Your dog is part of your family, which means when it comes to finding a terrific dog walker, you’ll want to really do your research and find someone who is qualified and dedicated to keeping your dog safe and happy. We talked to Jacqueline Red of Red Opal Professional Pet Sitting to get her advice about how to go about hiring a great dog walker who’s a paws-itively perfect fit for you and your furry best friend.
Understand Why You’re Hiring a Dog Walker
Red says that people hire her for a slew of reasons. “The owner may have just gotten a rescue animal and they are worried about separation anxiety when they’re not home or they may just want someone to come in and break up the monotony of the day and give the dog routine and balance,” she says. “Other times someone has a high energy dog who can’t be in a small space for the eight to ten hour work day and needs to be able to run out that extra energy so they’re not bored or destructive at home. And then there are people who just feel guilty making their dog wait all day to go potty.” Having a clear understanding of why you’re looking for a walker for your dog will help the dog walker give you advice as to how much time she should spend with your pup and how she’ll spend that time. After all, some dogs just need a 15 minute potty break where as others need a full two hour adventure.
Arrange a Meet and Greet
The most important aspect of finding a good dog walker is making sure your dog is comfortable around this person. “We do meet and greets with all new clients,” Red says. “It’s important that there’s a connection and sense of comfort between the dog and the dog walker.” This is a good time to check out your dog’s body language and get a sense of how the walker interacts with your dog. You may also want to go on a short “test” walk. “Sometimes people will want us to put the leash on and walk the dog and make sure everyone’s comfortable,” Red says. Ultimately, you want someone who seems calm, organized, and like she’s going to really love your dog and make sure he’s well taken care of.
Ask Logistical Questions
The meet and greet is the time to get answers to all of your questions and really iron out the details. You’re entrusting this person with your dog’s health and safety, not to mention the keys to your home, so you want to make sure everything’s ironed out from the get go. Questions to ask include:
- Are you the person who will walk my dog every day?
- What’s the contingency plan if you can’t make it?
- Do you walk multiple dogs at once?
- Where do you go on the walks?
- When will you pick up and drop off?
- Do I have to commit to a schedule or are you flexible?
- What’s your cancellation policy?
- What will you do if my pet becomes injured or ill?
- How do you prefer to be paid?
Ask About Their Training Methods
While a dog walker isn’t there to train your dog, it is a good idea just to make sure her theories are in line with yours and to find out how long she’s been in the business. This is also a good time to let her know about any rules you have for your pup, like if he has to sit before he can go out, before he crosses the street, etc.
Show the Dog Walker Around Your Home
If you feel like you’re going to hire the person, now’s the time to show her everything she needs to know. Red suggests you do this in person as she finds that people often leave things out when doing this via a form or over the phone. “You want to tell them where the leash and collar are, where the water bowl is, where the dog towels are in case it’s raining.” If you leave a Kong filled with peanut butter in the freezer and you want Max to get it after his walk, this is the time to go over all that kind of information.
Ask If the Dog Walker Will Leave a Note
Red says it’s her company’s policy to have the dog walkers leave a note every single time they come. “Honestly, there’s no other real way to know if your dog walker was there,” she says. It’s also a good opportunity for the dog walker to relay any information, like if your dog peed, but didn’t poop, or if your dog was having a, ahem, ruff day.
Check Their References
Ask for references and find out if the dog walker is licensed and insured. Thumbtack is obviously a great way to learn about other people’s experiences and get an overall sense of the type of experience you and your dog will have.