If I could design my perfect job, I think it would look something like spending my days walking through the Oxfordshire countryside surrounded by dogs. Well for Alice Pyper, that dream is a reality as she owns Woof and Whistle, a dog walking company based in North Oxford.
We caught up with Alice to discuss all things dog.
First things first, tell me a bit about yourself.
I grew up in the Scottish Highlands, spending most of my childhood outdoors exploring mountains and beaches. Our family had three amazing dogs, a labrador, cocker spaniel and golden retriever, which is where my love of dogs started! I studied Sports Coaching at Bath University, did some travelling, and attempted living in London before moving to Oxford to start my dream business Woof + Whistle.
What makes Woof and Whistle so special?
Woof + Whistle is a dog walking and sitting service based in North Oxford. We collect the dogs from their homes and take them on group or individual walks. I never wanted to be the dog walker who takes out 10 dogs all on leads, as I feel it isn’t much fun for them! We keep group numbers small, which allows us to give each dog much more love and fun! Our sitting service is also slightly different from other businesses as we actually stay in the dog’s home, which is much more comfortable and familiar for them. As a small company with close relationships to our clients, we are able to offer bespoke services beyond waking and sitting, from day care with cuddles to bringing your pooch to your wedding!
When did you start Woof and Whistle?
I started Woof + Whistle in 2016. Since then we’ve had the pleasure of taking on a number of wonderful clients (both humans and dogs), many of who have been with us since the beginning. I’ve known some of the dogs since they were tiny puppies, and its been a delight to see them grow up and had allowed us to form a close bond with them. In the last year I’ve had assistants working for Woof + Whistle which has allowed me to expand the business.
Why did you start your business?
I started working in an office after University and very quickly realised that it wasn’t for me… some might say that I have a low attention span! I decided to do something that made me happy, and for me that was working with dogs and being outdoors as much as possible!
What does a day-in-the-life of a dog walker look like for you?
It’s hard to say, as every day is different. As you might imagine, it generally looks like a lot of walking! It depends on the dogs I am looking after, they all have different characters and needs; some dogs love to run and play, whilst some are more content with a plod and quick swim in the river. The best way to get an insight is to check out our Instagram (@woofandwhistle). I try to take snaps and videos of the dogs having fun so that their parents, aka owners, can see what they’re up to. Taking pictures of the dogs can sometimes be a full-time job in itself!
What do you love most about your job as a dog walker and sitter?
I genuinely just love hanging out with the dogs all day! It is also very rewarding making the dog’s lives happier and funner. You can tell that they really enjoy the walks, they are always waiting at the window with wagging tails, bringing me toys when they hear the car pulling up. The group walks are a great opportunity for the dogs to socialise with other dogs, we have lots of dog BFFs and we plan groups so they all get to see each other regularly. I also really enjoy seeing my clients (the dog’s owners), all of them are really lovely and we have great chats about their dogs or just random chit chat!
You must get to see some pretty amusing dog adventures – what’s the funniest memory you have of your dog walks?
Oh my goodness, so many things happen even in a single walk it can be difficult to pinpoint one moment! It’s always the reactions of the dogs that are the funniest; we’ve had dogs jump into rivers and then act surprised they are in the water, slip on ice they didn’t know was there, and roll in mud (looking especially pleased with themselves) we always wash the dogs if they are muddy as most of the clients have cream carpets!
Does it ever descend into chaos at times, as you herd excitable pups for their walks?
Whilst it might look like chaos at times (I like to call it organised chaos), the dogs are all very sweet and well behaved, they are just always very keen to get going on the walks! We group the dogs by age and fitness level, so the younger puppies can be extra energetic together and run around chasing each other. On the other hand there are the older dogs (the senior ladies walking group as they’re known) who are very chilled out, which makes for a nice change of pace for us.
What is you favourite thing to do with the dogs?
My favourite thing is to run around in the fields with the dogs playing and exploring!I’m also known by my family as the dog chauffeur, and I really do love the driving time with the dogs, I can hear them all chatting away and they love to look out the window, I will often sing along to the radio on the way to and from walks which I like to think calms the dogs if they’re feeling a bit nervous… but I’ll leave the dogs to review me on that one. If I’m dog sitting at the end of a long day the best thing is to cuddle up with the dogs on the sofa (or floor – depending on the house rules!)
I know you take your dogs on ‘school trips’ once month – where is your favourite walk in Oxfordshire?
Our school trips are the highlight of the month! We take a few lucky pup’s somewhere a bit different for a longer walk. We are very lucky to have so many good walks to choose from. I’d say my favourite at the moment is Cheese Wharf near Farringdon because of its idyllic walks along the river and open fields for the dogs to bound around in. Christmas Common in the Chilterns is also a beautiful woodland spot not too far from Oxford. You can read about our monthly outings on our blog: https://woofandwhistle.squarespace.com/blog.
And finally, do you have a favourite pupster or one you have bonded with the most?
I love them all the same! I tell people I have 50 dog children.