Thursday, August 25, 2011

Spot Goes Back to School- with the dog walker

Because dog daycare may not be for everyone, there are other options available for pet care.  If you work long days and want your dog to get a break somewhere in the middle, a dog walker may be the best option for you.  The dog walker can take your pup out during the day; give her a nice potty break and some exercise while relieving you of the stress and guilt you might experience when thinking about your dog being stuck at home all day. So how does one find the right dog walker for their needs?
5 Things You Should Know About Dog Walkers
1.      Where do I find a dog walker?
Finding a reputable dog walker is much easier to do these days thanks to the internet.  There are several websites that provide an ample amount of local pet sitters, dog walkers, and much more.  Each pet care provider is given the opportunity to fill out a profile complete with bio, references, availability, reviews, and a background check.  You just have to either post a job opening for pet care providers to find you, or search through the pet care providers yourself and message a couple that you might like to interview. 

2.      Does my dog walker need to be licensed, insured and bonded?
In most cities, a business license is not required until a certain amount of money has been made.  Until that mark is hit, a business is usually considered a hobby business.  Most dog walkers do dog walking as a side business or for supplemental income, so they will not likely have a business license. If a dog walker has been in business for over a year, it is more than likely he/she qualifies for a business license, and it is up to you if you prefer they have one or not.
All pet care professionals should have liability insurance, which is easy to obtain by becoming a member of one of the following pet sitter associations: PSI, PSA, or NAPPS.  A pet care professional may try to get away with not having insurance by having certain waivers in their service contracts.  Ask your dog walker if he/she is insured, and if so, by whom.  
And lastly, the truth about bonding; According to Western Surety, “A bond protects the employer from dishonest acts (theft) caused by an employee or IC (independent contractor) of the employer.  It does absolutely nothing for the pet sitting client.”  In other words, a bond is completely worthless for a sole proprietor with no employees and does nothing for you as the client. Therefore, bonding is not a necessary requirement for your dog walker or pet sitter.

3.      How do I know I can trust this person?
Be sure to pick a dog walker that has had a background check run.  Those websites mentioned previously require a background check to be run every year, so although this isn’t always failsafe, it does provide one layer of security.  Also, always meet your dog walker in person before hiring them.  See how they interact with your dog.  Ask plenty of questions to test their knowledge about dogs (and to find out more about them if you like).  What do your instincts tell you about this person? If you aren’t a good judge of character you may want to employ the help of a friend who you trust to be a good judge of character.  There is no way to completely protect yourself against a good liar, but you don’t have to hire the first dog walker you meet.  Interview a few candidates before deciding.      

4.      What sort of qualities should I look for in a dog walker?
This is a more personal question, since only you know where your priorities are and what’s important to you. Of course, you want someone reliable. You need to know they will show up as scheduled without you there to greet them.  And you want someone who has experience handling dogs and (even better) dog fights.  Your dog will be outside of your home without you which can be a liability if he gets away from the dog walker and/or starts a fight with another neighborhood dog.  In addition, it would be extremely beneficial if the dog walker knew pet first-aid and CPR in case of an emergency. 

5.      What sort of questions should I ask when interviewing dog walkers?
Only you can decide the questions that will directly answer any concerns you may have.  Some questions you may not think to ask could be:  How many dogs do you walk at a time? How do you keep control of the dog(s) while walking?  Do you know pet first-aid? What would you do in a medical emergency? Do you work weekends and holidays?  What will you do on days that you can’t get to my house or the weather doesn’t permit you to go for a walk?  You should know what answers are acceptable to you before asking them otherwise their answers won’t carry much weight when you have to make a final decision.  If the dog walker can’t answer a certain questions, such as an a back-up plan in case of bad weather, you might be able to work something out with them, such as a potty break and a little play time indoors. 

A short list of care provider websites to help start your search:
These websites are designed to meet local needs.  When you sign up you fill out a profile and put in your zip code so when you post a job opening local dog walkers will respond. Or you can just put in your zip code and browse local dog walkers yourself.

Petsit USA: 
PSA (Pet Sitter’s Associates):
PSI (Pet Sitters International): 
NAPPS (National Association of Professional Pet Sitters):

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