Your dog needs daily exercise to stay physically and mentally healthy, and if your schedule doesn’t allow you to hit the trail with your four-legged companion regularly, you may need to hire a dog walker.
This isn’t a decision to make lightly: who you choose to walk your dog matters. Anybody can advertise themselves as a dog walker, but they don’t have the experience or setup necessary to keep your dog safe and happy. Trust your instincts with a decision such as this. Don’t be afraid to interview and meet with several people before making a decision.
Here are some steps you can take to ensure that your dog walker is well-qualified and a good match with your pooch.
Ask For Recommendations
An excellent way to start looking for a dog walker is by asking for recommendations from other pack leaders. Please keep in mind that when a certain dog walker works for a friend or family member does not mean they will blend well with yours. You might have to try a few different people before landing with someone you love.
If you have friends who use a dog walker, find out what their experiences have been like. You can also ask around the dog park or see if your vet has anyone they would recommend. Of course, even if you get a glowing recommendation, there are still other steps you should take before saying, “You’re hired!”
Invite Candidates To Meet Your Dog
One of the most important factors when choosing a walker is whether or not your dog is comfortable around this human. Before hiring a walker, you should introduce them to your dog and see how they get along. When introduced to a new person, many dogs are shy or wary, so you shouldn’t necessarily expect immediate chemistry. However, you should look for a walker who acts calm and assertive towards your dog and pays attention to body language and behavior. Watch how your dog responds to this person. Of course, at first, they might be shy but pay attention to clues that it’s not a good fit.
Ask Logistical Questions
Knowing what’s happening while your dog is out with their walker is important. Here are a few logistical questions you should ask:
- Where will you walk my dog?
- Can you accommodate special needs? For example, would a walker be able to take an unsocialized dog alone at first and gradually introduce them to a pack?
- How long are walks? Ask about the duration of the actual walk, not including driving time.
- Are you the person who will walk my dog? While most dog walkers are sole proprietors of their business, there are larger dog walking organizations with multiple employees, so you need to know who will walk your dog.
- How do you communicate beyond the usual emergency contact situation? Getting information about happenings is a bonus.
- Do you provide walking service regardless of the weather? If they will not be available when it rains or snows, this information will help you to develop a backup plan.
- Will there be other animals on the walk? Ask if they plan to walk other pets simultaneously as yours. This is critical information for you to have for the safety of your furry friend and the others. Ask if they have training on how to group compatible dogs. Do they group by age, size, or activity level? Do they know how to handle all the dogs should a fight break out?
- Do you plan to unleash my dog at the park? What type of leash do you use? Make sure they only use leashes you approve of.
Ask About Their Dog Training Background
In many cases, your dog walker should be someone who has professional experience working with dogs, not just someone who loves animals and wants to make some extra cash. Here are some things to ask about their background:
- How long have you been walking dogs?
- What are your training methods? You want to hire someone who uses techniques that you agree with.
- Are you licensed and insured? If your walker runs a legitimate business, they should be able to show you a business license and proof of dog-walking insurance.
- Do you run background checks on your dog walkers?
- Are you certified to provide canine first aid? How will you respond to emergencies?
- Ask for multiple references of current and previous clients.
Go For a Test Walk
Ask your potential dog walker if you can come along for a test walk. The walker will likely be on their best behavior during this outing, but you can still get a sense of whether or not they’re the right choice for your dog. For example, if you have an older, slower dog and the walker insists on marching along at a fast clip, they might not be a right fit. If the walker is paying attention to your dog’s needs and your dog’s body language indicates she’s happy, they might be a good fit.
Don’t give up if your first dog-walking candidate doesn’t pan out. Keep doing your research and interviewing candidates until you find someone who works for both you and your dog. Take your time because your dog deserves to be safe, comfortable, and happy on his walks.
Practice how the walker will pick up and drop off your pup. If they plan to transport your pup in their vehicle, you may want to consider the type of transportation used.
Other Ways to Find a Dog walker
Technology and social media have made it easy for you to find the best dog walker to suit your pet. Moving to a new neighborhood or across the country has its challenges, and finding someone to exercise your pup should not be one of them. Check out some of the avenues available to aid in your search.
- Use a Neighborhood Kid: teenagers and college students are always looking to earn extra cash. Find willing kids through word of mouth, community social media pages, and job boards. If your furry friend is high maintenance or complex, you might want to consider hiring a professional. One thing to note is that you should be certain the youth walking has a love for animals and cares about its well being. This option could always be used as a backup to your regular walker.
- Use a Dog Walking App: If you’re having trouble finding someone, you can download a dog walker app that allows you to schedule 24/7 care, schedule walks for the same time daily, and track your dog and walker via GPS.
- Hire a Professional: you may want to go the route of hiring a professional who is insured and has been trained in many different aspects of dog care. They are typically in this line of business for the long term and can easily find a backup if they become available.
Information You Should Provide to Your Dog Walker
- Dog age, name, breed, approximate weight, and home address
- History of health problems and contact information of your veterinarian
- Current medication list and dosage instructions if you ask them to administer.
- Foods you allow your pup to eat (people, dog, and treat quantity)
- Any behavioral clues that are helpful for the walker, such as he tends to chase cars, does not like kids, or is aggressive towards poodles
Do you use a dog walker, or are you a dog walker? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!