Are you looking for a dog walker?

Part of our organisation’s aims is to provide information to the public who may be looking to employ a dog walker or small pet sitter. The following article might be of help for someone in this situation. Also provided is a general checklist which you may download / print out in readiness to meet your dog walker.

Hiring a Dog Walker:

Over the past few years or so the dog walking industry has emerged as one of the fastest growing industries with many providers to choose from, and for whatever reason if you are thinking about hiring a dog walker here are a few suggestions on what questions to ask and documents to see. Remember that you are the client and you will probably be handing over a key to your home as well as access to your dog. See as many perspective dog walkers as possible, at the end of the day your dog will be in their care and you would want to choose the right person for you.   

Always interview in the comfort of your own home – you and your dog will be more relaxed.

The following is a general checklist on what sort of thing you should ask / discuss:

How long have they been trading? don’t be perturbed by a new business start-up. Many new businesses are very well prepared.

What experience and / or qualifications do they have? Do they advocate CPD? (continuing professional development).

How familiar are they with your breed?

Evidence of documentation – Public Liability Insurance, Employers Liability Insurance (if they have employees) Professional Indemnity if they offer any advisory services, any other additional services / products cover; vehicle insurance, Criminal Disclosure certificate, canine first aid certificate. If you accept their services, ensure the revalidation of their documentation after validity lapses.

Do they need / have a local authority licence to practice? Not all councils have a licence procedure, but some do, your local Dog Warden is best placed to advise. Some councils may include dog walker licencing under their Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).

If there are PSPOs in your area restricting the number of dogs walked by one person, does the dog walker abide by this or travel out of the area. Where will your dog be walked?

Membership of a professional body, they have probably agreed to abide by the body’s charter / code of conduct. Ask what this entails.

Can they provide references? If so, take them up. Look at any reviews they may already have on social media, websites, etc.. be open minded about public reviews.

The dog walker’s priority should always be the welfare and safety of any dog in their care – what do they do to ensure this as far as practicable. Do they:

  • Carry out risk assessments for their walks?
  • Carry out risk assessment for each dog?
  • Carry out dynamic risk assessments (continuous risk assessment while out on a walk)
  • Carry out other additional checks

Group walks – How many dogs do they walk at one time? How many are they insured to walk at any one time? How many dogs do the council allow them to walk at any one time? Is there a trial walk period? What would happen if your dog was rejected from a group walk, some dogs are not suited for group walks for many reasons including his own welfare. Will your dog be in a regular group or will he need to be able to adapt to different dogs?

Do they walk dogs individually if this is your preferred option?

Is there a trial walk period?

Will they be willing to accompany you on an inital walk to learn your dog’s cues eg for recall.

Do they include any additional enrichment on their walks?

Do they walk alone or hook up with other members of their company or friends etc?

What is their policy for encountering other dogs on walks? Do they change direction or allow meet and greets?

Do they provide their own business tags to attach to your dog’s collar while the dog is in their care?

What are their emergency procedures?  Unfortunately, even with the best prepared risk assessments in place, unforeseen incidents can occur – vehicle breakdown, road traffic accidents, sickness (human or canine), incidents in public areas with third parties, injury (human and canine), lost dog etc..

Do they walk the dogs on or off the leads?

Would they use their own equipment or yours?

What type of equipment would they use?

Would they carry out regular checks to the equipment? E.g. check for the integrity of a collar / harness / harness; correct fit etc..

What is their policy for walking special needs dogs, or sick dogs, bitches in season etc? 

What is their booking / cancellation policy?

Can they accommodate short notice changes?

Do they have additional staff / assistants?

Is there an ongoing staff training procedure in place?

Do they provide holiday cover, their holidays may not tie in with yours?

Would you be able to provide your own cover for their leave?

Do they have a key holding policy?

Do they have a dedicated vehicle?

Is the vehicle fully insured for business use?

When being transported is your dog safe and secure? Do they comply with The Highway Code (Sections 57 relates to the transportation of pets).

Is the vehicle adequately ventilated / air conditioned?

Do they dry / clean up the dogs after a walk?

Do they photograph the dogs and use the material on their website or social media? How do you feel about that? Legally photography rights do lie with the photographer.

How do they clear up any mess?

Do they have formal paperwork? What records do they keep? How long do they keep their records?

How much do they charge, are there any additional costs such as registration / slot retainer fees, mileage, booking amendments etc..?

How do they bill you and preferred payment method?

How would they communicate with you throughout the day? Do they provide a daily report?

Do they provide regular doggy appraisals? This might cover areas such as the dog’s behaviour, enjoyment, recall, lead walking, travel etc..

Your obligations

Always remember that commitment is two way, when entering into an agreement with your dog walker you will also have responsibilities and obligations to them, little things can be so helpful and expeditious such as leaving out towels, any accoutrements for after the walk (prepared food, snack etc..) and making prompt and full payment. An offer to be a referee in the future or a kind social media review is most welcome, and a word of mouth recommendation is a lovely accolade.

Ensure your dog has correctly fitted collars / harnesses and that they are in good condition. Collar tags and microchips are a requirement as per the Dangerous Dog’s Act. If your dog wears a muzzle, ensure it is the correct fit and that your dog is conditioned to wear it. Show your dog walker how everything is fitted.

When completing the dog walkers’ paperwork be honest about your dog, they will have a short assessment form and that is there for a reason. Dogs have their little foibles, and these will show after a short time with the walker e.g. if recall isn’t great then think about giving your permission for him to be walked off the lead, tell the dog walker if she likes to chase joggers, do they have any food intolerances or even allergies and tell them what his favourite toy or treat is!

Many people think that engaging a dog walker will automatically resolve certain “issues” – socialisation, behaviour, stop lead pulling etc…  Most dog walkers are exactly that – dog walkers. Not all are trainers / behaviourists so don’t expect training miracles!  If the dog walker felt the need for you and your dog to undergo additional, specialist training, would you be willing to do so?

If your dog walker isn’t working out the way you thought it would – in the first instance, we encourage communication. We will also be addressing this in greater detail in a future, separate article.

Our Members

Each verified member will hold a Certificate of membership which details their name, business name, membership number and validity date. We also encourage our members to use our Verified Member Site Seal on their website and letterheads so if you see it, you can be assured that they were background checked at point of joining. We check that they hold business insurance and are either HMRC registered or disclosure checked. A disclosure check is a criminal record background check. We do have a large database of subscribers but not all have verified their businesses – so if they are unable to provide a certificate then they haven’t been verified by us.

All members (dog walkers) listed on our website agree to voluntarily comply as far as practicable with the Professional Dog Walkers Association Best Practice Guidelines. You can also ask to see these at your meeting.

Whilst every effort has been made on our part to ensure the integrity of our members’ businesses at their time of joining, we are not responsible for them as individuals or as a business or validity of their documentation going forward.

If you wish to proceed to view our members directory you understand and accept that we are unable to guarantee that members follow the best practice guidelines and that each member is responsible for all activities carried out within their own business.

We accept no responsibility nor be liable for any damage (including without limitation, damage for loss of business or loss of profits,) arising in contract, tort or otherwise from the use of, or inability to use, this site or any material contained in it, or from any action or decision taken as a result of using this site or any such material or your engagements with any member.

We are available for chat on the phone or by email. please note our opening hours for telephone support but due to our working commitments we may not always be available… do leave a message and we will always return your call.

Thanks for reading, you may download / print your handy checklist here:

Created by: Professional Dog Walkers Association 23/10/2019