How to Find a Great Dog Walker
Why You Need a Dog Walker
If it were up to you, you would likely choose to spend every second of the day with your dog… but we all know that sometimes life can get in the way! Recent studies have shown that approximately 20% of dog owners admit to not walking their dog every day. Luckily, there is a solution! By hiring a dog walker or professional dog walking service, dog owners can gain the peace of mind knowing their dog isn’t home alone all day, bored, anxious or stressed.
What all dog walkers and professional services have in common, is the ability to get your dog out of the house for some exercise. Along with the obvious benefits of a happier and healthier life by achieving physical activity and mental stimulation, daily exercise is a major contributor to disease prevention, cardiovascular health, bone strength, and joint stability.
Hiring a dog walker is the easiest way to ensure that your dog’s needs are not neglected when life gets in the way, but not all dog walkers are created equally. Because pet care is not a regulated industry, there are very few barriers to enter, which has led to a myriad of underqualified pet care providers. It’s crucial for the wellbeing of your dog (and not to mention your home and personal property) that you carefully select a dog walker or service that will safely meet your needs on a consistent basis, and within your budget.
Individuals vs. Companies
While it’s very possible to have great (or poor) experiences using an individual or a company, generally a dog walking company will help reduce the risk of a having poor experience. A thorough dog walking company will do the work by screening and interviewing prospective candidates, so you don’t have to. At Spot, we can receive up to 2,000 dog walker applications per month, we typically interview 2%, and hire less than 1% of applicants. With more than 70,000 walks experience, our team has learned how to find reliable, long-term walkers who can be trusted for years. For reference, we currently have 10 walkers with more than 1,000 walks, 28 walkers with more than 500 walks, and over 75 walkers with more than 100 walks experience! A professional service should also provide dog owners with greater transparency, insurance, backup walkers in the case of a cancellation, and available customer support.
Dog Walk Transparency
Nowadays, you shouldn’t have to rely on trust to ensure your dog is getting the time and attention they deserve. With so many free route tracking apps available, it’s never been easier to be honest! When it comes to dog walking, walker reporting is an absolute MUST! If a walker or company you are considering does not provide an arrival notification, walk tracking, and a walk report, you should keep looking!
An honest dog walker will message the owner upon arrival and send a screenshot of their walk route once the walk is complete. Route tracking apps will include the total time and distance, and the map should be of the actual walk, not including any in-vehicle transportation. If it’s a group walk, your dog could be the first in and the last out, which could result in 80% of their 2-hour outing being spent in the car. Finally, a thorough dog walker will provide a daily walk report, indicating whether their dog did their business and any other important notes about the dog’s temperament and energy level.
At Spot, these assurances are built into the mobile app, dog owners are notified when the walker arrives, and Spot guarantees on-time arrival or the walk is FREE! When the walk is complete, the dog owner receives the walker report with the GPS map, walk time, KM’s travelled, potty report, and walker arrival time, walk start time, and walk end time. Whether it’s an individual or dog walking service, it’s important to know you and your pup are getting exactly what you’re paying for.
Dog Walker Insurance
Some cities require dog walkers to be licensed and/or insured, but for the majority of cities dog walking is completely unregulated. Most dog walking companies will hold some form of insurance, for independent walkers it’s far less likely. Whether you choose an individual or company, it’s important they offer transparency into their coverage. When asking a walker about their insurance policy, make sure it extends to your dog as well as your home and personal property.
Unfortunately, most insurance policies only cover veterinary costs in the case of walker negligence, and many walkers and companies fail to understand that this type of policy does not cover accidents. When dealing with dogs, accidents are the most likely situations to occur (dog fight, dog slips out of collar, dog eats something hazardous while on a walk, dog). Furthermore, most insurance policies do not provide coverage for off-leash services or transportation in vehicle. If your walker insists that off-leash walks and transportation in vehicle are both covered, don’t be afraid to ask for proof.
The majority of walks will occur when you are not home, which means the dog walker will be entering your home under no direct supervision. Therefore, the walker’s insurance policy must extend coverage to your home and personal property, and this coverage should extend far beyond theft. It’s important the walker have a commercial general liability policy to cover damages to your home and property resulting from both negligence and accidents. For example, the walker improperly secures the door in the winter, the wind blows the door open and the pipes freeze, burst, and flood your house. A walker’s insurance policy should include commercial general liability coverage of at least $1 Million but more commonly the policies are $2 Million - $5 Million.
Remember, insurance is only protection to cover financial damages in situations where the worst-case scenario has already unfolded. Insurance does nothing to prevent incidents and should not be a dog walker’s only safety measure. At Spot we keep our customers dogs safe with private, on-leash, door-to-door walks… which means no groups, no off-leash parks, and no transportation in vehicle, period! In the rare instance that something goes wrong, Spot provides every booking with unmatched coverage:
Pet Insurance: Reimbursement for veterinary care up to $30,000 per incident.
Property Insurance: Reimbursement for property damage up to $5 Million per incident.
Meet and Greets
If you are looking for a long-term consistent walker, it’s important that the dog walker or service offer the opportunity to meet to get to know one another. This is a great opportunity to go on a test walk together, where you can teach the walker your training techniques to be reinforced during the walks. When interviewing and meeting potential dog walking candidates, it’s important to be open and honest about any behavior issues your dog might have, and remember that sometimes dogs act differently away from their pet parents. You want to set the walker up for success, not failure. At Spot we have experienced countless instances where a dog owner hid or significantly downplayed a dog’s behavior issues, which can surprise the walker and increase the dog’s exposure to risk.
You want to leave the meet-and-greet confident that the walker has the skills to safely handle your dog. A good dog walker knows their limits, and it’s much better in the long run if you provide the walker enough information so they can decide whether or not they can handle your dog. This is the time to be honest, the more you share, the more the walker can assess the situation based on their skills and experience. The following is a list of questions to ask when considering and meeting new dog walkers:
- Do you have insurance? How much pet and property coverage?
- Will you be walking my dog only?
- If not, how do you vet your dog walkers?
- How many dogs will walk at a time? Is there a maximum number of dogs?
- Where will you walk my dog?
- How do I know when you have arrived?
- What’s the pickup / drop off schedule?
- How long have you been a dog walker?
- What prior experience do you have with dog walking?
- How long will you spend with my dog on each walk?
- Do you provide proof of the walk length and distance?
- What’s your cancellation policy, and what happens if you are sick and unable to come on a scheduled day?
- Can you provide references?