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Happy pooch: Lessons from a dog walker

Doug Smith, founder of West Village Dog Walkers, talks to us about dogs in the city.

dv1909036 Socializing your dog for city living is key.
Credit: Thinkstock

Until Doug Smith, the founder of West Village Dog Walkers, began walking downtown pooches for a living, he never considered himself a small dog person. Now that he has nearly a decade of experience with every kind of dog lower Manhattan has to offer, he’s changed his tune.

“As hyper as some small dogs can be, others are pretty low-key,” Smith said.

Another plus: the ability to transport them —a lesson Smith learned after one Staffordshire terrier snacked on a stash of rat poison on the way back into his owner’s building. “I picked him up like a football and sprinted ten blocks to the vet. They pumped his stomach right then and there,” Smith said. His speed ended up saving the pup’s life – a feat that’s a bit tougher to imagine with a German Shepherd.

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For aspiring dog owners with limited space, Smith recommends breeds like Shih Tzus, who are calm and sleep a lot. For those who prefer to think bigger, English bulldogs require limited exercise. Still, Smith asserts, nothing is completely off limits, “you can have whatever kind of dog you want in Manhattan, as long as you’re willing to put in the effort,” he says.

Smart walking strategies can help dogs stay happy and healthy in even the most congested neighborhoods. Highly trafficked pedestrian strips can be too chaotic for dogs, so Smith tends to avoid streets like Bleecker or Fifth.

He prefers quiet residential streets like Bedford, which runs between Christopher Street and Sixth Avenue. For longer strolls, Smith enjoys the long, open stretch along the Hudson River Park off of West Side Highway.

If heading for a dog park, Smith advises, supervise your dog closely to be sure he’s playing nice. “Dog owners can be just like super defensive parents,” Smith jokes. “They’ll say, ‘my son would never do that!’”

Since New Yorkers and canines live in quarters a bit closer than most, socializing your dog for city living is key. “This is one of the most populated cities in the world. People will be running up and asking to pet your dog — you don’t want to have to say, ‘no, he’s not friendly,’” Smith said.

It’s also polite to ask fellow walkers and owners about their dog’s comfort level before engaging.
Ultimately, our pups respond to the signals we send them. “Be patient,” Smith said. “Dogs respond to the energy of the person walking them. They really pick up on that.”

Treat your pooch

Pamper your four-legged pal with a trip to Zoomies, lower Manhattan’s lifestyle boutique for dogs.

The swanky spot is co-owned by Angelique Graux, a former Parisian restaurateur, who now caters solely to canines as a dog biscuit chef. The organic indulgences contain real ingredients like egg, bacon and cheese, and are made without no-nos like oil and butter.

Even Graux was shocked at how picky different pooches can be, “I thought, oh, all dogs will go for the cheese. But some don’t! We started off with five treats, and now we have ten” says says.

She rewards her own beloved Chow with the ginger ball cookie.

Shoppers will also find an array of U.S.A. and Canada-made accessories, like beds, blankets, collars and leashes, in addition to a selection of toys. But there’s no need for clients to feel overwhelmed. Graux encourages clients to bring in their dogs and let them decide what they like for themselves: “they start shopping right away!”

 
 
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