Careful consideration, trust and intuition is needed when hiring this member of your dog’s care team.
Benefits of a Dog Walker
Many of us lead busy lives and work outside the home. It’s not unusual for a dog owner to be away from the home for 10 hours a day. I personally don’t think it is fair to leave a dog to be home alone for that amount of time, so for me, and countless urban dog owners, a dog walker is an important part of our pet’s care team. A dog walker is an individual you are giving a key to your home and leaving your dog’s care in the hands of. Needless to say, this is not a position you fill on a whim!
Apart from the obvious benefits of exercise and an opportunity to relieve themselves, a dog walker can offer a daily social outing. As an owner, you will also benefit from having less guilt about leaving the house and will return to a dog that has had a walk, a romp with their friends, some hugs and a couple treats while you were at work.
There are many ways to find someone to fill the position. The best method of finding a dog walker is to get one recommended by a friend or neighbour. Since they and their dog have had a relationship with the walker for a period of time, they know exactly what this person can offer you and your dog. Your dog’s breeder may also know of some dog walkers used by their puppy buyers in your area.
Another method is to see which dogs in your area have a dog walker and ask the owner about their experience with them. You can also visit your local park and ask owners who they have hired.
This seems like a lot of work, but it is important to get recommendations for such an important position in your dog’s care team. Many think an online ad or site is an ideal spot to find a walker, but as with all things, a flashy website does not ensure quality.
If you are unable to find a dog walker through the recommendations of dog owners you know, references are another way to find out how satisfied a dog walker’s clients are. The phone numbers and/or email addresses of several of their clients should give you an idea of how happy they are with the walker’s services.
Experience and Training
Because one does not have to go through any formal training to become a dog walker, other canine experience is important. You will want to make sure this person has owned dogs in the past, completed at least a basic obedience course with one of their dogs, has completed a canine first aid course and understands canine behaviour. An experienced “dog person” will also be able to tell you what they would do if a fight broke out between two dogs and their course of action when the weather is too hot or too cold. They should also have a plan of action if a dog gets lost while in their care.
Most dog walkers do 3 different types of walks depending on the needs of the dog. The most popular is the group walk. This is where dogs that are well socialized with other dogs go out together as a pack. A responsible walker will access each dog and place them in a group where they will be happiest – usually based on temperament, age, size and whether or not the dog is altered.
Solo walks are for dogs that don’t get along well with others, dogs recovering from illness or injury and senior dogs.
Puppy visits are more based on taking the puppy out to relieve themselves and a little walk plus some playtime.
Each walker has their own variation. Ask them exactly what each one would entail.
Pricing generally reflects the amount of time spent with the dog. Pack walks are less expensive than solo and puppy walks.
Many dog walkers pick up their clients on foot every day. Their route is usually based on who they pick up, drop off and when. There are also dog walkers who load up a vehicle and take the pack to a destination like a dog park.
If the dog walker you are interested in does use a vehicle to pick up their clients, you will have to ask some additional questions regarding their car, van or truck. Do they have a valid licence? Are they insured? Is their vehicle air conditioned? Does it have good ventilation? Also, how they separate the dogs in the car is also important. Individual crates are the safest option.
Vibe is Key
The best way to know if a walker is right for your dog is to meet in person. Many will invite you to go for a walk with them and your dog. This is a great opportunity to discuss their experience and practices while seeing how your dog reacts to them and vice versa.
If both you and your dog like them and their style, it may be a good fit. If not, keep looking.
My dogs’ walker is always within the top three of my most recent texts. What makes her great is that she always tells me when she’s coming, how the walk went, updates on who went what bathroom wise and if she notices anything unusual, she lets me know.
Some walkers leave a note, I prefer the text because then I know that my dogs have been walked and what’s up with them in real time. Discuss your preferences when it comes to communicating updates with your walker.
Now I know this may seem over the top, but I also have a system with my walker where I hang the leashes up on a hook before I leave home and she leaves them on my grooming table when she returns. That way if I come home early, I know whether or not my dogs have already been walked.
Regulations and Licensing
Since anyone can start walking dogs with nothing more than a flyer, it is recommended to go with someone who is insured and bonded.
Rules and licensing vary by region, so be sure to check with your municipality. Here are some common rules.
Many areas require anyone seeking to walk dogs professionally to obtain a permit.
In many regions, permits will only be issued to those who can provide evidence of commercial general liability insurance.
If using city parks, commercial dog walkers are generally limited to a maximum number of dogs at any one time to ensure accountability.
Commercial dog walkers are usually prohibited from several areas in a district, they can include; Natural or environmentally sensitive areas, playgrounds, splash pads and wading pools, Horticultural display areas or ornamental gardens, skateboard bowls, tennis courts and other sports pads, sports fields and stadiums, artificial or natural ice rinks and toboggan hills.
Rules for transportation generally make so that no person should load or cause to be loaded any animal in any vehicle or container that is crowded as to be likely to cause injury or undue suffering.
Choosing a dog walker takes a great deal of research and intuition, but having a walker your dog adores is a huge blessing as it allows you more time out of the house and enriches your dog’s life on a daily basis.