For busy people, it makes 'pawfect' sense to have your four-legged friend taken for a walk each day by a reputable dog walker. Using a professional dog walking service will ensure your pet is getting all the exercise, attention and toilet breaks it needs.
But you don't want to hire just anyone. You want to ensure that the dog walker and pet sitter you hire will care for your dog as if they were their own.
Here are our top 10 questions to ask your dog walker.
1. Can I see your references?
While you may have read online reviews about the dog walker or they may even have been recommended to you by a friend, it's also important that you ask for references. It's also a good idea to ask whether the dog walker has had a Disclosure and Barring Service background check (previously known as a CRB check) and has a certificate that you can see. Also, check that your potential dog walker has insurance and make sure you ask to see their insurance documents.
2. What experience do you have?
If you have a large breed dog like a German Shepherd, it's a good idea to check they have experience in handling large breeds. The same goes if you have a small breed dog like a Jack Russell who loves nothing more than running off after squirrels in the park. Once they've met your dog and you've told them about your pup's particular traits, ask them about what sorts of things they would need to think about when walking them.
3. What training methods do you use?
It's a good idea to ask your potential dog walker questions about the training methods they use to manage dog behaviour. If you train your dog, then this is a great opportunity to check they will use the same techniques that are ethical and reward-based such as positive reinforcement training. It would be particularly useful if they could use the same signals and commands that you use so as not to confuse the dog or undermine your training.
4. Do you understand dog behaviour and body language?
When choosing a dog walker, it would help to know that they can safely manage your dog in public. Don't be afraid to ask them about what they would do in certain situations, such as if they bumped into an aggressive dog during the walk. Dogs communicate through their body language, so your dog walker must be able to interpret it.
5. How many dogs do you walk at once?
Ask how many dogs they walk at a time. To ensure your dog gets the attention they need from the dog walker, no more than three or four dogs is ideal. Also, find out about the size of the dogs and breeds that will be in the group. If you have any concerns as to how your pup will get on with other dogs, make sure you discuss this with the dog walker before they begin walking your dog.
6. Where will you walk my dog?
You should find out where your potential dog walker intends to walk your dog. Also, ask how big the area is that they cover and will they be transporting your dog in their vehicle. If they plan to cover a large area that's further afield your canine companion may end up travelling in their car for a significant amount of time. This travel time will, of course, eat into their allotted walk time. It's also important to ask how the dog walker will secure your pooch in the car – will they use a special harness or travelling crate to keep your dog safe and secure?
7. Are you animal first aid trained?
Find out if they have pet first aid training. If there is an emergency, you need to have peace of mind that your dog walker can keep a cool head and knows what to do.
8. Could I come with you on a walk?
Ask the dog walker if you could accompany them and your dog on a walk so you can see how they and your pup get on before you agree to hire them.
9. How much will it cost? How will I book and pay?
While you want to make sure that you choose the right person to walk your dog, the cost is likely to be something you will want to consider. Make sure you know upfront how much you will pay, how and when you need to pay. You may have to pay each time they walk your dog, so it's worth checking if they accept a bank transfer or standing order to save you having to worry about having enough cash on you each time.
10. What do you need to know?
Encourage potential dog walkers to ask you questions and find out what they need from you before you agree to hand over your beloved pup. By the end of your meeting with a good dog walker, they should have asked you lots of questions about your dog, which shows they are interested in your dog and their welfare.