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Finding a dog walking service you can trust

Questions to ask when choosing a professional dog walker

Many people use a professional dog walker, especially if they work during the day, to get the dog out of the house for a sniff, leg stretch and toilet break when they are being left for long hours.

Some also use them on a more ad hoc basis when days out, weddings or other events don’t allow them to take the dog with them. Whatever the reason, we all sometimes need some help caring for our pets in this busy world. Choosing the right professional gives you peace of mind that your pet is being cared for when you can’t be there and here are some questions you may find useful to ask when deciding.

When choosing a dog walker, there are some important questions which should help you find the professionals from the have a goes. The first is insurance. A professional will always be insured. This covers a multitude of potential scenarios. If your dog were to get injured on the walk it will cover any vets fees. It also covers 3rd party liability if your dog was to injure another dog or person or cause an accident. It also covers loss of keys. As with all insurance its all worst case scenario stuff, but it shows they have thought and protected your pet against these possibilities.

woman walking her dog

The veterinary release clause also form part of this worst case scenario and emergency planning by a dog walker. It has the welfare of the pet at the centre of it and means if something was to happen, they have your permission to take the dog to the vets and be treated. Obviously they would always endeavour to contact you first, but if for any reason they couldn’t get in touch the welfare of the dog would be put first.

The DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check is for your peace of mind as in most cases they will hold keys to your house and be coming into your property when you aren’t there.

Probably a question very few wold be aware of and so ask is whether the Walker is aware of and adheres to the national occupational standard for dog walkers. Dog walking and pet care is an unregulated industry with anyone being able to set up and offer their services without any qualifications. The more professional will most probably have done dog first aid courses and maybe some behaviour or body language courses. Some may have more formal qualifications (college courses in animal welfare and/or behaviour, veterinary training). The national occupational standard for dog walkers covers the planning management and evaluation of the provision of pet care services. Criteria included compliance with welfare legislation, assessment of environmental and health and safety polices, and the development of a plan for pet care with clearly defined aims and polices. Again this shows thought and planning which puts the welfare of all the pets in their care at the top of the priority list.

Other important questions which are more obvious include finding out about the format of the walk and making sure it’s appropriate for your dog. Is it a group walk or a solo walk? How long (time or distance) and what terrain (pavement walk, local park or out into the country side)? How many and what sort (size/breed) of dogs will your dog be walked with if it’s a group walk? A ratio of 4-6 dogs per handler is recommended and insurance companies rarely cover many more in their T&C’s. The energy and age of the dogs in the group are another consideration and it is generally best not to have more than one dog under 12 months.

How do they transport your dog from your home? A crated van is best so that you dog can have their own space when travelling; they also have fewer windows so stay cooler than cars. Also ensure the appropriate insurance and DEFRA licence are in place for transporting animals. The DEFRA licence isn’t compulsory, but as with the national occupational standards it shows thought and planning and working to a high level of animal welfare.

It’s a brilliant thing to get someone to walk your dog if you are out the house for long hours or are unable to walk the dog yourself. Generally they get mental stimulation from getting out for a sniff and interacting with other dogs (if on a group walk) and another person. You come home to a much calmer and relaxed dog…. a tired dog is a happy dog!

By Sarah Weller, owner of Country Companions Pet Services

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