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Keep Rover Moving: What to Look For in a Dog-Walking Service

Not at home as much as you’d like to be due to work or other life commitments?

It can be hard to be away from our sanctuary and the people and pets we love. It’s hard on them too, and when it comes to dogs, even a few hours can seem like an eternity.

Dogs need physical and mental stimulation to stay healthy and well-adjusted. Being cooped up in your home for long hours without an outlet for exercise can make your dog nervous, depressed, and bored, setting the stage for destructive behavior, house soiling, and compulsive behaviors.

Needless to say, dogs need exercise. How much exercise is needed will vary by breed and your individual dog, but all — and we mean all — dogs need it. Even your senior dog who may not be as spry as he once was needs regular exercise.

So what are owners to do when they can’t provide regular physical activity? Enlist the help of a dog-walking service!

Dog walkers can be available when and where you need them, giving your dog the stimulation he wants and needs. And it’s a growing field — simply search for “dog walkers near me” online and you’re bound to find dozens of them, right in your hometown.

But you don’t want to hand your beloved pup over to just anyone. You need to find a dog walker that will provide the love, care, and attention your dog deserves.

Here’s what you need to consider when vetting dog-walking services.

The Right Recommendations

Thorough research is essential to finding the right dog-walking service, because, unfortunately, anyone can advertise themselves as a “professional.” In truth, some people may try to launch a dog-walking service because it seems “easy” or “fun” — and in some ways, that’s OK; you want someone who loves dogs and takes joy in playing with them. But at the same time, you need someone who understands the complexities involved with caring for and properly exercising a dog.

Being a dog walker requires having chemistry with the dog, and this could pose a problem if your dog is uncomfortable with unfamiliar people. Your dog may have specialized needs as well, and in these cases you definitely want a true professional who understands how to handle these situations.

All of this is why seeking proper recommendations and references is key. Go beyond online reviews and talk to people who have actually used the dog-walking service. You’ve been around; you know where to find the dog lovers. Talk to fellow owners at the pet store or dog park. Check with friends and family. If all else fails, ask the dog-walking service for real-life references. If they’re truly reputable, they’ll happily oblige.

Training Background

Once you get to know the ins and outs of a dog-walking service, you need to ask about their background. You, of course, want to make sure they’re properly bonded, licensed, and insured. Also look at how long they’ve been in business, plus the length of time they’ve been in, or associated with, the pet industry in general.

Again, you want someone with real-life, professional experience, not just a dog lover looking for some cash on the side. There’s so much more to dog walking than just putting on the leash and pounding the pavement.

Does your dog have medical issues? Behavioral problems? Uncomfortable or aggressive in certain situations or surroundings? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to have a long talk with any potential dog walker to ensure that he or she has dealt with your dog’s specific issue before and has the right experience and knowledge to properly handle it.

Finally, it’s an absolute must that your dog walker is trained and certified in canine first-aid. Whether they’ll be navigating the busy city streets, or ambling around a quiet suburb, it’s a jungle out there and anything can happen. Make sure your dog walker can handle any emergency that may occur. This is especially vital if you have an older dog.

Your Dog Needs to Meet the Walker Too

As much as you may love the dog walker and as trained and experienced as he or she may be, you dog is the one who has to make the final decision. You can’t expect your dog to have instant chemistry with a dog walker without having him interact with that person first. Have potential dog walkers visit your home and study how well and how quickly they bond with your dog. What’s most important is having a dog walker that’s patient, calm, and assertive.

Plus, the walker should be able to read the universal body language of dogs. Yes, you want your dog to be physically stimulated (especially if you have a high-energy or sporting dog), but mental stimulation and communication is just as vital.

Go For a Test Walk

The last step of the vetting process is perhaps the most important one: the test walk. Besides, what better way to see if a dog walker is right for you and you dog than by actually going on a walk with them? You’ll see if there’s a spark of chemistry and you’ll get a sense of how the dog walker operates. Plus, you’ll be able to test some subtle things like whether they force your dog to walk too fast or if they don’t catch on to your dog’s signals or cues.