If your dog doesn’t like somebody, you probably shouldn’t either.

If you’re in the market for a professional dog walker, there are a variety of questions you need to ask. The following questions will help you determine if the walker runs a legitimate business, offers your preferred services, has emergency protocols in place and has the necessary experience level for your pup.

Professional Business Experience:

  • Do they offer a free meet and greet?
    Most dog walkers offer a free consultation at your home, with no obligation to hire them. This gives you the opportunity to make sure they are a good fit for your pup.
  • How long have they been walking dogs and is this a full-time job for them?
    You want to make sure your dog walker can handle just about any situation that may arise, and an experienced dog walker who walks dogs for a living may be able to handle a situation better than others. However! Everyone has to start somewhere so do not automatically write off the less experienced walkers, again trust your instincts when you meet them.
  • Are they licensed bonded and insured, and can they provide proof of coverage?
    Bonding and insurance protects both you and the dog walker in the event of negligence and or intentional wrongdoing. What’s the difference between bonding and insurance? Bonding protects you against theft. Liability insurance protects against negligence and accidents. Anyone can say they are bonded and insured, so be sure to ask to see a copy of their insurance card or certificate of coverage.
  • Do they have a professional contract or service agreement?
    You should be asked to sign a contract. Read it thoroughly and feel comfortable asking for references. You should go over their agreement so you both understand what it says and agree on the definition of your relationship. Think of the service agreement like a checklist.
  • Where will your personal information be stored?
    You might not have thought about how your information is being stored, but the information about your home, your pets, your security systems should all be stored on a secure server or locked away in filing cabinet (if they have paper agreements). Think about it, do you want all the information about your trip away stored in a diary or in a notebook that someone could easily lose and someone else could then gain access to.
  • What is the dog walker’s inclement weather policy?
    No matter the weather, your dog will need to go out. Communicate a plan with the walker regardless of the situation.
  • How much notice do they need for you to schedule your request for dog walking?
    Some dog walkers require a minimum number of days’ notice for schedule requests or charge an additional amount for short-notice requests.
  • What is their cancellation policy?
    You may want to know what kind of flexibility your walker provides ahead of time. Some walkers have fees if you cancel 24 hours before a scheduled visit. This would be good to know.
  • What is their key policy?
    How do they organize keys? Are they securely stored? Where are garage codes information stored? Do they utilize lock boxes? Are their fees of any sort?
  • Are they a member of a professional pet sitter’s association or have a certification ?
    Although not required, this is a good indication that the dog walker you’re interested in is serious about their profession. A few well-known pet sitter associations are; Pet Sitters International, National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, Pet Sitters Associates, LLC, Professional United Pet Sitters. Some states require dog walkers to have a permit or certification.  A few known certifications are; Dogtec, Pet Sitters International, and NAPPS. 
  • Ask for at least two references from current clients that use their services.

Health, Safety and Daily Communication:

  • Do they ask for your pet’s emergency vet contact information and an emergency contact?
    Obviously, this is a no brainer. If they are asking for this, then they should have a plan in place if something happens.
  • What will the dog walker do if your dog needs emergency medical care?
    A crucial contributor to a pet owner’s peace of mind, how your dog walker responds to injury or a lost pet should be a central concern when vetting out your options.  A responsible dog walker will have an emergency plan in place and will be able to assure you that your dog is in good hands.
  • Are they certified to provide Pet First Aid and Pet CPR?
    While these certifications aren’t mandatory, it shows an extra level of conscientiousness if a sitter takes the time to get certified in CPR or Pet First Aid.
  • Will the dog walker provide daily updates letting you know how your dog is doing and what your dog did on their walk?
    You want to know what your dog is doing while you’re away and a short daily post-walk note and potty report is often common policy for many dog walkers. There are some walkers who utilize software that allow them to send you daily notes, a picture and a potty report once they have completed the visit. This will alert you to any unusual behaviors and give you a sense of security that their dog has been taken care of!

The Walk:

  • How many dogs do they walk at a time?
    Some dog walkers walk one-on-one while others walk large groups of dogs. It’s up to your personal preference to decide which style you want to go with, but make sure you make an informed decision.
  • What does a pet visit consist of?
    Does a visit just include a walk? Will the walker feed your dog, provide treats? Reinforce training commands? What if your dog messes in the house, will they clean that up? Make sure this is all clearly laid out, documented and in your formal agreement. Also, check how the length of visits is monitored, is this tracked with GPS or software to give you peace of mind.
  • What supplies does the walker carry?
    Most walkers will have their own treats (and ask permission to give your pup a treat), poo bags, protections spray, extra leashes, and cleaning supplies. However, it’s good to know what you need to provide for your pup to have a successful walk.

Back Up Plan and Additional Walkers:

  • What is the dog walkers back up plan if something comes up and they cannot perform the scheduled walk?
    Professional walkers will have a backup plan, usually another walker. Make sure you know who this will be. Don’t assume nothing will happen, as things do happen, and you need to make sure the company is prepared with a backup team member and not just a friend they ask to cover for them.
  • If they have multiple walkers; are they background checked and what qualifications do they have?
    Safety should be the dog walker’s priority- some pet sitters/dog walkers may seem great when you meet them and say all the right things, but you are trusting them with your pets and access to your home so please be extra cautious!

When choosing a dog walker, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer to any of the questions listed above – you must trust your instincts (and those references!) Do your research- do they have an online presence? Do they have client reviews? Did they respond to your inquiry/request within 24 hours? When thinking about cost vs. service, reflect on the quality of service you will receive depending on the experience and professionalism of the type of dog walker you decide to hire.

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