If you’re a dog owner, it’s likely that at some point in your dog’s life, you’re going to need the services of a dog walker.
But what exactly does a professional dog walker do? How can you find a quality dog walker and what are the red flags you need to look out for?
These are just some of the questions a first-time dog owner might have when they first start looking for a walker for their four-legged best friend.
That’s why we tagged along with Kelly, found of The Dog Lady, on one of her group dog walks at Formby Beach to get the answers to these questions and many more.
Press play to watch our interview and scroll down for a full transcript!
What made you become a dog walker in 2018?
When my little girl was born, it made me reassess everything and I just didn’t want to go and work a lot of hours in an office and not see her much, so with the dog walking I’m really fortunate.
Do you need any special qualifications to be a dog walker?
So technically no you don’t need any qualifications, but I would say they definitely helps when you’re looking for a dog walker. It’s not a regulated field which I think it should be.
For my staff, I want a first aid qualification, a clean DRB check, obviously a lot of experience. The ladies I have working fore me, one used to be a veterinary nurse and the other is a trustee of a rescue charity so both have a lot of experience with dogs. Simply being a dog owner for a few years isn’t enough experience – you need experience with different types of dogs in different situations.
What are the benefits of using a dog walking service for owners and dogs?
For the owners it’s handy if they’re at work a lot although we do have owners who also work from home and still use our services. We are able to provide dogs with different types of walks, different experiences where the dog’s mind as well as their body is stimulated so it’s not just exercise, it’s canine enrichment. We go on adventures where sniffs everywhere, they are with their dog friends, as opposed to going out on their own. We match all the dogs specifically with other dogs so they can get the maximum enjoyment out of it.
Where can people find a reliable dog walker?
A lot of the time you would google. A good dog walker will have either a website or a Facebook or Instagram page. Facebook is a good place to look because you can see people that you might know that like the page or use them. Word of mouth as well is always good.
What should an owner look out for and avoid when looking for a dog walker?
Always make sure you ask lots of questions and don’t be put off by a dog walker interviewing you. We probably ask so many questions that people are put off by it but its most important that we find a dog that fits us as well as you finding a walker that fits you. We don’t just walk the dog, it’s more important than that and we wouldn’t just take on a dog that affects the dog dynamic that we’ve already got.
Find out the routines, find out how the dog is transported, do they have any first aid qualifications and what would happen if there was an accident. Also ask about how they transport keys because obviously people have got keys to people’s houses so its important to know how they are stored.
I’ve seen walkers with 9 dogs on their own. Personally, I couldn’t keep my eye on 9 dogs running around no matter how well they behave. If there was a disagreement you need to be able to split that up and to look after the dogs.
I tend to walk 3-4 dogs at a time, most people’s insurance will only cover them up to 6.
A lot of dog walkers will say an owners own insurance will cover their walks, but a lot of policies will only cover accidents if they owner is in charge of them. If something happens whilst your dog is in our care, it’s important that we’re able to cover that.
Do dogs need to meet a certain criteria before they can walk with a professional walker?
A general level of obedience – we can’t walk a dog that cannot walk on a lead or a harness or that’s aggressive. But there are people who specialise in solo dog walks and dogs with certain issues and reactivity. So if you have a dog that is reactive, you need to look for someone who can do one-to-one care for that dog
What is your advice for puppy owners who might need a dog walker?
We do have puppies, we just wouldn’t really walk them on the groups until they’re a certain age so that their little legs can keep up.
Puppies shouldn’t be walked for too long so we don’t tend to until they’re at least 6 months depending on the size of the dog.
A lot of dog walkers will also do puppy visits twice a day for food, toilet breaks and a little bit of play. A dog walker is not really ideal for when they’re a young puppy.
My dog is shy – can they still go on group walks?
Obviously, they need to be not aggressive towards other dogs but we don have a lot of dogs that were shyer towards other dogs and they’re not now. We would maybe just put them with the dogs that do their own thing, and it gives them the confidence to come out of their shell a little bit. It’s jus all about matching dogs with the right group.
How do you match dogs up for group walks?
I tend to do a free consultation, so I go and meet he dog. And quite quickly, I guess it’s from time doing this, I can tell quite quickly which dogs they’ll get on with. Sometimes its based on their age, their temperament, whether they’ve bene neutered or not and asking loads of questions of the owner to find out what kind of dogs they like to meet.
What exactly happens on a professional dog walk?
We go to their house pick the dog up, put them in the car in a secure area and then go and pick other dogs up. Take them to a fun location, usually somewhere where there’s not too many people about. We’ll do our walk and if they are good off lead and we’ve built up that trust they can be off lead or potentially on a long line. Once we’ve done our walk, we’ll give them a quick clean up and check over and a drink of water. Then its back in the car, spray them with some nice puppy spray so they go home smelling of nice baby powder and then its back home and we’ll follow whatever process the owner likes. They might want them back in the crate or for us to give them their food – we’ll follow their drop off process.
A huge thank you to Kelly from The Dog Lady for letting us tag along on one of her group walks and for taking the time to answer our questions and give us a better understanding of the dog walking business.