the latest government advice and continually assess your own situation based on this information.

The government guidance on how to help others safely can be found here, alongside advice for those who own pets, but below is more specific guidance for those walking dogs for owners who can’t during lockdown.

 

Before you pick-up the dog, contact the owner ideally on the phone or online, or else speak at least two metres away, and:

  • Ensure you’re aware of the owner’s circumstances, and they of yours, so you can both individually assess the situation.
  • Ask the owner to check the contact details linked to the dog’s microchip are up to date, so that it gets returned home as soon as possible if lost. This can be done online and over the phone for dogs registered with Petlog. You can also purchase a dog tag from the Kennel Club range here. 
  • Check if the dog has any allergies (there may be some treats it can’t have), medical or behavioural issues, so you know how best to exercise it safely.
  • Put the telephone number of the vets where the dog is registered in your phone. In an emergency always call ahead, as a different surgery may be better or nearer.
  • Ask the owner what commands the dog knows, such as to sit, walk to heel and come back - using the right words will make the walk easier and less stressful for you both.
  • Plan the time and ideally a route in advance. 

When collecting the dog:

  • Follow government guidelines – maintain social distancing measures and always wash your hands before and after handling the dog.
  • Ideally use your own lead and avoid touching the dog, its collar or harness, as much as possible. Don’t share a dog whistle and wear gloves if necessary, disposing of them afterwards.
  • Make sure the dog’s collar is not too loose, as otherwise it could back out if scared – you can check this (if wearing gloves) – you should be able to slip two fingers, but no more, between the collar and the dog’s neck. A close-fitting harness is harder to escape from. Make sure the collar or harness carries the owner’s name and address - affix a temporary label if need be.

When on a walk:

  • Be very wary about letting the dog off the lead - only do so if, where and when the owner says it’s OK. Even a normally well-behaved dog is more likely to run off in the current situation. It’s less likely to be anxious when walked where it normally goes, but avoid popular times and places where you can’t keep at least two metres from other people and dogs. In England, dog walkers are able to travel to non-local areas in order to exercise their dog(s). However, in Scotland and Wales dog walkers must exercise within their local area. This also applies in Northern Ireland, which limits exercise to a 5km radius of your household.
  • Government advice on staying safe outside your home is available here.

  • Don’t let any dog play with sticks, as they can cause serious injury. Also avoid any toys that are small enough to get jammed in the dog’s throat; tennis balls can be too small for some larger dogs to play with safely. Always thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after handling any dog, toys, treats, leads, harnesses etc.
  • Always pick up the dog’s poo wherever you are in town, coast or countryside; any public waste bin will do. As bins may become full at this time, ideally take the bagged poo home and place it in the general waste. Take hand sanitizer in your pocket so you can use this afterwards, then wash your hands with soap and water as soon as you get home.

When returning the dog:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, as well as any toys, leads or harnesses used on the walk, as soon as you get back to your home.

There’s more advice from experts, including vets and welfare organisations, available here.

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