How to hire a dog walker you can trust

Dec 19 2017, 9:25 pm

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is getting your dog into better shape, hiring a dog walker just may be on your 2015 to-do list. But it’s good to be cautious before hiring someone to exercise your four-legged loved one.

While anyone can put up posters and ads advertising themselves as a dog walker, it’s not an indication they have the experience or competence to keep your pup happy, safe and healthy.

Erin Moore, owner of Pack Runners Dog Walking, says while more and more dog lovers enter the field of professional dog walking every year, there is still no governing body to dictate the standards of care or qualifications.

Moore, who runs a dog walking certification program, says walking dogs in groups takes more than the passion people share for canines.

“There are specialized knowledge and skill sets, as well as ethical business practices, necessary to ensure the safety of the dogs in a walker’s care, as well as the safety and enjoyment of other dogs and humans who share the trails, parks, and sidewalks,” she said.

Here are some simple and easy steps to follow and questions to ask when you’re looking to hire a dog walker:

Google, Google, Google

You’re often able to find reviews, good or bad, on sites like Yelp. Search the dog walker’s name in Craigslist and Kijiji to see if dog owners have anything to say about them within chat rooms and groups.

The canine clients of Pack Runners Dog Walking.

The canine clients of Pack Runners Dog Walking

Do they have insurance?

You want to employ someone who has insurance, is bonded and has taken a pet first aid course.  Ask if they’re covered if your dog is hurt or lost while in their care. A walker who is trained in first aid can often handle small incidents without sending your dog to the vet. It also means they’ll be more equipped to make the right decision in a hurry in the case your pet is injured. Another question is whether they’ll pay for lock replacement if they lose your house keys.

Get chatty: Ask for referrals

Start with friends and family to see if they know anyone suitable. Chatting with other dog owners at the dog park is another great way to find a dog walker. Finally, talk to your vet or local pet store.

Check their history

Get the walker to provide you with referrals from current and former clients. You can also ask them for a reference from a veterinarian they work with, for a layer of extra protection. Find out if they’ve gone through a criminal background check. It’s not required, but if they have, it’s another layer of protection.  Ask what their background is with dogs. If they don’t have any, they may not be the right person to walk your dog, especially if it’s high-energy or has special needs.

The canine clients of Pack Runners Dog Walking.

The canine clients of Pack Runners Dog Walking

Check the vehicle

Ask to see the vehicle they’ll be using to transport your dog, and find out how many dogs get driven at the same time. Does the vehicle have air conditioning? Is it clean? It’s obviously not going to be spotless if it’s hauling dogs every day, but cleanliness can be an indicator. Finally, dogs should never be left unattended in a vehicle, for any reason. The BC SPCA says even 10 minutes in a hot car can kill an animal, and it’s suspected that’s what led to the deaths of the six dogs in Langley.

Ask lots of questions

Ask the dog walker where they’ll be going on walks and what the duration will be, versus the driving time. Ask who will be walking your dog. While most companies are sole proprieters, some outfits will employ a junior person, and that walker may not have the same experience.

Monitor your dog

Does your dog act differently when it comes back from spending time with your dog walker? A tired dog is a good dog, but if you notice your dog acting strange or fearful in that person’s company that may indicate there’s something wrong.

You get what you pay for

If someone is advertising their services for ultra-cheap walks at a fraction of the price of others – that can be a big red flag that they don’t have a lot of experience or a good reputation. It could also mean they’re walking 15 to 20 dogs at a time, which means increased potential for accidents, conflict or injury, says Moore.

The canine clients of Pack Runners Dog Walking.

The canine clients of Pack Runners Dog Walking

Training methods

Most recent studies recommend only positive-reinforcement based training. Moore says dog walkers should be able to keep dogs safe and in control without the use of choke, prong, and shock collars; citronella or water spray; hitting, shoving, or yelling. “We don’t allow teachers or camp counselors to spank our children. A professional walker shouldn’t need to resort to such measures, either,” Moore said.

Don’t be afraid to say no

If you get a bad vibe from the person you’re dealing with, don’t hire them. Ask any mom: sometimes your “spidey senses” can be the strongest ones, and that holds true for dog parents as well.

By following these rules the hope is you’ll find someone that’s a great match for your dog, and someone you can feel comfortable leaving them with. It’s great to come home at the end of the day and know that your dog has gotten plenty of exercise and socialization. Having a dog walker should be a great experience for you and take away your stress – not add to it.

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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