You work long hours at the office. Your dog is bouncing off the walls. You have an elderly dog or a puppy who can’t hold their bladder all day. Or maybe you just can’t physically walk them yourself. Regardless of your situation, you need a dog walker pronto! But how do you choose the right dog walker for your dog?
5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Dog Walker:
1. What Service Options Do They Offer?
No one knows your dog like you do. So you probably know what type and duration of walk is best for them. One of my dogs, Lucy, is 15 years old. She could walk in a group. But at her age, she wants as little stress as possible and prefers a 1-on-1 personal walk.
My boy Ripple is active and reactive to all dogs, as well as human children. For him, I need a 1-on-1 walk that is longer than 30 minutes. He needs the energy expenditure. It makes a huge difference in his behavior at home!
2. Are They Professional Dog Walkers?
On-demand walking services like Rover and Wag have become popular options for dog owners who want their dog walked on short-notice. However, that comes with a price, and I am not talking about cost. These companies do not thoroughly vet their dog walkers. So if you do not interview who they send over, you don’t know the quality of walker you will get. Multiple horror stories are available with a quick Google search. Incidents from shorted walks to no-shows, and even stolen dogs and dog deaths due to negligence are common.
Contrary to the aforementioned services, professional dog walkers (or dog walking companies) have a liability insurance policy at the very least. Those with staff are bonded as well. They are licensed businesses in their cities of operation. Most of them have had some kind of education in the pet field, such as pet first aid, comprehensive pet sitting, dog handling, reactive dog handling, etc. They train their employees in these areas as well.
Many also invest in continuing education, as well as connect with other professionals in their industry to discuss pet-related topics or to refer business to each other. Potential employees are interviewed and background checked, and even drug tested in some areas. A dog walking company is going to take the job seriously and not as “just some extra cash.”
3. Can They Handle Your Dog?
Is your dog reactive to other dogs, cats, people, kids on bikes, vehicles, squirrels or other wildlife? Does he have other behaviors that may make him not so easy to walk? It is important for your dog walker to know these things before they attempt to walk your dog. A professional dog walker will ask you these questions before deciding whether they are a good fit for your needs. Be as detailed and honest as possible.
It is vitally important to disclose any difficulties you believe the walker may encounter. Ask if the walker is comfortable with all of these potential problems. You do not want a dog walker who is not capable of controlling your dog in all situations to be out walking him. It puts your dog and the walker in a potentially dangerous spot.
4. Does Your Dog Like the Walker?
This one is just as important, if not more important than the previously listed questions. Does your dog get along with the walker? Just like people, dogs can pick favorites too, and they most definitely have their favorite humans! Watch your dog interact with a potential walker and see if they are a good match personality-wise. When I go to a potential clients house for a meet-and-greet, I will often get down on the floor and let the dogs and cats come sniff and get acquainted with me. On occasion, I have treats in my pockets too, which helps!
A good sitter can show animal savvy, calming even the most anxious of animals. Numerous times, I have gone into a home for the first time, and an anxious animal greets me warmly. The owners are so surprised! They were expecting their pet to react negatively towards me. My calm, confident demeanor goes a long way towards making animals who don’t yet know me feel comfortable around me. Someone who really gets animals has this ability.
However, on occasion, a dog or cat absolutely does not like me, and there is nothing I can do about it. It happens (although not very often!). In those instances, I walk away and the client finds someone their pet likes better. No hard feelings! Your dog is going to be spending the time with this person – it is vital that he likes her!
5. Is Your Dog Walker Available and Reliable?
So you have found the greatest dog walker in the world. They have service options to meet your needs, they are very professional and organized, and they seem to be the perfect match for your dog. Great! But that means nothing if they are not consistently available when you need them. This is where hiring a company as opposed to an individual hobby dog walker pays off. Companies have the ability to work 365 days a year, especially if they have staff. If someone gets sick, there is someone else to cover the walk.
It is important to sit down with your potential dog walker and let them know what your needs are and find out if they are capable of meeting your requirements. If they don’t walk on Sundays and you need someone 7 days a week, that might not be the right walker for you. If you want night walks, and their last walk time is 5pm, you may want to find someone who will walk your dog after 7pm. Be as specific as possible when talking to your potential dog walker about your needs.
If you’re looking for someone while you are at work, let the walker know when you usually leave your house and when you usually get home. That way, they know the time range they need to be at your house with your dog and whether they will be available during that time frame.
Have an in-depth conversation with your potential dog walker, ask the questions mentioned above, and see how your dog and the walker get along. I am convinced that if you do all of the above, you will land the perfect dog walker for your family!