Do I Need a Professional Dog Walker?
Unless you are an experienced dog owner with plenty of free time on your hands and supported by members of your family, to help you to look after your precious pooch at the time you are not available, then you should continue reading.
Why do I need a professional dog walker?
In an ideal world we would all be able to take our dogs for walks ourselves every day, or have a family member or a friend to help us out. Unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world, so very often as dog owners we require that little bit of extra help.
We all love to walk our dogs, but with increasingly hectic lifestyles it’s becoming difficult to give our dogs the exercise they both need and deserve. Most dog breeds will quite happily walk for two hours or more each day. If you’re working full-time and have a family to take care of, it’s almost impossible to dedicate that much time to your dog each day, no matter how much you love them.
Your dog depends on you for their quality of life. Varied exercise every day or at least several times a week will stimulate them both physically and mentally. In my experience a dog that enjoys varied exercise is a happy, healthy and well balanced member of your family.
Our dogs are natural athletes and as such they need to walk as much as possible. Employing the services of a professional dog walker will keep your dog healthy, happy and content. So when you are at work you can actually concentrate, instead of feeling guilty and worrying about your dog.
So where should you start looking for the right dog walker?
Have a clear idea of your dog’s individual needs. Shy dogs might not do well in a group walk and might even dislike going to the dog parks. If your dog is nervous or anxious I would suggest having them walked individually, even if it costs more.
Choosing a dog walker isn’t a decision to make lightly and who you choose to walk your dog matters. Anybody can advertise themselves as a dog walker, but that doesn’t mean they have the experience to keep your dog safe and happy. I would always go with a professional rather than a student or a retiree unless you personally know these individuals and they come with outstanding references and really click with your dog. Please keep in your mind that people who do not walk dogs as a profession are probably not insured.
Dog walking insurance is usually made up of the following elements:
- Public Liability Insurance – in case a dog bites a passer-by or causes an accident
- Insurance for dogs in care – in case the dog gets accidentally harmed or gets lost while walking
- Key cover – in case the dog walker loses the house key
Accidents happens no matter how much we try to avoid them, choosing a professional dog walker with the right paperwork gives you that extra peace of mind.
Why should I choose a professional dog walker over an Au-pair?
Maybe you are one of the few – the lucky one having a handy Au-pair, who is more than happy to take your dog for a walk every day. Well you might think there is no need for a professional dog walker then. Please let me point out something, as I do work in an area where this is usually the case. I see Au-pairs out with dogs every day and I am not happy with what I see most of the time. You might be surprised if I tell you, that in some cases all the Au-pair does is sitt in the park texting on the phone and not paying a hint of attention to your beloved dog. I am not exaggerating – unfortunately I see it every day and feel so sorry for the poor animal. Is this the kind of exercise for your dog you had in your mind? Most of the Au-pairs do not have a proper training nor experience of what to do in a difficult or emergency situation either.
I can’t speak for all professional dog walkers, but so far I haven’t seen a one not actually “walking” a dog. Remember we probably walk in our favourite areas where lots of people know us and this is how we usually get in touch with our next client. So why would we ever ignore your dog and sit and text unless we are texting you something important about your dog you need to know right now?
Getting your inexperienced Au-pair to walk your new puppy is another classic. It makes my blood boil every time I see a good puppy turn horribly bad in a matter of months, leaving you to search for a good dog behaviourist to pick up the pieces and try to turn it around. And allow me to say they do not come cheap, and they can’t guarantee the results, unless you seriously step in and put the hard work in yourself.
Having a professional dog walker to come to walk your dog at least once a week, especially if you have a puppy, and despite having an Au-pair available is priceless. Your dog walker will be much more experienced to make sure your dog is properly exercised as well as socialised and less prone to develop behavioural issues and blocks. You don’t want to see your dog in a few years’ time “enjoying” his life outside – muzzled and never off the lead.
