WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A DOG WALKER

LOOKING FOR A DOG WALKER CAN BE A COMPLETE NIGHTMARE OF A CHALLENGE!  

 

Dogs are such important members of our family, so would you trust just anyone to take them out for you?  It's a minefield to ensure your dogs needs are being met in a safe environment, that they comply with legal requirements, and that good practice is also being met.

 

We were so very lucky when Rach and her superb and committed team at Bob and Pals had space to walk two schnauzer bottoms.  Let's just say one of those bottoms is quite an independent one, so for me, safety was one of my key concerns.  I knew that Rach's ethos around enrichment, safe and focused training and orientation on walks was one that really was on par with our ethos when we take the girls out.

 

We asked Rach Head trainer and Dog Walker at Bob and Pals what people should be looking for when looking for a dog walker .  She offers the following advice:

 

Bob and Pals dog walker

Image courtesy of Bob and Pals, taken by Steph White Photography

 

ASK FOR RECOMMENDATIONS

 

Find those friends who have well rounded, well behaved dogs and ask who they use and recommend.  Dog walking is a profession where quality of services can vary greatly; by looking at people your friends trust, you’re already well on your way to developing a good relationship with them.  At Bob and Pals, the vast majority of customers we have are a result of recommendations from friends and family members; something we’re super proud of.

 

HAVE A LOOK ON GOOGLE 

 

It’s absolutely worth having a google to find a local dog walker but just a word of warning; most dog walkers are awesome at working with dogs but can be pretty terrible at internet things! Depending on where you’re located, you might not find a large selection of companies but if you’re lucky you might find a couple of gems.  I know from experience that there are quite a few dog walkers in Horsforth, Cookridge and Adel who are fabulous but don’t have a particularly great online presence so don’t think that the people you find on Google are your only choices.

 

COMPARE AS MANY AS YOU CAN

 

Choosing the right dog walker for you is absolutely about finding someone you know, love and trust.  You’re about to give them the key to your house along with permission to take the most valuable thing you own outside and let it off a lead in the middle of the woods! You’re darn right you need to trust your dog walker! If you call someone and don’t click with them, don’t use them.  Keep calling walkers until you’re comfortable you love the person you’ve found.

 

Choosing the right dog walker

 Image courtesy of Bob and Pals, taken by Steph White Photography

 

ASSESS HOW EASY IT WAS TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE COMPANY

 

Dog walkers are outside most of the day, busy watching over all your dogs or transporting them around.  It’s really unlikely you’ll actually get to speak to the person you call when you ring during the day.  Expect to leave a voicemail and get a call back later that day/evening.  I’d suggest the walker who hasn’t bothered changing their answer message from the standard one that came with their phone probably isn’t the most professional walker, so I’d not bother leaving a message for them.

 

Equally if someone calls you back a week later I’d be considering how hard that communication was to just give them new business; if they can’t jump on that quickly, can they be trusted to communicate quickly when you want to book a holiday? Don’t make your life any harder than it needs to be; go with the people that reply promptly and value your time as much as you do.

 

 

 

DO THEY HAVE APPROPRIATE INSURANCE IN PLACE?

 

Dog walkers should hold current and comprehensive insurance to make sure they’re covered in case of anything going wrong.  As a general rule you can expect the cost of your dogs medical care to be covered if the walker has been negligent but it’s rare their insurance will pay out if the dog has sustained a ‘normal’ injury i.e. a cut pad and this would be normally covered by your own insurance.

 

DO THEY HOLD A DBS CHECK?

 

If you’re giving someone a key to your home it’s really important they recognise the gravity of this and they should be prepared to show you their trustworthiness with a recent DBS check for your peace of mind.

 

DO THEY HOLD A CANINE FIRST AID CERTIFICATE?

 

It’s imperative the dog walker you choose holds your dog’s welfare as a top priority.  Not only would I expect to see a canine specific first aid qualification, but I’d like to see the updates completed.  Updates aren’t mandatory but at Bob and Pals we ensure we undertake yearly Canine First Aid updates to ensure our knowledge base is continually refreshed and up to date with the latest guidelines.  This goes for me too; even though I was a registered nurse before this!

 

ASK WHERE THEY WALK WITH THEIR GROUPS

 

Some dog walkers do the same routes all day every day; they feel that this provides stability for their groups and ensures the dogs always know where they are, thus keeping them safe.  Personally I know that if I sent Bob out on the same walk every day he’d get bored quite quickly and wander off to find his own entertainment elsewhere, so this style of walking wouldn’t suit him.  It does suit some though, so make sure to ask the question.

 

Bob and Pals Dog Walking

 Image courtesy of Bob and Pals, taken by Steph White Photography

 

Other walkers choose to vary the location but walk similar routes when they visit each place.  This provides dogs with a variety of locations but also the stability of ‘knowing where they are’.

 

DO THEY ENSURE YOUR DOG HAS GOT TELEPHONE NUMBERS ON BEFORE TAKING THEM OUT?

 

In England it’s the law that your dog has a tag on with their owners details displayed whenever they’re in public.  Your dog walker should know this and ensure that any time they take your dog out they’ve checked your tag is still there.

 

Lots of dog walkers now, including the team at Bob and Pals, carry their own tags with the telephone number of the dog walker who is looking after your dog on them.  These clip onto the collars and are an excellent safety check; if the worst does happen and your dog goes missing, there’s naff all point calling you in the office - much better to call the walker who is already up there and looking for them.

 

DO THEY HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL SAFETY MECHANISMS?

