Leaving your pup in someone else’s hands can be nerve-wracking; it’s scary to trust a stranger with your dog (and the keys to your castle). A good dog walker or sitter understands this, and they’ll work hard to put you at ease.
So, where do you begin?
Get the Gossip
Ask your neighbors, friends, landlord, or local vet or shelter for recommendations. Finding out who they’re hiring is a great way to get connected to under-the-radar skilled dog walkers. Some of these people might even be part-time dog walkers. Then do a little background check: Google any names or businesses, or delve deep into dog-walking app reviews.
Meet ‘n’ Greet
Your dog should be relaxed and happy to see the walker every day, so before you commit to one person, they must meet your pup! Arrange a quick meet and greet and look for body language cues of both your dog and the walker: you want a walker who is calm, confident, and kind. Make sure you’re meeting the person who will be walking your dog, not the proprietor of the business. The meet and greet should be free, with no obligation to hire the walker. Should your dog be shy or reactive, you may need a second meeting to see if the situation will work out. Remember that your dog may behave differently when you’re not around.
For sitters, if they are going to be in your home, you will have to trust this person with your belongings, to not snoop, and to know the basic tenants of dog life: no chocolate, there will be multiple trips to potty, and more. If your dog is going to be in their home, make sure they are puppy-proofed. If they have other dogs in their home, ensure your dog gets along with those dogs.
And ask as many as you need to in order to feel comfortable leaving your pup in a new person’s care:
- How long have you been walking dogs?
- Can you walk un-socialized or reactive dogs?
- Where will you walk my dog (if you don’t have a route set up)? How long are walks?
- What are your training methods? Even if you aren’t hiring someone to train your dog, you need to subscribe to the same basic philosophy (i.e. positive reinforcement methods).
- Are you licensed and insured? If your walker is a part of a legitimate dog walking service, they should be!
- For multi-pack walking (not always recommended, but it’s your preference): How many dogs do you walk at once? How do you choose which dogs walk with each other? What kind of training do you have to walk multiple dogs at a time?
- Are you certified to provide canine first aid? How will you respond to emergency situations? If your walker is also transporting dogs to a park: what will happen if their car breaks down? What will happen if a dog gets free and is lost, or if a natural disaster occurs?
- What happens when you can’t make it due to illness or other unforeseen circumstances?
What To Disclose:
Absolutely let your dog walker know about any medical issues (allergies, medications) or behavioral hurdles. A trustworthy dog walker will discuss these issues with you honestly.
It’s also helpful to talk about anything that might impede their route or any neighborhood issues that will affect the walker getting his/her work done.
Ultimately, Your Choice Should:
- Do this for a living (part or full time), rather than a neighborhood kid, a student, or dog-loving retiree. Remember—it’s serious business to show up every day with someone’s keys in hand and take care of their favorite furry friend. You want someone who is professional and dedicated to the dog walking hustle – rain or shine.
- Be insured, licensed and bonded, and have references. You can—and should—call those references!
- Know how dangerous it is to leave dogs unattended in a vehicle for any reason. You’ll want to know his/her car is dependable, and also there’s enough room for all the dogs that may be in the car. And of course, you don’t want a reckless driver!
- Know first aid.
- Leave notes! The dog-walking app Rover has client delivery options of both image uploads and notes, and many businesses have proprietary portals that allow you to chat with your walker while they leave images and notes. If they are independent of these tech options, ask them if they’ll leave post-its or a send a text.
Don’t give up if your first dog-walking candidate doesn’t work out—keep doing your research and interviewing candidates until the right one comes along. Take your time; there is little to no oversight in dog walking (bosses aren’t on the route and you’re not there) so you’re in charge of screening the people who will be taking care of your pup. Being careful simply means that your dog will be safe and happy on her walks.
If you take the time to vet your dog walkers and sitters, you are just the type of pet parent to research pet insurance. Find out more about dog insurance (and cat insurance), and start by getting a free quote. Bonus: each quote means a donation is made to pets in need.