6 Crucial Questions You Should Ask You
Have you ever wondered what your pooch’s walks are really like? Or even what it’s like to be a dog walker? What do dog walkers really do apart from strolling around parks with cute four-legged babes picking up their poops (plus every other poo they encounter)?
Well, let me give you a taste from an insider’s perspective, including how to find a great dog walker and the best service for you and your pooch, but first I’ll tell you a little story.
In 2009 my partner and I had an awful experience with a dog minder which broke my heart and made me realise that choosing someone to care for our babe is much more complex than I had first thought.
We had to leave our beloved young pooch for three days, so we researched and talked to different people over the phone until we found a friendly lady who had been caring for pooches in our area for a long time. She came over to meet us beforehand and we also saw her vehicle on the day she came to collect our babe. We thought we had found the best care for him but upon our return three days later, we found our pooch had a big open wound on his leg. To make matters worse, the minder hadn’t even noticed.
I couldn’t understand what we missed when we selected our dog minder. We were convinced we had done our homework but that clearly wasn’t the case. It took a few years to fully understand what I now know today and where we went wrong.
At the time, I had a career in education and had no idea that a few years later I would take my passion for animals to the next level and become a qualified dog minder. While I have had dogs my entire life, being in the dog service industry in the UK at least for the last 7 years has given me a whole new perspective on caring for them. I have a network of wonderful dog minder friends around my area and I know what it takes to be a great dog walker or minder. Today, I know why the person we hired in 2009 was the wrong choice, but that story is for another time.
Instead, I am going to list the basic questions you need to ask before hiring an independent dog walker or a pet service company. Being a pooch parent myself, I know how important it is to find someone trustworthy to look after your pooch when you’re absent for a few hours or a few days.
I believe that dog minding should be a fully registered profession and require qualifications and checks before someone can look after your precious pet and loved family member. In the absence of more regulation, these questions are a great starting point for finding the best carers out there.
Do they have first aid/CPR certificates and what is their protocol in case of an emergency?
This could save your pooch’s life, so it should be your very first question. It’s important to know the professional protocol for emergency. First-aid and CPR are important if something happens to your pet. There are lots of excellent in-person and online courses that every professional (& pet owner) should have. Safety first, so this one is a must!
Are they fully insured both for pooch and property protection?
There are more things that can go wrong on a walk than you can possibly imagine.
I could fill a book with things I’ve seen or experienced on my days out with my babes. Ensure your pooch and your property are protected. For instance, any incident involving your pup and loss/theft of house keys. Your dog walker must be fully covered with a good insurance policy that protects pets in case of injuries and items in case of theft.
What vehicle is used for transport and how long will my pooch be in it for?
For a pooch, travelling can be a frustrating and sometimes traumatic affair, depending on their tolerance for vehicles and how the process is managed. It can influence your pooch’s behaviour. So, to understand how it works from start to finish is very important.
Consider security and comfort and check in person where and how your pooch is transported. Average time in the vehicle is also a crucial point, especially in warm temperatures. An ability to regulate the temperature is essential too. Fan, air-conditioning, blankets, heating and so on.
Which activities are part of the routine on the walk?
If your pooch could interview their minder, no doubt the first question would be ‘woof…what are we going to do?' To play and socialise with others is one of the main reasons for your babe to be going out, so you should know what activities are included. It’s not the size of the park or the pack, but a balanced control and what the dog walker does with your babe that counts! Ask if the service includes walks, off route exploration, swim, play time with balls, toys, treats, etc. Your pooch wouldn’t be interested in a boring walk following a human whose attention is diverted by everything other than them.
What training do they have?
Even if your dog doesn't have a behavioural problem or bad habits, a background in canine behaviour or training can make all the difference to the service being offered to your pup. Understanding different aspects of pooches’ personality and being able to know what to do in different situations certainly brings a better quality of life to your babe. It also improves the experience they have with other pooches, people and the environment.
How long have they been walking dogs and is it their full-time job?
You want to make sure your dog walker can handle just about any situation that may occur. An experienced dog walker who walks dogs for a living will be able to handle a situation better than hobby or holiday dog walkers, who will be unlikely to tick all the boxes listed above.
Apart from these six initial questions, check references and the bond between your babe and the dog minder. Dogs are very intelligent animals, so whoever wrote ‘If your pooch doesn’t like somebody, you probably shouldn’t either’ might have a good point.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to ask for references. Try to obtain at least two, from a current client and from a former. A trial period is also ideal to make sure that you, your dog and the minder are happy. Always stay pawsitive and take your babe for walks as much as you can.
Article by Juliana Rodrigues
WetNose Club Society