Walking a dog.
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How to Find and Choose a Reliable Dog Walker

Dogs need walks! Walks are multifaceted, and provide canines with exercise, time to socialize, and of course, a bathroom break. The stimulation that dogs get from a walk keeps them physically healthy and mentally fit.

Even dogs who have backyards need daily walks. But people are busy, and you may not have the time or energy to give your dog a good walk every day. Enter: the dog walker.

Dog walkers ensure that your dog gets their daily exercise. But choosing a dog walker can be difficult – you have to entrust them with access to your home, and with the safety and wellbeing of your pet. This is not a decision to make lightly.

Luckily, there are a few ways to find a good, trustworthy dog walker, who both you and your dog will love. Read on to learn all about how to find and choose a reliable dog walker.

A dog walker with sitting dogs.

How do I find a dog walker in my area?

The best way to find a dog walker in your neighborhood is to ask people. References go a long way! Plus first hand knowledge and experience always beats random references online. Consider asking the following people:

  • Dog Park Visitors: Dog owners at your local dog park most likely live in the neighborhood, and may use a dog walker themselves. Ask for recommendations and their experience with their walker.
  • Doormen: Doormen see all the comings and goings of the building and the neighborhood. They know who is walking dogs in the area and in your building.
  • Dog owners in your building/neighborhood: Fellow dog owners in your area will have suggestions on who walks their dogs, why they love them, etc. Asking those in your building is a plus because if you end up using the same walker, you may be able to strike a deal.
  • Your local pet store: Pet stores often have the low down on dog walkers, and might display ads in their store.
  • Your vet, groomer, or trainer: Any one local to your area that you trust and has experience with dogs is a good person to ask.

It’s a good idea to ask people with dog experience and good judgement. Ask a few varied folks, and then look up their suggestions on Yelp, Google, and on social media. The more information you learn, the easier it will be to assess whether the walker is a good fit for you and your dog.

Dog walker.

Questions to ask a dog walker:

  • Can I speak to a few of your other clients? – Every good dog walker should have references, and will happily provide the name and contact information of their happy customers. Anonymous online reviews only mean so much. You definitely want to speak to others who have first hand experience with the walker you will potentially hire.
  • What will my dog’s walk be like? – Ask about walk times, routes and protocols – will your dog be walked solo or with other dogs? How long is each walk? Is it the same route every day?
  • What sort of communication can I expect? – Not all dog walkers are created equal. Some will text you multiple times a day – when they arrive, when they leave, etc. – while others leave small report cards after a walk, and some might even share photos on their website or social media. Ask about their communication practices to make sure you’re comfortable with the level of contact provided.
  • What would you do in case of an emergency? – Things happen! Should an emergency occur, a dog walker should be able to articulate a clear plan of action. Do they know local vets and animal hospitals? Do they have emergency numbers in their phone?
  • Do you have insurance? – Professional dog walkers should be bonded and insured for both your protection and theirs.
  • Do you have credentials? – It’s best when the dog walker has certification in basic veterinary first aid and animal CPR.
  • When is the meet-and-greet? – Potential walkers should require a meet-and-greet in order to meet you and your dog face-to-face. This is a great way to gauge how they interact with your dog and if your dog likes them.
  • Do you have any questions? – A dog walker should be as interested in you and your dog as you are in them. They should definitely ask you questions too, and want to ensure that you’d make a good fit as a new client.
Dog walking in NYC.

Dog Walker Red Flags

If you notice any of the following, you should consider getting a new dog walker:

  • Bad communication – No updates, doesn’t respond in a timely manner, no check-ins, etc.
  • Irresponsible – Late, bad with time, loses keys or other items, etc.
  • Untrustworthy – Caught in a lie, does not walk your dog for the full time period, etc.
  • Signs from your dog – Is your dog excited to see their walker? Does their tail wag? These are signs that your dog and the walker have a good relationship. If your dog is showing negative signs – ears back, tail tucked between their legs, cowering or crouching – trust them and know something else is going on.
  • Bad reviews – If you hear and/or read multiple negative reviews about a walker, it’s time to move on.
  • No meet-and-greet – If a walker agrees to walk your dog without meeting them first or asking any questions about them, that’s a huge red flag. They should be as interested in you and your dog as you are in them.
A distracted dog walker.

How can you tell if a dog walker is trustworthy?

Actions speak louder than words, especially when it comes to building a relationship and learning if someone is trustworthy. Here are some signs to look out for to ensure that your dog walker can be trusted with both your dog and in your home:

  • They communicate frequently and clearly.
  • They are responsible and on time.
  • They are consistent.
  • They respect boundaries.
  • They are respectful to you, your dog, and people in general.
NYC dog walker.

Should I use Rover or Wag to find a dog walker?

Rover and Wag are marketplaces where vendors can provide a service, sort of like Airbnb or Uber. With Rover and Wag, people can easily create a profile and advertise themselves to dog walk or dog sit. Booking is usually done quickly through the apps, and buyers can leave reviews.

Like anything, there are pros and cons to Rover and Wag. Let’s lay them out:

The Pros to Using Rover or Wag to hire a dog walker:

The pros are that it’s easy to book a walk or dog sit through the app. There are usually plenty of options (depending on your area), and it’s great to use when in a bind or need a walker last minute.

The options on both apps are also pretty economical and won’t break the bank. The apps also offer a GPS map of the walk, as well as start and stop times, total distance, and pee, poo, food, and water break updates.

The Cons to Using Rover or Wag to hire a dog walker:

There are a few cons:

*Lack of experience. One major con is that anyone can sign up to be a dog walker or sitter on these apps, including people with no little to no dog experience. This has lead to some bad situations (Google it, but be forewarned) where dogs have been lost, hurt, or even stolen.

*No personal referrals. Booking someone you’re unfamiliar with to enter your home and spend time with your dog is never easy. It sounds simple, but there needs to be a certain level of trust. While you can choose walkers with plenty of positive reviews to ease your worries, you’re still relying on anonymous (to you) reviews and not people you know first hand.

*Money. Since walkers are hired through a service, they don’t get 100% of the price of the walk. They must pay a fee. For example, Rover takes 15% of the cost. If a walker charges $25 for a 30 minute walk, they actually walk away with $21.25.

Keep in mind that a 30 minute walk is really more like an hour of their time, considering travel to and from, crating and/or feeding, dealing with doormen and keys, etc. Many have claimed that what you end up saving in money, you lose in quality.

*Trustworthiness and familiarity. While it’s preferable to use the same walker, it’s sometimes difficult to book the same person. That means your dog may have to deal with random people walking them. While that may work for some dogs, it might be difficult for others. Plus, it’s difficult to build trust when hiring random people repeatedly.

So…should I use Rover or Wag for a dog walker?

There are some instances where using Rover or Wag might work for you.

  • If a person comes personally recommended and asks you to book over Rover or Wag.
  • If you live in an area with extremely limited options.
  • If it’s an emergency.

Tips for using Rover or Wag for a dog walker

  • Tip your walker: As I wrote above, Rover and Wag take a percentage off of their fee. Tip them to show your gratitude.
  • Try to hire the same person consistently instead of hiring random walkers.
  • Leave reviews with your experiences.
  • Ask a lot of questions!
  • Hire a walker with many positive reviews.

How did you find a good dog walker? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

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How to find and choose a dog walker  - a trustworthy person with access to your home, and in charge of the safety and wellbeing of your pet.

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One Comment

  1. Talk to friends, family members, or neighbors who have used a dog walker and ask for their recommendations.

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