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How to Find the Right Dog Walker

by Irene Hislop

10 March 2020

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For many dog owners, the time comes when our dog needs more walking than we can provide. It might be a short-term period of overtime at work or an injury that means we need someone to take over dog walks for a while. Some dogs need exercise during the day when we’re at work. And sometimes, dogs just need more exercise than an owner can provide due to age, health or lack of time. That’s when we find ourselves asking how to choose a dog walker.

dog walking

Thankfully, we have options. Professional dog walkers are now available in towns and cities throughout Ireland and the UK. Dog owners are no longer dependant on the nearest teenager in need of pocket money. We place a huge amount of trust in dog walkers. They have access to our homes, and we put our beloved fur babies in their care. It’s important to choose the right person, someone who you can trust and someone who can meet your dog’s individual needs.

Recommendations are often the best way to find any kind of professional. Ask other dog owners who know locally, and see if your vet can suggest anyone. Is there any kind of online group for dog owners in your area or a group for your town? That can be another place for recommendations. Suggestions from others is just the start. Once you have a list of a few names, how do you choose the right dog walker for your pet?

How to Choose a Dog Walker Who Is Best for Your Pet

The next step in choosing a dog walker is to ask some basic questions to eliminate those who don’t meet your objective criteria. You can add other questions, but these are six critical things to know when you are screening dog walkers.

  1. Do you have insurance? What kind does it cover? Dog walkers should have public liability/ third party liability insurance.
  2. What training do you have? What is your experience with dogs before becoming a professional dog walker?
  3. Do you know canine first aid? What first aid supplies do you carry?
  4. Do you walk dogs in groups or individually?
  5. Do you walk the dogs yourself or are other walkers involved? (If other walkers are involved, ask if they are covered by the same insurance, what their training is and if they know canine first aid.)
  6. How do you ensure my house key is safe? It’s important that they don’t have your name or address on the key fob, and having your key secured somewhere separate from your details is good security.
dog walking

These questions are only the basics of how to choose a dog walker. The answers might still leave you with multiple good candidates. So how do you pick a dog walker from your shortlist? It’s important to meet them and make sure that both you and dog like them. Dogs are excellent judges of character, and obviously your dog needs a positive relationship with the walker. Your own gut feeling matters too.

Many factors are a matter of your own preference and your dog’s needs. Do they walk dogs in their own neighbourhood or take them to a park or a hiking trail? Is your dog socialised and how well? How do they deal with loose dogs approaching on a walk? How long are walks? What is their policy on bad weather? If your dog gets wet or muddy on a walk, will the walker clean them off?

Joining the potential walker and your dog on a trial walk is the last step to confirm this is a good match. Does the walker match your dog’s pace? Are they calm, confident and in charge? Does your dog seem happy being walked by this person? Does this person seem happy walking your dog? Do they clean up after your dog?

Once You’ve Found the Right Dog Walker

Finding the right dog walker is not quite the end of the matter. Before they start walking your dog, you need to agree a few things. It’s good to have this in the form of a contact that you both sign. Obviously, you need to agree a schedule and confirm the price. Your contract can also include areas where your dog can and cannot be walked, whether they should be walked solo or a maximum number of other dogs the walker can take at the same time, what harness, lead, etc. will be used, a cancellation policy and an agreed plan if your dog is injured or becomes ill in the dog walker’s care.

If your dog has any medical conditions, allergies, food intolerances, specific fears or the like, it is important to put this in writing for your dog walker. Your dog walker will also appreciate a list of commands your dog knows including the specific words you use. If you have concerns about what dog treats the walker might provide, you can supply your own or agree certain brands with them. And don’t forget to ask your dog walker if you need to supply them with bags to clean up after your pup.

Knowing how to choose a dog walker is important because you are trusting them with so much. Once you find the right walker, your fur baby is going to be delighted. They’ll be healthier, fitter and more relaxed from the extra exercise. And you will have great peace of mind knowing your dog is getting plenty of exercise even when you can’t provide all of it  yourself. The right dog walker can also be a boost to your home security. Some dog walkers are also dog sitters, so finding the right one can make your holidays a lot easier too.

Irene Hislop

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