Do You Need A Dog Walker?
Hire a dog walker if you work more than 6 hours a day is the best rule of thumb.
Urban life can be hard for dogs. Many of us keep pets in cramped city apartments and work long hours. This results in a dogs life which is a far cry from that of a rural or suburban dog. Usually they have an outside yard to roam during the day. If they’re really lucky, acres of open land in which to frolic.
Yet there is no reason why a city dog cannot enjoy a fantastic quality of life. Living in the city has its disadvantages but also brings with it levels of stimulation — sights, sounds and smells. Suburban or rural dogs never get to experience these. City dogs are more able to socialise since they have far more social opportunities. They can enjoy social interaction with other dogs on the street. Plus with a pack of their buddies at the local dog park or dog run.
But many owners work long hours and enjoy active social lives, meaning long periods in which their pets are alone. This means they have hours of inactivity and is especially true in a small apartment or studio.
The Advantages Of Hiring A Dog Walker
For this reason, most urban dog owners hire a dog walker. Having someone take your dog out for exercise and relief at least once a day makes all the difference. It breaks up those long solitary hours and gives your dog a chance to get out into the fresh air. They can stretch their legs and burn off some of the calories they have eaten for breakfast. For many dogs, their daytime dog walker is their daytime buddy.
There are increasing numbers of dog walkers to choose from in cities. You can find dog walking and pet sitting services everywhere and in most cities you will be spoiled for choice. Yet all dog walking services are not the same. There are differences in quality and the type of services provided.
Useful Tips To Help You Hire A Dog Walker
Make Sure You Know Exactly What You Want
It’s important to be clear about the kind of service you want before you hire a dog walker. You may find you’ll have greater peace of mind and more security with a large, established dog walking service. If they’re too big you may find their services a little too impersonal. Some guarantee the same walker every day, but some don’t. If you want your walker and your dog to build a friendly, trusting relationship, it’s worth asking about this.
A good dog walking service will assign a regular dog walker to your dog. They will also inform you of any changes in staffing well ahead of time. The downside is that they may be slightly less flexible with scheduling.
A local independent dog walker who works alone will build a close relationship with your dog. And you are likely to build a friendly relationship with them yourself, which brings familiarity and peace of mind. Lone walkers rarely have anyone to provide a back up should they become sick or take a vacation.
Establish An Ideal Schedule
If you’re like the vast majority of dog owners you’ll want your dog to be walked around the middle of the day. This generally means between 11am and 3pm. This means that these time slots are in great demand. So it’s unlikely that you’ll find someone who can promise your ideal schedule.
You may need to compromise with a leeway of around an hour either side of your ideal. You should be aware that it is almost impossible to stick to a schedule 100% accurately every day. Walkers often have to travel between dogs and can be held up by a million and one different situations.
Your dog walker may arrive a little early or late every day. Often he or she can’t help this. Be suspicious of any dog walking service that promises punctuality to the minute. Most of the time they’re not being honest with you!
Dog Walking In Packs Or Individually?
In places like New York City you can see dog walkers with up to twelve dogs at a time. Is this really what you want for your dog? The advantage to this kind of service is primarily price. Pack walk rates are sometimes half the price of individual or small group walks and sometimes last longer.
Your dog will not receive anywhere near the same level of attention it would in a smaller group or alone. Often your dog will be sitting tied up in large groups on the sidewalk. This allows the dog walker to take a dog upstairs to its apartment. There is no doubt that there is a strong social aspect to such walks which many dogs enjoy. Generally, dog owners like their dogs to be walked in smaller packs or alone.
Many people also worry about dogs fighting in large packs and while this is rare, it does sometimes happen. An individual, private walk brings with it the walkers undivided attention. You should also consider that most dogs appreciate some kind of socialization. So consider choosing a service which walks pairs or small groups of no more than three.
Many dog walkers will tell you that dogs who have behavioral “issues” on the street with their owners benefit greatly from being walked with another dog. Their presence often acts to “center” the other dog and induce a good level of focus and attention. There is though no avoiding the fact that some dogs just will not abide the company of other dogs no matter what!
You know your own dog better than anyone and the decision is entirely yours to make.
Conduct Interviews In Person
Choosing a dog walker is an important decision to make because you’re entrusting the welfare of your precious pet to a stranger. You are also trusting the dog walker because the service gives them access to your apartment on a daily basis. For this reason, you should always look into a number of services and insist on meeting first the business owner. Then should you decide to go ahead and use the service, the walker who will be assigned to your dog.
A good service will allow you to meet the walker at no cost to yourself. Never feel pressured into agreeing to a schedule over the telephone. You’ll feel much better when you know who you’re dealing with personally. All good dog walking services appreciate that you’re looking around and will be happy to submit their pitch to compete with others.
Don’t be surprised or feel offended if the business owner will not give you full contact details of the walker. They’re not trying to put one over on you. It’s standard practice i to insist that the client conduct all communication (schedule changes, updates etc) through the business owner themselves.
This ensures that the owner is kept “in the loop” and is always aware of what’s going on. If you do have the walkers contact details, it is always good practice to notify the owner of all communication between you to prevent misunderstandings or confusion later.
Have Questions Prepared In Advance
Before you conduct an interview, make sure you have everything you’re going to ask written down and prepared beforehand. Ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable. Don’t be afraid to bombard the business owner or walker with requests for information. These can be about the nature of their service, their philosophy, their practices, their policy and their history.
A good dog walking service will also ask you questions about exactly what you want. This will cover your likes and dislikes and most of all, your dog. Make sure they ask you about your dogs nature and about health issues which may be relevant. If they take notes, that’s a good thing! A good dog walking service will keep information about your dog on file. This will include medical history, favorite treats, command words, things to watch out for, vets information etc.
It’s probably a good idea to hire a dog walker from another service if they don’t seem interested in any of this information. Be sure to get everything out in the open regarding prices and fees. Make certain you’re both on the same page regarding rates and frequency of payment.
Ask about any hidden or supplementary fees since many dog walking services have a surcharge for early morning, evening and weekend walks. Ask about their range of availability (do they cover evenings or weekends?) and about their policy regarding cancellations (most services request that you give 24 hours notice to avoid being charged).
You don’t want to spoil a good relationship with a reliable dog walking service due to a misunderstanding later which should have been cleared up at the beginning.