Imagine for a moment you’re on the streets of Buenos Aires eating a factura and drinking a mate (because that’s what you do in Buenos Aires) and someone passes you walking 20 dogs. If you are new to Buenos Aires, chances are you’d pause for a moment and stare as they walked by thinking that this is a rare sight. Maybe your first thought is “wow. That person has a lot of dogs.” But then later in the day as you’re going to a parrilla and you see someone else with a herd of dogs. You suddenly realize these aren’t people with 20 dogs. That’s a dog walker with 20 dogs at once!
The people in Buenos Aires love their dogs. But most live in small apartments and don’t want them all day in the apartment without exercise. So they hire dog walkers so that their dogs get exercise and fresh air while the owner works.
The dog walkers
Also called paseaperros. Their job is to collect 15-20 dogs from different houses in the neighborhood where they work and exercise the dogs. The paseaperros arrives more or less the same time everyday (Monday through Friday) to pick up your dog. There is a route that they take everyday and this includes a stop at a dog park where the pups can be off leash and run around with their friends and get all their energy out. The total route for the dog walker is 4-5 hours and each dog gets at least 3 hours outside, (2 hours walking and 1 hour in the park, more or less).
How much does it cost?
A number of the dog walkers made a career change to this field because they found that being a dog walker is a profitable career. A dog walker can make more than some vets, dog groomers, or even journalists. In general, a trusted dog walker that cares for the dogs well can charge more or less $100 USD per dog monthly. So they can make $1,500-2,000 USD for working 4 -5 hours a day. Which in pesos is 25,500-34,000. For reference, you could live on $15,000 a month and break even.
While the profession is profitable, it certainly takes a specific type of person to want to handle 20 dogs at a time. The dogs within the pack will sometimes start fights for the alpha dog spot and it’s the job of the dog walker to maintain peace within the pack which is no easy task with so many dogs.
The better dog walkers will be able to tell when a dog is sick or acting out. Also, if a dog is injured they’ll take the dog to a vet and contact the owners. Other dog walkers aren’t so attentive. This is why it’s important to make sure that the person to whom you give your dog cares about the well being of the dogs. Many of these people form relationships with the dogs so they are the dog sitters when the owners are out of town. Also, if the dog needs to be dropped off at the vet, or groomers, some of the dog walkers take them there too.
In general, the dog walkers tend to have roughly all the same sized dogs. A litter terrier couldn’t really keep pace with a Great Dane very well so the dog walkers specialize in little, medium, or big dogs.
Keeping with the spirit of Argentina, there are laws that govern the paseadores but no one follows them. They’re not allowed to have more than 8 dogs, but everyone does. They’re supposed to clean up after their dogs but no one does that either because if they picked up after every single dog they couldn’t make the circuit in time. They also can’t leave the dogs tied up without watching them, but many of them do while they pick up another dog, or buy a bottle of water. And finally, they are supposed to be registered as dog walkers with the government for tax and benefit purposes. But again, not who work as paseaperros all are.
Buenos Aires is a city that loves their pets. Around every other corner you can find a pet shop. Just walking down the streets in winter you’ll see dogs with winter coats, a rain jacket, or little booties for their paws. The paseaperros are another indication of the important place that dogs have in the culture of Buenos Aires.