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International tails: Dubai

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In our latest interview, we spoke to Pauline, the Digital Marketing Manager & Learning and Development Specialist at Paw Pals in Dubai. Pauline shares the philosophies that guide the team’s approach and the unique challenges and successes they encounter in providing first-class care for pets in Dubai.

Hi Pauline! Can you share a bit about your background and experience in the professional dog services industry, plus the services you offer now?

Paw Pals officially began caring for pets in Dubai in 2015, though the passion for animals started much earlier. Our owner, Kate, has a rich background in animal rescue, saving abandoned animals and caring for pets in need until they found their forever homes. Her own pets inspired her to create Paw Pals, realizing many pet owners lacked support for feeding, exercise, and cuddle time. By 2019, Kate noticed a gap in the market for affordable pet relocation services, leading to the addition of a relocation manager and a force-free trainer to the team. Today, we offer pet sitting, dog walking, pet relocation, and dog training services.

Can you share a specific story about a rescue animal that had a profound impact on you?

At the end of 2018, a rescue organization asked Kate to take in a German Shepherd for a two-day assessment. This dog, Mazakeen, was traumatized from years of abuse and being abandoned in boarding for 18 months. She had severe behavioural issues, including reactivity and biting strangers. Renaming her Mazakeen, Kate worked tirelessly with her. Now, she joins group classes, goes to daycare, and enjoys outdoor adventures without her reactivity being triggered. Kate says “She is one of the most loving dogs I have; she’s affectionate, loving, and listens – she’s the most amazing dog once she knows you. Mazakeen taught me that truly all dogs need is love and time. Positive reinforcement, time, and lots of patience.”

What guiding principles or philosophies shape your approach to providing dog services?

We strive to provide the best and most reliable care for pets and their owners in Dubai. Within the company, we use only force-free methods to build relationships based on trust and respect. We are members of the Pet Professional Guild and Pet Sitters International, ensuring our staff receive regular training in pet care, first aid, and dog behavior. Compliance with local laws and regulations is a top priority, and we are fully licensed. Our most recent breakthrough was with Mavis, a dog who initially hid under the sofa during visits but now trusts her sitter enough to go on walks.

How do you keep your team motivated and educated on the latest pet care techniques?

New staff are trained by our job mentor on pet sit and dog walk visits, ensuring a consistent knowledge base. They read the company handbook, complete starter e-courses, and receive regular training on various pet care topics. Our new trainer also provides on-the-job pointers for handling dogs with behavioural difficulties. To keep the team motivated, we offer convenient e-courses that they can complete on the go, fitting their schedules. This approach allows them to study when it suits them best, making learning flexible and practical.

Could you share a bit about the area or community in which you provide your dog services? How does the location influence your approach to caring for dogs and their owners?

We are located in Dubai, where 85% to 90% of the population are expats. This transient society makes pet relocation common, and we offer trustworthy and affordable services to help pets stay with their owners during moves. We provide pet sitting, dog training, and dog walking services throughout most of Dubai, adhering to local rules about where dogs are allowed and ensuring they are always leashed. The desert climate also influences our approach, with staff trained to handle heatstroke and other climate-related risks. For example, Otis, a French Bulldog in our care, has his walks adjusted daily based on the weather conditions to ensure his safety.

How do you foster strong bonds and effective communication between dogs and their owners during training and care sessions?

All our training services involve the owner, fostering a strong dog-owner connection through shared learning experiences. We believe training is just as much for the owner as for the dog, and going on this journey together builds a strong bond. All our services are force-free to build trust-based relationships. We offer various courses, including enrichment sessions, to help owners engage with their dogs in meaningful ways.

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in the industry, and how have you overcome them to provide exceptional service?

One major challenge is the perception that pet sitting and dog walking require little skill, while in reality, they are professions requiring training and expertise. We counter this by emphasizing the professional training of our staff and educating clients through blogs on our website. This helps clients understand the value of skilled pet care professionals. For instance, we once had a cat get into lilies, which are extremely toxic. Thanks to our knowledge, we rushed him to the vet for emergency treatment, saving his life.

Could you share a memorable success story where you witnessed a significant positive change in a dog’s behaviour or relationship with its owner?

We frequently see positive changes in dogs’ behaviour and relationships with their owners through our training and care services. One memorable success involved a terrier mix named Truffle, who initially distrusted his caretaker but eventually warmed up to her, even climbing onto her lap. This transformation highlighted the impact of patience and professional care. Another recent success is Mavis, who went from hiding under the sofa to going on walks with her sitter, demonstrating a significant breakthrough in trust.

How do you ensure that your dog care practices align with ethical standards and prioritize the well-being of the animals in your care?

As mentioned earlier, we use only force-free methods and follow the guiding principles of the Pet Professional Guild. We provide continuous training for our staff to ensure they can offer the best care. We have written standards of ethical workplace conduct that new employees must read and sign, and any violations can be reported confidentially. We carefully select individuals during our hiring process to ensure their ethics align with the company.

Can you share some insights about the biggest logistical challenges you face while working in your city? For example, how are you managing your interactions with local authorities or licensing departments to ensure smooth operations?

The biggest logistical challenge in Dubai is the traffic and travel distance. We manage this by assigning staff to specific areas and efficiently scheduling visits. While the processes for licensing and legal requirements are streamlined and smooth, the travel between addresses can be challenging due to traffic and parking difficulties. Recently, during heavy rain, our staff helped each other cover visits, and our Pet Sitting Manager kept clients updated about any delays.

What advice would you offer to fellow dog care professionals looking to provide high-quality and compassionate services to their clients?

Always keep learning and be open to feedback. Techniques and methods are constantly being updated based on the latest research. It’s easy to get stuck in a certain way, especially if you’ve been in the field for a long time. Always strive to provide the best.

Lastly, because we can’t resist asking, what’s your favourite breed of dog and why?

No favourites here, but the desert specials (local mixed breeds) and the national dog of the UAE, the Saluki, will always hold a special place in our hearts. Our owner, Kate, loves shepherds. “They’re the best doggos – loyal, affectionate, easy to train.”

For more information about Paw Pals services, visit

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