Animal column: Choose a dog walker carefully |

Animal column: Choose a dog walker carefully

Niki Congero
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?

Thank you,


Dear Edward,

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. 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 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 ask how they are screened.

What is the background of 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 dog*tec 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 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? Personally I would never allow a dog off-leash unless it is in a secure location and the dog must have excellent recall behavior.

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 this. 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 off them. There is no better way to check up on someone’s work ethics and behaviors than to chat with a long-time customer.

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 or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. For more information, visit, or

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