What Questions Should I Ask A Dog Walker? Finding The Right Dog Walker
Now I know by the fact that you are reading this, that your dog is a part of your family. You want to be sure you find the very best person for the job. Competent and knowledgeable. Someone who will care for your dog as much as you do and if they were one of their own. So don’t panic when you suddenly start wondering “what questions should I ask a dog walker”.
I’ve personally interviewed several dog walkers on the three occasions I’ve searched for a dog walker for Millie All resutling in success, my question list has grown and changed as I’ve understood the dog walking profession and Millie herself more. It’s a ‘huge’ 30 questions long now and I’m hoping it will help you too.
While I’ve covered the key themes below, do download the full 30 question checklist at the end of the article. I’ve set this out with plenty of writing space so you can print one out for each dog walker that you speak to. Enjoy!
What Questions Should I Ask a Dog Walker?
If you’ve already booked a meet and greet – then congratulations on that first step. That first meet and greet is a perfect opportunity to run through all the questions to ask a dog walker that you can. They won’t be surprised that you’ll have a list of questions and they should have lots for you too. I’d also recommend doing a review of their online information pre the meet and greet to find out as much as you can beforehand. That way you can use the time to clarify and focus on any points that you want to.
However, if you are reading this before making any contact with a dog walker, then you are also in luck. You’ll be able to ask questions that you haven’t been able to answer by reviewing their online information. Think about selecting a few questions from the below to prioritise and ask via phone or email before agreeing to a meet and greet.
Either way, there are five key ‘themes’ that your questions should focus on:
#1 How much will it cost? How will you book and pay?
While safety comes first, we can’t deny that price is high up the question list. There are therefore some key questions that you should ask every dog walker. Not only do you want to know how much you will pay but do find out how and when you will pay.
Will you pay each time they visit and need to remember cash or will they accept standing orders or any other methods?
It’s also the time to ascertain how much notice you need to give not only of cancellations but changes to bookings and holiday periods. You don’t want to book a last minute holiday and look forward to heading off on an adventure with your pooch to be charged unknowingly for 2 weeks dog walking at the same time.
#2 Where, When and Who?
Now’s the time you need to get even more detailed with your questions. What specific time will they walk your dog (and does this work for you)?
Some dog walkers only work Monday to Friday and don’t cover bank holidays, so again establish this at the outset and ask what days and time of day they cover. If you look shifts or unsocial hours, then this will be even more important to understand, particularly if additional charges apply to those days.
When discussing the length of the dog walk, do ascertain where they plan to walk your dog but also if it includes travel time. Standard practice is for the dog walk only to being once at the destination but do check. Otherwise, you may find an hour booking dramatically shortened with travel.
Your meet and greet should really be with the individual who will be your main dog walker but do ask who will be walking each day. While I loved Millie’s very first dog walker, unfortunately, she had no backup and would take school holidays off due to childcare. This meant I had to plan alternative care for Millie and/or take holidays ourselves.
It didn’t put me off using her, but do make sure you ask each dog walker f they have cover in place and/or likely holiday timings/how many holidays. That way you can also plan and keep your pooch happy with some consistency too.
If you’ve already booked a meet and greet, well done! But if just starting out, then again it’s best practice for dog walkers to offer a free meet and greet. However, I do find many don’t offer a trial dog walk and meeting with the other dogs who will be walked at the same time if choosing group walks. This will ease any fears you have about a group walk too, so do ask.
Now this is the part professional dog walkers get upset! Yes, there are dog walkers out there without insurance, no canine first aid certificates, no CRB checks or terms and conditions. It’s so frustrating particularly as all three cost around £200 and protects everyone.
Didn’t you know that these things existed for dog walkers? Yes, they do and if you are trusting them with your key, then you’ll want to know how they manage their key holdings. You really want to make sure they are not walking around with keys and addresses together in case they are lost or stolen! Another eeeeek!!!
To protect your dog, do check if policies are in place regarding vaccinations including a kennel cough. In addition, are there any rules re bitches that are in season or not accepting unneutered males. This of particular importance for group walks.
If you find that any of these professional basics aren’t in place, it’s likely to be reflected in the price being charged.
#4 Background, Experience and Training Methods
This is your chance to ask everything you need to re the dog walkers background and experience with dogs.
If your dog is anxious or has trouble socialising, then you may wish to ask particular questions re how they’ll help. How will they deal with other dogs if there are signs of aggression?
If they have undertaken training, what was it and do they plan to practice any of it with your dog? If you are an owner who trains your dog, then this is a great chance to check they will continue with the same methods. It would helpful if they could continue using your own signals and commands and continue that good work!
While you will hopefully be able to read reviews online via their social media profiles, you could ask for references at this stage.
#5 Understanding What Happens On The Walk
It’s a hotly debated subject but you’ll want to ask whether your dog will be walked alone or in a group. There are pros and cons of both which I’ll address in a future blog but if it is a group walk, then ask about the other dogs. Will they be similar breeds, the level of socialisation and or size? And most importantly, how many?
Most insurers restrict the number of dogs that can be walked and many councils have guidance in place too. Is the dog owner aware of these? Are they happy that all dogs will be under control and enjoyable for all dogs on the walk?
The question of on or off lead walking should also be asked at this point. Many owners have strong views on this. I personally believe off lead walking can be achieved safely. My previous blog on off lead walking outlines some key steps that should be in place pre any dog walker attempting off lead walking.
My own personal bugbear is the lack of suitable transport. It doesn’t take much to ensure a dog will safe and the driver too, while travelling. Does the dog walker have dedicated transport if travelling? If not, is their car suitably kitted out?
This is also your chance to check what happens if a problem occurs. Perhaps your dog refuses to walk or the weather is bad (i.e storm). What if the worst case scenario happens and your dog is injured while walking?
A competent dog walker should be able to answer all of these and have protocols in place to talk you through.
So. Are They The Right Dog Walker?
Having read the above, you are now in a great place to ask the right questions and make sure you find the right dog walker. If you haven’t started your search, then do use my blog on How do I find a Dog Walker?. You may be surprised at the number of different ways you can use to find that elusive ‘right’ dog walker. But in the meantime, don’t stress. Just by reading this blog, means you are more prepared and informed to make the right decision.
Just by reading this blog, means you are more prepared and informed to make the right decision.
If you would like a free download of all 30 questions that underpin the above themes, you’ll find it below. Once you’ve downloaded, you can use and print as many times as you’d like. There is space to record answers too so that you don’t forget who said, what.
Do remember that any good dog walker would ask you these questions too plus more. They will help you through the meet and greet and should make both you and your dog feel comfortable.
You will know. Your gut instinct will be right. Trust it.