Could a simple dog walk turn into a $25,000 accident?
I received another one of those scary emails from my business insurance company (I mention this in my book if you’ll remember). I know these (pet sitter) insurance emails are meant to be informative but to be completely honest, they scare the hell out of me. The long list of things gone wrong with the numerous insurance claim payout amounts is enough to give me nightmares. Even though I have never been on that list, it always feels too close for comfort:
A dog chews up a fancy digital electronics remote
A dog cuts it paw on sharp ice outside in its backyard
A dog chews up and swallows a small squeaker ball from inside its toy
Alone for a few minutes, a puppy climbs over its playpen causing injury to itself after a fall
(And those were the “mild” items on the list)
What do these things tell you? If you’re a fan of cats, you’d most certainly say that these are clear signs to get a cat instead of a dog! Ha. Many people have both, and still bad things can happen no matter what type of pet you own. These are accidents that can happen at home with or without the owner present. Things happen so fast.
In the 30 minutes it took me to cook a meal recently, the huge bored dog capitalized on my inattention and managed to chew through stucco on a column inside the house. I was mortified when I discovered the damage. I was glad that the nibbles of stucco didn’t seem to affect him at all, but still! What if it turned into a medical emergency? Sometimes dogs will act out when their owner is gone.
Dog Walks Can Be Dangerous
It is no surprise to me that several awful items on that list of pet sitter insurance claims happened during dog walks or outings. Here’s one of many similar claims on that insurance list:
Dog broke free from leash and attacked a third party and third party dog
The insurance payout required over $25,000 to cover a hospital visit and vet visit for injuries resulting from the dog breaking free from its leash and attacking them both.
Let’s face it, when they use the term “broke free from leash” nothing breaks, it is usually the handler that fails to keep ahold of the dog’s collar or leash and the dog darts loose. Or it could be a failure to keep a safe enough distance from passersby.
One reason I charge more for dog walks, and why I generally dislike doing them with large, untrained or aggressive dogs is due to the huge liability. So much can go wrong on dog walks: human bites, dog bites, dog overpowers handler and runs loose into traffic getting injured or worse, dog drags or hurts handler in the process of pursuing another animal or person, the list goes on.
I see so many people walking their dog(s) with their head buried in their phone. This is so dangerous. Even if you don’t have a powerful or aggressive dog, that doesn’t mean that someone else doesn’t or that you won’t encounter a stray or an escaped dog. You never know. One sitter and the dog she was walking both were hit and killed while on a dog walk. It is important to be aware of your surroundings when your dog(s) is on leash. Thirty minutes without a phone won’t kill you, I’ve done it and I’m typing this right now so…
My Personal Experience
A couple of years ago, I was on a dog walk with a very strong Pitbull. The owners had two dogs, but suggested I walk them separately because it’d be easier on me. They used a prong collar on this dog because even though he was well trained, he would get excited (aggressive) and “talkative” around other dogs (even if they were hidden behind a fence along a sidewalk). That, and he’d sometimes dart ahead without warning.
I am a strong person, but a determined Pitbull filled with muscle was a struggle to control at times.
Then one day it happened.
I was on a walk with Mr. Pitbull and it was getting dark and we were almost back to the house when he saw something in the bushes and sprinted toward it and he pulled so hard on the leash that he yanked my entire body forward. My hand was wrapped up in his leash so he couldn’t get free, but my hand was squeezed so hard by the leash I was lucky it didn’t tear skin or break bones! My entire shoulder down through my lower back suffered a severe jerk (a sharp yank).
I could barely move my upper body the next few days and it took me months to recover from that after having several visits with a chiropractor before finally feeling relief. I never told the client because I didn’t want them to feel bad. There is already a huge stigma that Pitbull owners have to deal with. They disclosed prior that he was a handful on leash so I was fully aware.
Even though my back and shoulder suffered for months and it cost me a few hundred dollars in medical bills, I am thankful that I didn’t lose my grip on the leash because what would have happened then? Would he have attacked something? Run into the street? I shudder to think if I would have lost my grip on that leash, it could have cost him his life, someone else’s life like another dog or cat, and the aftermath might even have negatively impacted my business (bad reviews, litigation, who knows?).
Taking dogs out of their home territory – whether on a leash or at a dog park – presents many potential dangerous situations. As a pet owners, it is important to be aware of this and also to fully disclose to your pet sitter or dog walker. No one wants to admit their dog is potentially aggressive or has a rough history, but that dog becomes even MORE dangerous when caretakers are unaware of potential triggers or past issues.
You can read why I am not a fan of retractable leashes here.
Stay safe and aware out there on those walks!
Until next time,