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Finding a Dog Walker Near Me: An Owner’s Guide to Finding and Recruiting the Pawfect Dog Walker

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Even though you must work 9 through to 5, your dog deserves a break. The obvious answer is to employ a dog walker. But this means giving two of your most valuable possessions (the dog and your house keys) over to a stranger.

This guide helps you steer around the pitfalls of hiring “just anyone” to walk your dog. Discover aspects you might not otherwise think about, including:

  • Finding a dog walker near me
  • References, reviews and reputation
  • The legal side of employing a dog walker
  • Experience and expertise
  • Dog safety in transit
  • Finding out availability and plan B
  • 10 great questions when interviewing a dog walker
  • 7 point essentials checklist

Whilst out with Fluffybutt Waggins, you meet a dog walker. They seem nice enough: Problem solved!

STOP: Hold on a dog-gone minute. What do you really know about his perfectly pleasant person? Did you ask them if they have a criminal record? (Thought not!) Or indeed if they are first aid trained or have Public Liability insurance?

Employing a dog walker is about way more than how nice someone is (although this is important).

Finding a Dog Walker Near Me

Where do you find a dog walker?

Like pollen in springtime, dog walkers are all around you. You may see professional dog walkers on your daily dog walks. But if this person has a pack of hounds on leashes like the central spoke of a bicycle wheel, then steer well clear.

Golden Rule 1: Look for a dog walker who walks four or less dogs at a time. (or is prepared to walk yours as an individual, if the dog isn’t sociable.)

So where can you look to find that perfect dog walker? As a starting point to identify potential candidates, try:

  • Vet clinics or groomers notice boards
  • Local small ads
  • Community boards in supermarkets
  • An online search
  • Social media, such as Facebook dog walking groups
  • Dog walking agencies

Pet sitting and dog walking agencies are a new-ish phenomena, usually operating on a franchise basis. The person providing the service is registered with the agency for a fee, and in return gets the visibility of online postcode searches for walkers in your area.

Although some agencies vet their walkers before putting them on the books, you should still ask questions, such as asking to see their criminal record check.

Another feature of agency recruited walkers is that many use tracking apps. Working like a sat nav, these allow you to follow the dog’s walk on a map, to ensure they are being taken where you expected.

Ultimately, how you find a candidate to interview is a matter of personal choice. There are great individuals running a one-person operation as well as the choice an agency gives you. What matters is finding a trustworthy, reliable person for your dog’s needs.

cute dog sitting down on a walk

References, Reviews, and Reputation

Do some homework ahead of having a chat with the prospective candidate. If the dog walker has a website, what does it look like?

Does the website have a professional appearance, with recent photos of happy dogs enjoying themselves? OK, so you’re employing a dog walker not a website designer, but the website content gives an impression of how knowledgeable the person is and an idea of their ethics and code of conduct.

Do an online search for reviews. A bad review can be more illuminating than a good one. Read all of them with an open mind, but read between the lines and be aware of what’s not being said, as well as what is

Golden Rule 2: Speak to the referee; ask about both their good and bad experiences with the dog walker and how the latter reacted

When finding a dog walker, ask for a phone number for their referees. Your aim is to speak to the person, not just read their testimonial. This allows you to ask about when things didn’t go so well and how the dog walker reacted.

The Legal Side of Employing a Dog Walker

The first thing most pet parents think about is whether the dog walker has empathy with their pet. Yes, this is important, but it’s also pretty obvious. No-one in their right mind is going to put their fur-friend into the care of someone with an obvious antipathy towards your dog.

The less thought about end of the leash, is the legal side of dog walking. For example, whilst in the care of the dog walker, who is responsible if the dog caused damaged to a third party’s property, or worse, attacked another dog causing them injury?

All dog walkers are required to have Third Party Liability insurance, so always check this is in place.

Golden Rule 3: Thirty party liability insurance is essential

Also, if Fluffybutt Waggins is injured on a walk, who is liable for the vet’s fees? Some walkers have liability insurance, but others don’t. There is no legal requirement for the walker to have such insurance, but if they don’t, know that you will foot the bill even if the accident happened through the walker’s carelessness or the injury was caused by other dogs in their care.

And talking about legality, a dog walker does not have to have any specific qualification or accreditation. This means anyone can set themselves in business. However, truly professional dog walkers will educate themselves in relevant topics.

