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10 Things to consider when choosing a Professional Dog Walker

Finding the right professional dog walker is critical as it requires you to choose someone that no only you and your dog trust, but that they are also capable of taking care of any special needs that your dog has. Your dog may prefer to be with someone who specialises in group walks of up to six dogs and still able to give them the love and attention they need. Others may need a dog walker that only takes single dogs. To help in selecting a professional dog walker, here are 10 things to consider:

1 - Does your dog love the potential dog walker right away?

Your dog needs to feel comfortable and excited for their walks every time. Therefore, when you and your dog first meet your potential dog walker, how does your dog react in that first instance? How does the Dog Walker interact with your dog?

Your dog should fall in love with the dog walker instantly, as they ooze the smell of other dogs. You should also see a very happy dog walker too, as meeting dogs is fun for them. Jane Wright, a professional dog walker from The Dogs Den, says that a dog walker should "love your dog as much as you do."

2 - What is their experience, motivation, and client feedback?

Most dog owners will look at the experience of their potential dog walker. It's always a good idea to check out their experience from other existing clients of theirs, something all professional dog walkers will be more than happy to do. With such reviews, make sure that the level of service you require is being provided already.

A great question to ask your potential dog walker is if they have a specific motivation for their work they do? I asked Jane from The Dogs Den, who said: "Having bred dogs for years, I wanted to expand my business and branch out, whilst still working with dogs." In addition, it's worthwhile understanding the training that has been accomplished. This should include up to date certifications in dog behaviour and dog handling.

3 - Do they have all adequate paperwork?

It is likely that professional dog walkers in your area need a licence from the local council. As Jane from The Dogs Den said, "Make sure that your dog walker is licensed by the local authority, is insured, and is pet first aid trained."

As well as having a canine first aid certificate, make sure that they also carry a canine first aid kit with them on all walks.

Third party liability insurance for professional dog walkers will normally outline the number of dogs that can be walked at any time. You should also discuss how emergency vet fees are covered, and whether it's something they have under their policy.

4 - Will they be walking a group of dogs or just yours?

If you know that your dog is anxious and must walk alone, then it is clear the 1:1 service that you need and existing client references will help confirm that service meets your needs.

Walking as part of a group can be a great way for your dog to make friends. Whilst there is a chance of exposure to kennel cough or fleas in a group, the enhanced socialising for your dog can be a benefit as long as there are no aggressive dogs in the group. Make sure that you are comfortable with the number of dogs in the group at any time, and that you are satisfied that your dog will get adequate time and attention.

5 - Do they have adequate transport facilities if needed?

It is not uncommon for dog walkers to provide transportation. As Jane from The Dogs Den confirmed, "I offer a pick up / drop off service. If the owners are happy to provide me access to their property, the owners do not have to be present for the pick up / drop off."

Your dog should be secure and comfortable in any vehicle by using an appropriately sized harness or crates. The vehicle must be regularly cleaned, disinfected and have good temperature control.

6 - Are they able to cater for your dog's specific needs?

All dogs have their own personality and traits, and many have specific needs that are important for you to be certain that your potential dog walker can manage.

Whether they are behavioural or health related needs, make sure that you are all comfortable. If the needs are health related and things develop on a group walk, how will the dog walker manage that situation.

7 - Do they have experience in positive reinforcement training?

Unless specifically agreed, you don't expect a dog walker to train your dog. However, it is important that your dog has a great experience at all times and wants to return each time. You never want a situation where your dog is punished for doing something. It's good to look for a dog walker that has experience in positive rewards based training.

8 - Where do the walks take place and how long are they for?

It's important to know where the walks will take place, and for how long. This will help you determine if the walk aligns with your dog's energy levels, and also the potential amount of time your dog is spending being transported. For example, Jane from The Dogs Den says that her walks are around an hour and all take place in the woods of Bracknell & Crowthorne.

Many dog walkers provide regular updates on their walks. Some dog walkers use mobile Apps like GoWalkies to help owners know exactly where their dog is.

9 - How do they manage emergencies?

Unfortunately, we all know that incidents and emergencies can occur. It's a key topic to discuss, so that you can be fully satisfied with how your potential dog walker handles emergencies, including those that require vet assistance.

In point 3 above, you've already checked that they are trained in canine first aid. It is also good to understand how they manage to calm a fearful or aggressive dog and avoid a dog fight.

10 - Join a trial walk, and see them in action.

Now you are happy with points 1-9 above and feel you have a great match for your dog, you should see them in action and enjoy the trial walk together. During that walk, is your dog happy with them, relaxed, comfortable and walking at the same pace.

If you are expecting a group walk to be the normal walk for your dog then make sure the trial walk is also part of a group walk.

In Closing

Thanks again for input and comments from Jane Wright of The Dogs Den. As Jane says, "People looking for help with their dogs should speak to different companies before deciding who would be most suitable for them and their dog." For those in the Bracknell & Crowthorne area, Jane can be contacted via Facebook or Instagram

We hope that these 10 things will help you in finding the perfect dog walker to suit your dog's unique needs, and of course, give you the reassurance that you need too that you have made a great choice for your loyal companion.

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