May 292012

Guest Post by Ruth Schechter

Visitors to the sprawling metropolis of Buenos Aires often run into a sight that can warm the heart of any dog lover. Throughout the shady streets in the upscale neighborhoods of Recoleta and Palermo you can spot professional dog walkers, called paseaperros, exercising as many as 20 beloved pets at a time.

Dog walker in Buenos Aires, Argentina

An estimated 1 million dogs live among the 15 million people in Buenos Aires. Since most people work long hours and live in apartment buildings, passeaperros are in great demand. For a set fee, they will provide door-to-door service, escorting their wards to a nearby park where the animals can play and the humans can visit, drink mate (a popular herbal beverage), and share the responsibilities of grooming, watering, and keeping the peace.

“You really have to love animals to spend so much time every day with them,” says Jane Stalofi, who started her dog-walking service 12 years ago. She picks up nine customers each weekday morning at 8 am and brings them to a large run she and some fellow entrepreneurs constructed behind the landmark Flor de Metal park in the Recoleta, where the dogs get to mingle minus leashes until it’s time to head back home about two hours later.

Dog walker in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Nearby, Roberto Crespo unfolds a complex chart that he uses to organize his 16 dogs as he works his way through his pickups. After three years, his clients include Weimaraners, Labs, golden retrievers, and a malamute. “I decided to specialize in larger breeds because it made it easier for them to all keep the same pace,” he says. “When I see a Yorkie trying to keep up with a Great Dane, I feel sorry for the little guy.”

While there are no set qualifications, the law requires walkers to register with the city and set a fine for failing to clean up after accidents. But like so many laws in Argentina, the canine code is rarely enforced, and visitors are wise to keep their eyes on the pavement.

Dog walker in Buenos Aires, Argentina

According to the walkers, the job is a lot harder than it looks. There’s a tremendous amount of walking and the stress of keeping control of different personalities vying for the alpha dog spot. “I feed them, play with them, groom them, teach them manners,” says Jane as she pats Essa, Mora, and Lola, all Jack Russell terriers. “It’s a lot of work, but I get to spend my time outdoors having fun with dogs.”

Dog walker in Buenos Aires, Argentina

If you’re in Buenos Aires with your pet:

If you need to hire a paseaperro, your best bet is to ask a local doorman or a local pet store owner for a recommendation, or look around the neighborhood . Rates run from about US$8-$25 per day. While few of the better hotels in the Recoleta will allow dogs, those that do can arrange dog-walking services on a day-by-day basis. Here are a few of them, but contact the hotel directly for confirmation and details.

Park Hyatt offers a canine VIP service, with special treats, pillows, and toys for dogs up to 12 kilos (26 pounds).

Unique Hotels, a boutique chain, will accept smaller dogs for a fee.

Alvear Palace and Ulises Hotel will allow dogs (and cats) of less than 10 kilos.

Ruth Schechter is a freelance writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area who specializes in education, health care, and travel. Her great aversion to cold weather has induced her to spend her winters in Buenos Aires, where she continues an ongoing struggle to master Spanish. Ruth previously wrote about the confiterias of Buenos Aires for Traveling with Sweeney in Life is Sweet in Buenos Aires.

  43 Responses to “Watching the Dog Walkers in Buenos Aires”

  1. Thank you for an interesting post. I have had a dog for the past 13 years myself. I am an absolute canine fan. I have seen dog walkers around but they are not popular here. I suppose a dog must be educated well to go out with a stranger, which is the opposite to what our dogs are taught to do.

    • It’s very interesting how dog (and other animals) are viewed in different cultures, isn’t it? So glad you liked the post!

  2. I’m still smiling after reading this! Those dogs just make me feel happy. Glad to see these dogs are able to get out and walk during the day. Great story!

  3. This is really impressive. I watched our neighbors dogs over the weekend. One weighs 105 pounds. He’s a handful be himself, but I can manage him and his 45 lb brother. But no more. So I need my hub’s help to walk our dog. I can’t even imagine trying to wrangle more than 2 at once. These pictures give me deep appreciation for the paseaperros. Also, it’s good to know Buenos Aires is dog-friendly. It’s another place we’re eager to visit. Looks amazing there!

