Tips for Choosing a Dog Walker
PetSmart Catherine Mabe / PetSmart
Entrusting someone with your pets and, in the case of a dog walker, with the keys to your home, can be a pretty heavy decision to make—especially if you’ve just moved to a new city or are looking into such a service for the first time. Luckily, the pet services boom and the fact that more people taking advantage of dog walking services means more competition and, hopefully, more options for you.
Here are some tips that will ease your search and help you make the right decision when it comes to choosing a dog walker:
1. Listen to your fellow Pet Parents: This is, by far, the best way to start your search—talk to friends, co-workers, neighbors, people at the dog park and even other customers shopping at your neighborhood pet retailer. You can even consult your veterinarian or groomer. If all else fails, utilize a service such as Angie’s List—it’s cost-effective and you can read full ratings and reports for any dog walkers listed in your area.
2. Get—and check—references for any potential walkers: Once you have a referral from a person or a third-party Web site, contact the eligible dog walkers and ask for references. Then be sure to check them—ask the person refered how many dogs they have and what kinds, how they found the dog walker, how their pets interact with the walker, how long they’ve been using the service, and what the particular walker’s strengths and weaknesses are.
3. Schedule a consultation or interview: If you’re satisfied with the information the referrals give you, set up a phone consultation or, better yet, an in-person interview with any potential dog walker. This is the appropriate time to ask the following:
- Can you work out a mutually-acceptable price and schedule?
- How long is each walk?
- Is the walker bonded and insured?
- Will your dogs be walked alone or with other dogs?
- How long has the walker been in business?
- Will you receive any reports about each walk?
- How does the walker handle emergency situations?
- What will happen if your walker has an emergency and can’t get to your dogs?
- Will you be provided with a written contract? If so, ask if any discounts are available for signing on for longer-term or higher-frequency walks.
- Does the walker provide any other services, such as play dates or pet sitting?
- How does the walker deal with providing water and treats and cleaning up after pets?
- If you have a special-needs dog—unpredictable, senior or puppy, ask what accommodations, if any, your walker makes in these instances.
- How does the walker record and retain emergency information, including your pet's medical history and your veterinarian's phone number?
- Does the walker have any pets of his or her own?
4. Hold an in-person meeting: If you don’t conduct the interview in person but are satisfied with the answers to the above questions, schedule an in-home meeting. If your dog interacts well with the potential walker then you are ready to set up a two-week trial period. Here’s what you can do to help it make it a success:
- Stick to and respect the agreed-upon schedule. Don’t make any unnecessary or last-minute changes.
- Pay on time and promptly.
- Ensure that your pet walks well on a leash and knows basic commands. Let your walker know what those commands are.
- Make sure your pet is micro-chipped and always a current ID tag.
- Keep your pet up-to-date on vaccinations.
5. Check up on your dogs and the walker: During the trial period, ask a family member or neighbor to check up on the dog walker and verify that your dogs are being walked at the agreed-upon time and for the correct amount of time. If that’s not an option—do some investigating yourself: arrange to be home one day at the pre-determined time. If you like what you see or hear, it could be the beginning of a long and happy relationship for you, your pets and your dog walker.