Dogs need their exercise, whether they are an energetic pup or a chilled senior dog. For dog owners, walking their dogs is part of a daily routine that accomplishes many things—physical exercise, mental stimulation, toilet break, and socialisation. It is that part of the day that our dogs look forward to.
But what happens if you are unable to walk your dog? If you are caught up in work, or you are physically constrained due to health issues, you might want to consider hiring a dog walker.
To assist you in your search for a dog walker or a dog walking services provider, we made a guide to help you navigate the process and find a suitable dog walker for your four-legged companion.
What to consider before hiring a dog walker
The decision to hire a dog walker ultimately affects your dog's well-being. It is crucial to find a professional dog walker who loves dogs, who is well-versed in dog temperament and behaviour, and who has considerable experience working with different dog breeds.
Before making a hiring decision, consider the following:
- Make a list of your requirements and expectations.
Be clear about the qualities you want in a dog walker by setting what your requirements are in advance. The right candidate should be able to tick all the boxes on your list.
Keep in mind what you are looking for in a good dog walker. Skills, experience, communication, and thorough understanding of dog behaviour should be high up on your requirements list. The candidate must also be a dog lover.
- Identify your dog's needs, tendencies, and habits.
No one else knows your dog better than you. Note down your dog's habits and daily routine. This includes his behaviour towards strangers and other dogs who he will be most likely to encounter during his walks.
Understanding your dog's behaviour is crucial in selecting the best dog walker. You will be communicating this information to your chosen dog walker so that their interaction with your dog is smooth sailing.
- Decide on how often you would require the services of a dog walker.
Typically, hiring a dog walker is on ‘as needed’ basis. Still, if your current situation calls for a regular schedule, you will have to decide the time and day so that you can make the necessary arrangements with the dog walker.
- Set your budget.
Find out the price range of dog walking services in your area. Set a budget that you feel comfortable with to be paying for the long term.
- Decide whether you want to hire a traditional dog walker or a dog walking company.
Dog walking companies typically have more flexibility when it comes to providing dog walking services. They can provide a backup if the designated dog walker suddenly becomes unavailable.
Many companies can also provide extra services like route tracking and recording as well as dog sitting, overnight boarding, and pet transportation.
How much do dog walkers usually charge?
It is important to mind your budget and the costs you will incur in the long run. In general, dog walkers charge £10–£20 per walk. The rate depends on where you are in the country, the dog walker’s experience, and the length of time.
The rate varies greatly across locations. London has the highest costs for dog walking at £12–£20 per walk. The least expensive dog walking services can be found in Leeds and Manchester, with some dog walkers charging for less than £10 per walk.
How to find a dog walker
In most parts of the country, there are many local dog walkers and dog walking companies to choose from, so it can be quite a challenge to pick the right one for your dog. By following the tips below, you will be able to narrow down your list of prospects:
Step 1: Conduct an interview.
If you already have a selection of potential candidates, schedule an interview with each one of them. Do not hesitate to ask questions since it will give you a better idea of which service provider is most suited to your needs. Below is a list of useful questions that you can include:
About Dog Walking Sessions
- Who does the walking?
This is important, especially if you are thinking of choosing a dog walking company instead of an independent dog walker. Ask how their employees are selected and trained. Ask if the dog walker has a certification or not. Some pet owners prefer dog walkers with accreditation.
- How many dogs do they walk on each walk?
Some local dog walkers take multiple dogs for a walk, whilst others only walk one dog a time. If you have a preference, make sure to inform them.
Keep in mind that the guidance of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on the maximum number of dogs a person can control is six. This is by no means a recommendation.
Responsible dog walkers must be able to determine their limits based on several factors. The safety and well-being of the dogs must always be the priority.
- If they do group dog walks, how do they screen and group dogs?
Small dogs should be walked together. The same thing goes for large dogs. It is best to stick with the 50 per cent rule. For instance, a dog that weighs 20 kg should never be grouped with dogs over 40 kg.
Ask about their practices in walking dogs that are not spayed or neutered. Walking two sexually intact dogs can lead to accidental mating and dog fights.
About Health and Safety
- What is their approach to training and correction?
It is ideal for a dog walker to be well-versed in canine body language, learning theory, and pack management. This allows them to easily interpret a dog's body language, pinpoint any problems, and take the necessary steps to prevent dog fights.
- Do they have a certification on canine first aid and emergency protocols?
In case of accidents and injuries, a reliable dog walker should be able to administer first aid correctly.
It is also crucial that they have contingency plans in case of emergencies. For example, they should know which route to take to arrive quickly at a vet hospital. This often gives dog owners peace of mind knowing that their dogs are in capable hands.
About Business Policies
- Are they fully insured, licenced, and bonded?
Aside from making sure that you have an insured dog, confirming that the dog walking company has insurance and licence is also needed. It will safeguard you and the dog walker if ever there is negligence or deliberate misdemeanour.
Liability insurance protects you against accidents and negligence. Bonding protects you from theft. Be sure to ask a copy of the certificate of coverage or insurance card to verify their claims.
- What is their inclement weather policy?
Ask the dog walker whether they have to cancel walks due to bad weather, or do they have a backup plan? Some dog walkers offer alternative services on days when the weather is bad.
- Do they have a service agreement or a professional contract?
They should ask you to sign a contract. Thoroughly go over it and make sure that both parties mutually agree to what is stated. If there is a service agreement, think of it as a checklist. It would be wise to run reference checks and background checks.
Step 2: Let the candidates meet your dog.
Invite potential dog walkers over and see how they get along with your dog. Observe how your dog reacts when interacting with them.
Focus on how the dog walker handles your dog. Check if the dog walker is paying close attention to your dog's behaviour and body language and if they are relaxed and assertive when bonding with your pooch.
Step 3: Allow potential dog walkers to take your pooch for a test walk.
See how each dog walker handles your dog outside on a walk.
Observe how well your dog is managed by the dog walkers, how comfortable your dog is with them, and how well he responds to their cues. Your dog's body language is a good indicator if your dog is enjoying his walk with the dog walker.
What to prepare after choosing a dog walker?
Hooray! You finally found a trustworthy dog walker for your furry friend. The next thing to do is to provide your chosen dog walker with the following information, so that he or she can attend to the needs of your dog and contact you in case of an emergency.
- Your dog's name, age, breed, and weight.
- Your address and contact number.
- Your dog's vet records including his history of health problems.
- His medications and instructions on dosage and how it should be administered.
- The vet's contact number.
- Emergency contact number.
- Feeding schedule and instructions in case they are the ones giving his meals.
- List of foods that are allowed and prohibited
- How your dog reacts to specific people or other dogs (e.g., wary of a stranger or aggressive towards another dog)
- Any tendencies that need close attention (e.g., chasing after cars or small animals)