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  • Writer's pictureRenée at Bravo Dog

How To Find A Good Dog Walker

If you find yourself busy and looking for someone trustworthy to walk your dog, it isn't as simple as it may seem! The pet care industry is not regulated, which means anyone can set up shop as a dog walker. It's risky trusting anyone to care for your dog; they can't tell us what's going on.

Loving Dogs Isn't Enough

Who doesn't love dogs? Growing up with dogs and spending a lot of time with dogs doesn't mean someone is qualified to be working with them. You would want to screen a dog walker with similar standards as you would a child care provider.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Our dogs may certainly like their dog walker and light up when they see them, that doesn't mean that they aren't causing behaviour problems. If they are implementing dog training when walking your dog, that can be a big problem. If they are using methods and tools that have side effects you can then have a dog with behaviour problems. If anything, they should be using treats and positive reinforcement during walks and avoidance and prevention if your dog has triggers. See below...

If Your Dog Has Reactive Tendencies

If your dog is socially selective (they like some dogs but not others) or have had incidents (fights) with other dogs they are not appropriate for off-leash group walks. There are liability concerns AND ideally you should be working on behaviour modification consistently; dog walkers should not be carrying out this service amongst a community of unsuspecting dogs. It's unethical and unsafe.

If your dog has leash reactivity, your training plan should include your dog walker. If they are doing something detrimental with good intentions, you could have behavioural repercussions. If they are unable to utilize strict prevention and management, a dog walker may not be the best option for your dog.

Group Off Leash Walks

Group walks can be a great way for dogs to enjoy social interactions. Dogs should always be grouped together based on how they mesh with other dogs, NOT based on the convenience of a dog walkers pick up and drop off schedule. And dogs should NEVER just be shoved into a vehicle with unknown dogs.

Red flags:

  • Different dogs on every walk

  • Different DOG WALKER on every walk, large companies may rotate walkers. Not ideal!

  • More than 3-4 dogs on a walk with one person

  • "Pack leader" / dominance mentality

  • Gives dog training and behaviour advice or recommends your use a prong collar, slip lead or other aversive equipment

  • No dog behaviour education

  • No Pet CPR, insurance or licenses if needed where they walk

  • Dogs loaded into vehicle with unknown dogs

PS if your dog walker decides a group hike or walk is not in your dog's best interest, this is a testament to the fact your dog walker cares about the welfare of your dog and the others in the group! It does not mean you have a "bad dog"!

RED FLAG! Too many dogs and complete chaos

Questions to Ask

  • What happens if a dog "acts up" on a group walk?

We want to know how someone responds in situations when perhaps our dog, or another dog is maybe having a bad day. Perhaps one dog is humping one dog or another dog isn't responding to recall. The best response someone can give is that they will intervene and utilize prevention and management such as keeping a specific dog on leash for the rest of the walk and then discussing this with the owner and monitoring whether the dog is suitable for group walks in the future.

  • Do you ever use muzzles with dogs and if so do you always check with owners before you use them with their dog?

This is really important. I have heard that some dog walkers will put new equipment on dogs without the clients knowledge or permission such as muzzles or shock collars. Not ok! There should be NO reason for a dog walker to put a muzzle on your dog. If your dog regularly wears a muzzle to prevent themself from eating sticks or rocks then that is appropriate. Dogs that are socially selective should not be on off-leash group walks if there is a risk of them having a negative situation occur without your supervision.

  • Do you use GPS collars in case a dog goes rogue?

GPS collars or tracking collars should be mandatory for dogs that are going off-leash. There is no 100 percent reliable recall. Dogs are animals and can be spooked by something or even catch the scent of wildlife and they can be gone.

  • Do you use aversive tools or methods (or accept clients that do) like ecollars, prong collars and choke chains? If a client uses them will you use them too?

This is more important than you know. Even if your prospective dog walker doesn't recommend using these tools or methods but is fine using them if a client does, this means they don't have a stance on ethical training and working with animals. It also means your dog is at risk in groups with dogs that are being punished and their behaviour is being suppressed as we know that they INCREASE the risk of aggression. Your dog could be a target!

  • Do you use rewards? If so, what types?

A dog walker should be using food with their interactions whether rewarding good behaviour or making positive associations.

  • How do you introduce new dogs to other dogs and how do you transport them in your vehicle?

Dogs should never be thrown into a vehicle or small space with unknown dogs. Dogs should be introduced outside of the vehicle and the vehicle should be set up with crates and/or safety dividers and restraints for dogs.

  • Will I get feedback after every walk?

Ideally, yes! Your dog walker should have some way to communicate with you how your dog behaved during their walk so you can ensure everything is going smoothly.

Private Walks

Some of the above questions will overlap so make sure to read those as well.

You'll want to ask these questions:

  • "My dog is on leash. Are you allowing unknown dogs to meet and greet my dog?"

On leash greetings are very risky overall and more-so if you aren't present. Be clear about not allowing these.

  • If my dog is pulling, how are you remedying this?

Leash corrections are not ok, nor is wrapping a leash around the dogs belly or using equipment to slow them down. Your dog walker has options like using a longer leash and working on rewarding your dog proactively. Dog walkers are not dog trainers so if your dog is big and strong it's your responsibility to work on this so that they can do their job.

  • Do you allow dogs to sniff as long as they want to?

The right answer should be YES. Anyone working with dogs should know that sniffing is an inherent need for dogs and ideally they should be able to sniff as long as they want to if it's safe to do so.

  • Do you use leash corrections?

  • Are you using food rewards throughout the walk?

This should be a resounding yes! And a discussion should be had about whether your dog has specific preferences or allergies.

Things You Should Look For

Green flags:

  • Requires an initial meet and greet and a test walk or test hike (yes, that should be paid for since it is their time)

  • A liability contract: ensure you have a written agreement or contract in place.

  • Insurance: ask to see a copy of your dog walker’s policy.

  • Training & Education: check your dog walker has the necessary training, and a licence if required.

  • Current First Aid Certification/CPR for Pets

  • Emergency Plans; what does the walker have in place in case something goes wrong? Do they have the right equipment if they will be hiking out of range and a dog needs medical care? Which vet will the go to if something happens? Do they carry a GPS unit in case they are out of cell range?

At the end of the day it is YOUR responsibility to screen pet professionals. There are no regulations and requirements for this work which means you, and your dog, are at risk.


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