Lake Tahoe Humane Society: What to do when considering a dog walker
February 3, 2017
I love my dog and wish I had time to walk him more than I do. What are your thoughts on hiring a dog walker?
I totally understand your dilemma. I have had mixed experiences with dog walkers. The bottom line: It's all about how you choose your dog walker. Obviously, it's most important to find someone who takes great care of your pup.
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Anyone can call himself or herself a dog walker, so it's up to you to be cautious and interview whoever you are considering. Make sure you actually speak to the person who will be walking your dog and have your dog present during the interview.
A good dog walker should have good answers to these questions.
Who will actually be walking your dog? Some dog walking companies are sole proprietors and do the dog walking himself or herself, while others may have many employees. If the latter is the case, ask if they are independent contractors or employees, and ask how are they screened.
What is the background of the person or people who will be walking your dog? How much and what kind of training does the dog walker have? Do they have any education in canine learning theory, body language and pack management?
Ideally you want someone with professional training. They should use scientifically proven, humane training methods. Don't let a dog walking company replace the dog walker you approve of without your consent — you may end up with someone who does not have the qualifications you desire.
How many dogs do they walk at once? Dog walkers may walk up to 20 dogs at once. Each dog added to the pack increases the chance for conflict, injuries, lost dogs, distractions and makes it very likely that your dog will not receive the attention you expect.
For example, certified Dog Tec walkers are limited to walking eight dogs at a time to maintain certification. Also, check on how the dogs are grouped in relation to the type of dog, size and age. A good rule of thumb is the 50 percent rule — no dog in a group should weigh more than 50 percent of any other dog in the group.
Where will your dog be walked? And what kind of activities will your dog be engaged in? Off-leash or on-leash? A note on the "off-leash" question: El Dorado County has leash laws, and I personally would never allow a dog walker to walk my dog without a leash. Many times the Lake Tahoe Humane Society gets calls from people who have lost their dog due to a walker taking them off-leash, and most of the time the owner was unaware his or her dog was allowed off-leash.
How much time do they guarantee on a walk? Confirm this is exercise time and does not include transportation time like the drive to the park. Will they provide a walk report? This is a good idea so you know how your dog did on his walk and to learn of any incidents.
Is the walker licensed, insured and bonded? Some cities require professional dog walkers to be licensed, insured and bonded. You can check with your local regulatory agency to see what your city requires. Regardless, I would never use a non-licensed dog walker.
Lastly, but most importantly, ask for references. Don't just say, "Oh, OK," when they say, "yes, I have good references." Ask to see references in writing and take the time to call some of them. There is no better way to check up on someone's work ethic and behavior than to chat with a long-time customer. It is also a good idea to get recommendations and to see if any complaints have been made to your local humane society — in our case that is the Lake Tahoe Humane Society.
Hoping this was helpful,
Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Need some pet advice? Ask Hopeful Henry. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to AskHenry@LakeTahoeHumaneSociety.org or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. Visit Facebook.com/LakeTahoeHumaneSociety SPCA, Facebook.com/Hopeful.Henry or Twitter.com/LtHumaneSociety.