At the moment the profession is unregulated so anyone can set himself or herself up as a dog walker. Here are some key points to help you find a good one.
You learn a good deal in the first few years, so you may want to look for someone who has been professionally dog walking for a while. If they employ staff that will be walking your dog, ask about their induction and training procedures. Also consider whether your dog would prefer the same person each time, or maybe your dog will walk with anyone!
What studies have they done/are they doing relating to dogs? You might think that’s not essential for a dog walker but they need to know about dog behavior and how to deal with issues whether it be medical or behavioral. At a minimum the dog walker should be aware of the National Occupational Standards for dog handlers and should adhere to them.
Professional indemnity insurance is crucial for a dog walker. Ask if there are any restrictions placed on them by their insurance company. The insurance company we use does not restrict the number of dogs that can be walked in a group but some do.
Are they a member of a professional body relating to dogs? This is not essential but may give an indication of their commitment. For example, The Guild of Dog Trainers has various levels of membership for dog trainers.
- A thorough introductory process
Do they ask you to complete a form asking for detailed information about your dog, his behavior, routine etc.? Can you walk with them and your dog (and their dogs if you are looking for group walks) for a trial? We insist on a completed registration form and a trial walk with the dog and their owner before we take a dog on for walks.
- Attitude to dogs
When you walk with the potential dog walker watch their demeanor and attitude to dogs. Are they calm, safe, happily interacting with the dogs, predicting things and preventing them? Do they let the dogs run riot or are they fun yet disciplined (you don’t want your dog picking up bad habits). Are they respectful of the general public i.e. avoiding dogs on leads etc? Do they get easily stressed or are they calm? Do they enjoy the dogs?
- Group or solo walks?
Discuss with your potential dog walker whether group or solo walks are best for your dog. We only offer group walks so dogs have to be able to get along with others and have good recall. Group walks done well can be wonderful for dogs, giving them crucial time with their own species, boosting their confidence, improving their social skills etc. Some dogs may start with solo walks and then move on to group walks. Also consider the age and health of your dog; is your dog capable of long walks? Or if your dog is not yet fully grown, are puppy walks more appropriate?
How do they transport the dogs? Are they separated in the vehicle or all piled into one car? We have a van with built in cages. If your dog walker uses a car, consider whether your dog could cope with being in a confined space with potentially unfamiliar dogs entering mid journey.
- Where do they walk?
Ask where they will be taking your dog. For group walks, how long will your dog be in the vehicle while they collect other dogs?
- Your house key
How will they store your key? Ideally it should be labeled in a way that doesn’t identify your address and should be in a key safe.
- Emergency procedures
What will they do in an emergency, i.e. if your dog is lost or injured? Are they trained in Dog First Aid? Do they carry a dog first aid kit (in the vehicle and on their person when walking).
- Terms and Conditions
Familiarize yourself with their terms and conditions (these should be in writing).
How will your dog walker let you know how the walk went and alert you to any issues? We leave a brief note at the dogs home which states the time we collected and returned the dog, where we went and how the walk went. We also post pictures on facebook and twitter. If there are any issues we either call or email our clients and work together to resolve them.