Education and Experience

What’s the difference between a school-student walking Fluffybutt Waggins, and their dog-owning parent? The answer is “Experience”. The school-student may be perfectly responsible, but have limited life experience of how to react in a crisis, such as if the dog suddenly collapsed. This doesn’t disqualify the student from consideration, but it’s a simple illustration of factors to consider.

In an ideal world find a dog walker who has owned their own dogs and is an experienced dog handler. This helps them react appropriately should a canine conflict arise or your dog become unexpectedly ill.

Golden Rule 4: Personal experience with dogs, be that as an owner, a groomer, or vet nurse, is a valuable resource and good recommendation.

The wise dog walker knows things won’t always be plain sailing and plans accordingly. This can mean taking a pet first aid course (ideally provided by a veterinary body), studying basic dog psychology and behaviour, and understanding appropriate dog training techniques.

Dog Safety in Transit

It might be the dog walker picks your dog up in a vehicle and transports them to a dog park or field. This has safety implications. A dog (or several dogs!) loose in the back of a car are a hazard to themselves and the driver.

For their own safety, the dog should always be secured with an appropriate safety harness. Either that or travel behind a safety screen, so that they can’t distract the driver or get under their feet when driving.

Golden Rule 5: Don’t overlook safety getting to and from the dog walk

In addition, check whether the dog will ever be left unattended in the vehicle. For example, does the walker ever leave dogs in the van while they walk an individual? Also, what happens if the dog walker picks up other dogs on their way round: Will your dog be left in the vehicle?

Ian the summer heat, even a short time in a hot vehicle has the potential to be deadly, so be certain the dog walker hs thought this through and has a safety strategy in place (that involves more than opening the windows a bit!)

dog is overheating in a hot car on a dog walk

Finding out availability and plan B

Getting into the detail now, how flexible is the dog walker timewise? Do you need to fit in with their plans, or is it vice versa?

Hopefully, the dog walker will build a rapport with Fluffybutt Waggins, and the former is able to commit to regular walks. But what happens if either they are ill? Do they have a proxy in place, and if so are they vetted?

Golden Rule 6: Clarity is key. The dog walker might not have a substitute, but if they clearly state this, it helps you to plan for all eventualities

Again, turning to the other end of the leash, what happens if Fluffybutt Waggins is injured or isn’t allowed to mix with other dogs for a while? A flexible dog walker may still be prepared to visit the house, to let the dog out for a comfort break.

10 Great Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Dog Walker

Here are some great questions which might not occur to you to ask.

  1. What would you do if the dog got lost?
    • A great answer is “Call the dog warden and then call you.” This is the correct course of action.
  2. How do you keep house keys safe whilst walking the dog?
    • Ideally, the dog walker would have a safe inside their van, in which to keep valuables secure
  3. How many dogs do you walk at a time?
    • The legal limit is six, but arguably four or less is a more manageable number. Indeed, some local authorities now have a legal limit of four or less.
  4. Do you belong to any affiliated societies, such as the National Associations of Pet Sitters and Dogs Walkers (NARPsUK)?
    • Whilst not essential, organizations such as NARPs have code of conduct to which they expect members to adhere. It is a good indication of a professional attitude.
  5. Who is responsible should the dog be injured whilst in your care?
    • There is no right or wrong answer for this, but the dog walker must have a clear policy in place. Even better, they should have a written document stating their policy for either party to sign.
  6. What training methods do you use?
    • The only answer here is “reward-based training.” If they subscribe to Dominance Theory then walk away there and then. The latter is out-dated and psychologically damaging to dogs.
  7. Would you take the dog to the vet if it became necessary?
    • Hopefully, the answer is an unreserved “Yes”.
  8. Do you carry water at all times?
    • Another no-brainer “Yes”
  9. Do you carry a mobile phone at all times?
    • “Yes”
  10. Do you have a proxy walker should they not be available?
    • The lack of a proxy may not be a deal breaker. However, if they do use one, be sure to meet them also and ensure all checks are in place.

7 Point Essentials Checklist to Help Choose your Dog Walker

Cut the chase with this seven-point checklist:

  1. CRB checked with no criminal record
  2. Third Party Liability Insurance
  3. Dogs are transported in a safe manner
  4. A clear policy relating to injury whilst in their care
  5. Use reward-based training methods
  6. Has adequate experience should the worst happen
  7. They adore your dog!

We’d love to know about your experiences when looking for or finding a dog walker. Have you any tips to share fellow owners? What do you know about dog walkers that you wished you’d known before?
Please leave a comment for the benefit of other fur-friends.

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