When choosing an appropriate dog walker for your shed-monster there are quite a few things to consider. You can treat the search for a good walker in the same manner that you would treat the search for a potential suitor. It may not be an easy process, sometimes there will be heartbreak and hurt feelings but if you are very honest about who you are, who your dog is, what you need and what you are able to offer in the relationship, a long lasting bond can form and flourish between you, your dog, your new dog walker and your whole family. Some helpful tips for finding a new dog walker (apply these also to finding a new lover): 1. Make sure you have chemistry. There's nothing worse than being caught at the front door in an awkward good-bye if you and your DW have different ideas of how to end the dog date. Do you embrace? A casual handshake? It doesn't matter. Just make sure you are both on the same page and keep it professional. Or don't keep it professional, that's fine, whatever. But it will be much harder to fire the DW if it turns out your dog doesn't care for the rest of the pack but you have already let them into other parts of your life. I'm not saying bedroom, but I think we all get that that's what I mean.
2. Establish trust above all. As you hand the leash over to the DW, you are with it, handing over your heart. That is, your best friend probably holds quite a large spot in that heart of yours and to have someone else take charge for the afternoon, 3-5 times a week can be quite an anxiety inducing situation. Until you have built a solid foundation based on mutual trust and respect (as you have done with your dog) it will continue to induce nauseating anxiety. This is a growing and learning process and you need to be patient, it may not happen on your first encounter. That being said, take a page from your dog's book and trust your gut. If the DW looks sleazy and makes inappropriate passes at you in front of your spouse, this is likely not a good fit. If you get a wonky feeling in the pit of your stomach and the theme music to "Twin Peaks" plays in your head when the person parks their car at your curb, this is probably not the walker for your dog. If your sweet fluffy Molly turns into Cujo when your new DW rings the doorbell, so much so that you have to use an umbrella to get her out of the way for fear of loosing your arm, you may need to let this one go. Use your head and allow for trust to grow and build naturally but follow your instincts.
3. Must love dogs. They don't need to love your pup as much as you do because, let's face it, that's not possible, but a good DW will have a genuine passion and natural affinity for dogs. It will help if this person also loves John Cusack but it's not a requirement. It is just as important that your dog likes his new k-9 friends as it is that he likes the new DW. If your dog doesn't play well within the pack or if he is the tiniest guy in a bunch of rough and tumble bigger dogs, he may be quite stressed out to go on outings with the crew, which defeats the purpose of sending him on play-dates. Ask to go for a ride along early on in your relationship to see how this person interacts with the dogs and to meet the rest of the pack your dog will be walking with. The DW will be on their best behaviour when you are there so it's best to then take a few days off of work, rent a van with tinted windows and park across the street from where they are playing with binoculars and see what's really going on. KIDDING! That's crazy, who would do that.......?
4. If you give out your keys, be sure to get them back. I'm sure we've all been in a situation where we regret having handed out the keys to our home with such reckless abandon. It is quite an ordeal tracking down your house keys from someone who must relinquish their rights of having them. This is not surprising as there is some strange shame involved in returning house keys. "What? I can't have these anymore? You don't trust me or something? Are you breaking up with me?" Just make sure you are confident in your new DW before shelling out the $2.50 it costs to cut new keys because the cost of changing your locks should the relationship not work out and you are too nervous to actively break it off so instead you do the old "passive-aggressive-lock-change-up" is much higher and pretty uncomfortable for everyone.
Take heart in knowing that many people have been down this road. While it may seem daunting to venture into the unknown, the rewards of having really solid a foundation between yourself and your dog walker are priceless. And if it doesn't work out, know that you will love again and your dog probably doesn't care that much as long as the next walker brings treats.