Dog walkers have become an irreplaceable part of so many pooches lives. Those dogs that have owners that work lengthy hours often form solid bonds with their “secondary caretakers” and their humans appreciate knowing their pets are in good hands. So how does one go about finding a reliable and responsible dog walker? Here are 10 questions and items to take into consideration when you’re interviewing dog walkers.
* Are you a part of a large company or an independent walker?: While large companies have the benefit of always having someone available to walk your dog, you may have many people coming into your home to tend to your pet. However, with an independent walker, they may not be able to cover your scheduling needs if they are ill or have a vacation planned. No matter what the answer, ask how they deal with these specific issues.
* Can you provide references to other current clients?: If the walker can’t provide you with multiple current clients you can speak with, move on to the next interview.
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* How long have you been working professionally with dogs? Do you have any formal training?: Working hands-on with dogs for years counts a lot in the dog walking business, but so does experience as a groomer, veterinary technician or dog trainer. Be wary of those who just “like dogs” as they may not be able to handle difficult situations that may arise.
* What does a pet visit consist of?: Does a visit just include a walk? Will your walker feed your dog, provide treats? Reinforce training commands?
* How many dogs do you walk at a time?: Some dog walkers walk one-on-one while others walk large groups of dogs. It’s up to your personal preference to decide which style you want to go with, but make sure you make an informed decision.
Photo by dan mogford
* If you do walk multiple dogs at a time, where is my dog when you pick up others?: Make sure your dog is brought into other dogs house’s while your walker is picking up his friends. You don’t want them tied up outside (even for a few minutes) and risk the chance that they could be taken.
* Do you ever take my dog off-leash?: Some walkers take the dogs they are walking to the dog park for off-leash romping. Ask in advance to either approve or veto these trips.
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* What kind of discipline/punishment do you use with unruly dogs?: A very important question – if the dog walker says they punish your dog, you probably want to steer clear of that walker. Positive reinforcement/redirection or following specific obedience instructions given by the owners are acceptable answers. Ask how the walker will handle a dog that won’t respond to commands or one that is acting up around other dogs.
* What is the protocol if a dog is injured or lost on one of your walks?: While it’s not something we want to think about, you must ask about the worst case scenario. A responsible dog walker will have an emergency plan in place and will be able to assure you that your dog is in good hands.
* Will you provide daily or weekly updates on how my dog is behaving on their walks?: You want to know what your dog is doing while you’re away and a short daily post-walk note is often common policy for many dog walkers. This will alert you to any unusual behaviors and gives owners a general sense of security that their dog has been taken care of!
When choosing a dog walker, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer to any of the questions listed above – you have to trust your instincts (and those references!) when making the decision. Make sure that you and your walker are on the same page about how your dog or puppy will be handled and how problems will be dealt with. Once that is established it’s all about ensuring that the individual is interactive and energetic!
Dog walkers can greatly improve your pup’s quality of life when you’re not home, so consider giving one a try!
Check out my companion piece – “You’ve Hired A Dog Walker – Now What?”