Barbara Carroll, the owner and trainer at Dog Hikes & Cat Care, has always been an animal lover, but it wasn’t until 25 years ago that she was able to dedicate her entire career to them. “It was one of the best things I ever did,” Carroll says of leaving her job as a stockbroker and entering the animal care and training field.
Today, her Hopkinton-based business offers nearly 10 types of services, including dog hikes, dog walks and feeding, one-on-one training walks, instructive training hikes alongside owners, pet-sitting, consultations for choosing a pet, and house-sitting. Carroll is fully insured and certified in pet first aid.
Her dog hike service is particularly special, Carroll explains, as she takes pets to the State Park for 90-minute walks that provide much-needed activity for young and high-energy dogs as well as time for her to build trust with them. “Most dog walkers take your dog 7-10 minutes out from your house and then back home,” Carroll says. “That’s not enough exercise, especially if your dog is under 8 years old.”
“If you want a healthy, well-rounded dog,” Carroll says, “it needs a good amount of exercise, it needs to do nose work [smelling new surroundings] and it needs to gnaw, ideally on three to four chewable bones a day. If you’re not meeting all the dog’s basic needs, you’re going to have a dog with behavioral issues.”
Another aspect that makes Dog Hikes & Cat Care unique is that Carroll sends photos and videos to pet owners, a service that provides peace of mind but also allows pet parents to review footage of problem behaviors.
As business has grown, Carroll has become known as the “dog whisperer of Hopkinton,” she says. “People have brought me some really scary dogs,” she shares, “and I’ve been able to turn them around. Sometimes I’m the difference between the dog being dumped at the shelter or euthanized.”
Carroll urges dog owners to begin practical training (not just puppy classes that teach to sit and lay down) around 3-4 months of age in order to establish good habits and clear boundaries. If dogs miss certain benchmarks in their development, correcting behavior becomes increasingly difficult, she explains.
One client, Christie Donahue, has a dog named Luna who had issues with resource guarding, anxiety and a fear of car rides. Luna refused to go with other dog walkers, but Carroll cracked Luna’s code using a blend of confidence, careful judgment, firmness and good treats, Donahue says. “I am truly grateful we found Barbara,” she says. “She reads dogs well and can handle all types.”
“I love what I do,” Carroll says. “I love dogs. I love being outdoors in all kinds of weather. People will call me saying, ‘Barb, there’s a nor’easter; are you hiking?’ and I’ll say, ‘Yeah, I’m hiking!’ Unless there is thunder and lightning. The needs of dogs don’t change due to the weather.”
To learn more, visit doghikescatcare.com or call 508-361-4409.
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