By Josh Weiss-Roessler
Your dog needs daily exercise in order to stay both physically and mentally healthy, and if your schedule doesn’t allow you to regularly hit the trail with your four-legged companion, you may need to hire a dog walker.
However, 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 that doesn’t mean they have the experience or set-up necessary to keep your dog safe and happy.
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
A good way to start looking for a dog walker is by asking for recommendations from other pack leaders. 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 even see if your vet has anyone whom 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 person. Before hiring a walker, you should introduce them to your dog and see how they get along. Many dogs are shy or wary when introduced to a new person, 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.
Ask logistical questions
It’s important to know what’s going on while your dog is out with their walker. 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 some larger dog walking organizations with multiple employees, so you need to be sure you know who will be walking your dog.
Ask about training background
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 methods 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.
- Are you certified to provide canine first aid? How will you respond to emergency situations?
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.
Do you use a dog walker or are you a dog walker? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!