If you want quality care and reliability in a dog walker, you’ll want to do your homework before making a decision.
Depending on where you live, you might have quite a few options for your dog’s new walker. In big cities, you can usually choose from a couple of different pet service companies, or you can do a little research and find an independent walker.
As with anything, there are pros and cons to both approaches.
Go With a Company? Or Go Independent?
Dog walking companies often:
- Are licensed and insure their walkers
- Can provide backup assistance if your walker isn’t available
- Provide extra services, such as grooming, transportation and overnight boarding
- Have trustworthy customer reviews
Ensure that your candidate company has a strong history of reputable pet care and that it takes good care of its employees — happy employees means better care for your pup.
If you see poor ratings for the company or a high employee turnover rate, then you might want to keep shopping.
On the other hand, independent walkers often:
- Charge less for services
- Are available evenings and weekends
- Have fewer clients
- Can accommodate more special needs
Independent walkers may develop a close relationship with you and your pet, something a lot of people appreciate. But it also means fewer regulations and precautions.
Many independent walkers aren’t insured. Even if you don’t have an aggressive dog, what would happen if your well-behaved pet was attacked by a disgruntled dog? What if your dog slipped his collar and was hit by a car? Who would be responsible if your dog became frightened and bit a child?
Without a walker’s insurance to cover potential disasters, your wallet could take a big hit if something were to go wrong.
Cost and Reputation
When you have a couple of potential walkers, try not to make a final decision based on cost alone. For instance, it’s important to note that most dog walking companies charge more for their services than independent walkers because they have more expenses. On the other hand, if one walker charges less than half the going rate, that’s probably not a good sign.
Ask around: Do your neighbors or coworkers have dogs? Perhaps they can recommend a walker or company. Often these types of pet care providers get jobs through word-of-mouth.
Reliability and Consistency Are Important
Once you’ve decided on either a company or an independent walker, make sure that Bingo’s new buddy is reliable.
Communicate to your walker exactly what you expect. You can even leave a note, write an email or send a text, although speaking in person can help lessen chances of miscommunication. You want everyone on the same page, including the company, your walker and any backup walkers.
Let them know:
- Which days Bingo should be walked
- What time frame to walk Bingo (allow a window of 2–3 hours)
- How long he should be out
- If he should be fed or given water
- Any additional requests
Good walkers are attentive and ask questions. They’re not afraid to call or send a text if they have a question during a walk. (“It’s raining, and Bingo is all wet. Do you have a towel I can use to dry him?”)
If you find your walker is consistently late or misses walks altogether without a compelling excuse, cut ties and find another walker ASAP. Remember, Bingo is the one who suffers if your walker is slacking.
Check out this incredible clip of a man who walks 23 dogs 8 hours a day in Buenos Aires:
A Good Walker Is Detailed and Invested
You love Bingo. That’s why you’re paying someone to visit him when you’re not home. Ideally, that person will love Bingo, too.
The best dog walkers will grow attached to your pup and show that emotional investment through detailed updates about the walks, Bingo’s well-being and any concerns your walker may have. If your walk “report card” just mentions that Bingo went to the bathroom, then maybe your walker isn’t as invested as you’d like him to be.
Remember: Not only are you giving these people access to your home, but also you’re entrusting them to care for your family member. Meet walkers at least once before entrusting them with your pet.