Over the past few years, there has been an explosion in the dog walking industry, alongside the U.S. economic downturn and Seattle’s well-known population boom. This has resulted in many complaints about unprofessional dog walkers to Seattle Parks and Recreation and COLA (Citizens for Off-Leash Areas). As a result, COLA feels the need to make a statement of support for both the citizens of Seattle who are bringing personal dogs to Seattle Off-Leash Areas and the best of the professional dog walkers out there, who serve the booming canine population in a city short of space for them to run.
Toward that end, we are today announcing a citywide launch of our COLA-sponsored program called WOLF (Walkers are Off-Leash Friends) geared toward making clear who the professionals are in our dog parks. WOLF members adhere to dog park dog walker best practices (see below) and proper city ordinances while giving back to the dog park community through a program designed to make clear their benefit to Seattle Off-Leash Areas.
In addition to our WOLF program supporting professional dog walkers, COLA supports Seattle city officials putting a reasonable limit on the number of dogs allowed to a professional inside an off-leash area, if coupled with an official annual permit for making money on public land, as is required of all other programs which use Parks to make profit. A “pack limit” however must recognize the community impact of properly exercised and trained dogs, in comparison to large numbers of dogs who do not receive proper exercise in a city with little more than eight hours of daylight in winter, the same hours which overlap with our hard working citizens leaving their beloved companions home alone without an outlet for their energy.
– Ellen Escarcega
WOLF Dog Walker Best Practices Agreement
I agree to maintain to my utmost ability the following best practices:
- I am up to date with city and state business licenses and liability insurance.
- I adhere to Seattle City OLA park rules and regulations.
- I strive to leave the park cleaner than it was upon arrival. I “scoop poop” regardless of if its source.
- I agree to abide by pack size limits posted for each Seattle dog park, if/when such limits are imposed by the city. (Courtesy limit of 10 dogs is encouraged by WOLF, regardless of park limit.)
- All dogs are on leash both to and from the dog park.
- All of my dogs are well socialized before entering the park and well behaved while in the park.
- I strive for my dogs to enter into the dog park in a calm manner.
- I avoid lingering around gates with my pack, especially when a new dog is entering the park. This will help avoid a mob or prey mentality and will help ensure safety for everyone.
- I display a cooperative and professional attitude while in the park at all times. I do not lose my temper, yell, or cuss at any dog or human. If human conflict arises, I am civil and respectful in the midst of disagreement.
- I carry a list of license numbers and client contact information for each of my dogs at all times.
- I do not leave dogs unattended in the park at any time. If I need to leave for an urgent matter, I ask another dog walker to briefly watch my pack. I do not leave dogs unattended in the park in order to bring in a second group of dogs.
- I am conscientious and courteous of other park users when entering and exiting the park. I unleash inside the park, not inside the “air lock.” This creates congestion. Upon preparing to leave the park, I leash my group before going through the “air lock.”
- I am careful to not leave dogs unattended in my vehicle for extended periods of time, especially in the summer.
- I am pet CPR/First Aid certified
- I am knowledgeable in how to break up dog fights.
- I am an ally to other dog walkers.
- None of my dogs are in heat. All male dogs over one year old are neutered, well socialized, under my control, and do not create drama or conflict with other dogs.
- All dogs are over 4 months of age and are up to date on vaccinations and are healthy to the best of my knowledge.
- I do not linger on my cell phone while in the park. I use it for taking photos of my dogs or in case of emergencies.
- I remain active with my dogs and attentive, keeping them in view at all times. I am always walking, fetching, and or playing. I avoid being stationary in the park and I avoid standing around talking or excessively socializing with humans. I avoid overcrowding areas with my pack.
- I value professional growth by seeking to learn from science based educational materials and programs.
- I strive to volunteer for the Seattle dog community at least 3 hours per month.
- I will take the educational class called the COLA Ambassador program.
A letter to Professional Dog Walkers from the WOLF Director:
Hello Seattle Dog Walkers!
Want to have a visible, positive impact within your dog park communities? Want recognition for the contributions you already make daily in your dog parks? Want dog walkers to be seen as the professional assets we are rather than be sneered at by people who presume we are otherwise?
COLA is acutely aware of the difficulties of the dog walker community when using Seattle Off-Leash areas, and we are sympathetic to those professionals who work to preserve the best traditions of the profession. We come to you led by Charlotte Bontrager, the Steward of Woodland Off-Leash Area (and fellow dog walker since 2002), hoping to form a true coalition of dog walkers, named WOLF.
