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10 questions to ask your dog walker or pet sitter

Dog Walkers and Pet sitters provide a variety of services, mainly exercising and walking your dog during times when you’re not present, feeding your dog and giving care and companionship for your pets when their owner isn’t around. The majority of us who have pets feel that our dogs are an important part of our family, and when looking for pet support, need to know that we are employing someone who not only cares about animals as much as we do, but who is also competent and confident to do so. If you’re looking for reliability and quality care in a dog walker, you will need to do your research before making that very important decision.

Where do you find your dog walker?

Initially ask other pet owners, those you meet on your daily dog walks or ask at your local Vet’s surgery who may have contact details for dog walkers they recommend in the local area. Remember that professional dog walkers who are busy will probably not advertise their services in the press or put up posters in local shop windows and parks, so do a search online for those that maintain their own websites. We would advise against choosing the person who advertises on a postcard in the local shop window, as you could be engaging the services of an unqualified person just looking for some quick cash.

The consultation process

The first and foremost attribute is trust – you’re not only allowing them access to your home, but you’re putting your much loved pet into their care. There is a major amount of responsibility to place on your dog walker, someone who you probably don’t know too well at first. This is why it’s important to carry out an initial interview meeting, and find answers to the following 10 very important questions, so you can be certain that your pup and your home are in the best, safe hands.

1. Do they hold current insurance cover?

Your dog walker will be responsible for your pet in your absence, so you need to know they have sufficient liability insurance cover for any risks and accidents.

2. Who will walk your dog each day?

Consistency and regular contact with the same person is recommended for your dog. You can check out that the independent dog walker you meet, will be compatible with your pet.

3. Ask about training

Even if your dog doesn’t have a medical condition, or behaviour traits, an emergency situation can arise, such as a cut paw or attack by another dog – training in dog behaviour and canine first aid can certainly help in these circumstances.

4. Ask for references

Any professional, qualified dog walker will be able to provide suitable references from previous clients. Don’t be afraid to ask, they will be looking after your precious pet. Check if they have been DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checked

5. Are they capable to handle your dog’s specific needs?

Perhaps your pet needs daily medication, or is afraid of loud noises – ask your candidate how they will deal with these matters. Do they have the required skills to deal with any eventuality?

6. How many dogs will be walked at the same time?

Is your pet happy walking with other dogs, or do they prefer one-to-one walks? We would recommend that no more than 3 dogs of similar temperament are walked together, to be able to properly control and care for the dogs. Will the other dogs be vaccinated, and up to date with their flea and worming treatments?

7. What is their pick up and drop off routine?

Will your dog walker collect your dog from your home, and return him there after the walk? This is preferable to him being picked up and transported in a van, caged up with several other dogs.

8. What to do in an emergency

Ask how they would cope in an emergency situation with your dog, if it was to become sick or injured in their care. Are they fully trained in both human and canine first aid to deal with any incident in an effective, calm way? They will require your authorisation to act on your behalf in an emergency – are they competent to do this?

9. Where will they take your dog for his walks?

You need to be confident that your dog is being walked not only in an appropriate location, but also in a safe and stimulating environment, and if they are to be allowed to run off the lead, that they will be secure. If you prefer your dog to be kept on a long line or a lead, let them know this. Inform them if you have additional requests, such as how long to walk your dog, on which days and should he be fed afterwards or given water.

10. Go on a test walk

Use your dog’s body language when he first meets the dog walker, and when he is walking with him. Pay attention to your dog’s reaction – does he seem comfortable and relaxed with this “new person”?

Remember, that dogs not only need to have mental stimulation, fun and bonding, they also need to feel loved and cared for. Choose your Dog Walker or Pet Sitter wisely and with due care and consideration.

For further advice or information, please contact me, Derek Chambers at The Finchley Dog Walker.

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