We all love going for long walks with our canine companions, and adopting a new dog gives us and them the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful countryside around us. But dogs need routine daily walks too; the interest and stimulation they provide is incredibly important to both their mental and physical wellbeing.
However, if you work full or part-time and have other family commitments, it’s sometimes hard to find the time to give them the walks they love. Which is why professional dog walking is one of the fastest growing pet services in the UK and some estimates show that 1 in 3 pet owners rely on this type of service. But what should you look out for when paying someone else to walk your furry friend?
1. Ask for References from their other clients and don’t be afraid to follow them up! In fact, it’s really important that you speak personally to other users of the service. Remember that reviews on social media sites are not always a reliable source. Are they a member of any industry regulated organisations? The Dogs Trust, RSPCA and Pet Industry Federation have joined together to produce a set of Professional Dog Walker’s Guidelines. Does your dog walker adhere to them?
2. What Insurance do they hold? It may seem unnecessary but it’s a really important consideration. As a minimum, they should have third-party liability insurance and it’s also worth checking if there are any restrictions imposed on the number of dogs they can walk at any one time. The PIF Guidelines recommend that they walk no more than 4 dogs at once.
3. What Transport will they use? If they’re planning to collect your dog and transport him/her with others, what type of vehicle do they have? Obviously, cleanliness and ventilation are important but so is safety – in the event of a crash and airbags being triggered, they could severely injure or kill a dog. The Highway Code states that “dogs or other animals must be suitably restrained” so does the potential dog walker use crates or harnesses to protect them?
4. What happens in an Emergency? No-one wants the worst to happen but it’s important that you have a clear, written agreement with your dog walker on what they should do in the event of an emergency. They should know your vet's details, if your dog is insured and any medication they are on.
5. What Training do they have? Here we’re talking about your dog walker, not your dog! Do they have a Canine First Aid Certificate and carry a first aid kit at all times? Do they have any canine behavioural training and, if required by your local council (this can vary between councils), are they registered or do they follow a code of conduct?
When it comes to your dog’s training, again this should be agreed in your contract, particularly when it comes to letting your dog off-lead. A professional, reputable dog walker should never use punitive correction methods e.g. electric shock collars, sprays or choke collars.
These are only some of the key considerations when choosing a professional dog walker, but it’s also important to note any changes in your dog’s behaviour, particularly around the dog walker. Are they nervous or stressed? Or are they excited and can’t wait to go and have some fun?
After all, having fun is what it’s all about and happy dogs mean happy owners!