Dog walking and Pet Sitting as a profession has grown rapidly and with new Dog Walkers and Pet Sitters popping up at an increasingly fast rate it can become a difficult task trying to find the best professional for you and your pets.
Firstly it is important to note that the Dog Walking industry is unregulated, this means that anyone can start up a dog walking business without having any previous experience, pet knowledge and sometimes without even having insurance. With that in mind, and with me being a professional dog walker and pet sitter full time I have come up with a list of things to look for when trying to find someone to care for your pet.
How do you start trying to find the ideal dog walker or pet sitter?
1. Word of Mouth
Word of mouth is a great way to find a local pet care professional. If someone likes the service provided by a dog walker then they are going to pass their details on to friends and family. If someone you know uses a dog walker then ask for their details, even ask at local vets or dog groomers; these people come into contact with lots of dog and pet owners and are bound to have heard of the great and not so great local dog walkers.
2. Narrowing Down Your Search
A great way to find out more information for a potential Pet Care Professional is to do a quick internet search. This is a fantastic easy way to find out some details about the individual you are thinking of trusting with your animals.
One of the first things you need to look at is do they mention on either their social media or website that they have insurance? Insurance will cover all kinds of things such as your pet whilst they are in the person’s care, public liability, any damage to your household belongings when they are inside your home and possession of keys. I would highly recommend you do not choose someone that does not hold insurance.
Their website and any social media pages will also be a great place to check out if they have any customer reviews or not. A reliable and trustworthy service provider is bound to have at least several reviews on their page (depending on how long they have been open). These reviews will help provide you with some feedback that you can use to help decide if you want to go ahead and contact the Dog Walker.
Another feature of an online search on either social media or website is to see whether or not the dog walker or pet sitter holds any qualifications or experience when it comes to working with animals. Have they studied animal behaviour or animal care, do they hold a pet first aid certificate?
I personally feel that I would rather choose a dog walker with a qualification or studying a Canine Behaviour course than one with no behaviour knowledge. This is simply so the dog walker is able to pick up on subtle signs as to how the dog may be feeling, so that they can recognise when a dog is feeling stressed, uncomfortable or even when one may be showing signs of aggression. Particularly if they do group walks with different dogs from different homes.
4. The Meet and Greet
When you have found a Dog Walker or Pet Sitter that you feel may be right for you and your pets, it is important that you meet them before they start providing their service. A lot of reliable professionals will offer a free meet and greet before agreeing to walk or look after your pets, some will even offer for you to tag along on the first walk together so that you can see how they look after and handle your dog.
During this meeting various paperwork may be given out. Terms and conditions and a contract is the usual form of paperwork, some even offer welcome packs. A contract and contact details form is essential to anyway thinking of taking on a Dog Walker. For starters it is important that they are able to contact you in one way or another in case of emergencies; a work and mobile number may be required and also the details of an emergency contact in case you cannot be reached. A contract between the two of you will stipulate exactly what the Dog Walker/Pet Sitter can do with your pet, for example if they can be let off the lead. If a Dog Walker offers you the option of letting your dog off lead please always check they are insured to do so.
A meeting more importantly is a great time to assess how your pet and pet care professional react around each other.
- Do you like how they treat your pet?
- Does the dog walker adjust their behaviour depending on if the dog is anxious or nervous?
- You also, by having a brief chat get a feel of the kind of person they are. Are they friendly towards you?
- Do you get on well?
This is also the time where you get to ask anything you feel is important, and any professional will be more than willing to answer your questions. They want you and your pet to feel as comfortable as possible.
Questions to ask include things like:
- How many dogs are walked at one time?
- Where will they be walking your dog?
- What equipment do they use whilst out with the dogs?
- How are the dogs transported from A to B?
- What does their insurance cover?
Like stated above, a Dog Walker or Pet Sitter should be happy to answer these questions and feel free to say no to them if they use equipment or techniques you are not comfortable with i.e. if they only do group walks and your dog is reactive or if they have prong or shock collars on the dogs they walk for example.
What do Pet Care Professionals expect from you…..
Each individual Dog Walker or Pet Sitter may expect you to provide treats, poo bags, toys etc, others may bring their own. However the one thing we would like most is honesty. If your dog is reactive, if he pulls like a train, if he jumps up on everyone that he meets then please let us know. It is nothing to be embarrassed about and being honest with us allows us to adapt to your dog; we will walk 1-2-1 or avoid places with lots of dogs for example. We enjoy our job and we want your pet to enjoy being with us too.
Jayde Davey M.ISAP CTDI
Jayde Davey M.ISAP CTDI – I am an aspiring dog trainer, supporting positive reinforcement methods. I currently am studying an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour Management and have just passed my test to become a Certified Trick Dog Instructor. I have my own blogsite with connected social media and I also run a Facebook Dog Trick group where I help people to teach their dog lots of fun tricks. I am a member of ISAP or the International Society for Animal Professionals and also have a diploma in small animal care. I own a deaf Dalmatian called Logan who I do most of my training with; he knows lots of tricks like take my socks off, fetch my a tissue and wipe your feet but I also regularly work with a miniature poodle, a cocker spaniel, a jack Russell and a border collie. I one day hope to become a professional dog trainer.
Blog site: www.blogthatdog.com