WOLF: Walkers are Off-Leash Friends. WOLF has come together in partnership with the Seattle Parks Department and our primary dog park supporter, the non-profit COLA (Citizens for Off Leash Areas).
The goal of WOLF is to benefit our individual dog walking businesses, our reputation as an industry as a whole, and to give back to what is not only a primary place of work for many of us, but also a public space.
If you wish to become a member, it’s quite simple. In return, your business will get recognition for your contributions of funding and volunteerism. Your business card will be posted prominently at your park(s) of choice, you will receive a vest to make your commitment to excellence known to the general public, and monies raised will go directly toward a project in each park that is visibly marked as, “A gift made possible by WOLF dog walkers.” Finally, if you donate $100 or more per year, you will get a free advertisement on the COLA website!
Who decides how this money is spent?
All member ideas are welcome. However, final approval will be made by the Parks Department since they ultimately own and are responsible for the dog parks. This program is intended to show (in a plain, simple, and sustainable way) that we support and give back to our off-leash areas. WOLF members pay dues with a giving spirit and no strings attached. Regardless where the money goes, there will be full transparency in the COLA annual report, so you can trust your donation is wisely spent!
Follow these 4 easy steps to become a WOLF member:
1) Annual Donation.
Please give a yearly donation of the amount you feel you can and should give. Any amount above $100 per person makes you a WOLF pack member. Recommended amounts are based on pack size and days per week that you use the park. However, what you donate is up to you. WOLF dues apply to individuals. For businesses with employees, please donate for each employee and consider how many dogs each brings to the park.
For instance, if you have a group size of 5 or less or if you frequent the park 2 days per week or less on average, your donation might be $100. Those of us with 5-10 per pack or more than 2 days per week at the park may donate $200 per year. Those who average two trips per day to the park or more than 10 dogs per day may donate $300 per year. If you wish to split your dues into payments, there is an easy auto pay plan that will take a percentage of your donation out of your bank account each month. Set it and forget it!
Go to https://seattlecola.org/register-business/ to make your tax deductible WOLF annual donation. On the general COLA sign up page, you’ll see a button for WOLF. Click on that, and add-on options appear. Select the add-on amount that best reflects your pack size and use of the park as described above. You will then have the option of uploading your logo or business card to the COLA business advertisement page.
If you wish to pay by check, please make it out to COLA and mail your check to: Citizens for Off-Leash Areas (COLA), PO Box 17469, Seattle, WA. 98127. Note that it is for WOLF!
Your “donation” will be your dues. Once you’ve made your donation, WOLF representatives from each park will ensure your business card is posted prominently on the WOLF display at the main entry to your park or parks of choice.
Each member will be asked to sign an agreement on the COLA website upon registration. This agreement states that you are licensed and insured, and agree to follow to the best of your ability, the Seattle City rules for OLA’s and WOLF best practices. This will be based on the “honor system” only. Although the general public is always watching us, there will be no official monitoring of WOLF members.
COLA will provide a card for you to keep your pack’s licenses handy, in case Animal Control is around — just keep it up to date and carry it, simple! We expect Animal Control to recognize WOLF members by this card, and realize quickly that these dog walkers are valued members of the dog park society!
3) Community Service
WOLF members are encouraged to volunteer a minimum of 3 hours per month. This can be achieved through becoming a COLA committee member, serving at the animal shelter, cleaning at the dog parks, participating in the COLA Ambassador Program, or performing administrative tasks for WOLF.
4) Bi-Annual Fundraising Event
Finally, members will be encouraged to participate in the WOLF bi-annual fundraising campaign. Twice per year, we’ll provide a postcard describing our program asking for donations. Just send or leave this card for your clients. Easy!
How will this help you to be more visible?
Your business card will be visibly listed in your dog park(s)!
- For $100 or more per year per person, you will receive a WOLF vest that will bring POSITIVE attention to your service to the dog park anytime you wear it! And you get a FREE advertisement on the COLA website! This website will reach over 10,000 people annually!
Your participation in WOLF will help to promote dog walkers as contributors rather than users. It will spread a positive image about us as a whole. You will experience fulfillment and pride knowing you are giving back to your park, worksite, and community.
Finally, note the disclaimer on the WOLF mission and best practices page. WOLF is not designed to serve as an endorsement for our individual businesses. It is not to serve as a reflection of how we treat our dogs, clients, or about running our businesses. WOLF is simply an organization designed to foster giving back to our park and to help spread a positive image through visible contributions.
Questions? Comments? Please contact us! I hope to see you on the WOLF display soon!
Thanks for your consideration!
WOLF Director, COLA Steward, and Professional Dog Walker