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How to chose a good dog walker?

02/11/2021 - Dog Walking & Daycare

How to Choose a Dog Walker
With so many dogs in homes across the nation, we know that not every dog owner has the perfect schedule to suit their pup. The pet care industry is booming, with new day cares and dog walkers popping up seemingly daily. Our pets are precious family members, so leaving them in the care of a stranger is no small thing – so, how do we find the right pet professional for us? What questions should we ask and what red flags should we avoid? In a relatively unregulated industry – home boarders now require licenses and assessments from their local authority, but dog walkers face no such scrutiny – it can be a daunting and scary task. We’re here to help explain what to look for when choosing a dog walker.
All pet professionals should be insured – they should be able and willing to show proof of cover when asked, and to answer any questions you might have. This should, at a minimum, cover third party liability and any potential issues directly involving your dog – such as your dog requiring vet care – but may also cover things like replacing locks in the case of lost house keys. 
This is a tricky one - every pet professional will have different levels of experience and people who are new to the industry are not necessarily bad. However, do enquire as to what experience your dog walker has working with dogs and animals. What has brought them to this industry? A huge number of new dog walkers appeared during recent lockdowns: if people are not dedicated to this career choice, you may – at best – find yourself being let down when they tire of the gig or find something better. At worst, their lack of investment could lead to dangerous negligence. 

Many people don’t appreciate the responsibility involved in caring for other people’s pets. However, it is vital that dog walkers are educated in dog behaviour. This ensures they can make informed choices about how they structure their walks, which dogs they walk together and the situations they put your dogs in – even amongst usually friendly dogs, conflicts can easily occur and a knowledge of behaviour and body language is absolutely integral to your dog walker avoiding these situations and noticing them in time to intervene. Even if your dog walker will be walking your dog by themselves, they need to be able to recognise signs of stress in your dog as well as quickly assessing the situation when strange dogs are around. 
Ask your prospective dog walker what qualifications they have – look into the organisations whose courses they have attended. There are many cheap, online courses out there which are approved by the organisation offering them – external accreditation is a more reliable indicator of a valuable course. Find out whether they have any accreditation with established industry bodies such as the IMDT. What is the ethos of these organisations?
A professional dog walker should, at the very least, have ensured that dogs are secure in their vehicles. This is not just a requirement for dog walkers as professionals, but a legal requirement for anyone transporting animals. A van with professionally fitted crates is ideal – this ensures your dog is safe during transit and has their own space away from the other dogs in the vehicle. This is vital, as the dog walker cannot be monitoring the dogs while driving and would not be able to act quickly to intervene should there be any problems.
Social Media/Website
Any professional should be expected to have taken the time to set up a verified social media page and/or an informative, professional-looking website. These are easy and free to do, and should answer many of your questions about the dog walker’s practices, experience and qualifications. You may also be able to find testimonials and reviews on these pages. Not having an established facebook page is a red flag, as it shows a lack of transparency and continuity in their business.
Safety Precautions
Your dog walker should be able to answer any questions you have about steps they take to ensure they are keeping your dogs safe at all times. From basic welfare considerations such as offering water and keeping dogs cool/warm in extreme weather, to their pick up/drop off procedures to ensure no dogs are left unattended in their vehicle. How many dogs do they walk together at one time – be realistic about how many dogs one person could handle in an emergency. 
Any professional dog walker should have comprehensive paperwork for you to read and sign. This should include details of your dog – any injuries, allergies, medications, vaccinations, etc. – as well as their terms and conditions. A lack of paperwork is a big red flag!
Remember – always trust your gut. If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it, don’t feel bad for not using someone’s services. No professional dog walker will hold this against you – even a good dog walker might not be the right person for you and your dog.
It can take time to find the right walker for you, but doing so will be well worth it. The peace of mind knowing that your dog is being cared for by a dedicated, responsible professional is priceless
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