10 Things to look for when hiring a Dog Walker in Toronto
When looking for a dog walker, the 10 points below should be considered a must. Remember to keep checking your dog's behaviour and have a trial period with a walker before committing long term.
1. What training methods does the walker use with their dogs?
I cannot count the times that I pick up a dog that does not know how to walk properly on a leash. This to a walker who actually walks the dogs on walks, can slow down and disrupt the whole pack. So how does the walker deal with a dog that does not walk well? How does the walker deal with a dog that has reactivity to another dog in the pack or maybe another dog they pass on the street? These are a few questions that are important to ask when choosing a dog walker. There are different styles of training methods and it's important that you choose someone who you believe will best be able to properly handle issues when they come up, because I promise you; they will come up!
2. Who does the walking?
Depending on the size of the company, you could have multiple people walking your dog and coming in and out of your house. So who does the walking? If you are choosing a larger company, do you get to meet the walker before they walk your dog? Are all walkers in that company trained with similar methods and techniques? That's great that you vibe with the owner of the company but who is with your dog every day? Remember often what your dog learns out there on walks, they will often bring back home! Choose your Toronto dog walker carefully.
3. Does the walker take the dogs to an off leash park or do they do on leash walks?
Just because the website says a “One Hour Walk” does not mean that your dog is on a one hour walk. There are different styles of “Walks.” Often what are called ‘walks’ are packs of dogs from different walkers together in an off leash dog park. This in my opinion should be called something completely different. Perhaps to prevent confusion, this style of walk should be called “One Hour Park Play.’ If you are looking to have your dog walking and in motion for an hour, make sure that that is what is actually happening. If you are happy with your dog going to play in an off-leash park with dozens of dogs from different walkers, just make sure to clarify.
4. Is your dog being transported anywhere?
This summer I read in a Facebook group for dog walkers, that a local Toronto dog had died while in the care of a walker from heat exhaustion. This happened while the dog was being transported with other dogs for their daily ‘walk’. I also picked up a new client whose last dog was killed by jumping out of a window of a moving car into traffic while with her dog walker. This is horrible for everyone involved and if we stopped to ask all the questions, perhaps some of these unfortunate incidents could be prevented. Ask your potential walker: Is my dog being transported? How many dogs do you transport at one time? How is your vehicle ventilated? Is the time spent in the vehicle included in my quoted ‘walking’ time?
This is your dog's life and you can't ask too many questions when it comes to safety.
5. Is your dog walker Pet First Aid Certified?
If you have ever taken any kind of course, remember how easy it was to memorize what you needed to for that course and then how quickly you forgot afterward? So don’t just ask if the person is First Aid Certified but take it one step further and ask how recent that training was and how often they take a refresher course. Don’t stop there, ask your potential dog walker to demonstrate what they would do if a dog in their care choked? How do they know if a dog is going into shock? What are the signs of a dog overheating? If you, as an owner, do not know the answers to these questions, you should and I recommend taking a pet first aid course yourself.
6. Is your walker Insured and Bonded?
What happens if your dog is playing in an off leash park and another dog from another walker attacks your dog? Now your dog needs serious veterinary care and you are not there. Unfortunately, these things unfortunately happen! Not only should you know what the walkers emergency protocol is but who pays for this vet bill? Vet bills are expensive. Insurance exists to help us when disaster hits. Make sure your dog walker is set up properly. Ask who their provider is.
7. Does your walker have strong reviews or references?
I have personally witnessed a dog walker who does not have control of her pack. This dog walker does not have control of her pack. Her dogs are reactive and she freezes when they act out. I pass her everyday and I ask myself, how anyone would trust her with their dogs?! After finding out her sole proprietorship name, I decided to google her. This walker has a one star on her review on Google. She does not come up as a strong walker by any standard. I have to ask myself, are her clients doing any research before hiring her? If you saw a walker with a one-star review, is someone you would trust to walk your dog? I, most certainly would not!
8. Do you get an update after each walk?
How does your dog walker communicate with you? Do you know how long your dog was out and if they went number 2? This is important to help you to prevent accidents in the house later on. You should have an update after every walk.
9. What is your dog walkers availability?
When do they take time off? Who will cover them if they take time off? Do they offer boarding as a part of their service to your pet? Can you get a hold of your walker by phone or email easily during working hours?
During regular working hours and often after hours, I am extremely responsive and available to my clients. If something goes wrong and you have a question, this is an important part of a dog walking service. It's not only the scheduled time you book between your walker and your dog that matters but is your walker available and happy to answer your questions when needed?
10. What do your dog walks cost?
When searching for a Walker, you will find a wide range of prices being charged. you are looking to go cheap on your dog walks, remember that this is a business where typically, you get what you pay for. If you are hiring someone who does this full time and takes it seriously, it's going to cost you more. If you are looking to penny pinch on your dog walks, likely you will not land someone who treats this job seriously. Do you want someone walking your dog who does this as a hobby? Will they understand and be able to identify issues before they arise? Are they the best person to keep your dog happy and safe? In my opinion, I think there are better ways to save a few bucks.