They are called fur babies for a reason. Pets are like children to many, so finding someone to care for your animals while you are out of the house can be a stressful experience.
Every dog owner wants to find the perfect walker for their pup, but with so many options and no official training or qualifications required to become a dog walker, it can be hard to know if you are making the right pick.
Thanks to the Internet making the big world a smaller place, you don’t have go through this search by yourself. To help find the ideal dog walker for your pooch, PEOPLE talked to Andy Brownsell, Commercial Director at Protectivity, an insurance provider that covers pets along with a number of other things. Brownsell has some easy-to-follow advice for narrowing down your dog walker search and picking the one that is best suited for you and your furry friend.
Find out their qualifications
You wouldn’t employ a babysitter without taking a look at their experience, qualifications and reviews, and finding the right dog walker should be no different.
To make sure you find a walker you know will take care of your pup, you need to do your research because, as it stands, dog walkers currently don’t need any training or qualifications to operate commercially. Instead, look at what experience and certificates candidates have, such as First Aid training for pets, CRB checks, and courses in understanding dog behaviors. It’s also crucial to ensure your dog walker is insured to cover anything that could go wrong whilst they are looking after your furry friend.
Just like you’d go on TripAdvisor before booking a holiday, or browse the comments on a particular product on Amazon, reviews are an invaluable insight into what your dog walker can provide for you and your dog; find a walker who has glowing reviews to make sure both you and your pup are as comfortable as possible.
Ask your vet for recommendations
Browsing the internet and scanning reviews can lead to finding a great walker for your dog, but another valuable – and arguably more reliable – way to guarantee a loving and qualified caretaker for your pooch is by visiting your local vets, as many practices offer pet sitting services, advice and they have affiliations with local trusted businesses.
If this is the first time you’re leaving your pet with someone else, the vet could be the perfect starting point as you can fully trust that your pooch is in safe and experienced hands. Even if dog walking isn’t a service they offer themselves, many vets will also have their own database of local dog walkers with lots of experience and strong reviews. Going to the vet to find the right dog walker may save you time barking up the wrong tree online and, as an owner, put your mind at ease.
Make sure there is a bond
Just like humans, dogs are social beings so it’s important that they have a walker they enjoy spending time with. Although our dogs will always remain our best friends, it’s crucial they have a good relationship with their walker as well.
Meeting new people can be a nerve-wracking experience for anyone and for your dog it’s no different. As an owner, you’re able to automatically pick up on changes in your dog’s body language when in the company of new people. For example, if your dog feels stressed in the presence of a potential new walker, their body may be stiff, their ears pinned flat against the back of their head, and they might be trying to avoid the situation or person completely. Whilst these types of behaviors can emerge from medical problems and separation anxiety, they can also be signs your pooch feels frightened, stressed and uncomfortable, which probably means that a particular walker isn’t quite right.
Get to know your dog walker
It’s just as important that you get to know the walker as much as your pup does, as it paves the way for a trusting and happy relationship between the three of you.
To find out if your dog walker is the perfect match, ask questions such as whether they mind venturing out in bad weather, whether they’ll be looking after any other animals at the same time as yours and which parks and walks they plan to take your pup to. You know your dog better than anybody else, and getting to know your walker will help you decide whether they’re the right fit.
To make sure you’ve found the right candidate, why not go for a few trial walks to make sure you’re confident that they’re the perfect walker for you and your dog?
Adaptation is key
Whilst walkers are likely to have worked with tens and even hundreds of dogs, these canines will all differ considerably. In fact, the advised amount of time a dog is recommended to walk each day varies from just 30 minutes to two hours, fluctuating according to diet, breed, age and health factors.
It’s critical that your chosen dog walker is a good listener and you’re able to trust that they’ll follow your rules as a pet owner, such as whether your dog gets on well with other dogs, is happy to travel in a car, any particular trails they love and any health problems they may have. It’s the job of your walker to listen, respect and follow through with these preferences to ensure your pup has the best time possible.