What To Ask When Hiring A Dog Walker

Sooo important! 🐕

Dog walker and dog

Walking your dog is a huge part of your relationship with your pup — and she’ll definitely let you know if you’re even a few minutes late for your afternoon stroll.

But sometimes life happens — and whether it’s long hours at the office or something else, you might be thinking about hiring a dog walker to help you out. There are all sorts of dog walkers, and it’s important to pick one who will keep your pup safe and happy.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is a dog walker?

A dog walker is partly what it sounds like — a person you hire to walk your dog! But dog walking involves so much more than simply walking your pup around the neighborhood.

“We supervise the dog, how they react and interact with other dogs, how they are in different environments, and act towards people,” Amelie Koury, a certified dog walker and pet sitter at Bon Chien Good Dog in Canada, told The Dodo.

Dog walkers should understand dog language

According to Koury, it’s important to understand that your dog walker is proactive about anything in the surroundings that might affect your dog — which is why a dog walker should have some knowledge of dog language and behavior.

“We need to be able to read when a dog is communicating stress, or joy, or appeasement, or curiosity, or fear, etc.,” Koury said. “Knowing dog language and behavior is how I’'m able to keep the dogs in my care safe and happy.”

It’s important to keep in mind that dog walking isn’t necessarily regulated — so just about anyone can call themselves a dog walker.

“That being said, some dog walkers do choose to learn about dog language and behavior,” Koury said. “Ask your potential dog walker if they’'ve learned dog language and behavior. Where did they study? What classes have they taken?”

Making sure to do your due diligence here will help you know that your dog is in the right hands.

Other questions you should ask when hiring a dog walker include:

1. Is your dog walker Pet First Aid certified?

“Just as important as knowing how dogs communicate is learning what to do in a medical emergency,” Koury said. “This should be renewed every year or two (depending on where they get certified). Pet First Aid teaches many things, including CPR, how to bandage wounds on different parts of the body, and what to do in different emergency situations.”

According to Koury, there are so many things that can happen while out and about with your dog — your dog can get punctured by a stick while running, he can choke on something, get cut, break a nail, etc. “You don’t want your dog walker to have to use this training, but you’ll be glad they have it if something happens!” Koury added. “In my six years as a professional dog walker, I'm glad I haven't had to use this training on any dogs in my care, but I'm even happier to have the training should anything happen.”

2. How many dogs do they walk at once?

You’re paying a dog walker to care for your pet, so how much of their attention is your dog actually getting?

“It's impossible to give your dog the same amount of attention when they’re walked alone as when they’re walked with two other dogs, or with seven+ other dogs!” Koury said.

She suggests taking a good, hard look at your individual dog and ask yourself this:
What do you want for your dog and what does your dog need?

If your dog walker does “pack walks” — meaning she walks multiple dogs at one time — understand that it's impossible to meet every dogs' individual needs when many dogs are walked at once — but that might be totally OK for your pup!

“I've walked five dogs at once and it's really not the same thing as walking three,” Koury said. “While I mostly offer private walks, any group walk I do is with three dogs max. This way, the dogs are able to stop and sniff, I can give them individual attention without taking attention away from another dog, they have space between them while walking, I can easily play different games with them. It's not the same as a private walk, but it's close to it. Four or more dogs don't come close to this.”

According to Koury, pack walks rarely benefit the dog. “It's not fun for your dog to be tied to other dogs, walking shoulder to shoulder and not being able to stop when they want to, to sniff, to do anything other than walk,” Koury said.

Additional questions you might want to ask if your dog walker is offering pack walks are:

  • How do they secure the dogs while they are picking up or dropping off other dogs?
  • Are they going to a park to be let off-leash?
  • How are they meeting your dog’s' needs?
  • How are they watching and engaging with the dogs?

“I don’t recommend pack walks unless they're more like adventure walks and if there’s at least two people when there are four or more dogs,” Koury said. “This ensures safety and that all the dogs can be properly supervised. If a dog gets injured, escapes, runs away, how will one dog walker tend to that dog and care for the three or more other dogs?”

3. What equipment does your dog walker use?

  • No matter the kind of walk, ask about what tools they use for their walks.
  • Will they put a choker or slip lead on your dog?
  • Will they use a head halti?
  • Will they use a harness?
  • Does your dog know those tools?
  • What safety measures do they have in place in case the collar or harness fails?

4. How does the dog walker respond to your dog’s needs?

“There is a certain amount of training involved in dog walking, especially if you're opting for a pack walk for your dog,” Koury said.

Some of the questions you’ll want to ask are:

  • How will the dog walker get your dog to walk “in line” with others?
  • What do they do if the dog doesn't listen?
  • What if the dog is scared or stressed out? (It can be scary to be suddenly tied to a bunch of other dogs they don’t necessarily know!)

These are things to ask!

If it’s a solo walk, the same types of questions can be asked.

  • What does the walker do when your dog does something ‘wrong’?
  • What do they do when the dog does something ‘right’?

It’s important that you make sure to let your dog walker know what you agree to and don't agree to in regards to these situations.

5. What does the walk consist of?

As for the actual walks, there's more to a dog walk than just walking — so you should find out what those other things are.

“Dogs aren't trying to hit a certain number of steps or distance or speed per day. They're not trying to do X amount of kilometers in one hour. Dogs walk to explore, to sniff, to get to things, to move away from things,” Koury said. “Like humans, dogs require more than just physical exercise. Their walks need to meet their mental and emotional needs, as well.”

Ask your dog walker what a walk consists of with them.

  • What do they do during the walk?
  • What types of activities do they do?

“Different things a walker can do to meet your dog’s needs are: scent work, decompression walks, basic agility [practice] (having your dog jump up onto platforms, [jump] down, go under things, etc.), practice tricks and/or cues the dog has learned, problem-solving games, etc.,” Koury said.

Your dog walker should be asking you questions, too!

While you’re asking your potential dog walker many questions, they should be asking you a lot of questions, too — all about your dog!

“They should do some sort of evaluation and ask you about your dog’s behavior and health,” Koury said. “As a dog walker, I need to know if your dog is reactive, if they have triggers and what those triggers are, what they like, what they don’t like, if they have allergies. I have to know if there are ingredients to avoid in the treats I bring!”

“I also need to know who to contact in case of an emergency if I can’t get a hold of you, and what your dog’s cues are so I’m using the same vocabulary as you,” Koury added.

A great dog walker will communicate with you on a regular basis about your dog’s needs, and how she’s doing on her walks. Some walkers leave detailed notes or send you pics of your pup enjoying her stroll.

Your dog’s walk should be enriching

Lastly, the goal of the walk should be that it's fun, fulfilling and enriching for your dog.

“Your dog is left at home alone for eight hours, more or less, while you're at work or school or wherever,” Koury said. “Their one-hour walk during that time shouldn't be stressful, or about corrections and punishment.”

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