  4. We saw exactly the same scene when we were in Salta, Argentina. I guess it’s something you see all over the country. I was amazed at how well behaved the dogs we saw were- no fighting or barking. But that’s one pile of dog poop to be picking up!

    • It amazes me that all those dogs seem to get along so well. I hear you about the poop!

    • Though Argentines have gottten better about the aftermath of dog walks, it’s still wise to keep your eyes on the sidewalk when walking around the city. The dark side of some dog-lovers…

  5. What a fun post…I always get a kick out of dog walkers in metro areas…

    • I like watching dog walkers, too, but I’ve never seen anything like this. I’d like to visit BA and see them in person sometime.

  6. We loved the dog walkers in BsAs. It’s the aftermath that stinks (literally).

  7. I can’t imagine myself walking with 16 dogs…

  8. This is somehow not kosher to me. Instinctively, I would say these walks don’t do the dogs much good.

    • Interesting comment, Michael. They seem to be content with the situation and they are getting exercise. But I don’t have any expert opinion on it. Maybe Ruth and/or another reader will have some input.

    • It depends on the walker. Some of them just take the dogs to the park and hang out; others have set up enclosed dog compounds where they let the dogs run loose; and some others will meet with their friends and take turns running or playing with each dog at a time. I think the vast majority genuinely like dogs and try to give them some real exercise.

  9. I remember seeing something about the dog walkers in Buenos Aires on Travel Channel. What a great job for a dog lover!

  10. Wow, that kind of looks like a hard job! Haha, I’m not sure I could handle all those dogs at once, I’d be worried of them starting a fight.

    • Isn’t it interesting that they all seem to get along with each other? Leigh, above, commented that she’s seen these large groups of well-behaved dogs in Argentina, too.

  11. What an interesting post! I can’t believe how many dogs there are in BA and how many some of these dog walkers take care. Such a perfect job for dog lovers. I liked seeing all the dogs here though..such cuties.

  12. I guess it’s something you see all over the country. I was amazed at how well behaved the dogs we saw were- no fighting or barking. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Aww, looks like a fun way to spend an afternoon, but hmm, yeh, gotta agree with Michael on this one. Up to 20 dogs at a time seems a bit much for all concerned!

    • I know it seems like it would be too much, but from what I understand it works out well for dogs and walkers. But as I mentioned to Michael, maybe we’ll get some other first hand input on that.

  14. Those are some seriously talented dog walkers! I volunteer at the Animal Shelter in Munich and sometimes have a hard time walking one dog!

  15. So in Buenos Aires, a dog walker is a real job! 🙂 I love dogs – I’ve had one my entire life. However, I am not sure I could handle that many 🙂

    • It wouldn’t be for me, either. But I’d sure like to watch them in action.

    • Of course the more dogs you walk the more money you make, so it’s a matter of economic efficiencies for most of these walkers.

  16. Love dogs, but why have one if you can’t take the time to walk it yourself? On the other hand, it you like dogs, being a dog walker is probably a nice way to make a living

    • I can see where there would be many people who can’t walk their dogs during the work day, so the walkers are a great solution.

  17. Had no idea dog walking was such a big deal in Buenos Aires. This takes me back to NYC. Any day in Manhattan, you can see dog walkers with several dogs in tow. There’s even a new reality shoe featuring a dogwalker/whisperer.

  18. One of my favourite sites in Buenos Aires, I have no idea how they keep track of them all!

    • That’s a good point about how they keep track of them all. I guess that’s why they’re the professionals.

  19. What a job!! I would absolutely love to spend the day, every day with our furry friends!!! What a great post!!!

  20. I sometimes found pet sitting jobs while I traveled. I did some dog walking in LA…but only one at a time for me! This guy wanted me to jog with his dog, but the poor pooch wasn’t into it. I prefer cat-sitting!

  21. Thanks everybody for your comments. Apparently there is a real art to organizing and controlling the dogs that has to do with how they are organized on leash. One dogwalker told me that she has to establish dominence right away so all her charges behave. I have seen only one or two incidences of dogs going after each other — it really is a sight to behold

  22. That mingling with other dogs without the leash is a good idea 🙂

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