All professional Edinburgh dog walkers, who walk their dogs in Edinburgh council’s public parks and green spaces, must now register their dog walking business with the City of Edinburgh Council.

All professional dog walkers in Edinburgh are now required to send in their business contact details to Edinburgh council and to abide by a new code of conduct for commercial dog walkers. One of the most welcome parts of the new code is the requirement for all commercial dog walkers to have public liability insurance.

Edinburgh Council’s permission to walk dogs commercially is a requirement of management rules made under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act to conform with the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and the corresponding Scottish Outdoor Access Code. The new rules came into force on 1 March 2013. The code is designed to minimise the impact that professional dog walkers have in Edinburgh’s parks on other park users, set a positive example to other Edinburgh dog walkers and to improve service standards in the industry.

The upshot of all this, for commercial Edinburgh dog walkers, is that they cannot walk their dogs in any of the council’s public parks and open spaces without permission and a registration card, which must be shown to any council officer on request. If the code of conduct is not followed, a council officer may ask the dog walker to leave the park. Ultimately, permission could be completely withdrawn from a business for a serious breach of the code.

As a business, we are pleased to see some regulation in the industry. We have seen many instances of large groups of dogs, up to 12 at times, being allowed to run wild in Edinburgh’s parks, fouling and intimidating other dogs and park users, especially children. There is absolutely no way that any one person can be in proper control of such a large number of dogs at any one time. The code recommends a limit of “6-8 dogs at any one time” which is a little vague and, for some dog handlers, is still too many. This is only a recommendation and won’t necessarily stop huge packs appearing in public parks.  Sometimes the problem is more to do with the experience, professionalism and attitude of the dog handler rather than the number of dogs they’re walking. We believe the sight of 8 dogs bounding towards you, however, is still quite intimidating, especially for small children.

Here’s a brief summary of the main points of the new Edinburgh dog walking code:

1. Commercial dog walkers must clean up after their dogs.
2. Dogs must be kept under proper control in accordance with the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010.
3. Quiet parks should be used over busy parks and spaces near children’s play areas should be avoided.
4. All dogs should be walked to and from a vehicle on the lead.
5. Businesses must have public liability insurance.
6. Exercise adequate control in line with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and walk a maximum of 6-8 dogs.
7. Possess reliable skills in training and handling dogs.

The new Code of Conduct is very welcome, but there are some limitations. It won’t stop irresponsible and uninsured pack walkers from using non council owned parks and land and it only applies to the City of Edinburgh. It’s certainly a step in the right direction however.

We specialise in walking dogs on their own, or two from the same family. This allows us to focus all our attention on the one or two dogs we’re walking and to fully minimise our impact on the enjoyment of other park users. Commercially, walking just one or two dogs isn’t as profitable as pack walking, but it’s what we’re happiest doing. The welfare of our dogs and other park users always comes first.