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Tips for finding outside care

Dogs love walks! Walks give them the chance to do a lot of their favourite things: explore, sniff, play and leave their mark. For dog parents, walks are a perfect opportunity to get fresh air, meet new people and bond with our dogs. For many of us, there are also times when we can’t be around for every walk. Dog daycare and dog walkers are a great way of ensuring our dogs receive the care, attention and exercise they need when we’re otherwise engaged.

So how do you pick someone you can trust? Keep reading - this advice will help you out.

Consider your dog’s personality

The best walkers are naturally caring and considerate towards all dogs and can adapt their approach to different doggy personalities. To find a good match for your dog, consider your dog’s personality and seek someone who has experience with similar dogs. “Let’s say your dog is lead-reactive. Ideally, you want to find someone who has experience walking dogs that get a little crazy on-lead, so you have confidence in their ability to manage the situation successfully,” says vet Dr. Elizabeth Shines. “It will also help ensure that the dog walker can continue with any training you already do with your dog to work through reactivity issues. Dogs need consistency; without it, they get confused, and their behaviour can regress.”

It’s also worth finding someone who’ll tailor walks to your dog’s needs. If your dog is athletic, find someone who can take your dog for a run or active play. Or, if your dog is uncomfortable around other dogs, look for someone who can walk them one-on-one instead of in a group.

Do your research

Make sure whoever you work with has both experience and insurance - either an individual policy or coverage through a dog walking company. If you’re going through a company, find out how they screen their walkers and if they do background checks. If you’re talking to an individual, ask them to provide references.

Most, if not all, dog walkers with experience will likely have reviews online - be sure to check them out once you’ve found a few options you feel good about. Remember that you know your dog better than anyone. Think about the qualities you know will be a good match for your dog and look for positive reviews that validate those qualities. When you find someone who sounds promising, schedule a meet-and-greet for you and your dog. This meeting will allow them to bond; if the rapport isn’t instant, try other walkers until you find someone your dog seems perfectly happy with.

Ask the right questions

When doing a face-to-face interview, remember that you’re looking for someone you can rely on who will be engaged and positive with your dog. It can be helpful to ask potential walkers about their philosophy on the dog-human relationship. Make sure this person will work with your dog using positive reinforcement rather than punishing your dog for unwanted behaviour. Don’t be afraid to ask for things that will let you know that your dog is getting the kind of care they deserve. 

Also, ask if the dog walker can send you updates or photos when they’re out with your dog; this way, you’ll know the walk that you booked happened as planned, and you’ll be able to see for yourself that your dog is having a good time. Knowing what your dog is up to is a great way to make you feel more comfortable and keep you connected to your dog while you’re away. While getting your questions answered is important, you shouldn’t be the one driving the whole conversation. The dog walker should proactively ask questions about your dog - about their routine, triggers, and favourite things. They should be interested in learning everything there is to know about your dog.

Keep an eye on your pup’s behaviour 

The hard part is over once you’ve found a dog walker you and your dog love. Still, you’ll want to keep an eye out for red flags. “Look for any differences in your dog’s behaviour over time,” says Dr. Shines. “If you notice that their behaviour has changed or their training seems to have regressed, talk to the dog walker. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re to blame, but it may mean you need to recalibrate to make sure everyone is on the same page with the care of your dog.” 

Another great tip: fit your dog with a GPS tracker so you can keep tabs on when and where your dog goes on their walks without you.

Follow these tips but also trust your instinct and your dog’s!

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Written by:
Kate Sheofsky
In partnership with:

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