A love of dogs is the least you’d expect of someone who makes a living from taking them on walks…
… but James Hattersley who has just started up Premier Dog Walking in East Sheen has much more to offer.
Alongside his passion for almost all animals, going back to his childhood, is a highly professional approach to his new venture. James has studied and qualified for a Professional Dog Walker diploma and is also a member of the National Association of Pet Sitters & Dog Walkers.
“The diploma was very thorough and taught me a lot, including understanding the body language of dogs, and also first aid for dogs who may get hurt or injured when you are on a walk,” he said.
James has also acquired a licence to walk dogs in Royal Parks like Richmond and Bushey Park.
“Most pet owners don’t realise that professional dog walkers need a licence if they take their dogs into these parks,” explained James. “It’s expensive and not easy to obtain so most dog walkers dodge it and try to avoid being caught if they risk going into the parks.”
To get the licence the dog walker is thoroughly vetted by the park authorities, who demand references, insurance, personal details, and a contract with a vet in case of emergencies.
They also charge a surprising £300 a year, plus another £100 for a parking permit. James is one of only very few properly licensed local dog walkers and this reflects hugely on the strength of his commitment. It is also the reason why he will only take a maximum of three dogs for a walk at one time.
The nightmare and comic scenario of a dog walker desperately trying to look after half-a-dozen pets of all shapes and sizes is not for him. “You cannot, in my opinion, control properly more than three at once,” he explains, “nor can you give the dogs the special attention which their owners are paying for.” To this end he has a range of toys which he takes for his charges to play with on their walks.
His passion for dogs goes back to his childhood and his family’s two pets, Leia, a cocker spaniel, and Oscar, a West Highland terrier. “They were very special, but I had all kinds of animals as a boy, including gerbils, hamsters, cats, a lizard, and several big fish tanks – our house was almost like a farm,” he jokes.
James is very experienced in dealing with tropical fish after having them as pets and working in a local tropical fish shop for 10 years. As a result, he also offers feeding for owners on holiday, tank cleaning, and set up and maintenance, as an extra service.
With the expert help of his wife Uliana, he has created an excellent website – http://www.premierdogwalking.co.uk/– which gives full details of all his services and charges.
“We have been thinking about starting this business for about a year because I want to be my own boss, and have prepared very thoroughly,” added James. “Like all new start-ups the first problem is to get the word out about what you offer, but I’ve already got a few regular customers and we are hoping for many more.”
With such an approach, he deserves to succeed.
Words by Mark Dowdney – Pictures by Bob Lisney – Project Coordinator Richard Osbourne