Dog walkers in Buenos Aires, an urban tradition

Dog walkers in Buenos Aires, an urban tradition

A job like any other, he wanders with his pack of dogs around the neighborhood picking up the dogs one by one from their homes.

I still remember how I got surprised the first time I saw a pack of dogs (or a dozen),all of them walked by only one man who, however, did not seem to be overwhelmed by the situation and was walking quickly on the street. It happened in mi first trip to Buenos Aires. I believed that I must have found an eccentric man but I could only get more surprised when I saw the second one some minutes later. Actually, it was what they call here a dog walker.

A job like any other, from early in the morning till dusk, he wanders with his pack of dogs around the neighborhood picking up the dogs one by one from their homes. He rings the bell of the entry-phone of each building to announce his arrival to the “dog owner”. She goes down immediately with the dog on lead, hands it to the dog walker who picks it up with a determined, skilled gesture, almost “with a professional gesture”. So he ties this new lead to some sort of hook he has on his belt.

Dogwalker in the city center of Buenos Aires

The lead joins a dozen more all of them with a happy dog at the end sniffing the newly-arrived. The group resumes their trip to another building where the same ceremony will take place again. When the group (about fifteen dogs) is complete, the dog walker will take them to a square especially conditioned for dogs where they will run, know each other and take a nap under a tree.

What is more impressive is to see all these dogs on the sidewalk running one next to the other in absolute silence, none of them barking, none of them pulling from his lead. They look like a military battalion marching and following the rules as the boss, that is the dog walker, allows no rest to his “men”. No fighting between them, the same walking rhythm and then, of course, respect towards that who cannot hold on a minute and has to stop at a stream to pee while the others patiently look into the air awaiting the moment to resume their walk. Some sort of micro-culture where the “big boss” dog walker enjoys the right to caress them or tightly pull them from the lead showing that anarchism has no right to citizenship in this “world”.

Each dog walker has its own specialty as to the size of the dogs, some walk only small dogs, some walk medium-size dogs and others walk big dogs. It is not very common to see some bassets in the same group as Danish shepherds. You will be more amazed when you see a “she dog walker” (yes, there are some women too, they are the minority in the family of walking the dogs) in general in charge of the small-sized ones.

There are two shifts for walking the dogs: the morning or the afternoon shift as the dog does not walk all day long but only 4 or 5 hours. Each dog will be walked from Monday to Friday, some dog walkers also work on Saturdays though it is not very common, on Sunday they take the day off and it is the most hated day by Buenos Aires dogs. Some of the dog walkers also wash the dogs or even keep them for some days. Summing up, there is a wide variety of services developed around the dogs.

Two argentinian dogwalkers meeting

An executive order published by the government of the City of Buenos Aires on November 28, 2001 (same day of the beginning of 2001 crisis): DECREE Nº 1972/001 does not emphasize the professional feature of dog walkers but their good habits. Section 1, paragraph 4 sets forth the prohibition of walking more than 8 animals at the same time but nobody respects this and from some time ago, dog walkers and Federal policemen are playing mice and cats for the great pleasure of the dogs as the good guys are fined.