How to Choose Your Dog Walker

Hiring a professional dog walker can be a huge benefit, creating peace of mind that your pets are in qualified hands when you cannot be with them. But without the right information, it can be difficult to decide among the many options offered in the pet care community. Companies range in size, credentials, services offered and much more. It takes more than a passion for animals to properly care for dogs and cats in a range of circumstances, and confidence in your company and walker is essential.

To ensure that your pet’s new friend is the right fit, use the questions below as a guideline for selecting your dog walker or pet sitter.

1. Is the company licensed, bonded and insured?

Any company with a ‘professional’ title should hold current liability and workers compensation insurance and be bonded and licensed in the state in which they operate. Being licensed, bonded and insured means that you can rest easy knowing the company has the ability to correct for unforeseen circumstances.

2. What kind of training do employees receive and what equipment do you use?

The company should have a training program in place, and be able to detail it for you. Training should be extensive, with policies and procedures in place to keep both your pet and the walker safe. Typically, both classroom and field work is the mark of a thorough training regime. It’s also important to see what type of equipment is used. Retractable leashes have been shown to carry significant risk, so see what the policy is on their use, and what safety policies are in place. It’s also beneficial to inquire if Pet
CPR and First Aid training are offered to the individuals taking care of your pet.

3. Will I be able to meet and interact with my sitter?

You should feel confident in the level of interaction you will have with your sitter. How are you updated about what occurred during a visit? Some companies leave daily notes, send emails or have applications that allow you to log in and see what occurred. Do you feel it necessary to meet each sitter who comes to care for your pets? Find out the communication style of the company and technology used before deciding who the right fit is for you.

4. What is included in the visit and how are visit lengths structured?
How much time do you need for your pet and what are minimum visit requirements? A company agreeing to an excessively short visit for multiple pets does not have their best interestin mind. Is there a minimum on how often a visit is required? Such requirements show that
care of the animal is the company’s top priority.

5. What is the pricing structure for multiple dogs or pets? Are dogs walked together?

Do you have more than one pet needing care? Some companies will impose a surcharge for multiple animals, while others bill by length
of visit. If you have a multiple pet home, it may be best to search for a service without an extra charge. Walking multiple dogs together can be dangerous, and it’s important to see how many dogs are regularly walked together. The safest choice is to have one walker per dog or per household if your animals are regularly walked together.

6. How much control over the specific arrival time is available?

Dog walking is a dynamic job, and things can change quickly based on weather, the other animals on a walker’s route and other factors. If
you need your dog seen at a precise time, ask if that is possible, or if they have a time window that will allow your needs to be met.

7. Do you have a professional service contract and references?

Entrusting a company with the care of your animal is a big step. You should receive detailed paperwork outlining policies and procedures and take the time to carefully read them. References should be available upon your request, and it’s also helpful to check for testimonials online.

8. Are they a member of organizations such as NAPPS and PSI, or a local Pet Sitting and Dog Walking organization such as NVPPSN, which operates in Northern Virginia?

NAPPS, the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, and PSI, Pet Sitters International, are both run for and by professional pet sitting companies. The organizations have standards for membership that require excellence from members, and should provide you with extra peace of mind when selecting a member organization.

If you take the time to carefully choose the right walker for your dog, the company you choose should be able to answer the questions above to your satisfaction. Your pets deserve the best, and with the right research, you can guarantee they get it!

Becky O’Neil is a pet expert and for 15 years has owned and operated Becky’s Pet Care, a professional dog walking and pet sitting service provider serving Northern Virginia.

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