No-one can visit Buenos Aires without seeing one of the city’s most characteristic sights: the paseaperros or professional dog walkers. Most residents live in apartments but this doesn’t stop them from wanting a dog as a pet. During the week when people are working, the dogs get lonely and need exercise so an enterprising group of people have arisen to solve the problem.
We saw them walking along the streets every weekday or sitting in the parks and gardens while the dogs enjoy some social time together. Sometimes they are walking a few prize pedigrees belonging to one family but often they are controlling up to 10 dogs from different owners. How they don’t get all tangled up or lose one of the pack I will never know.
Many of these men and women apparently have some veterinary training and they are paid not only to walk the dogs but to brush and groom them and to look out for signs of ill-health. Most dogs are walked twice a day. While you will see most of these dog walkers in the up-market areas of Retiro, Recoleta and Palermo, they also service other areas.
According to one dog-walker, "It's well-looked on to have someone walk your dog. It gives you social status, just like having a house in the country or golf club membership." A successful dog walker in Argentina can make three times the average Argentine's salary-- doing something he loves. The professionals charge between 100 and 180 pesos a month for each animal. It is possible to earn more than a teacher!
The industry has had so much success that it is now regulated by the authorities of the city. It is an obligation to have a licence for more than 3 dogs, there is a limit of 8 dogs at a time and each walker pays a fee of 200 pesos every six months for the utilization of public space. Dog walkers must carry their official accreditation with them at all times. They are supposed to pick up "dog defects" with a brush and small bag (perhaps this particular rule hasn't caught on just yet) and they must not tie animals to trees, monuments, streetlights or traffic lights, posts, or any type of street furniture.
The dogs are usually taken to the railed-off areas in the local parks that are set aside for the city's mutts. It's a bit like the way nannies gather together in London's parks to see the minders gathered together gossiping in one corner of the enclosures whilst their charges play - or ignore each other elsewhere.
Paseaperros are now undeniably a part of the Argentine experience. The daily barrage of dog-walking on such a large scale is certainly unlike anything I've ever seen.