By Lindsay Shostal
This is your golden opportunity to see how the potential walker interacts with your dog. If the walker comes into your home and immediately starts talking about package pricing, method of payment, etc., this is a huge red flag. You want a walker who comes into your home and pays attention to your dog right off the bat. After all, this is about their relationship. Look for a dog walker who is professional but also very caring. They should ask as many questions about your dog as you should about the services they provide.
A word on dog walking companies: quite often, larger dog walking companies (who have walkers working for them) will do the initial meet-and-greet, and unbeknownst to you, will then assign a different dog walker. This walker can change daily or weekly, depending on the employee’s availability. Your dog walker is entering your home, and caring for your pet. For peace of mind, it should be a priority for you to personally meet the employee who will be walking your dog.
Step 2: The meet-and-greet
Here are 12 questions you should ask your potential dog walker. If they are unable to answer these questions, run (don’t walk!) away.
• How many dogs do they walk at once? Every city has different bylaws on the maximum dogs allowed to be walked at once. Know your city’s bylaws. In Toronto, the maximum number of dogs that can be walked together is six.
• What dogs are walked together? Groups should be based on size and temperament. You want a walker who understands that dogs are like people with many different temperaments and personalities. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than watching a dog walker try to walk a high strung Terrier with a frightened Chihuahua being dragged behind.
• Do they live in the same neighborhood? Where do they walk the dogs? Look for a walker who walks relatively close to your neighborhood.
• Will they be walking your dog? As mentioned before, this is an important one, as dog walking companies often have multiple employees and could be alternating who’s walking your dog. This is something you’d want to know ahead of time, especially if different people will be entering and exiting your home!
• What will the walks include? They should be able to describe the walk in detail, outlining if they visit off-leash dog parks or mainly stick to the streets. You need to make sure it’s the right fit for your dog.
• Are they certified in pet first aid, and what are their emergency protocols?
• Are they city licenced, insured and bonded?
• What is their cancellation policy?
• Review the contract to make sure it includes details on liability and if something happens to your dog in their care. This will help avoid conflicts and protect you in the long run.
• What kind of training methods and equipment do they use? I only use positive-reinforcement based training on my dogs. I never use choke, prong or shock collars, hitting or shoving.
• What happens in the event of bad weather?
• Are they trained in canine learning theory, body language and pack management? This can vary from dog walker to walker. This is a reason why hiring a summer student isn’t always the best choice, as they’re not as educated or dedicated as full-time walkers who have been doing this for years.
There may be other variables that help you decide which dog walker is right for you, such as ease of communication (email, text), and their availability. Do they offer dog boarding? Having a service provider that combine services is super convenient, and makes things even easier for your dog who’s already used to seeing their walker on a regular basis. Ultimately, go with your gut instinct. Your dog will have a great time with their new walker, having lots of new adventures!