Dog walkers are hugely popular. Providing a much needed service to those that are away from their dog for more than four to five hours at a time or are unable to walk their dog.
While there are many great dog walkers out there, there are also some that aren't so good. You will need to know what to look out for so that your dog has the safest, best experience while out on their walkies.
How much do dog walkers charge?
On average, a dog walker can cost anything between £10 - £25 per hour.
Prices can vary depending on:
- length of walk
- whether your dog can be walked in a group or has to be walked alone
- the location you live in
- how far the dog walker has to travel to get to your house
- the dog walker you use
How to choose a dog walker
It's important not to go out and book the first dog walker you see. There are some things you'll need to find out first.
Five questions to ask your dog walker
Do they have a dog walking licence?
Many local authorities now require dog walkers to have a licence which allows them to exercise a certain number of dogs at a time. Check your local council for more information and, if a licence is needed, check the dog walker has one.
Do they have insurance?
The minimum cover your dog walker will need is third-party liability insurance. This is to cover your dog walker in the event that one of the dogs in their care causes injury to someone. The insurance policy will also state how many dogs your walker is covered to exercise at any one time.
Do they have references?
The ideal scenario is that a dog walker is recommended to you by a family member or a friend. This way you have a trusted source to make your decision.
But, if this isn't possible, then asking your potential dog walker to provide contact details for references is a great way to understand how other customers feel about the service. They may also have a section on their site where you can find reviews.
What happens in an emergency?
What you're asking here is what their procedure is if your dog, or another that they are being walked with, is in an accident.
- Do they have a car they can access? If they do, do they have crash tested crates or harnesses for safely traveling in the car with your dog?
- Do they know dog first aid?
- Will they drop off the other dogs before they head to the vet?
- Which vet would they take your dog to?
- When and how will they contact you?
- If the walker is taking care of an emergency with another dog, will someone be able to walk your dog in their absence? This may be in their cancellation policy – so be sure to give this a read.
What does a dog walk look like?
You're looking to understand:
- where your dog will be walked - does the dog walker have some good spots that are safe and easy to get to from your home?
- how many dogs will they be walked with? Decide if you're happy with this based on your dog's personality.
- if your dog is allowed off lead, how much time will they spend on lead versus off lead?
- will all the dogs be off lead at the same time or one by one? You need to know how controlled their playtime will be.
- can your dog walker successfully recall all the dogs back to them and know where they all are at the same time? This will depend on the number of dogs they walk at a time.
What will your dog walker ask you?
A good dog walker will also ask you lots of questions about your four-legged friend. It's good to be prepared and have all your information ready for them.
How is your dog with other dogs?
They'll want to understand how your dog feels and behaves around other dogs. This is so that they know how to support them when out walking.
If your dog will be walked with other dogs, then a good walker will want to match their personalities correctly. So it's best to speak with them about your dog's temperament and their play style.
Your dog walker should constantly assess how your dog is feeling within the group by looking out for any signs of stress. If they spot your dog feeling uncomfortable then they may suggest a different time of day to walk your dog or a different walker.
Does your dog have good recall?
Can your dog be called back to you reliably? This will determine whether they walk them on or off lead.
How is your dog with other animals?
Understanding how your dog reacts to cats, horses and other animals is important as it'll decide where they can and can't let your dog off lead. They'll also know to be cautious if they spot any other animals coming their way on a walk.
What walking gear will your dog need to wear?
Your dog has to wear a collar and ID by law and this will be down to the owner to supply. But your dog walker will want to know if you're happy for them to use your equipment or if you'd rather they use theirs. Be sure to explain what sort of equipment you'd like them to put on your dog before leaving, such as:
- which collar
- which lead
- a harness
- a muzzle
- toys - do they like chasing a ball or any other toys?
What treats is your dog allowed?
Be sure to tell them what your dog likes and any allergies they may have. This helps them build up a good relationship with your pet – and stops any upset tummies if they gave them the wrong treat.
What time of day do you want your dog walked?
They'll want to understand what your dog's normal schedule is. Ideally, this should be timed to be half way through the time you're out of the house. So, if you're out from 9.00am to 5.00pm then ask your walker to come at 1.30pm to make sure your dog can relieve themselves without having to wait too long.
If your dog is usually walked at lunchtime, be sure to speak with your dog walker during the hotter days in the summer. Midday to late afternoon is usually the warmest part of the day, so chat with them to understand other options so that you can keep your dog safe in the heat.
How long do you want your dog's walk to last?
Dog walkers will offer different packages from 30 minutes to one hour or more. Some dog walkers will also include the time it takes to collect your dog and return them, so bear that in mind when booking.
Depending on your dog's personality, age and breed will depend on how long their walk will need to be. So think about your own dog's needs when deciding this with your walker.
Does your dog like variety or routine? Tell them if your dog is one for exploring new areas and if you think they'll prefer a change in scenery so they can keep your pooch mentally stimulated. However, some dogs may be happier with a set walk everyday – it really depends on your dog.
Other information you will need to give your dog walker
- Vet details
- Knowledge of any pre-existing medical conditions
- Who to call in an emergency
- A note of your dog’s microchip information in case they get lost
- The words you use to ask your dog what you want from them. For instance, do you ask your dog to 'come' or say 'here'. This will be particularly important for when your dog is off lead and they need to call them back.