10 Things to Look for When Using a Professional Dog Walker
10 Things to Look for When Using a Professional Dog Walker
Finding a professional dog walker can seem like a daunting task. There are a lot of dog walkers out there and all of them offer a different experience. Currently, there are no regulations on who can market themselves as a dog walker, so anyone can set themselves up. Doing your homework is essential for your pet’s wellbeing. Some are masters of group walks, able to take six dogs at once and give each the attention and love they need. Others are solo trekkers specializing in managing even the trickiest pup. Ultimately, the right professional dog walker for you is someone that you and your dog trust, and someone who is capable of caring for your dog’s specific needs.
Finding someone who fits that description is easier said than done, but we’ve broken it down into ten things to look for when using a professional dog walker:
1. Is it love at first sight for your dog?
Once you have a potential dog walker that you’d like to learn more about, set up a meet and greet and ask specifically that the person who will walk your dog attend. Invite them over to see how they get along with your dog. Is it love at first sight, or does your dog have second thoughts? Your dog should feel comfortable and excited for their walks, not anxious. Let them weigh in on the dog walker you’re considering, too.
2. Are they capable of caring for your dog’s special needs?
Does your dog have any notable quirks or triggers? Are they high-energy or aggressive toward strange dogs? Be upfront with your potential dog walker about any special health or behavior quirks that your dog has. Make sure they are comfortable and capable of handling these situations. If your dog is aggressive towards strange dogs and the potential dog walker flinches at the mere mention of it, they might not be the one. If they have experience dealing with dogs like yours, it’s a big plus. Be sure to mention any medical conditions your dog may have, too, especially if they might affect walks. If your dog has arthritis and is having a bad day—can the dog walker recognize that and slow down accordingly?
3. Check on their paperwork and experience.
When considering a professional dog walker it’s important to make sure that they check out with a few basic questions. Are they insured? Are background checks done? Do they have client references and positive reviews? How long have they been a dog walker? Will your dog ever be off-leash, and if your dog is ever injured during a walk who covers the vet bills? How will you know they were there—do they leave a note about how the walk went or send you a picture of your pup on their daily adventure?
This is also a good time to exchange contact information. Get the contact information of the person who will be walking your dog, and in return let them know the best way to get in touch with you, which vet you use, and what their number and address is.
4. Do your schedules match up?
When evaluating a potential dog walker this may be one of the last things on your mind. It is important, though. Even if your dog loves a potential walker, if they can’t make it when you need them it might be time to look for another great dog walker who can. While you’re talking schedules, be sure to ask what the protocol is if they can’t make it for a walk, too. Will they notify you in advance and reimburse you, or comp your next walk?
5. Will they be walking just your dog or a group of dogs?
If your dog is a social butterfly, a group setting may be a great opportunity for them to make friends. Walking in a group carries some risk, though. There’s a greater chance of exposure to kennel cough or fleas, and a fight could break out. If you do want your best friend to get a bit of socializing in, small group walks are best. If your dog is aggressive or has special needs or quirks it may do better on solo walks without other dogs in the mix.
6. How long will walks be and where will they happen?
This is a good way to gauge how well the walk itself matches up to the dog. If your dog is high-energy and in great shape, they’ll be happiest with a longer, more challenging walk. An elderly dog may need shorter, gentler walks, on the other hand. This is a good time to ask where walks will happen and—if they aren’t nearby—how your dog will be transported to the walking area.
7. Are they prepared for an emergency?
A good professional dog walker should know exactly what to do in the event of an emergency. Ask how they handle situations like an injury, a slipped leash, a snake bite, or a dog fight. Are they trained in pet first aid? They should also be comfortable with de-escalation techniques and be able to calm a fearful or aggressive dog down or break up fights as needed.
8. Are they upfront with you about what to expect?
Before you sign on the dotted line and hand over a key, make sure you know what you’re signing up for. Ask about how the payment schedule works and what their cancellation policy is. Are they forthcoming in answering all of your questions, or do they dodge questions? The best professional dog walkers should be clear and upfront in their answers and policies.
9. Do they prefer positive reinforcement training?
Even if no training happens during the walk, look for a dog walker that believes in positive, reward-based training methods. The last thing you want is for your dog’s beloved walk to turn into a stressful time of yelling or punishment if they do something ‘wrong.’
10. Did they ace their trail walk?
Last but not least, go on a trial walk together. This should be the last step after you’ve found a dog walker that feels like the perfect match. While they are walking your dog, do they walk naturally together, or one dragging behind the other? Is your dog relaxed and comfortable, or do they seem tense and on edge? A trial walk can tell you a lot about a dog walker and how well they work with your best friend.
Ultimately, trust your instincts and trust your dog’s instincts. If you or your dog are uncomfortable around a dog walker, no matter how experienced and knowledgeable, they may not be the right fit for you. If that happens, don’t stress. There are plenty of amazing professional dog walkers out there. Sometimes finding the perfect dog walker for your dog takes a few tries.
Whether you are looking for a tireless walker to keep up with your high energy pup or looking for a gentle walker that will let your dog take their time and smell the roses, these ten things will guide you in your search to find the perfect dog walker for you and your best friend.