Emily Conklin – Gladwire
How You Can Find the Right Dog Walker
If you’re like thousands of other puppy parents, you’re finding it difficult to fit regular walks into your busy schedule. You don’t have to feel guilty about short changing your pooch when there’s probably a dog walker right in your neighborhood who can take up the slack. While getting the kid next door to walk your dog might seem like a good idea in a pinch, enlisting the services of a professional dog walker may be a safer, more sensible approach.
If you don’t know where to look, finding a reliable surrogate who will take good care of your dog can be a challenge. Find the right dog walker with a few simple tips.
Even if you live in a small or mid-sized town, chances are there are a few professional dog walkers or professional dog walking services in your area. You could start by looking on Craigslist, in the local classifieds, or on the internet for the right dog walker. However, dog-centric businesses might yield better results.
Many veterinarian’s offices have bulletin boards located in their waiting room advertising services for pet owners; they may even have a dog walker among their patients. Another place to try is a pet supply store. If there’s a dog park in your area, you might ask other pet owners who they use. Once you get a few names, it’s time to take the next step.
Even if you choose a private dog walker rather than a service, chances are that anyone trying to build a business has a presence online. However, anyone can put up a social media page and call themselves a dog walker, so a little investigation is in order. Check popular sites like Facebook and Instagram to get a feel for their business. Look for photos of their walks and the other dogs they walk, including how big of a group they wrangle; if they’re regularly dealing with 10 dogs, will they be able to give yours the attention he needs? Is there feedback and interaction from clients on their pages and photos, or does the page seem relatively static and neglected?
Since we also know that many people put on a good show for social media, look for any links to a business website. If they have one, is it laid out like a reputable business, with information about licensing and insurance? Do they list services or specifics about how they conduct business? It’s also a good idea to Google the dog walker or their company for mentions on consumer sites like Yelp! This is a fairly objective way to learn if they’ve had any complaints about their services or rave reviews, and find out how long they’ve been in business.
Much like when you’re looking for a daycare provider for your child or a contractor to work on your home, you should meet with several dog walkers before you settle on one. There’s some opinion out there that dogs know instinctively if someone is trustworthy or not. Arrange a meeting at their home or business, if they have an office. Observe how they approach your pet, and how your dog responds to them. What does their body language tell you? Do they seem calm and confident? Friendly? If you or your dog aren’t comfortable with them, you should probably pass.
You should come prepared with a list of questions so you can determine their routine, where they generally walk, and how they might respond to emergency situations. Some practical questions to start with might be:
- How long do you walk the dogs, how many walks per day, and how far do you walk?
- Do you walk in areas with heavy traffic or a lot of distractions?
- How do you deal with dogs who aren’t well-socialized? Do you walk some dogs separately, or do you take them all together?
- Do you walk the dogs with dog harnesses or just by the collar?
- Are you the primary dog walker, or will there be other people walking my dog?
- Do you have backup arrangements in the case of an emergency?
- Are they willing to allow you to accompany them on a test walk to see how they handle your dog?
In addition to general questions about the walks themselves, it doesn’t hurt to delve a little deeper into their background and experience as it relates to the job. Points to cover include:
- Length of time as a dog walker?
- Any formal dog training classes or certifications?
- Are they licensed and insured? Can they provide proof of both?
- Do they have training in canine first aid?
- Do they have a veterinarian or arrangement for emergency care in the case of an accident or medical condition?
Getting to Know You, Too
An attentive, conscientious dog walker will also have questions for you, or at least express an interest in your pet. Although it’s not a definite reason to pass, someone who doesn’t might be indifferent or neglectful. Honesty on your part is just as important as expecting full disclosure from them. You should be prepared to give them specifics about your dog’s personality, quirks, and any medical or behavior issues. Other important disclosures include how they get along with other animals or children and how they react to loud noises or traffic.
Once you’ve found someone who both you and your pet feel comfortable with, it’s time to get down to business. Get a firm price for services and payment arrangements. Some providers charge a flat rate that’s payable even if your dog misses a week or a few days, others charge by the hour or by the day, and still others charge by the month. Work out a payment schedule that works for both of you. You should also ask about about cancellation policies and other potential expenses or charges that might crop up. Get everything in writing, if possible.
When your schedule and Fido’s collide, it’s time to look for solutions. Luckily, there are many dog-lovers who provide services to help pet parent’s like you give your furry baby the fresh air and exercise they need when you aren’t able. We all want the best for our dogs. Finding the right dog walker is well worth the effort.