If you’re looking for a new dog walker, then you’re in good company – apparently, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are searching for professional pet care for their pooch.
But how do you go about finding the right person?
Ryan White from We Love Pets has some advice:
- It’s all in the numbers
Multiple councils across the UK have restrictions in place limiting individual dog walkers to a maximum of four dogs at any one time on public green spaces. This is due to, “concerns about the ability of dog walkers to properly manage more than four dogs at any one time and clean up after them.” (London Burrough – Merton)
And it’s not just about protecting the safety of the public. Experienced canine expert and CEO of We Love Pets, Ryan White explains: “People have a romanticised idea of pack walking, but in the wild, packs are grown over many years and generations; a large gang of dogs thrown together on a dog walk is not the same thing.
“The resultant ‘pack’ can create a chaotic, stressful and dangerous environment for the dogs involved, as well as the public. Dominant dogs express more dominant behaviours, submissive dogs express more submissive behaviours and those in the middle sway one way or another.
“Common side effects that owners may see in their dogs as a result of this type of pack walking are excessive barking, aggression or uncontrollable excitement upon meeting another dog, particularly when restricted on a lead. This is often a direct result of uncontrolled, stressful interactions with other dogs.
To introduce and pair dogs appropriately takes time, involving observation of the dogs’ characteristics and behaviours before, during and after the introduction.”
- Knowing your dog walker
It’s not necessary to know your dog walker intimately, but it is important to know their background in terms of experience, training and reputation. Choosing a company with clear policies on dogs to walker ratios, comprehensive insurance, DBS checks on staff and accredited training will put you and your canine companion in good stead for a reliable, safe and long-standing doggie/ walker relationship.
If all this sounds a little excessive, consider this purely from a security point of view. You are trusting an individual not only with your best pal but also granting them access to your home, often unsupervised. Any good dog walker will be willing to provide you with the references and certification needed to put your mind at rest.
- Are they insured?
All dog walkers should have comprehensive insurance to protect you, themselves and your dog should something go wrong on their watch. Most dog walking insurance policies will only insure a maximum of six dogs on a single dog walk or the maximum allowed by the relevant council – whichever is lower.
- Car safety
If your dog walker will be transporting your dog at any time, make sure they have an adequately sized crate or pet seat belt. It’s not optional, it’s the law.
Rule 57 of the Highway Code states:
When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.
- What happens when your walker is sick or away?
Usually, we don’t hire a dog walker through choice. We hire a dog walker because life gets busy and we lean on professional services to ensure our pets’ needs are still being met. But what happens when that person is unavailable? Does your walker have a backup plan when they are not around or does this fall to you? Are they part of a team of professionals, or a one-man band?
- If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is….
There is much disparity in the UK over dog walking fees. If your dog walker has quoted you a price that sounds too good to be true, always ask questions. Is your dog’s welfare being compromised for a better return, or are they being walked by a hobbyist, who may have limited experience? Ask for proof of insurance and whether they are DBS checked, ask about their training and experience, and find out about their pack walking policy.