How do I choose a dog walker?
While selecting a dog walker may not seem like one of life’s big decisions, the process deserves serious consideration.
First and foremost, references are important. If your neighbors and friends have been satisfied with their dog walker’s service for a long time, there’s a good chance you will be too. Find out if the dog walker is bonded and insured and for how long he’s been in business. A dog care professional is committed to his clients and doesn’t think of dog walking as a “temporary” occupation that anyone can do.
Second, not all dog walkers are created equal! Trainers often make ideal dog walkers in that they can handle the feistiest of Fidos in a variety of situations. They’ll likely be able to read other dogs in the vicinity for friendliness and expertly handle the leash, regardless of weather or distractions. That said, these professionals come from all walks of life, and many excellent dog walkers have no formal training background.
Take the time to interview several dog walkers to see what services are available and how your personalities fit together. Does your dog respond well to him? Do you trust him? How quickly did each candidate return your call and schedule an interview? How competitive are the rates? How do the references pan out?
It’s crucial to find out if the dog walker intends to let your dog off leash to play, and if so, whether the area is fenced. Is your dog reliable off leash, even when running with other dogs? Remember, there’s no magic available to the dog walker that isn’t available to you; if your dog isn’t 100% reliable with you off leash, then she won’t be with the dog walker either.
Is your dog going to be walked alone or with other dogs? If it’s a group situation, are the other dogs friendly and does your dog interact with them well? It’s perfectly reasonable to ask to meet the other dogs. To see how the group interacts–and how the dog walker handles the gang–join them on a walk. If you’re not welcome to go along, you might want to rethink hiring that person or company.
Is your dog a puppy? If so, special consideration should be given to which dogs she’s walked with and allowed to play with. While puppies need to play with adult dogs as well as other puppies to ensure normal social development, impressionable young pups need expert supervision to ensure that no bullying is going on.
How long a walk will your dog get? How will you know that she’s really being walked for that amount of time? Some dog walkers offer time sheets with brief reports of the day; others do not. Either way, be sure to ask if the allotted time includes travel to and from a destination or from door to door.
Does the dog walker have a first aid kit in his car, and does he provide water and treats when appropriate? How does she handle disciplining your dog if he barks, lunges, or pulls while in her care? Are you comfortable with those methods?
Billing and fee structure is important so find out in advance what fees and services are available. How flexible is your dog walker if your pet should be ill or have restricted exercise requirements for a short time? If your dog walker is sick or away, who will cover for him? Does he work alone, as part of a company, or with substitutes that he sends in if he’s busy or unable to come himself? If so, you need to meet those people, too.