Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How To Find the Perfect Dog Walker

Not all dog walkers are created equal. When I acquired my Frenchie Bleu, I knew that I needed dog walking services midday for my little guy because I work full-time and can be gone for 10 hours at a time. French Bulldogs in particular require a lot of time and attention or they tend to “act out.” And no one wants their peeing or pooping on their honeyed-hardwood floors, eating their pumps, or gnawing on their Pier 1 furniture. In San Diego, a simple Google search yields hundreds of individual and company pet walking services. So how do you choose which one is right for your furry friend?

Just as a mom would research and interview her potential babysitters, a pet parent should do the same. With a dog walker, you are entrusting your pup’s life and well being with a complete stranger, so it’s very important you get to know your dog walker and make sure they are professional and trustworthy.

Kiele Goo, owner of Paws Four Time-Out, is a top dog walker in San Diego. She sends me personal messages about her daily excursion with my dog like: “Hi Mary, Bleu is doing great! He made friends today on our walk. People love petting him in Little Italy. He peed a lot, but no poopers. We walked for about 40 minutes, and he ate his cucumber treats.” I look forward to these little notes every day, and they give me peace of mind knowing Bleu is in good hands.

You Know You Have a Great Dog Walker When:
1)   She meets with you prior to the first dog walk to get to know you and your pup’s preferences and personality.
2)   She asks how your dog is doing via text on her days off.
3)   She sends you real-time iPhone pics of their walks and of his furry friends he meets along the way.
4)   She has a professional website and business cards. 

5)   She is certified by the ASPCA and knows how to administer Pet First Aid.

6)   She asks for emergency contacts, including your vet, emergency vet, and closest friend or relative if you are unavailable.
7)   She has references readily available.
8)   She gives out free doggy massages, toys, and treats just because she cares.
9)   She gives you a report of his pees, poops, and overall behavior after each walk.
10) She alerts you to any unusual doggy behavior, such as mood swings or potential illnesses.

How Can I Find A Great Dog Walker?
1)   Referrals – Finding a dog walker through word-of-mouth is the best way to find an ideal personal assistant for your dog. Ask other pet parents your dog plays with, your veterinarian office, or your local pet store. Most people are more than happy to share their dog walker’s info, especially if they are happy with their services.
2)   Walking Around – Keep your eye out for dog walkers when you are out strolling the streets with your pup. You can spot them if they are walking multiple dogs at a time, or they sometimes are wearing company t-shirts. I met my current dog walker just by simply greeting her and Boston terrier on in East Village one day with my Frenchie Bleu.
3)   Yelp – go online and type in “dog walker” and a slew of various ones will come up. Unlike Google though, you can see actual reviews from other customers to get a feel for the person who will be pampering your pooch.

Signs That A Dog Walker Isn’t So Great:
1)   They walk too many dogs at once.
2)   They are on their cell phones while walking your dog.
3)   You don’t hear from them often.
4)   You sense they are more in it for the money than compassionate about dogs.
5)   They advertise one thing, but do another. For example, one company owner advertised her personal services, but then hired very young assistants to do the dog walking instead.
6)   Misses appointments or runs late constantly.
7)   Has no certifications and does not know how to administer CPR.
8)   Has no other clients or references to speak of.
9)   Will not meet you or your dog beforehand.
10) Charges you extra for things like: feeding the dog food, treats, or administering medication.

No matter what kind of breed you have, make sure you take the time to really research your dog walker. There are really good ones out there that really want to help you and your pet, while also making a decent living. Let’s face it, most dog walkers aren’t “in it for the money” they simply love being around your pup and enjoy the freedom that comes along with being outdoors and setting your own schedule. When you find the right fit, the bond you will form with your dog walker just may be as strong as the one you form with your dog.

Kiele Goo
Paws Four Time-Out

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