Finding the right professional is difficult though. Walkers usually have access to the home, possibly even to home security codes. There are no industry regulations preventing someone with a criminal record from walking dogs. Keep this in mind when hiring a service and giving someone access to your home.
You should choose somebody who you trust and who you know will care for your dog and home as much as you do. I have to say it’s not really that scary to start your search online. Even if you don’t personally know the walker, it’s not impossible to obtain trustworthy referrals. Do not rely only on the online reviews and testimonials, they might look good, but are cheap and easy to come by. Some companies even write these testimonials themselves so please be wary. It’s better to place more weight on referrals from people you know, trust and respect. If the dog walker covers your area, just ask around… turn to your vet, groomer, trainer or other dog owners you meet on your daily walks. They might have already heard about them or they might suggest somebody else they know. Some of the most skilled and reliable dog walkers aren’t necessarily advertising, I know quite few like this.
Make sure you choose more than one dog walker in your area in the initial stage of search and then compare their services availability and references. It narrows the possibilities of getting disappointed and having to start your search again.
Have you already found a few potential companies or self-employed dog walking professionals? Don’t be afraid to dig really deep and ask them questions such as:
- How long they have been professionally walking dogs?
- Are there any special training techniques and handling they are using? And ask yourself if this fits with your expectations and wishes. You want to hire someone who uses methods that you agree with.
- Are they insured?
- You can ask about any additional qualifications they may have
- Do they know a first aid? If yes then it’s an asset.
- Are they happy to use your tools and accept any quirks of your companion?
- Not all professional dog walkers will take on difficult dogs so if this is your case please ask your potential dog walker if they are experienced enough and confident to handle him.
And please do not judge the abilities of a dog walker just by their body build. Let me give you an example: I might be slim and you might think I am not strong enough, but I have been handling difficult large dogs since I was 10 years old and have worked professionally with horses in the past too. I can hold a half tonne horse, actually I can hold and walk two at the same time. So do you seriously think your 100 pounds pooch will be a problem? We are slim for a reason… we walk for miles! But then we do have strong mussels and great reflexes.
- Where will they walk your dog?
- Are they going to walk him individually or in a group? If in a group ask about the maximum number of dogs who would be going out at the same time
- Are they the person who will walk your dog? While most dog walkers are sole proprietors of their business, there are some larger dog walking organizations with multiple employees, so you need to be sure you know who will be walking your dog.
- Can they accommodate special needs? Maybe the dog is not great at socialising and would benefit more with a quiet walk somewhere on the fields rather than in a crazy dog park or maybe your pooch is just way too precious to walk in the mud… You think it’s crazy? Well, I know owners like that.
- How long are walks? Ask about the duration of the actual walk, not including driving time.
And remember you are not asking those questions just to get the answers. Observe carefully how those answers are delivered. Do you feel reassured and comfortable in the potential dog walker’s presence? Does he/she mind answering those questions? Would they be willing to demonstrate?
There are so many more questions you can ask. A good dog walker heard it all before and doesn’t mind you asking.
Please do not try to hide any of your dog’s behavioural issues, and talk about them honestly. It’s neither fair nor safe for the dog walker or your dog. In fact, it’s the responsible thing to even mention any of the past behavioural issues even if the dog seems to be over them by now.
A really good dog walker will have many follow up questions about your dog, if they don’t have any questions I would suggest you move on and look somewhere else.
And there is one last but the most important step before you hire your new dog walker, whether or not your dog is comfortable around this person. Many dogs are shy or wary when introduced to a new person, so you shouldn’t necessarily expect immediate chemistry. However, you should look for a walker who acts in a calm and assertive towards your dog and pays attention to body language and behaviour.
By now, you should be well equipped to go out there and find the best dog walker your four legged furry (or maybe not) friend truly deserves. We at Dog Boarding Compare wish you all the luck in the world in finding someone amazing, who will love and care for your dog as much as you do.