Is it time that Dog Walkers started setting a standard that could be rolled out across the Country to ensure that pets are being cared for correctly? Is it time to start bringing in some guidelines or legislation for dog walkers? I ask this because twice this week I have been called by different people wishing to switch Dog Walkers from the one that they had been currently using. This is not a post bragging about my services, or trying to promote me as a business but rather one to highlight the importance of choosing the right Dog Walker for both you and your pet.
I'm going to start by saying I am not going to name the Dog Walking businesses that were involved, this isn't a post to name and shame. But something that was consistently brought up was the number of dogs being walked by one person at any given time. In both cases, separate walkers were walking eight dogs at a time, something that both sets of owners were not happy about. People may assume I am writing this because maybe I am jealous of the large numbers of dogs that other walkers take out but this is not the case at all. I could pick eight of my most well behaved dogs that would have no problem playing with one another, that have amazing recall, but would I take them all out by myself? No. Could I? Yes. Just to get my point across further, I know dog trainers that have 7 or 8 dogs but none of them take all of them out together. The whole point of the walk for both person and dog is that it is safe and enjoyable, and sometimes you have to think worst case scenario: what if one of the dogs got injured, what if another dog ran over and caused a scuffle, what if one ran off? How am I going to manage such a large group of dogs whilst safely getting an injured one to the vets, separating a fight or tracking after one that has wandered too far.
I would much rather people see me with a small group of dogs, all playing well, and assume that I'm not busy or can't manage bigger groups than getting a reputation as the lady that walks large numbers of out of control dogs and creates chaos for other people out walking.
Transport is something else that was mentioned. How are groups of eight dogs of various sizes going to be transported safely? Dogs need to be suitably restrained when in a vehicle, either by crate, seat belt or behind a guard. This is not only for the safety of the animal but also if the dogs are unrestrained then the driver risks completely invalidating their insurance, whilst also opening themselves up to fines or points on their license if caught or reported. Yes, having a dog riding up front with you is quite cute but not if it's unrestrained and can potentially distract your dog walker from their driving. Also, are dogs separated from one another when being transported or are they all thrown together in a boot or the back of a van. I hear too many stories of incidents that have occurred when the dog walker is driving, dogs that have had fights when confined, dogs that have got tangled up with one another and been strangled, the point is your dog should be completely safe when in your Dog Walkers vehicle and they should have no issue in explaining to you how your dog will be travelling.
Lastly, and what you think would be the most obvious is: Does your Dog Walker Pay attention to your dogs?
Every dog walker has different plans of walks, some take their dogs to woods and let them sniff and amble for an hour, some take them to a field and let them chase about with their friends, some hire enclosed fields, and all of that is fine but is your dog walker paying attention to your dog? So for example, they aren't having an hour long chat on the phone whilst they are supposed to be looking after your pets. Your dog walker first and foremost is being paid to take care of your dog! Some of my dogs play training games, some I do scentwork with, if it's a solo I might take their favourite toy, and all of the dogs get to go to different places so they don't get bored. All of this not only ensures they are having fun but also ensures that they view me as someone fun to be around so they are less inclined to run off! There is nothing worse than you having fun with your few dogs and then being bombarded by several others because their owner is being boring and texting. It's worth mentioning too that if your dog walker is too busy texting or talking then it is very likely that they are not spotting and picking up after the dogs that they are walking, or they might not notice another owner approaching or a scuffle between some of the dogs.
So a quick checklist for you when choosing a Dog Walker:
- Check that they have insurance and ask to see it
- Are they pet first aid training in case of an accident
- Ask to see how your dog will be transported
- Do they have any qualifications or experience with dog behaviour and training
- Ask how many they walk at one time
- Do they give you any paperwork: contact details, pet information, signatures for offlead walking etc
- Do they have any recommendations and reviews on their website or social media