Choosing daycare and dog walkers

How to choose the right dog walker or dog boarder

The dog walking industry is currently unregulated. This means that anyone from a fully qualified professional through to someone with little or no experience can set themselves up in business as a "Dog Walker". 
Dog daycare and boarding is however regulated by Local Authorities but many people operate without a licence as they are unaware of the need for one. Licensing became compulary from 1st October 2018 and many changes have been made to the way dogs must be kept, what they have access too and even how long they can be in a crate or pen.

So how do you find someone who is right for you?

We suggest the following things when finding someone who is right for you. This list could go on and on but here are some of the most important points. 

  • Ask for recommendations. This can be from friends, neighbours, online dog groups, vets or dog trainers.

  • ​Do a little background research before making contact. Do they have other customers or would you be their first one? Do they have a website or Facebook page and do you like what you see? Do the photos show excessive amounts of dogs walked together? Does the person have good feedback from clients? Do they offer all the services you need now and in the future?

  • Decide on the questions you want to ask. Do they have the necessary licence from the local authority if offering day and overnight boarding? What experience do they have with dogs? Do you want your dog walked alone or with other dogs? Does the dog walker follow positive enforcement techniques? Will your dog be left in their transport for long periods of time? Will it be the person you have met walking your dog or different people each time? What would they do in an emergency? What is their contingency plan if they can’t reach your pet? If boarding how many other dogs will be there at the same time? How will the person ensure the dogs are well matched and have been able to meet beforehand? There are many more questions you should ask so make a list before you make contact.

  • Arrange an initial phone call. You can ask a lot of your questions in the first phone call which will start to give you a good sense of the person and if you want to progress with them.

  • Arrange an initial meeting. Treat this as a try-out. If the person is saying they don’t need to meet your dog beforehand then alarm bells should be ringing as it shows they have no interest in getting to know your dog or ensuring they will match your dog’s personality correctly to other dogs on their walk.

  • Check paperwork. Ask to see a copy of their licence (if boarding), insurance, DBS check, first aid training and other continuous professional development training. Remember this person will be coming into your home so they should be happy to provide you with these. Ask if you can take a copy of an identification document, after all you are trusting this person with a precious member of your family.

  • Ensure you are happy with the questions they ask you. A competent dog walker/boarder will want to ask you as many questions as you have for them. Were they curious about your dog? Did they want to know about your dogs training needs, reliable recall, treats they are allowed, if they can swim, any phobias etc.

  • Ask to see the vehicle your dog will travel in. Are you happy with the safety measures in place for your dog and are they legal? Does the equipment look relatively clean and well looked after? Do they carry a first aid kit? Will your dog have access to water when being transported? What is the maximum length of time your dog will be in the vehicle? What does the dog walker do to protect your dog whilst the are picking up/dropping off other dogs?

  • Check what you are asked to sign. As a minimum you would want to see the dog walker has thought about what would happen in the event of an emergency so do they have a “notice to a vet” they ask you to sign? This would mean in the event of an emergency a vet would be able to treat your pet in your absence. Have they asked your permission to take and use photos?

  • Ask to see their terms and conditions. Are you happy with them? Do they cover payment terms? What is the cancellation policy? Ask to keep a copy of them in case you need to refer to them later.

  • Set up a dry run. Arrange your first walk for when you are in the house or nearby so that you can ensure things go smoothly on the first walk. Ask for feedback.

  • Visit their premises if day care or boarding. The licence requires them to arrange a familiarisation visit at their premises for your dog. If they don’t want you to be present for that then ask yourself why. Ensure you see and are happy with where your dog will be staying. Is the garden safe? Will your dog be left for long periods in the home? If there are resident dogs in the home do they get on with your dog?

  • Book the service. Book in plenty of time and make sure the drop off and pick up arrangements are clear. Agree on the frequency of updates that you would like. If the person needs a key to your home make sure they have a policy in place that will protect your key.

  • Update your microchip details. Before you hand you dog to anyone else make sure their microchip details are up to date. You can even add the detail of the person boarding your dog to their microchip details. Ensure your dog has a collar and tag that meets the legal requirements.

This article was produced for Little Orchard by Lizzie Elgar of Lizzies Animal Assistance