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House Rules and Building Etiquette for Professional Dog-Walkers

Tom Soter in Co-op/Condo Buyers

"Some buildings are more anal than others," notes Paul Columbia, owner of NYC Dogwalkers, a dog-walking firm. "Some won't allow outside dogs to come and be taken through their lobby to owners' apartments, which means that people end up with private walks [for their dogs], which are more expensive than semi-private [multiple dog] walks. Generally, the Upper East Side buildings have [you enter and exit through] service entrances versus the Upper West Side, which is more laid back."

Whether you're on the East Side or the West, downtown or in Brooklyn, certain rules are typical all over the city. For example: No dogs allowed in the main elevator, only the service elevator. If a building has service elevator, there may be a rule that they can ride the main elevator but they must sit still.

"We have no more than three or four dogs together at once," says Scott Smith, owner of Biscuits & Bath, a dog-care company. "Some buildings have service elevators that are specifically for dogs and we're happy to accommodate that. Others use the main elevators and we train all our walkers to follow the policies of the building and also to make sure the dog is very well behaved when it's in our care. That means getting them to sit in the elevator in the corner and not interfere with other people."

Sit. Stay.

Some buildings don't allow dog "packs" inside, and stipulate that groups of dogs must wait in front of the property while the dog-walker collects his charge from within. At Board President Gary Sherwin's 116-unit Upper East Side Manhattan cooperative, for instance, "the dog-walker has to leave the multitude of dogs outside [with a partner or tied up] and come in and get the dog that he or she was walking. Groups of dogs are not allowed in. We have only two elevators, so it makes it difficult. A lot of people would feel uncomfortable getting on with six or seven dogs."

John Decker, owner of the dog-walking company Downtown Pets, suggests that, "aggressive dogs should at the very least wear a muzzle coming in and out of buildings because elevators and lobbies are areas where they can definitely be a little bit cramped and feisty.

Buildings may require that dog-walkers be bonded and insured. "That is really as much for our protection as a company as for the dog owner," says Columbia, who notes that if someone gets injured by a dog, "she's probably going to sue the building — not the girl who was walking the dog."

"That's one of the most important things to find out with respect to a dog-walking service: are they bonded and insured, and what sort of insurance do they have?" adds Smith. "Everyone'll tell you they are [insured] but I can tell you from experience that in most cases that's not the case."

If keys are given out, there a background check will likely be required. As George Karpodinis, president of a 234-unit co-op in the Fort Washington section of Manhattan, notes, "It is a risk. You're giving keys out to people. What if it doesn't work out? They have a key. They lose their job — who knows what they're going to do?" Smith, for one, reports that his company performs criminal background and other reference checks on the walkers it hires.

Buildings face a risk letting in a dog-walker. The door staff can't be expected to remember all the details. Notes one veteran property manager, "They say, 'We were told somebody was coming.' They don't remember whether it was 2:00 or 4:00. … 'Well, I wrote it down,' and then you look in the drawer and there are 60 little notes and letters from three years ago, all mish-moshed in there."

In the end, says Fred Rudd, president of Rudd Realty, although rules may differ depending on the nature of the property, there is one point all properties have in common: if it allows dogs, it will, optimally, have some sort of policy. Get to know it. Not only will be a better neighbor for it, but so will your dog.


Illustration by Liza Donnelly

Adapted from Habitat April 2006. For the complete article and more, join our Archive >>


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