Finding the right dog walker is not always easy, particularly if you want to maintain the same routine and training. Then there's the question of trust - who will you be happy with to enter your home, secure it and take a member of your family out for a walk without you being there. Professionalism is important too - what happens if something goes wrong or your personal data is compromised? Last but no means least, are you getting what you pay for? Is your dog getting the very best from their walk or are they being thrown into a stressful situations spending far too much time in a car and less out in the amazing Plymouth Countryside having fun?
Walking a dog might sound like a simple job but there's so much more to it behind the scenes. Asking the right dog walker questions will find out who is going to take care of your dog the way you want them to, as well as provide all of the safety and security precautions you expect.
Here are 23 questions you need to be asking your dog walker before you let them walk your dog.
1. Can we meet first?
A good dog walker should be happy to meet you first to run through all of the questions you have as well as the necessary paperwork and arrangements. This is the perfect chance for you to see if the fit is right, whether you trust the individual and for you to see how they interact with your dog.
Harris Hounds always book a consultation with every customer which is either a walk or a home visit, this is an essential part of the booking process. We take this opportunity to talk about your dog, our policies and what you can expect from our dog walks. We'll never walk a dog we haven't met before.
2. Are you insured?
Insurance is absolutely paramount to protect everybody - dog walker, your dog and the general public. If your walker doesn't have insurance, you have to question whether they take safety as seriously as they should.
Harris Hounds are covered by Pet Business Insurance which includes: Public Liability (should an animal cause an accident or injury or damage someone else’s property); Care Custody and Control (in case the animal is injured or lost); Non-Negligent Cover (covers accidental injury to an animal in our care) and Loss of Keys just in case we misplace them.
3. Are you DBS checked?
This is a basic police check to see if the dog walker has any criminal convictions. Given that dog walkers will need to have access to your house while you are not there, this places them in an extremely responsible position. A DBS check offers extra reassurance that your dog walker has not been in trouble with the law.
Harris Hounds Walkers are all DBS checked as standard, without exception! Chris the owner is an Ex Police Intelligence Officer!
4. Are you qualified in pet first aid?
You hope that it will never be needed but knowing that your dog walker is trained in pet first aid and can act quickly in case the worst happens should be near the top of your list of questions.
Harris Hounds walkers are all certified pet first aiders. This is an essential part of their training.
5. Are you GDPR compliant?
GDPR means General Data Protection Regulation and it is the law. GDPR is there to protect your privacy and to keep data safe. Information about your home and pets should be kept on a secure server or in a locked filing cabinet bolted to the floor. Businesses that don't take these steps are putting your data at risk. Even individuals can be investigated and fined for data breaches.
Harris Hounds won’t retain personal data for any longer than is necessary for the purpose it was obtained for. Information we hold for customers is stored in a safe, secure server and is never passed to third parties.
6. Do you have a contract or service agreement?
A professional dog walker will ask you to sign a contract which sets out their obligations to you, how much the services will cost and the schedule. Make sure you read this thoroughly and ask any questions you need to clarify things before booking.
Harris Hounds will go through our electronic service agreement with you during the consultation if you haven't already read and agreed to this prior to the meeting. We also perform a behaviour assessment of your dog through observation and by asking you questions about them such as how they react to other dogs. This helps us to build up a profile of your dog so that we can better meet their needs and tailor their walks accordingly.
7. How much do you charge?
This might be top of some lists but price is more than just an hourly rate. Ask what you're getting for the money as the cheapest is certainly not always the best! How long will your dog spend in transit? Will your dog be sharing its walk with several others?
Harris Hounds charge a fair rate for the quality of walk they provide. Our dog walkers are trained professionals and like any carer, their love of pets doesn’t just stop when playtime ends. Our walkers are happy to share their knowledge and experience with you and refer you to our advisory content online at https://www.harrishounds.com/blog
8. How do I book?
It's important to understand the process for booking and to be sure you'll be able to book the same dog walker each time. Is it easy to get in touch with your walker directly or do you have to go via an app or website first? Find out how much notice you need to give for cancellations and holidays too.
Harris Hounds work out their booking slot with you in advance either by Facebook Messenger, email or phone. If you want regular walks, these are booked in automatically. Otherwise, for the week ahead you'll be given the chance to book in your preferred dates and times for the following week.
9. How do I pay?
Do you need to pay each time your walker visits with cash? Can you pay at the end of the month by bank transfer?
Harris Hounds require payment in advance of all walks, this can either be done in cash or Via BAC's. Payment periods can be flexible and in relation to how many walks a week / month you have.
10. What days and times will you be walking my dog?
Find out your dog walker's opening hours and the days of the week they are working, some only work Monday to Friday. Are their walking times convenient for you? Especially if you work shifts?
Harris Hounds are available Mon - Fri and available by request on evening and weekends, we will work with you to organise the best times to walk your dog.
