How to hire a dog walker (opinion)
Tribune Opinion Columnist
Dear Hopeful Henry,
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?
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I totally understand your dilemma. I have had mixed experiences with dog walkers; the bottom line is 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. Anyone can call themselves a dog walker, so it’s up to you to be cautious and interview whomever 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 themselves, while others may have many employees. If that is the case, ask if they are independent contractors or employees and how they are 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, distraction and it makes it very likely that your dog will not receive the attention you expect. Certified Dogtec walkers are limited to walking eight dogs at a time to maintain certification. Also check on how dogs are grouped in relation to 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 group.
Where will your dog be walked? And what kind of activities will your dog be engaged in? Off-leash or on-leash? Note to 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 animals off leash; and most of the time the owner was unaware of the issue.
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 so you’ll be made aware 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 behaviors than to chat with a longtime customer. It is also a good idea to see if any complaints have been made to your local humane society, in our case the Lake Tahoe Humane Society.
It’s time once again to submit your furry family member’s photos to the Lake Tahoe Humane Society’s calendar/card photo contest. Visit http://www.laketahoehumanesociety.org and click on the photo contest link, fill out the form and submit your images. It’s a fun way to support Lake Tahoe Humane Society.
Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to AskHenry@LakeTahoeHumaneSociety.org or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. For more information, visit http://www.Facebook.com/LakeTahoeHumaneSociety SPCA, http://www.Facebook.com/Hopeful.Henry or http://www.twitter.com/LtHumaneSociety.
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