What are the risks to dog walkers during the COVID-19 pandemic?
As more of your clients begin social distancing, you may temporarily find yourself with fewer dog-walking jobs. However, many clients working from home may still want you to provide daily exercise for their dogs. It is important to understand how to do so in a way that is safe for both you and your clients.
As described above, it is important to limit direct contact with your clients. If you interact with them while picking up or dropping off their dog, you should attempt to stand at least 6 feet apart during conversation. People can shed the virus without showing any symptoms of disease, so it is important to practice social distancing even with clients who appear healthy.
“Although we are still learning about the new coronavirus, it appears to remain infectious on some surfaces for several days.”
It is also important to limit your contact with potentially contaminated items in your clients’ homes, whether they are at home or not. Although we are still learning about the new coronavirus, it appears to remain infectious on some surfaces for several days. If you touch a contaminated surface (like a doorknob) and then touch your face, you could potentially be infected with the virus.
“Although there is no evidence to suggest pets contract or transmit the virus, a pet’s fur could be contaminated if an infected owner coughs or sneezes on their pet.”
Pets’ coats could potentially become contaminated with coronavirus. Although there is no evidence to suggest pets contract or transmit the virus, a pet’s fur could be contaminated if an infected owner coughs or sneezes on their pet. Remember, you are not only responsible for protecting your own health, but also the health of your clients. We are all in this together. Even if you are at relatively low risk of serious complications associated with COVID-19, you want to minimize the risk that you could spread the virus to others.
How can dog walkers avoid contracting or spreading disease during the COVID-19
The most important things you can do to minimize your risk of infection, and minimize the risk of transferring infection to your clients, is to be cautious when interacting with clients and when touching anything that could be contaminated.
Consider the following:
- Be especially careful when touching doorknobs. (Use a barrier, such as a glove, or wash/sanitize your hands immediately after touching doorknobs.)
- Touch as little as possible while in client homes.
- Minimize the amount of time that you spend in client homes.
- If the client is home, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet during interactions.
- Use your own leashes, so you can avoid handling client leashes. Wash or sanitize your leashes daily.
- Wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer) frequently during the course of the day.
- Limit kissing, petting, or cuddling the dogs you work with.
Finally, maintain a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) from other people while out in public. This may influence where you walk your clients’ dogs. Seek out routes that are uncrowded, so that you can minimize your interactions with others.
How should dog walkers communicate with owners during this time?
Communicate with your clients regularly during this pandemic. Having information about your clients’ health can help you avoid taking unnecessary risks.
Ask your clients to notify you if:
- anyone in the home develops respiratory signs or fever
- anyone in the home has been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19
- anyone in the home has possible occupational exposure to COVID-19 (for example, an emergency room physician)
- anyone in the home or their close contacts have a history of international travel (including to the US or Canada) or their close contacts
Keep in mind that you are not only trying to protect yourself; you are also protecting your other clients. If a client has respiratory signs or has been exposed to COVID-19, take appropriate measures to protect yourself and your other clients. Contact your local health department to determine how to proceed.
Clients at high risk of occupational exposure also deserve special consideration. Consider walking these dogs later in the day, in order to minimize potential spread to other homes.
“Finally, if you develop any signs of COVID-19, including cough, fever, and/or shortness of breath, it is important that you stay home from work.”
Finally, if you develop any signs of COVID-19, including cough, fever, and/or shortness of breath, it is important that you stay home from work. Create a plan for this scenario now, before you become ill, so that you can quickly update your clients and move forward with your backup plan.