How to Evaluate a Dog Walker

Take the time to formulate a small list of important questions and then follow up with any questions that develop through your conversation:

  • Do they carry insurance and are they bonded? All dog walking professionals should have liability insurance that is specifically for their pet sitting businesses, and any professionals that are entering your home while you are not around should also be bonded. Be firm on this.  It shouldn’t be an option.
  • What kind of credentials do they have? Dog walkers should have at least some general knowledge of dog behavior, training, and dog body language.
  • Do they have any type of certifications?
  • Do they belong to any associations?
  • Ask for local veterinary references.
  • Do they have any references from other  pet professionals (trainers, etc.), and of course, any references from current clients?
  • What are the businesses service rates?
  • What hours do they operate?
  • How long has the business been around?
  • How many dogs are taken on a walk at one time?
  • Have they ever had a dog be injured or lost while they were dog walking?
  • Do they clean up after the dogs if they go potty on walks?
  • Do they employ any training techniques or special tools?
  • How do you want them to handle any unwanted behaviors, like lunging, jumping, or leash pulling?
  • Are  they willing to follow up with any training techniques and requests made by you?

If you have a dog that is aggressive or might be reactive with a dog sitter, what experience does the dog walker need to have in working with a challenging dog? Ask them how they deal with a reactive or aggressive dog that’s approached by a stranger or dog that’s off-leash?

If the pet sitter is able to answer these questions satisfactory, it’s worthwhile to observe the dog walker in action. You should always take the time to watch the pet sitter “in action.

No Exceptions

It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for a dog walker or dog daycare, they shouldn’t have any objections to you watching them during a typical work session. You might want to pay a visit or maybe follow along on one of their dog walks. If they refuse your request, you should think about looking for a different pet sitter – your dog walker shouldn’t have anything to hide. Again, no exceptions.

If you get a bad feeling about a the dog walker or daycare that you’re talking to, keep looking. Follow your gut.

Buyer Beware, This is an Unregulated Industry!

Right now , there are no state or federal requirements for dog walkers, daycare professionals, or trainers. Even without any experience or knowledge about dogs, anyone can begin taking clients and call themselves a dog professional. There are many uninsured, un-credentialed, un-knowledgeable pet sitters that are just looking to make a couple quick bucks from dog owners.

It’s a frightening fact, that you need a license to cut someones hair or do their nails, but there is no state-mandated licensing program for someone who is to be responsible for our best friends and family members. Just be aware that  not all the dog walkers or pet sitters out there will have insurance, be registered as an actual business with the local state government, or have years of experience.

There are some cities that have started guidelines for dog walkers as a  response to these unscrupulous business owners. San Francisco is one of the cities that has posted eight suggested guidelines for dog walkers online at www.sfgov.org. You can call your local town or city hall to see if have implemented any of these guidelines. If not, you could consider passing along the guidelines of San Francisco and suggest something similar be instated in your town. Take a look at the S.F. guidelines and keep them in mind when checking out your dog’s new dog walker!