Professional dog walking as a business has grown radically in the past decade, with new businesses setting up every day. However, what some owners are unaware of is that there is currently no regulation of dog walkers to dictate care standards or to insist on any qualifications before undertaking dog walking as a job. In short, anyone can call themselves a dog walker, with nothing more needed than a love of dogs.
Walking dogs, particularly in groups, takes far more than just passion, so here are some things to be aware of before choosing your dog walker and some questions to ask.
1. How many dogs do you walk at one time?
Some councils have begun limiting the number of dogs to be walked at one time, so depending on your area it is worth checking this out. Insurance limits vary between four to six dogs at one time, which includes the walkers own dogs if they take them out with them. As I am insured with Cliverton, I am insured to take out six in one go, but my personal limit is four and they all belong to the same household.
2. Do you walk alone or with other dog walkers?
Imagine each walker has taken out six dogs and then they meet up with two or three other walkers – now you have 20-25 dogs all running around together, potentially increasing the chances of over-threshold reactions or lack of individual attention from the walker.
3. Does the walker understand canine learning theory, body language etc?
Ideally anyone working with your dog should be aware of scientifically sound, positive, humane training methods and how to read canine body language. The dog walker should also know what to do if a fight does break out and how best to separate the dogs. Most importantly, the dog walker should have enough knowledge and skills to maintain control over the dogs within the group, whilst still ensuring they have fun together.
4. What size dogs do they walk together?
In an ideal world, dogs of a similar size should be grouped together, partly because smaller dogs tend to need slower, shorter walks, but also because of better play interaction. Although having a Great Dane and a Chihuahua walking together can work, they play very differently! The same applies to dogs of varying ages. Really elderly dogs are unlikely to want to walk at the same speed as a bunch of adolescents!
5. Will the dogs be transported in a van?
If so is the van insured, properly caged up (not travelling all the dogs loose together in the back of a van which I know of someone locally doing!), with air conditioning and appropriate fans? How long will the dogs be left in the van? Do other dogs get walked whilst yours is still waiting in the van?
6. Is your walker licensed and insured?
Locally to Fleet, commercial dog walkers are not allowed to walk on MOD land with an additional licence – check your walker has one. If they don’t and walk at places like Velmead, Tweseldown etc, their insurance is automatically invalidated whilst on these areas. Business insurance is also a must – ask to check their paperwork. In nine years of trading, I have only been asked for proof of this documentation about three times!
7. Have they given you a contract?
You should always be asked to sign a contract or a client form to confirm if your dog is allowed off-lead at all. As professional walkers, insurance companies demand that there is an owner signature before any dog can be allowed off-lead.
8. Have they done a canine first-aid course?
Any professional walker should have a knowledge of basic first aid and how to bandage a dog in the case of an incident occurring. They should also ask on a client form for your vets details and for any details of any health complications.