There are so many people offering dog walking, from the 14 year old down the road, through to bigger companies that have an array of walkers on their books who they allocate the work out to.
Unfortunately, like dog training, there is no legislation or licensing for dog walkers, which means anyone can offer the service, without having to work to any standards. Finding someone who you can trust with your pup can be a daunting task…
Here are a few things to look out for, and questions to keep in mind when interviewing for a walker – and yes, I said interviewing. You wouldn’t turn over your child to someone you’ve never met or spoke to, so why would you do the same for your dog?
Make sure you get a trial walk – where you walk with your walker and your dog. It gives you a chance to see them handling your dog, will remind you of things to make sure your walker knows, eg any issues with walking past another dog, words he knows to leave something etc
A lot of walkers offer a trial walk where they see what your dog is like to walk, but the trial walk is as much for you as for them. It also gives you a chance to see how your dog reacts to them – they could be the best walker in the world, but if your dog just doesn’t like them for some reason, do you want to make them go out together?
Number of Dogs
Unfortunately the maximum number of dogs a professional dog walker can take out varies from place to place in the country – usually somewhere between 4 and six dogs.
A lot of walkers take advantage of this to make as much as money as possible – but how is this taking into account your dog’s well-being? The more dogs on a walk, the less attention your dog is getting.
And think about pick-ups and drop-offs, if they’re not being left in car, then all these dogs are being bundled into a confined space (your, and other people’s, house), where stress levels will be raised and conflicts are more likely, especially for the dog whose house it is.
Find a walker that walks just one dog at a time so that your dog is actually getting the walker’s full attention, and is being supervised properly. The fewer dogs a walker has, the more they care about the individual dogs, not just the money involved.
Flexibility of length of walks
Not all dogs need an hour of walking, yet it’s the only time unit a lot of walkers offer. If you have a small dog, an old dog, a young puppy, or a dog recovering from an illness or operation, you’ll likely want a shorter period of time. Make sure your walkers fits YOUR needs, your dog shouldn’t compromise to fit them.
Remember a walk isn’t just about the physical exercise for your dog, it’s about brain stimulation, 10 mins with a lot of sniff stops will be more stimulating and tiring for your dog than an hour of non-stop walking.
First Aid Training
Is your walker trained in canine first aid? Do they know what to do if your dog treads on glass, gets bitten by another dog or gets heatstroke? And if you’re looking to use a big company that has an array of walkers, make sure that EVERY walker has this training, and carries a basic first aid kit – not just the manager in the office.
If you’re interested in learning about Doggy First Aid for yourself, check out Dog First Aid
If your dog is being collected in a vehicle to be taken for a walk, how are they secured? If there are multiple dogs, each one should be in a separate crate so that they are unable to interact with each other. Dogs have died due to fighting when left together unattended.
Also, does the vehicle have dog-branding that makes it a tempting target to thieves?
Does the air-con run even when the car is parked? It doesn’t take long for a car to heat up in summer, and if your walker gets caught in conversation with the owner of another dog during pick-up or drop-off…
Hot Weather Policy
Summer is great, but hot weather has dangers for your pet – more than just not leaving your dog unattended in a car in warm weather. Hot pavements and roads can burn your dogs paws (put the back of your hand to the pavement, if you can’t keep it there for 10 seconds, then it’s too hot to walk your dog), and walking in high temperatures can cause heat stroke.
Does your walker have a policy for walks during weather like this? Good walkers will refuse to walk dogs in high temperatures – instead they can take them out for a comfort break, and then spend the rest of the allotted time playing brain games with your dog, which will stimulate them, and tire them out just as much, if not more than, a walk. Again, if a walker has multiple dogs at a time they just can’t offer this service.
Also, ensure that your walker always carries water for your dog.
Are they insured? Companies like Cliverton offer insurance specifically for pet professionals – giving you peace of mind in the unlikely event of an accident involving your pet while in their care.
Memberships of Professional Bodies
Memberships are entirely voluntary, but are a great way to know that your walker is working to some set of standards. There are various unofficial groups and memberships that walkers can sign up for, but a lot of them don’t mean very much; look for members of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) for the Gold Star Walkers (and anyone else involved in your dog’s life; trainers, vets, groomers etc). The Pet Professional Guild is a membership organization representing pet industry professionals who are committed to results based, science based force-free training and pet care.
In the unfortunate circumstance that a dog gets away from your walker, either runs off when off-lead, or manages to slip his lead, does your walker have anyway to track them? It doesn’t take much for them to attach a tracker to your dog’s collar so that if the worst happens they are easily able to find your dog.