How To Choose The Right Dog Walker
How to Choose a Dog Walker
Selecting someone to walk your treasured pet while you are at work or otherwise committed is a big decision. Not only do you need to find someone dependable and trustworthy, but you must also consider the dog walker’s ability to form a working relationship with your pet. By asking about and investigating the dog walker’s credentials, training style, and approach to the job, you will learn more about your candidates and be able to successfully select the right dog walker for your dog and you.
Finding Candidates for the Job
Ask friends for recommendations.If you have a dog, odds are some of your friends do as well. Seek out those who use dog walkers and ask whether they’re satisfied with them and get their numbers.
- Ask your friends questions such as, “How long have you worked with your dog walker?” “Are they dependable?” “What kind of coverage do they offer when they are away?” “Is your dog excited to see the dog walker?”
- Find out whether their dog walkers are accepting new clients.
- Some dog walkers offer financial incentives to clients who recommend them, so be aware of this while soliciting suggestions from your friends.
- If the dog walker cannot take on your pet, ask them for recommendations.
Talk with your veterinarian or those at your local animal hospital.Many dog walkers work part time at animal hospitals or as veterinary technicians, so those can be good places to start in your search for a qualified dog walker. Additionally, if you choose a dog walker from a business or practice you frequent, you could already have an established relationship with them.
Ask the volunteers at your local animal shelter.Animal shelters are a great resource for finding people who genuinely love and care for dogs. If they’re the type of giving person who volunteers their time, they may be a good choice for walking your dog.
- Just because someone volunteers with animals, however, does not mean they are a qualified dog walker. Be sure to ask about their experience with dog walking when approaching them.
Go to a local dog park.While many dog parents are present at the dog park, dog walkers will be there as well. Frequent a nearby dog park often and strike up conversations with dog walkers whose style you admire.
- Ask if they are taking new dogs.
- Some possible questions to ask include, “How many dogs do you typically walk in a day?” “Do you specialize in any particular breed or geographic location?” “How long have you been a dog walker?”
Check on typical dog walker rates in your area.Average rates for dog walkers vary considerably throughout the country, so ask fellow dog owners what they pay in your area.
- The rates per walk may vary depending on whether the walker is working only with your dog or with many at the same time.
- You can also ask current dog walkers what they charge and adjust your rate based on your area and experience.
- Find out about whether tipping is expected on top of the agreed-upon rate.
Set up an interview time.Many dog-walking services offer a free initial meeting and consultation. During this time, you can see how the dog walker interacts with your pet and whether you have a good rapport with them.
- This is a good opportunity to assess whether the interviewee shows up on time and behaves in a professional manner. After all, you will be entering into a business relationship with them.
- Ask if they will accompany you on a trial walk. This will allow you to show them how you walk your dog, and you'll be able to watch how they handle the dog.
Talk about logistical issues.Among the issues to discuss with your potential dog walker are where the dog will be walked, how long the walks will be, and whether the walker will come at the same time each day. Be sure to use this time to convey your dog’s needs to the interviewee.
- Clearly state your preferences, such as “I prefer if you walk the dog alone, rather than with other dogs,” or “It’s better if you don’t drive my dog to a trail, since it gets carsick.”
- The following questions are useful: “What type of vehicle do you use to transport the dogs?” “Do you crate the dogs together in your vehicle?” “Do you use my leashes or do you provide your own?”
- Use the interview to find out the walker’s approach to the job. Ask questions such as, “Do you walk alone or with a friend?” or “Do you typically turn off your cell phone during walks?”
- Ask “How do I know you’ve been here each day?” and “Do you provide a written log with information on where and how long you walked and whether the dog took any potty breaks?” You can also ask the walker for a text after each walk is completed.
Ask about coverage if your dog walker is sick or away.At some point, your dog walker will likely need to take time off for vacation or illness. Your dog walker might know another person who can take care of your dog, or you may have to find another dog walker on your own. If the former, find out how you will be notified of the need for time off and who will walk your dog in their absence.
- If your walker has a vacation planned, ask them if they will introduce your dog to their fill-in ahead of time.
Find out whether the interviewee will be the primary dog walker.Some dog walkers are independent, while others work with a team or company. If the person you interview is not the one who will be walking your dog on a regular basis, ask to meet with the person who will have that assignment.
