Ministry of Dog Ltd offers dog walking and dog daycare franchises nationwide. The owner, Alison Williams, joins us here to give her top ten tips for choosing the right dog walker for your puppy or adult dog.
Finding a dog walker is a very important decision, choosing the right walker to look after this very important member of your family takes time and sometimes a bit of research and patience, with unregulated dogwalkers springing up all over the place, how do you know who is the right walker for your best friend?
Firstly, you need to consider what your dog actually needs? Is it an elderly hound and happy just to be let out for a wee and to sniff the air in the middle of the day? Or do you have an active gundog who really needs a ‘good blast’ off lead and lots of mental stimulation? Is your dog social? Would he enjoy the company of other dogs or just prefer to be walked alone? Most dog walkers are not qualified dog trainers (although many are now becoming qualified dog trainers too) and cannot be expected to confidently socialise your dog if it is not sociable.
Secondly, consider all this from your dog’s point of view, your dog just loves being with you more than anyone in the whole world right? So on any initial contact with a potential walker think about whether you would like to spend time with this person, do you like their company, how they talk, how they react to you talking about your dog, if you are a super passionate dog owner you will want your walker to love and care for your dog the way you would if you were able to.
So with all this in mind other things to check are:
- Are they insured? Any good dog walker will show you their insurance documentation at the initial meeting. Although no one expects an accident, they can happen, it is imperative that your walker is insured if the worst should happen.
- Do they hold and can they produce a valid DBS certificate? You are effectively giving your dog to another person and probably your keys and access to your house and family as well – it is always good practice to check that they have not had a chequered history. The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is a government scheme helping employers make safer recruitment decisions and replaces the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). Every dog walker should hold a certificate and be willing to produce it for you.
- Are they registered with the local council? All dog walkers offering boarding services should have a licence certificate issued from the local council, to apply successfully for this licence they would have had to undergo an inspection to ensure that their property is safe to board dogs. This is renewed yearly with a fee and should be produced at an initial meeting.
- Do they have legally drawn up terms and conditions? These are usually very lengthy, we find that by emailing the forms over prior to initial meetings it gives owners more time to read and digest before signing. These should cover everything from accidents and liability to late payments and contract cancellations.
- Do they have an off-lead permission form? If you would like your dog to be walked of lead your walker should have a specific form for this, make sure you read and are happy with the terms and conditions before signing.
- Is your walker transparent? I don’t mean actually see through but do they seem open and honest; I always find it useful to find out where they are based (if they are registered to board this will be on the council list of approved boarders) what type of dogs they have personally etc. Even better if your walker is a personal recommendation from someone already using their services.
- How are they planning to transport your dog? Although there is no law specifically in place for dog walkers transporting pets, the Highway Code states dogs or other animals should be suitably restrained in a vehicle so that they don’t distract the driver or injure them if the vehicle stops quickly.
It is always best and more professional if a dog walker had a purpose-built vehicle for transportation, a van with air conditioning and blacked out back windows is better than in the back of a car for instance. By law, all animals must be restrained while travelling.
- Are they part of a bigger team? In the event of illness or breakdown, it is always reassuring if there are others in the team who can step in at a moments’ notice and ensure that your dog can go out and doesn’t have to sit crossed legged waiting for you to come home. Also, do they hold a valid canine first aid certificate? It isn’t compulsory but a great addition to any self-respecting, professional dog walker’s portfolio.
- Do they ask lots of questions about your dog? Booking forms should include areas for you to write about any little quirks your dog may have, and believe us, we really love to know this stuff, even if it’s something like ‘my dog doesn’t like men in hats’, being pre-warned is pre-armed and this information is vital information to any credible walker.
- Does your dog actually like the person who is coming into their lives? Is there plenty of eye contact, strokes and cuddles going on, is the walker natural and relaxed with your dog? As we all know dogs are great judges of character, so go with you and your dog’s gut instinct about this person, check out the paperwork and happy dog walker finding.
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