How to find a dog walker!
Have you thought about hiring a dog walker? There are a LOT of options out there, ranging from hobby walkers advertising on handmade posters, to online apps, to established companies.
Unfortunately, there are no minimum standards or regulations in our industry, and there have been some high-profile cases where things go very wrong. Your pet can't tell you what happens when you're not around, so take that extra time to screen their potential caregiver.
Here are a few things to think about when starting your research!
Insurance and licensing. Insurance tells you that they have invested in their business, and are prepared to be accountable. It protects both of you in case something goes wrong. A dog walker should comply with city bylaws and have a business license if they operate professionally.
Education. There are no universal qualifications for the industry, but a good pet care professional should be consistently improving their skills. Ask them what courses or education they have sought out, and how they keep current with emerging information on animal care and welfare. All pet care professionals should have basic behaviour and pet first aid training.
Training philosophies. How will they react if your dog shows unexpected or undesirable behaviour? There are people out there who still subscribe to harsh and punitive handling methods! Ask detailed questions about a trainer’s philosophy and how they would handle different situations, making sure these match your values. Personally, we recommend seeking out professionals who subscribe to positive reinforcement and low-stress handling philosophies.
Experience. “I’ve had dogs all my life” is meaningless. Someone can be exposed to animals, but not have a great understanding of behaviour or the skills needed to manage dogs out and about. Ask specifically what experience they have working with different sizes, breeds, ages, and behaviours. Ask what they have learned from their background and how they have applied this to their current work.
Safety. If they are transporting your dog or walking them off-leash, what precautions do they take? Do they have policies for hot weather, dog fights breaking out, or other situations that might arise?
Overall professionalism. Does the person take their responsibility seriously? Do they meet you and the dog, and ask appropriate questions to ensure it is the right fit - or are they in a hurry to sign you up and start collecting fees? Do they have contracts that outline their responsibilities and liability?
Ask lots of questions during your interview. We recommend using situational questions to see how they respond on their feet (e.g., if you lost a dog on a walk, what would you do? If a dog was injured on a walk, what would you do?) .
Check references, but be aware that (as with any reference check) they will cherry-pick favourable ones. Try to find past or current clients who can give you an objective opinion on how the company works, whether they are reliable, and how they deal with challenges. You can also ask people in related industries who they use, recommend, or have heard good things about. Great people are out there! A few extra steps will help you find them. Good luck!