- Independent dog walkers can be beneficial because they will become familiar to your dog and give it a sense of security and routine. A possible drawback may be if they have scheduling conflicts and no one to cover for them.
- If you choose to go with a business or team of walkers, you will have more coverage in cases of emergency. Be sure that if you go with a team that your dog will typically see the same walker. Ask to meet all of the walkers who will handle your dog.
Consider the dog walker’s experience.Ask about whether they work with animals in other capacities besides walking them (such as being a groomer, veterinary technician, etc.). This will tell you whether you are selecting someone who is interested in and knowledgeable about animals or is someone who just wants to make some extra money.
- Ask questions such as, “How long have you been a dog walker?” and “How many dogs have you worked with in the past?”
- Find out why they chose to be a dog walker: “What made you decide to be a dog walker?” and “Do you plan to do this indefinitely?” These questions can give you insight into the dog walker's enthusiasm and training philosophy.
- Ask how they have handled past problems, such as an injured or lost dog.
Make sure their approach to training is similar to yours.Verify that the dog walker will use positive reinforcement with your pet, instead of yelling or shoving.
- Ask what type of discipline will be used with your dog, and be wary if the candidate says they “punish” dogs. An answer that includes words like “redirection” or “following instructions” would be more in line with a positive approach to behavior management.
- Ask questions such as, “How do you handle fights between dogs you are walking?” or, “What approaches do you use to read body language between dogs?”
Ask about the dogs that will be walked with yours.You will need to find out how many dogs will be walked with yours and the sizes and types of those dogs. Thinking about these issues will give you a better idea of whether you and the dog walker agree on the approach to the job.
- Some possible questions are, “How do you decide whether dogs are compatible for walking together?” or “Have you had problems in the past with dogs fighting while you were walking them? How did you handle that?”
- See if the walker follows the “50 percent” rule when pairing dogs: If your dog weighs 25 pounds, his fellow dogs should be no larger than 50 pounds.
Find out if they are prepared for an emergency.Ask your interviewee if they can perform canine first aid. Find out how they handle, or have handled, emergency situations.
- Ask questions such as, "Which emergency veterinary hospitals have you used?" "Are you familiar with clinics in the area?"
- Other questions to consider include, "What types of emergency situations have you encountered and how did you react?" and "What do you do with the other dogs while attending to one that is hurt?"
Make sure they are insured, bonded, and licensed.You will be entrusting the dog walker with your pet, and you will be allowing them access to your home as well. Check their professional papers for evidence of insurance coverage and licensure during the interviewed.
- Liability insurance will cover your dog walker for injuries to your dog and any damages that may be done by the dog while in their care. It will also cover any accidents that may take place at your home while the pet sitter is there.
- Bonding involves a bond provided by an insurance company that will cover damages while your dog walker is working for you. This may be unnecessary depending on your walker’s insurance coverage.
- There are no professional licenses for pet sitters, so the license they should have is to operate a business in your community.
Trying Out Candidates and Making a Selection
Go on a walk with the dog walker.Once you've whittled down the candidates, take walks with a few who did well in the interview. Allow the dog walker to take the leash if you feel comfortable and check whether the walker is calm and assertive with your dog and whether your dog is comfortable with them.Give them specific tips if you would like them to treat your dog in a certain manner (walk fast or slowly or let off the leash in certain areas). They won't know your preferences unless you impart this knowledge clearly.
- Watch both your dog’s and the walker’s body language throughout the walk. Do they seem comfortable with each other?
- See whether the candidate seems to pay attention to your dog’s needs, like adjusting the speed or changing their tone of voice if necessary.
Check their references.Once you have interviewed potential dog walkers, be sure to call a few references for each of them. Be wary if each reference you call had concerns about the dog walker or refuses to even speak about them. You can also search online for reviews of your dog walker.
- Possible questions for references include the following: “How long did the dog walker work for you?” “Did your dog enjoy the walker?” “Were there ever any issues, like fights or missing personal property?”
Select a walker and sign a contract.Once you have chosen your dog walker, it is time to make the agreement formal. A standard contract between you and your dog walker should specify the rate, how often and in what manner you will pay, the amount of time the dog is to be walked each day, and the cancellation policy if either of you need to change the schedule on short notice.
Video: How to choose a dog walker
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