Full-timers and city dwellers may feel the need to have dog walkers come in and walk their dogs. But remember, not all dog walkers are created equally. This is a very personal and important choice since the person or company you choose will not only be responsible for the life and safety of your dog, but will also have access to your home when no one is around to watch. A dog walker can make or break your dog’s behavior particularly in and around areas with other dogs. A dog or puppy who is in a fear phase can be scarred or can become frightened or aggressive after just a single incident. So choose wisely and ask many questions.
Have them come over for a meet-and-greet. Take a walk together and teach them how to properly put on the leash. Show them how your dog should be handled on a walk. Establish a solid routine with your dog and have the dog walker repeat it while following all of your rules. Make sure you don’t use a new collar or type of leash for the first time with dog walker
Dog walkers range from one single person looking to make a few dollars of extra disposable income to companies with a lot of employees. Have your dog walker make notes after each walk, including the time, potty breaks, feeding (if necessary), and note if unusual might have happened during the walk such as “the dog became afraid of a wheel chair” or “the puppy played with a large do who jumped on and scared him”. If you do not want your dog going to the dog park with the dog walker, make that very clear and make sure they follow that rule. It is so critical to know everything that happened on the walk while you are absent. Don’t feel awkward about asking questions and having information. This is YOUR DOG and you are entitled to receive the information you ask for from a paid “professional”.
An ancillary benefit to having a single dogwalker, is that you always know who is going to be in your house and walking your dog. You will build up a quick trust and camaraderie with someone who will hopefully love your dog and care for him as you do. Even a neighbor or neighborhood teen can be an appropriate dog walker but remember first to be educating everyone who will be interacting with your dog about his habits, allergies, idiosyncrasies, etc. Make sure they use the collar or walking device you choose. Remember your dog may react quite differently with a stranger coming into your home when you’re not there compared to when you are home.
A dog walking company is also a viable option. If the primary walker is ill or indisposed or simply doesn’t show up, you will be reassured to know someone will be there to let your dog out and care for his needs. In this case, check all references and make sure to train each dog walker who will be assigned to your dog. Make sure to introduce each dog walker several times and when training be closely during their first walk in case there is a problem. Anyone entering your home should have a criminal background check, be bonded and insured.