We all have busy lives, and this sometimes means we have to make extra arrangements to accommodate our pets in the best way possible. Sometimes, this can mean a simple visit from a family member to top up the food bowl, other times it means regular walks or interactions to help your pet exercise and stave off boredom.
Among the most popular options are dog walkers and pet sitters. People who can attend your home and either assist your pet with its daily walks or simply check all is okay with them whilst you are away at work or out.
Before jumping in and appointing someone though, you will want to make sure that the person you give the responsibility of looking after your pet is the right one for the job.
In this edition of our blog, we look at the key questions you should ask a potential dog walker.
Meet your dog walker first
Many dog walkers will offer an introductory meeting before taking your bookings. It gives them a chance to meet both you and the dog that they will be walking. If it hasn’t been offered, ask. It gives both you and the dog walker the chance to get to know each other and see if there is a comfortable connection. These meetings will also give you a great chance to see how the dog walker interacts with your dog.
Within this meeting, you should then be able to ask all the questions we list below.
1. Who will be walking my dog?
Many dog walkers are solo enterprises where one person looks after all aspects of the dog walk. In some instances though, dog walkers will use additional people to support the demand. Ask the dog walker if the person walking your dog will change frequently or not. This is worth knowing as some dogs find a change in familiarity quite stressful. Others don’t mind at all who is getting them out and about and are comfortable with anyone.
If your dog has the kind of character that could find change difficult to cope with, look at the options where they will be walked by the same dog walker each time.
2. What is your experience with dogs?
Dogs can be crazy little characters at times and for some people, this can be a little intimidating. Find out from the dog walker what kind of experience they have and what kinds of dogs they have had regular contact with in the past. You will want them to be able to show confidence in working with a variety of dog breeds.
3. Are you trained in canine first aid?
Even as owners, there is little chance we are trained in first aid for dogs but we can call the vet our dog is registered with and seek advice immediately should something happen. On a walk though, the dog walker may have multiple dogs to look after all at once and it will not be as easy to make a quick call and recall which vet they should be contacting.
Accidents on walks can happen and, in most cases, whilst minor, can require a degree of treatment. Ask if the dog walker carries a first aid kit on the walks or whether one is in the vehicle. In addition, enquire whether they are trained in any aspect of administering first aid to dogs and what they would do should an accident occur.
4. How long does the dog walk last?
In many cases, a dog walker will offer an hour-long walking session, but this could mean much longer away from the home. Especially if other dogs are being collected on the way to the walk. Find out where they go, how long the walk lasts and what the travel time is. If for example, the common areas the dog walker uses are half an hour away from your home, ask if this only equates to half an hour of walking time. In many cases, it will not but it is worth checking to get a full picture of how the process works with this dog walker.
5. What days and times are you available for dog walks?
Many dog walkers work Monday-Friday with it being the most common time that people are away from home. Some offer multiple windows, others may only offer one or two walking periods. Find out what days and times they operate to see how it fits your needs. You may find that weekends are available but that rates might be a little higher.
6. How many other dogs will go on the walk?
Many dogs are playful and love making new friends but others find it uncomfortable to be around other or new dogs. You know your dog best so if a solo walk may be best, ask if that is available. Just be aware that these often command a premium charge. You should also ask what types of dogs are likely to be in the group as some are much more playful than others and behave differently when interacting with other dog breeds.
7. Are you insured to walk dogs?
Insurance is vital and should be something the dog walker proudly promotes as something they hold. Not only does it offer protection to the dog walkers themselves, but it also helps to protect your dog and members of the public. Ask about Pet Business Insurance. This would include Public Liability, Car Custody and Control and Non-Negligent Cover. In some cases, they may have one form of insurance over another. Find out what they have and what it covers.
8. Are walks on or off-lead?
Much comes down to your personal preference. You may want your dog to be able to run around and interact with the surroundings. You may also be aware that your dog’s recall may not be as good as you’d like. Explain the type of walks you go on and how your dog interacts with commands. This will help give the dog walker a good idea of how best to walk them. Inform them of how often you have your dog on or off lead and how it deals with certain surroundings. This will give the dog walker additional information that they can construct a walking programme around.
9. How does my dog get transported to the walks?
In many cases, dog walkers will take multiple dogs with them for the walk. This means they may be transported in a van or car to the destination. Ask how the dog is safely stored in the vehicle until arrival, how many dogs are there and how long they would normally spend in the vehicle for the session you are booking.
10. What happens if there is a cancellation?
Sometimes, things change, and this could mean you no longer need a dog walk where you normally would. Likewise, the dog walker may be sick, or have their transport breakdown.
Ask the dog walker what their cancellation policy is and what happens should either party need to cancel a walk.
11. How much does a dog walk cost, how do I book and how do I pay?
Three questions in one should round off your meeting with the dog walker. Many dog walkers will charge a set hourly rate and then provide you with a monthly invoice that you then settle with a bank transfer to the relevant account.
Others may take a payment at the end of each week. Some may take payments upon booking. Find out the process with the dog walker to see if it is affordable and whether it works for you.
With the above questions answered, you should now have a good idea of whether this dog walker is suitable for your needs.
Should you be moving abroad, it isn’t just a suitable dog walker that you will need for your canine companion. Sorting suitable dog travel is paramount and that is where PBS Pet Travel can help. We make it easy for your pet to relocate and can help with everything from dog crates to the pet travel paperwork you require for the country you are heading to.