Inside the life of a professional dog walker in Istanbul
by Gülşah Dark
ISTANBULJul 14, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Gülşah Dark
Jul 14, 2016 12:00 am
Dog walking sounds like an easy outdoor activity but from the side of a dog walker, it is fun and has many challenges. Dog walking is becoming more common in Istanbul as a profession and dog clubs provide quality care to our canine friends
In Istanbul you see them in parks, along İstiklal Avenue or running along the coast on the weekends in fancy districts like Etiler and Bebek. A pack of mixed dogs; maybe a golden retriever, a German shepherd or a pug, all getting to know each other with a dog walker who handles them with skill. Dog walking is probably the best way to observe how animals and humans can become best friends. With that toothy canine smile, those four legs occupy a big part of a dog walker's life.
Tolga Nalçacı, a professional dog walker and trainer, gets along well with groups of dogs, as the animals see him as a playmate and they have fun together.
A number of dog walkers in Istanbul are on their duty any time you need a professional to take care of your dog when you are busy, stuck at work or on a vacation. This fun and challenging job can even have health benefits, at least according to certain studies. Researchers at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine reported in an April study published in the Gerontologist Journal that dog walking is associated with "improved physical health in seniors and older adults who form strong bonds with their canine pets [because they] tend to exercise longer and more often." Having appeared in Medical News Today, the study's findings demonstrate that at least 150 minutes of walking per week is recommended for physical activity, meaning another advantage for dog walkers.
Dog walking is a common job abroad in countries like the U.S. but for Turkey, dog walkers have become more and more common in the past few years due to the rising demand. Not too long ago, a former shepherd named Bayram Kozat from the eastern province of Malatya raised interest in the practice after he appeared on news outlets with a group of dogs, strolling along İstiklal Avenue followed by the curious eyes of passersby who wondered how he could manage all of his dogs.
To become a successful dog walker, a basic love for dogs is of course a requirement; however, it is not that simple. One also needs to feel comfortable when the dogs are around him for a smooth walk. It is important to remember that dogs can sense fear or hesitation from their owners or dog walkers.
Professional dog walking groups try to offer the best service to satisfy animal owners. The Istanbul Dog Club is just one of them and Tolga Nalçacı, the club's founder and a professional dog walker himself, gets along well with groups of dogs, as the animals see him as playmate and they have fun together. The club has periodical, monthly and weekly schedules for dog walking. For an easy start, try walking a neighbor's dog or that of a friend for a trial run.
Initially established in Ankara in 2008 under the name "Köpek Gezdir," (Take a Walk with Dog), the club resumed services for a while and reopened in Istanbul six years ago. With its team of eleven members, the club renders dog training, walking, accommodation and pet shop services available on the city's Asian and European sides. Speaking to Daily Sabah, Nalçacı, also a dog trainer, said that the main reason that he opted for his profession is to minimize the daily problems of dog owners as much as he can. "My vision is 'happy dog, happy owner.' I also look after my own dogs," he said.
For him, many people think that dog walking is an easy profession. "However," says Nalçacı, "It is a rather difficult one. First, you take the responsibility of a dog's life and safety into your own hands. You assume ownership while taking care of them all day. Also, a dog walker works no matter if the weather is hot, rainy or cold. I sometimes walk at least 22 kilometers and sometimes more than 30 kilometers while wandering around with dogs," Nalçacı went on to say. Another hardship is that dog walkers usually manage more than one dog, which come with its own principles. "Personally, I do not prefer to walk more than four dogs. I believe the more dogs you take care of, the less fun you have and also their safety is more at risk. What is special about dog walking is the individual moments. You know a dog waits for you, as he stares at you from the window or just looking for food when mealtime comes," he said, stressing that the dogs become like his own children. "These are precious for us," Nalçacı said. Dog walking clubs are increasingly in high demand, notably among working people, but they receive requests from different groups, he said.
When it comes to grooming services, Nalçacı said there are a number of shortcomings in Turkey. "Unfortunately, I have observed that only 7 to 8 percent of dog owners look after dogs in the right way. This rate is very low. Among our customers, we have very conscious pet owners and we also help others who need to raise their own awareness about what they need to do for their dogs," he said, adding that they receive satisfying results.For true animal lovers who think they are reliable and hardworking enough to look after dogs, this demanding job can be rewarding one.