I am constantly amazed at how many new dog walking services pop up all over Chicago. I would imagine this is consistent with other big cities. With downsizing and people's desires to run their own business, dog walking is often a natural fit for the dog lovers of the world.
But, like any other business, there are better options than others. How do you sift through all of the dog walkers to choose the best one for your dog?
Here are some questions and strategies that I recommend that you take into account when making a decision.
I always recommend meeting the dog walker that your service will be sending. I spoke with one of my clients that did not hire a service because the walker did not even pet the dog during the interview. Not a good way to endear yourself to a dog guardian!
How long have you been in business? Everyone has to start somewhere, but this is an important question. If has been a really short amount of time, you can press more and ask what their last job was, why they got into this business, etc. I would be cautious of someone that doesn't seem really committed. You don't want to be left high and dry by someone that changes their mind and chooses another line of work.
How many clients do you have? This will help you determine how successful they are and also how busy. If they are a one-person operation and have an usually high number of clients, that probably means they are stretched really thin and probably do pack walks. (See below).
Will you work with puppies that are not housetrained? Some services will not take on the added responsibility of potential clean-ups and multiple walks necessary for young puppies.
How many dogs do you walk at once? There are many dog walkers that do pack walks. I would never hire a dog walker that walks more than 2 or 3 dogs at the most. I would prefer that they just walk my dogs alone. For even the most skilled walker, it is difficult to walk a lot of dogs. What if dogs get into a fight? Do you want multiple dogs tromping through your house while they are picked up? I also worry about dogs urinating on each other when there are many dogs on one walk.
Do you do training on walks? I would not expect dog walkers to do a lot of training, but it is nice to know what they are willing to work on.
Do you leave notes after walks? This should be basic. The notes should be the potty report and if anything unusual happened on the walk. Some dog walkers send text messages or even call after walks.
Has a dog ever been injured in your care? What happened and what did you do? It is good to know what your walker will do if a bad situation arises.
For larger services, I recommend asking if you will get the same dog walker every day. Consistency is nice for you and your dog. You will also be giving keys and possibly alarm codes to a stranger. It is nice to know that there won't be a new person each week.
Do you offer vacation care? You might choose a service that also offers vacation care to have consistency for your dog when you travel.
Do you offer package discounts? Some dog walking services offer cheaper rates if you pay by the week or the month.
What is the cancellation policy? It is important to know what happens if you will be charged for cancellations.
What do you do if my dog barks, becomes aggressive or jumps on people on walks? This will clue you in on their thoughts on punishment. They should only use humane, gentle methods. No choke chains, prong collars, spray bottles, knees in the chest, etc.