do you know how safe your dog is when you’re not there?
With an estimated 12 million dogs in the UK, the need for dog walkers is huge. But how do you go about choosing the right dog walker, what are your responsibilities and what are the steps that both the walker and the owner can go through to ensure that horrific deaths from dog mauling don’t continue?
Sadly, Friday 13th January 2023 brought terrible news of the death of a dog walker. She was walking many dogs and for whatever reason these dogs went into a pack mentality and savagely killed her. Whilst many will want to speculate and assign blame to the walker let’s look collectively at what we can all do to ensure safe walking.
This is not a post to pass judgement, or to discuss the situation. It is a post to provide you, the dog owner, with more information so that when you are looking at hiring a dog walker you will have carried out a significant amount of research and know that you have done your due diligence.
As a professional dog walking business I know that your dog is your best friend, and they need you to do your research!
Anyone in charge of a dog has responsibilities, whether it is the owner or the walker. As a dog walking company we have written thorough systems and procedures that not only ensure consistency in our service but also identify our responsibilities. These procedures also ensure that we have a training manual ready to give to anyone who works with us. They are not written up once and then forgotten, they are an open document which are continuously updated.
Here are three of our key responsibilities.
- To the dogs to keep all dogs safe
- To the owners to keep their dogs safe
- To the community to keep them and their dogs safe
We have developed procedures that allow us to get to know both the owner and the dog and vice versa. The procedures allow us to ensure safety guidelines are always maintained. When you’re in a situation it is difficult to think clearly. Having procedures allows the thinking to be done away from the stress of the situation. We will happily abort a walk if we feel that any of the above points are at risk.
A dog in our care is our responsibility. If we need to stop a dog walk and return home to spend time playing in the garden instead because a walk is deemed ‘unsafe’, then that is what we will do.
How do we vet dogs for our group adventures?
To join a group adventure a dog will have been invited, this means that we have already built up a relationship with that dog and we think that their character will fit with the rest of the group. Our group adventures are structured in such a way that it is not a free for all opportunity for the dogs to mess around with each other. It is an engaged and enriching activity that ensures the dogs are focussed on what we, the humans, are doing rather than each other. Our group adventures are restricted to six dogs (as per our insurance), have two adults present, and take place in private fields that we have hired out to ensure that we do not interfere with other dogs or their owners.
As a dog owner, you too have responsibilities. If you see someone with a dog on the lead, be considerate and give them space and do not let your dog go over to them. Be aware of what your dog is doing, where they are and be engaged with them. They should not be out of your sight in public places, particularly where there are other people and other dogs. The mentality of ‘It’s ok, he’s friendly’ does not make it ok to not know where your dog is.
There are roughly 2 million more dogs now than there were before lockdown and with people back in the office there is a huge demand for dog walkers. Unfortunately, there is no legislation which means anyone can set up a walking service. You, as a dog owner, need to do your research as no-one else will. Dog boarders must be licensed by the council, but many aren’t. Your dog is your furrbaby, they are part of your family and finding someone who ‘loves your dog’ too is just not good enough. Councils across the country differ in their need for dog walking license requirements. To be a dog walker in Solihull you do not need a license, and this is something that I would like to see changed.
Regardless of whether there is legislation or not, a professional dog walking business will treat their business as if there is.The Pet Sitter Solihull
Like anything in life you get what you pay for, and like any industry there are responsible businesses and there are irresponsible businesses. So, it is imperative to ask questions and don’t assume that all dog walkers are the same. One quick google search showed that dog walking is considered a good side hustle to make money. Do you want someone who considers walking your dog a good way to earn some easy cash, or do you want someone who has a professional dog walking business with documented systems and procedures that puts your dog’s wellbeing as their top priority?
What do you ask a potential dog walker? If there is no legislation how do you know your dog will be safe?
Ask questions, be thorough, look at testimonials and ask to speak to the dog walkers other customers. If your dog walker can’t or won’t be happy to answer your questions then look for someone who will.
Some questions that you should be asking are
- Do you have insurance
- Are you licensed (for dog boarders)
- What is your experience
- How many dogs do you walk
- What is your vetting process
- Do they have a DBS
- What qualifications do they have
- Do they offer a meet and greet
- Is there a consent form – so you know exactly what you’re agreeing to.
- Will you have a service agreement
What does a dog walker do?
Your dog needs mental and physical exercise and your dog walker should be ticking both these boxes. What enrichment activites does your walker do? Do they play games, do they teach your dog new tricks? If these are the types of things you do with your dog, why shouldn’t you expect this from your dog walker too?
Could you walk a large number of dogs and ensure that they were all receiving the attention they need and behaving well? If you wouldn’t do it, then don’t expect someone else to do it.
What to do if a dog does attack?
Firstly, I am not an expert in this, I do not deal with aggressive dogs, so I am not trained for aggression. However, from many experts that I do follow on social media, the main point to note is that you need to get the attacking dog off your dog, rather than the other way round. To do this you need to place your hand underneath their collar, twist and lift. The objective is to choke the dog so that they will release their prey. If they don’t have a collar use a lead or a belt instead.
Whilst the life of a dog walker might sound like an easy way to make money, a professional and responsible dog walker takes this job very seriously. They know that there is more to it than a quick walk around the block.