What Makes a Good Dog Walker?
Once you’ve decided that you’ll need a dog walker to help you out with exercising your pup, the challenge of finding the right person for the job arises. Choosing a dog walker you can trust isn’t always the easiest task, as it can be difficult to know where to start in the sea of options presented online during a preliminary Google search. And after all, you wouldn’t want just anybody coming into your home and handling your furry family member. Reliability is essential both for your dog’s welfare and your peace of mind, so vetting your dog walker carefully before booking is of the utmost importance. In this blog post, we’ve compiled a variety of aspects to consider when meeting with potential dog walkers, which we hope will help owners make informed decisions.
Good Things Take Time: The Value of a Thorough Interview
It’s easy and understandable to make the assumption that people advertising their dog walking services have common sense knowledge of dog care, respect for your home as they come and go, and, most obviously, a genuine love of dogs. Concluding the service must be professional if it comes from a seemingly legitimate website or social media presence, many owners have little more than a quick chat (if that) with their chosen dog walker before giving the walker access to their homes and their dogs. While it would be fantastic if booking a quality dog walker really were so quick and simple, such a casual approach can come with a variety of dangers owners may not realise.
Many of our clients had been using other dog walkers before they found us, and we’ve heard quite an array of horror stories of their past experiences. To name a few:
· The walker let the dog off lead in a park, then, distracted on her phone, didn’t notice when the dog wandered off. The owner later received a call from a shopkeeper who said that the dog had crossed a main road and walked into his store. When the owner approached the walker about it, the walker said, “Hm, I don’t know…she was with me just a minute ago!”
· The walker lost keys to the owner’s home on multiple occasions, and also frequently forgot to lock up after leaving.
· The walker let the dog off lead in a car park without the owner’s permission, and didn’t let the owner know about it until after the fact.
· The walker never arrived to walk the dog at all. The owner only realised the walker was taking his money without rendering the service once he installed a home security camera.
Unfortunately, alarming situations like these happen more frequently than they should, and more frequently than unsuspecting owners might think. From speaking with our clients, we’ve found that many other dog walkers are insufficiently informed regarding how to look after dogs and often also lack basic organizational skills. Many believe just thinking dogs are cute and fun is enough to qualify them as suitable walkers, and incorrectly assume dogs are always easy to handle. As a result, they go to work with no business acumen, unprepared to deal with the surprises that inevitably come with caring for animals.
So, what can you do to prevent exposing your dog to a careless handler and allowing an irresponsible person into your home? It all starts with a good interview. When meeting with a potential dog walker, don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as you need to feel confident that the walker is qualified and caring. A truly professional walker will understand your concerns. Here are some things to ask about at a meet and greet with a dog walker:
Safety is Top Dog
The single most important feature of any dog walking service is how seriously it takes the safety of the dogs. Simply put, it’s impossible to genuinely love dogs without being committed to protecting them. The primary measure of how dog walkers view safety is their philosophy on using leads. Some questions to ask:
· Do you ever walk dogs down the street off lead? (The answer to this, in our strong opinion, should be no)
· Do you let dogs off lead in parks? If so, what are your parameters for doing it?
· What precautions do you take to ensure the dogs you walk all get along with each other and with any other dogs they'll meet while walking with you?
Carefully consider what you would give a dog walker permission to do with your dog: Is it OK for the dog to be off lead in the park? Or would you prefer that your dog always stayed on lead? Are there any situations involving other dogs that you’d prefer to avoid? When interviewing a walker, you should have an idea of the answers you’re hoping for from him.
Insurance and DBS Check: Got You Covered
Every dog walker should have insurance. Dog walking insurance covers most accidents that can happen (assuming the walker is exercising appropriate caution), as well as key loss in case a walker ever drops anything. Ask to have a look at the dog walker’s insurance policy to be sure they’re covered.
Going along with the necessity of insurance is a DBS check. You’ll be letting this person into your home, so you want to be sure the walker has no criminal record. Especially during the first few weeks with a new dog walker, it is advisable to check your home carefully to make sure everything looks the same way you left it before the walker came and went.
Experience: Seen That Before!
A good walker will have at least some prior experience working with dogs. Ask the walker how long he’s been working with dogs professionally, and what drew him to the job. Pay attention to the details (or lack thereof) in the walker’s response. Broadly speaking, overly simplistic answers such as “I’ve just always loved dogs” or “I had a dog growing up” usually won’t cut it. How does the walker show his love of dogs in the service he provides? If he had a dog growing up, how did he go about raising the pup? Qualified dog walkers should be able to tell you specific methods and philosophies they have. Make sure also to ask the walker about past difficulties he’s experienced in working with dogs and how he handled them.
Reviews: How Many Stars?
Any reputable dog walker should have a variety of happy clients who can attest to the walker’s expertise, professionalism, and friendly personality. If the walker has a website/online listing, scroll through the reviews and see what you can find. Many high ratings can serve as a solid predictor of how satisfied you’ll be with the walker. If you don’t see enough reviews, or if the reviews aren’t detailed enough, ask the walker for a couple of references. Another note on reviews: If you ever do have a bad experience with a dog walker, don’t feel guilty writing a truthful review of that person online. It’s important to let other dog owners know what went wrong so they can possibly rule out that particular walker during their own search.
Communication and Personality: We Need to Talk
A competent dog walker will make you feel your dog is in good hands from the first time you meet with him. The way he communicates with you, both when he’s talking with you in person and while he’s out on walks with your dog, should exude professionalism and approachability. If you feel that a dog walker is reluctant to keep you in the loop about what he’s doing with your dog, or doesn’t honestly enjoy being with your dog, it might not be a good fit. Your dog walker should also be receptive to any extra contact you may initiate to discuss your dog’s needs. If you ever have concerns you need to voice to the walker, you should feel comfortable speaking up, and not as if reaching out for additional consultation will annoy him. If the walker really cares about keeping you and your dog happy, he’ll make sure to stay in touch.
We do our best to make the decision easy for owners considering booking with us. We’re glad to provide copies of our insurance policy and DBS checks upon request, and we have a multitude of clients who can put in a good word for us. Our website clearly lays out how we structure our pack walks, and we’re more than willing to answer any additional questions owners may have. Asking the right questions is crucial to finding a competent dog walker, so be sure to carefully interview any walker you’re considering. Above all, dog walkers should want to put owners at ease and see to it that dogs are safe and happy—we know we do!