Finding the Perfect Dog Walker: A Comprehensive Guide
Having a dog is a big responsibility. Between feeding, grooming, training, and playing, owning a dog takes a lot of time and attention. But what do you do when you have to leave your furry friend at home while you head off to work or run errands? That’s where a dog walker comes in handy!
Hiring a dog walker can provide your pooch with much-needed exercise, mental stimulation, and companionship while you’re away. But finding the right dog walker takes some careful consideration. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to find the perfect dog walker for your pup.
Table of Contents
- Benefits of Hiring a Dog Walker
- What to Look for in a Dog Walker
- Experience and Qualifications
- Personality and Temperament
- Reliability and Professionalism
- Safety Measures and Precautions
- Questions to Ask Potential Dog Walkers
- Types of Dog Walking Services
- Private Walks
- Pack Walks
- In-Home Pet Sitting
- Comparing Dog Walking Rates and Fees
- Tips for a Successful First Dog Walk
- Keeping Your Dog Safe on Walks
- When to Hire a Dog Walker
- The Bottom Line
- What to Look for in a Dog Walker
Benefits of Hiring a Dog Walker
Leaving your dog home alone all day can lead to behavior problems like excessive barking, chewing, urinating, and more. Your dog needs daily exercise and stimulation to stay happy and healthy. A professional dog walker offers many benefits:
- Regular exercise: Dogs need daily walks and active play. A walker provides this while you’re at work.
- Mental stimulation: Interacting with new sights, smells and people prevents boredom and destructive behaviors.
- Socialization: For shy or anxious dogs, interacting with other pups is great socialization.
- Routine and structure: Dogs thrive on consistency. A midday walk maintains their schedule.
- Peace of mind for you: You can focus at work knowing your dog is getting care and attention.
What to Look for in a Dog Walker
Experience and Qualifications
- Dog handling experience: Look for at least 2 years of experience regularly handling dogs.
- Training and certifications: Many walkers study canine behavior and first aid. Certifications demonstrate specialized skills.
- Knowledge about dog behavior and body language: They should be able to “speak dog” and handle any issues that arise on walks.
- Health and safety training: They should have training on things like preventing heat stroke, administering pet first aid, and proper leash handling.
Personality and Temperament
- Genuine love of dogs: The walker should be compassionate, patient, and passionate about canines.
- Confident leadership: Dogs need calm-assertive energy from their leader. The walker should take that leadership role confidently.
- Physically fit and energetic: The walker needs stamina to keep up with energetic pups on long walks.
- Friendly and trustworthy: You’re entrusting them with your beloved pet, so they should be responsible, honest and relatable.
Reliability and Professionalism
- Consistent schedule: They should adhere to a strict schedule you agree on and show up on time every day.
- Solid communication: Quick response to questions and providing updates during/after walks is vital.
- Professional credentials: Proper licenses, insurance, contract, and identifiable walking gear add legitimacy.
- Reviews and references: Check reviews and contact references to verify their services.
Safety Measures and Precautions
- Proper leash handling: They should use thick/dual leashes for control and prevent pulling.
- Secured gates/doors: They need to ensure homes are securely closed when entering and exiting.
- ** Pet first aid supplies:** They should have basic first aid supplies in case of emergencies.
- Identification: The walker should wear a visible ID badge and provide contact info in a pets collar/harness.
- Backup support: Look for walkers with quick access to backup walkers if they ever can’t make it.
Questions to Ask Potential Dog Walkers
When interviewing potential dog walkers, ask questions like:
- How long have you been a professional dog walker?
- Are you certified in pet first aid and CPR?
- What training do you have for handling dogs on walks?
- How do you handle situations like aggression or reactivity?
- How many dogs do you walk at once?
- What areas do you walk dogs in?
- Do you offer any other pet services besides dog walking?
- What happens if you need to cancel or can’t make it?
- Can you provide references from past dog walking clients?
Their answers will help you gauge their experience, skills, professionalism, and safety protocols.
Types of Dog Walking Services
- One-on-one walk with just your dog
- More focused attention and bonding
- Ability to personalize based on your dog’s needs
- More expensive than pack walks
- Walker takes 2-4 dogs on group walks
- Socialization with other dogs
- Usually less expensive than private walks
- Walker’s attention is divided between dogs
In-Home Pet Sitting
- Sitter comes to your home while you’re away
- Feeds, walks and plays with your dog
- Provides bathroom breaks, medication, etc.
- Gives plenty of love and cuddles!
- More expensive than just dog walking
Choose the type that best fits your needs and budget!
Comparing Dog Walking Rates and Fees
Dog walking rates vary based on your location and the level of service. Some pricing factors:
- Private vs. pack walks: Private walks typically cost more.
- Frequency: Regularly scheduled walks usually cost less per walk.
- Duration: 30-minute walks vs. 60-minute walks.
- Extra services: Fees may be higher for pet sitting, overnight stays, etc.
- Geographic location: Urban areas generally have higher rates.
- Experience level: Walkers with more experience may charge more.
Be sure to get quotes from multiple walkers. Average costs range from $15-25 for 30-minute walks and $20-35 for 60-minute walks. Many walkers offer packaged pricing with discounts for prepaid walks.
Tips for a Successful First Dog Walk
To set your dog and walker up for success on their first walk together:
- Introduce them before the walk so they can meet
- Provide written instructions on your dog’s habits, commands, needs
- Note any anxiety/reactivity issues so the walker is prepared
- Confirm date/time/location details ahead of schedule
- Have your dog evacuate before the walk
- Take a short test walk together on the first visit
- Leave treats and a favorite toy for post-walk relaxation
- Ask the walker for a report afterward about how it went
- Schedule regular walks so they can build a bond
Keeping Your Dog Safe on Walks
To maximize safety:
- Use a non-retractable leash attached to a proper-fitting harness/collar
- Ensure your dog has proper ID tags with your contact info
- Only allow experienced walkers to handle dogs over 25 lbs
- Avoid excessive heat by walking early/late in summer
- Bring water on walks longer than 30 minutes
- Keep unneutered male dogs separated to prevent fights
- Use thick training leashes for powerful pullers
- Muzzle dogs who are aggressive with other dogs
Follow these tips and only hire competent, professional walkers to take the best care of your pup!
When to Hire a Dog Walker
Common situations when getting a dog walker really helps:
- New puppy: Puppies need potty/play breaks every few hours. Walkers can provide this if you work long hours.
- High energy breeds: Breeds like huskies, labs, border collies, etc. require intense daily exercise beyond just backyard play.
- Senior or disabled dogs: If your older or disabled dog can’t exercise much on their own, walkers get them moving comfortably.
- Dogs with separation anxiety: For severe cases medication may also be needed, but midday walks help ease anxiety and prevent destructive behaviors.
- Socialization needs: Shy/fearful dogs benefit greatly from interacting with walkers and other balanced pups during pack walks.
- Post-surgery or illness recovery: Gentle walks with an experienced walker aid the recovery process.
- Change in schedule: If your new work schedule leaves your dog alone much longer, a walker provides exercise/company.
- Temperament issues: Walkers can provide extra stimulation, training, and handling for dogs with behavioral problems.
The Bottom Line
Finding a responsible, compassionate dog walker takes time and careful vetting, but provides enormous benefits for your faithful companion. Follow this guide to identify the perfect walker for your pup’s needs. With the right person providing daily exercise, attention and love, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your dog is in caring hands when you can’t provide that care yourself.