Choosing a professional to walk your dog can be daunting and overwhelming. Dog walking and pet sitting is still a relatively new field and is not regulated by the government at this time. Many dog walkers or pet sitters get into the field because of their love of animals, and it takes passion and a love of animals to do the job correctly, but it takes more than just passion. Being a professional dog walker or pet sitter requires a skill set and knowledge base of a wide variety of animals, breeds, behaviors and health conditions.
It’s a big decision to choose someone to care for your pet when you cannot be there or to walk your dog during the day. Below are some questions, designed to help you make the right decision for you.
1. Are you insured and bonded? While caring for pets or walking dogs, a variety of emergencies or accidents can happen. You want to have the peace of mind of knowing that if something should happen (for example, if your dog were to get off leash and accidentally injure someone) that your sitter/dog walker is covered. You want to also be protected against possible theft or damage to items in your home that can occur anytime you have workers in your home. Being insured and bonded protects the business, your pet and your personal items.
2. How many dogs will you walk at a time? Not many dog walkers can walk multiple dogs successfully. There can be an inherent risk in walking several dogs who may or may not know each other well. A professional dog walker knows this and works to minimize the stress and likelihood of a mishap. Before walking multiple dogs, all dogs should be assessed for temperament and personality as well as walk styles. A dog interested in walking at a brisk pace will find itself frustrated if slowed down too much to accommodate a slower dog who is more interested in smelling the roses than in going to quickly.
3. Who will be doing the walking/ pet sitting? Most pet sitting or dog walking businesses are small and the owner does most of the walking or pet sitting, but be sure to ask the question. If there are employees, you want to know if your pet will get the same employee each visit or will they be seeing a different person each day. You will also want to verify that background checks are complete and ask about the vetting process.
4. What is your training methods and philosophy? Anyone working with pets in your home or walking your dog will need to know how to handle unwanted behaviors. The standard set by the American Veterinary Medical Association recommend humane training methods that utilize positive reinforcement to encourage the development of desired behaviors. There are a variety of training techniques that utilize positive reinforcement, you will need to speak with your pet sitter to ensure that their ideas and values fall in line with your own.
5. Are you certified if pet first aid? What are your procedures for emergencies? Life sometimes happens with a dog walker or pet sitter is with your pet. Pets can become ill, injured or injure someone else. When that happens, you need to know that your pet sitter/ dog walker is ready and equipped to handle the situation. All providers should be certified in pet first aid and pet CPR. they should have a clear idea of how to reach the owner or preferred veterinarian in case of emergency and you should be aware of how they will proceed.
6. How is the length of dog walk measured? This may seem self explanatory, but you need to know does that 20 minute timer start when the dog walker enters your home, or after the dog is leashed and heading out the door? It can take several minutes to greet a dog, calm them down and get them ready to walk, especially in the winter months when jackets and boots take on a whole new dynamic! You are paying for a certain amount of time, be sure that your dog walker is walking your dog for the duration you are paying for.
7. How do you give updates on how my pet is doing? Does your pet sitter send you updates during your time away from home, or will he/she provide you with a detailed update when you return? Some dog walkers leave notebooks, others prefer to use software or text messaging. Whatever your pet sitter or dog walker chooses, be sure that you are comfortable with their communication style as well.
8. How does your pet interact with them? The most important thing for you to know is that your pet will be comfortable with the person you are trusting their care to. Pay attention during your meeting to how your pet responds to the pet sitter or dog walker, and how they respond to your pet!.
There are many more things to consider, but this is a start. The important thing to remember is that you need to be comfortable with the person you are trusting to care for your pet or walk your dog!