11. How long will my dog walk last?
Most dog walkers will charge an hourly rate but don't be afraid to ask for more detail on how much time is actually spent walking rather than in transit. Ask which local spots your dog walker intends to take your dog to and how many dogs they will be picking up on the way. This will give you an idea of transport time versus walking time. If your dog spends more time getting to its walk than actually doing it, they could experience anxiety when they get there and on the way home.
Harris Hounds pre plan all their driving routes to ensure that as little time as possible is spent driving around and if we say the walk took one hour we really mean it!
12. Do you have a back up to cover sickness or holiday?
If your dog walker is sick or goes on holiday, will another walker who you know and trust be able to step into their place?
Harris Hounds is made up of more than1 Dog walker meaning that in theory we should always be able to provide walks without ever having to let you or your four legged friend down!
13. Will you be walking my dog with other dogs?
This is important to know because most dog walkers intend to walk your dog with another. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you are apprehensive about it, a good dog walker will talk you through their process and how they assess whether your dog can or should be walked with others.
Harris Hounds will walk your dog with other dogs if you would like us to and our behavioural assessment permits it. We know the dogs we walk incredibly well, not just in terms of their breed, but their individual personalities too. So when we meet new dogs, we already have an idea of who might make the perfect play partner for them. We will quickly notice when a dog likes the company of another dog on a regular walk. If they seem fretful or hang back, this probably means they do not like the other dog’s company so we will find them another walking companion. We always make sure the dogs we walk together are well matched. If you do not want us to walk your dog with another, we can either walk them solo or build them up gradually to walk well with others - with your permission of course.
14. Does my dog have to be vaccinated?
If you haven't managed to keep up to date with your dog's vaccinations, will your dog walker still be able to walk them?
Harris Hounds will still walk your dog if they are not vaccinated but do require up to date vaccinations for our Home boarding Service.
15. Can you still walk my dog if it's in season?
If you have a bitch in season, can your dog walker still walk them as usual?
Harris Hounds can't walk your dog if it is in season unfortunately. This is because it is too risky to your dog's safety. https://www.harrishounds.com/post/can-i-walk-my-dog-if-she-is-in-season
16. What is your experience with dogs?
Your dog walker should be confident handling a variety of dogs and know how to recognise what mood they are in from their behaviour. Find out their background working with animals before committing to their services.
Harris Hounds are all genuine animal lovers and have experience handling dogs of all sizes and breeds!
17. Will you carry on the training methods I am using?
If you are training your dog, the last thing you need is another handler coming in and using different commands and techniques that might confuse your dog. Find out whether your dog walker is willing to adapt their technique for your dog.
Harris Hounds will try their best to continue any methods of training you have in place and update you on their progress as often as you like.
18. Will you update me on the walk?
It's important that there is transparency between you and your dog walker so that you can develop a trusting relationship. Your dog walker should share accurate and timely information with you, as well as provide evidence of how the walk went.
Harris Hounds give regular feedback by photos so you can see exactly how much fun your dog is having. We also leave notes or send you messages if you request them.
19. Do you walk on or off lead?
This is a big question for many dog owners as it may dictate where the dog walk takes place, how satisfied the dog will be from its walk and also how safe you feel with your dog in the walker's care. Describe the kind of walks you go on and situations when your dog is on or off lead. A good dog walker will be very attentive to this information and let you know how they intend to proceed.
Harris Hounds will consult with you in detail on whether your dog is suitable to be walked on or off lead. We always walk your dog on a long line initially until we're confident their recall with our walker is reliable. If you would like us to help build on your dog's recall so that they can be walked off lead, we are happy to do that. We do walks both on and off lead and will always put your dog's needs first. We also run Paddock Session which are perfect for dogs with poor recall, these are great as they are in an enclosed fenced area meaning that is is 100% safe to let dogs off lead.
20. What is your cancellation policy?
Find out how much notice you need to give of cancellations and changes to bookings to avoid extra costs.
Harris Hounds require 24 hours notice for free cancellation.
21. What will my dog be transported in?
It is vital that your dog is transported safely to and from their walk. Ask your dog walker exactly what type of vehicle and equipment they use. Perhaps they could show you on the meet and greet. Also enquire about how many dogs will be transported in a van or car at once and for how long.
Harris Hounds will transport your dog using a crate, harness or dog guard depending on the size of dog. We have strict health and safety policies on transporting dogs safely and how to handle them getting in and out of our vans.
22. Do you have vet support? What would you do in an emergency?
Dog walkers should be taking the details of your dog's vet to go to in an emergency as well as having relationships with their own local vet if yours is unavailable.
Harris Hounds will always use your own Vet as the first port of call but we also have 24 hour a day vet support from our friends over at the Plymouth Veterinary Group.
23. What do you do if my dog comes back soaking and muddy?
Will your dog walker be respectful of your home on a wet day? Will you come home to your house in a state?
Harris Hounds always towel down your dog before letting them back into the house. We will remove shoes or overshoes and will never tread mud into your home. In the case that you dog gets so muddy that it is past the point of cleaning them up with a towel we do have a portable Pressure Washer in the vans to clean them down appropriately.
If you'd like to meet Chris from Harris Hounds in person and go through these questions with him please feel free to get in touch!