 

Some walkers, although not many due to the financial impact, offer to put a GPS tracker on your dog whilst they’re out.  This is a platinum level service and if you find a walker who offers it, you’re more than likely onto a huge winner! At Bob and Pals we have one tracker that we use on our highest ‘flight risk’ dog… usually the one that quite enjoys the occasional squirrel chase!

 

DO THEY HAVE A PROCESS IN PLACE TO ENSURE YOUR DOG IS SAFE OFF LEAD?

 

It’s highly irresponsible for anyone to take out a dog they don’t have a fabulous relationship with and let it off lead; there’s such a high chance it’s going to go wrong this way round, even if the dog is normally great with its owners off lead.  Instead you should expect that your dog walker confidently tells you the ins and outs of their assessment criteria for letting your dog off a lead.  

 

At Bob and Pals we keep your dog on a short lead until we’re sure they’re able to interact with us easily, then we put them on a long line and give them increasing distances away from us whilst still encouraging and rewarding interaction with us.  Only when we’re absolutely sure they’re able to interact with us easily at a distance of around 15 meters will we take their long line off (a great time for our tracker to go on too!).

 

DO THEY PUT YOUR DOG ON A LEAD IN CAR PARKS?

 

This sounds like a really obvious thing you wouldn’t bother asking because surely this isn’t something you need to check, right?! Unfortunately it’s incredibly common for dog walkers to arrive in a car park, open their vehicles and let the dogs jump out.  They might have mitigated their risk by reversing up to the nearest path, but it doesn’t remove the risk of a dog running into the car park and getting squished.  Ask your dog walker directly; do they put their dogs on lead walking to and from the vehicle? If you even get a bit of a vibe they might not be telling the truth when they say ‘yes’, don’t go with them and find someone who prides themselves on doing this.  A dog walkers priority should ALWAYS be the safety of your dog; not making their job easier.

 

DO THEY DEMONSTRATE AN UNDERSTANDING OF HOW DOGS LEARN? 

 

Dog walkers are often people who have a huge love of dogs and turned that into a profession. Just because someone does this for a living, doesn’t automatically make them knowledgeable about their subject.  

 

Look for someone who demonstrates a good understanding of how dogs learn (in essence; dog’s do stuff they like, they don’t do stuff they don’t like) and who communicates with your dog in a way that you feel is appropriate.  

 

At Bob and Pals we’re proudly force free walkers; this means we prevent rehearsal of rubbish behaviour i.e. by putting dogs who run off on a lead and we actively look to reward great choices.  Even better than that, we actively create learning opportunities to ensure your dog has a chance to learn and practice great skills.

 

TRAVEL SAFETY

 

Don’t expect your walker to be driving a van, especially if they’re new.  Vans are super expensive to buy and run so for many, using a car is a sensible alternative.  

 

Whether they’re in a van or a car though, your walker should demonstrate a good understanding of safety in transit; dogs should be kept separate from each other in individual cages or with a boot divider.  Any dogs placed on back seats in cars should be restrained with a seatbelt on an appropriate harness.  

 

Ask to see their vehicle and confidently walk away from anyone who shoves dogs loose in a van or squishes 4 labs and 2 spaniels into a small car; if they’re not demonstrating respect for your dogs safety at this level, it’s unlikely they’ll keep them safe in the woods.  

 

Vans should have a mesh bulkhead between the driver and the dogs OR a suitable air conditioning system in the back; on hot days vans heat up quickly and one with a solid bulkhead cannot cool down unless it has its own air conditioning system in the back.

 

HOW MANY DOGS DO THEY TAKE IN GROUPS?

 

Each local authority has a different rule for the number of dogs allowed to be walked in a group.  In Leeds, a professional holding the correct insurance is allowed to walk a maximum of six dogs at one time.  They are permitted to join and walk with another professional but both humans are then capped at four dogs each; this means you may see two dog walkers and eight dogs, but no more.  Your dog walker should be able to confidently tell you the rules for your local authority and ensure they adhere to them.

 

bob and Pals Dog walking 

 Image courtesy of Bob and Pals, taken by Steph White Photography

 

DO THEY HAVE BEHAVIOURAL REQUIREMENTS FOR GROUPS?

 

This isn’t something you see often but is a good sign you’ve found an excellent walker if they do.  At Bob and Pals we undertake assessments on each dog before they join groups; they must demonstrate loose lead walking, recall around no distractions and regularly ‘checking in’ with the human that is walking them without prompting.  If they don’t have any of these skills, we feel they would be unsafe in a group environment and we put them through our solo system to give them these skills.

 

If a dog walker takes a large number of dogs with poor recall in group it puts the whole group at risk; not only is the dog with poor recall likely to wander off and get lost, but the sheer amount of attention they require from the walker means your well behaved dog is getting less attention than they should do.  At its best, this means your dog isn’t getting much stimulus from the walker, at its worst your dog might be spooked or wander off without being noticed because the walker’s attention was too focused on the difficult dog.  Good group organisation ensures safety.

 

HOW DO THEY KEEP THE PUBLIC SAFE?

 

Good dog walkers appreciate that their job lies in ensuring the safety of the dogs they have in their care, but also the safety of the public and their dogs (or horses!) also.  

 

What plan does your dog walker have in place to ensure they’re meeting these responsibilities?  At Bob and Pals we have a clear rule; if we see anyone else out and about we do a group recall and sit and wait until the member of the public has passed us safely.  

 

Lots of people quite like saying hi to dogs but just as many don’t and it’s quite intimidating to walk towards a group of dogs at once so it’s important we reduce any concerns people have and let them continue their walk uninterrupted.

 

Let us know in the comments below if you have a great dog walker, and how they offer you a great service.

 

For further information on Bob and Pals, please check out their website: www.bobandpals.co.uk

Tags: dog walking

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