More than just walking the dog

This week I want to talk about a familiar and much discussed topic- Hiring a dog walker, specifically for group walks.

There are so many dog walkers out there it's overwhelming and not all are created equal!

We are asked to recommend dog walkers on a daily basis. This is always a tough one for me as so many variables go into to choosing the right walker for you and your pup. It's much more than just making sure your pups gets out of the house for an hour while you are away at work.

Of course you want to hire a walker that is bonded, insured (make sure all employees that may walk your dog are insured), reliable, trustworthy and is trained in dog first aid. These are all the normal questions we check off our list when meeting a potential walker.

You also need to think about what kind of walk suits your pups energy level, training level and personality. Does your pup require a good romp off leash or does a street walk suit him better?

I have seen good, bad and excellent walkers, both on leash and off. Here are some things to consider;

STREET WALKS

- is the pack- size and age appropriate? If you have a senior Pomchi do you want him in a pack with a bunch of energetic, large breed youngsters?

This age range is a challenge I face right now with my 9 year old Ridgeback (Tega) and my 4 year old Bulldog (Charlotte). When we street walk, Tega is usually dragging behind. If we walk at Tega's pace I usually have to take Charlotte out again for a run on her own.

As far as size goes, too often I see a little dog being forced to walk in stride with big dogs which results in multiple leash corrections to speed up the little one or the little one being dragged behind. If you can't find a walker that accommodates for this you may want to look into a private walk.

- how is the hour broken up? Is it walking from house to house, picking up and dropping off? Or is most of the hour spent walking as a pack?

- does your pup have any leash aggression?

If you are you can't answer with a confident no, group leash walks may not be ideal.

- what form of communication is used to curb unwanted behavior?

If you verbally correct your pup he may be stressed and confused by leash corrections.

Dogs get more out of a street walk than most think. They learn a lot and habits are formed so be sure you and your walker are on the same page and use consistent and agreed upon methods of training.

OFF LEASH WALKS

- when does the hour start, once the dogs arrive at the park or as soon as the pup gets in the car?

- what kind of vehicle is used, safety measures while traveling?

- how is your dogs recall?

If you have any reservations about recall, off leash may not be the right choice for your pup.

- what happens at the park and which park?

This is a very important. You have hired this person to WALK your dog, yes, even at an off leash park. Dogs are pack animals and will do as the pack leader does. If the leader is standing around chatting with other walkers, guess what Rover is doing... standing around until he gets bored and decides to make his own fun. Good walkers will keep the pack moving and engaged.

The park itself is important too. In my opinion, small fenced in parks like Greenwood are not at all suitable for walkers and their packs. Cherry Beach, The Brick Works or any other off leash areas with lots of room to be on the move. Trees are a must for shade in the summer.

- how are corrections handled?

Here again, it is very important you and your walker are on the same page. I've seen a range of corrections at off leash parks from no corrections at all, to full on yelling and alpha rolls. A lot can happen off leash, your walker needs to be in control of the pack and lead by example.

The role a dog walker plays in your pups life is an important one. Careful thought should go into making your decision. Take some time and do your research. Call a few walkers and ask about their usual route then make a point of  walking on those streets or visiting the park to see the walker in action. Maybe ask to join your potential walker on a walk before you make your final decision.

 To help get you started, once you have decide on what kind of walk you are looking for we'll be happy to recommend walkers we know and trust.
Good luck and we hope this helps!