If your hours at work have changed, or you work from home but don’t have time to stop in the middle of the day, you’ve probably decided it’s a good idea to hire a dog walker. After all, your dog is happiest when they’re getting the appropriate amount of exercise. A dog walker ensures that your pup is getting the activity they need to stay fit and healthy. They’re also great for making sure your dog is being socialized and getting enough mental stimulation.
You’ve made the decision, but you can’t trust just anyone with your dog. After all, we’ve all heard horror stories about lost dogs, no-shows, and people who take the money and run. Despite all these nightmare scenarios, most dog walkers are in it for the love of animals. This doesn’t mean they’re the best choice for you, but it does mean they’re in the business for the right reasons.
Finding the right dog walker can be intimidating. Don’t worry. We have tips for choosing a dog walker and feeling confident in your decision. Get ready to dive right in because we’re going to make choosing the right dog walker a total breeze.
How To Find A Dog Walker
Before you can get into the nitty-gritty of choosing a dog walker, you have to actually find one. The best place to start is within your social circle. Ask your friends or family with dogs if they use or know of anyone who has used a dog walker. Put together a list of the names you are given, so you can do your due diligence.
Using the internet can sometimes be less than helpful; you are thrown so many choices that it becomes overwhelming. Narrow your choices by searching for “certified dog walkers” in your area. This narrows your parameters and makes a search much easier.
You can also ask your veterinarian if they know of any reliable dog walkers in your area. Your veterinarian may be able to recommend someone they trust with their own pets.
Choosing A Dog Walker
Selecting a dog walker is more than just finding a name and making a phone call. Even the most qualified dog walker may not be the right choice for you. Before making a decision, you need to put together a list of your needs to take into consideration:
What is your budget? You need to find a dog walker with prices you can afford. Otherwise, the relationship will be an unsustainable one. A lower price does not necessarily mean an inferior dog walker, so look within your means.
How often do you need their services? A conflict in scheduling might automatically disqualify a dog walker that would have otherwise been a good fit.
Are they willing to do a meet and greet? Most dog walkers require a meet and greet with you and your dog as part of their contract with you. You should absolutely insist on a meet and greet. Your dog walker needs to get along with you and most importantly, your dog.
What are their qualifications? There is nothing wrong with someone new to the business. But you need to be aware if your dog walker is truly committed to their business or if this is just a side gig for extra cash.
What To Ask
Once you’ve found someone you think will be perfect for your dog, make sure you ask questions and lots of them. There’s nothing worse than being surprised later on.
Are you certified? Certification isn’t a guarantee of perfection, but a certified walker is required to pass a test on best practices and complete continuing education requirements.
What are your emergency procedures? Dog walkers and other pet professionals should have protocols in place for emergency situations, such as your dog being injured or eating something they shouldn’t have.
Are you insured and what does it cover? This is extremely important in the event of an emergency.
Do you walk more than one dog at a time? While some dogs do great with pack walks, walking multiple dogs may cause difficulties that would not arise with a single dog. Figure out what you (and your dog) are comfortable with.
Where do you walk your client’s dogs, and can I specify an area? Some dog walkers and services build time into their appointments to allow you to request walks or hikes in your dog’s favorite areas. If this is important to you, find a service that provides this.
What tools do you use to walk my dog? Dogs are creatures of habit, so it’s important that your walker use the same tools you do at home. This includes their collar, leash, and harness (if applicable). But you also want to ask about any corrective tools they might use to make sure it’s a good fit.
How long will you walk my dog? You want to make sure your dog has enough time to stretch their legs and have a potty break.
Do you have a substitute walker or a plan in place if you are sick, injured, or want to take some time off? You want to make sure that your dog will still be cared for.
Do you have an app you use for scheduling, updates, and messaging? This can make it easier for you to communicate with your dog walker.
Working With Your Dog Walker
You need to be able to communicate with your dog walker, and it isn’t just on them to keep things flowing. You need to be prepared to give them the information they need to successfully bond with your dog so walking time goes smoothly.
Keep them updated on any changes to your dog’s health. If your dog has an injury that requires a shorter walk, let the walker know.
If your dog has any quirk behaviors, your dog walker needs to be informed. Does your dog insist on carrying a toy everywhere? Do they try to eat food off the sidewalk? Are they a puller or a sniffer? This is important information that you should provide to your dog walker.
If they do not have an app they use for communication, establish another method. Set up a Whatsapp chat, use a dry erase board, or just good old-fashioned pen and paper.
Your dog is one of the most important things in your life. You need to feel equipped to confidently make decisions that impact their wellbeing. Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions or refuse to consider someone you know is a bad fit. Your dog walker will become an important fixture in your dog’s life and in yours.