How to choose the right dog walker
If you own a dog, you’re bound to need a dog walker occasionally. Perhaps you’re out at work all day, or maybe you’re working from home but you’re going to be tied up in endless Zoom meetings.
That’s when the dog walker comes to your rescue. They can take your pup out for a blast in the fresh air, let them stretch their legs and socialise with their doggy friends.
But there are so many different dog walkers out there, how do you know which one to choose?
How much exercise does your dog need?
Before you rush into choosing a dog walker, it makes sense to think about what kind of walk your dog needs.
Check out this article from the PDSA to work it out. Do you have a Border Collie who’s happy to hike for miles or a Bassett Hound who’s forever dreaming of their basket? Perhaps you have a puppy who only needs a short walk, or an older dog who likes to take it slow these days.
The amount of exercise your dog needs each day will be a crucial factor in the kind of dog walker you choose. It would be counter-productive to send a puppy out with a pack of adult dogs or to expect a senior citizen to keep up with a crowd of young pups.
Does your dog have behavioural issues?
Likewise, it’s important to think about any behavioural issues that might affect your dog’s ability to enjoy their time with a dog walker. Are they nervous around other dogs? Do they sometimes act in an aggressive way, even if this is due to an underlying fear? Can they be trusted to obey basic commands, such as sit, stay and come
It’s only fair to your dog and your dog walker to let them know about any issues that might affect everyone’s enjoyment of the walk.
How to find the perfect dog walker
The best way to find a good, trustworthy dog walker is through personal recommendation.
Start by asking:
- Friends, neighbours and other dog owners in your local area.
- Your vet.
- Local dog groomers, dog trainers or animal shelters.
Questions to ask before you meet
Once you’ve narrowed down your search, you need to check out your potential dog walker’s experience and credentials, to make sure they’re a safe pair of hands for your precious hound.
Ask your potential dog walker:
- How many people they employ. Are they a one woman / one man or are there several different people who walk the dogs?
- Who covers for them if they’re ill or on holiday.
- What kind of training they have. Dog walkers don’t actually need any specific training, but ideally you’d want them to have qualifications in animal first aid, animal behaviour and animal care.
- What they would do in the event of an accident or emergency. Do they have relevant training and carry a first aid kit?
- What kind of insurance they have. Professional dog walkers need third-party liability insurance.
- How many dogs they usually walk at once. (Insurance will often limit walkers to a maximum of six dogs. There may well be local council laws too that cap the number of dogs that are allowed.)
- What kind of transport they use. Is the van regularly cleaned and disinfected? Are there harnesses or crates for dogs? How does the walker ensure that dogs have enough space and that they’re not left in the van for long periods unattended?
Check the chemistry with a ‘meet and greet’
If you like the sound of the potential dog walker and they seem to fulfil all the criteria you’re looking for, it’s a good idea to have a ‘meet and greet’, or ‘meet and sniff’, with you and your dog.
At that point, you can see how the walker and your pup react to one another, and decide whether you feel that you can trust this person with your dog.
Questions to ask when you meet
At the meet and greet, you need to discuss:
- A schedule. Do you want your dog to be walked regularly or occasionally?
- How they will look after your keys and the security of your house, if they have keys and are collecting and returning your dog to your home.
- Any rules on social media. Are you happy for your walker to put snaps of your pup on their Instagram or Facebook page? (This can compromise your security if your phone number is visible on the dog’s tag, for example.)
- Who the walker should contact in case of an emergency, and whether you would like your dog taken to a particular vet.
- Any allergies or other medical issues your pet has.
- What kind of equipment your dog regularly uses, such as a particular type of lead, harness or muzzle.
- Rules on food and treats. Is your dog allowed treats? If so, what kind and in which circumstances?
- Which other dogs will be on the walk with your dog. How many are there and what kind of dogs are they?
- What kind of activities will take place on the walk. Do they engage with the dogs or just let them roam along together?
- Where your walker will take your dog. Do they have regular places they go or do they vary the routes?
- What happens if your dog rolls in something stinky while they’re out. Will your dog walker wash them off or deliver them back to you reeking?
- Whether your dog can be let off the lead. The walker has to have your permission to let your dog off-lead, or they might not be insured in the case of an accident.
Phew! That’s a long list of questions. But they’re all important, and you could really regret it if you skip over them. They’re designed to help you decide whether this is a safe, trustworthy person who will be a good companion for your dog in your place.
Go with your instinct
Finally, trust your instinct – and your dog’s. If the dog walker rings on the doorbell and your pup rushes to the door, that’s an excellent sign. If, on the other hand, they run away upstairs and hide under the bed, maybe it’s time to find a new dog walker!