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If health-related difficulties, your lifestyle or your career are making it difficult for you to get your dog the proper outdoor exercise they need, you might be considering hiring a dog walker. Hiring a dog walker can be a great way to help your pup stay happy and healthy when you can't take them outside yourself. But if you've never hired a dog walker, you might not know where to start. Here, we'll explore the benefits and drawbacks of hired dog walkers.
Benefits of Hiring a Dog Walker
There are many benefits to finding the right person to walk your dog when you're unable, with positive impacts on you and your furry friend alike. Among them:
- Your dog's health: According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), pet obesity is a major health concern for dogs. Left untreated, it can lead to a series of serious diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and heart and respiratory conditions, to name just a few. By ensuring your dog is walked a minimum of three times each day for at least 20 minutes per walk, you're adding quality years to their life.
- Your dog's behavior: When your dog has a healthy outlet for their energy, they are more likely to relax at home. That means you'll worry less about anxious, aggressive or destructive behaviors like biting, chewing on furniture or shoes, urinating or defecating indoors.
- Your stress levels: No matter why you're considering a dog walker, knowing that you've found someone you can trust to care for your pup and make sure they get their exercise means you can breathe a little easier.
The Drawbacks of Hiring a Dog Walker
Although the benefits of hiring a dog walker far outweigh the drawbacks, dog walkers aren't the perfect choice for everyone. Some drawbacks include:
- They're not a one-size-fits-all solution: For dogs who require one walk a day, or two walks a day for three days a week, a dog walker might be the perfect solution. But if you have an especially high-energy pup who needs extended attention and playtime, a dog walker might not be the best fit for you.
- You may have to trust a stranger: The best dog walkers will be consummate professionals who love and understand animals and will treat yours with all the care in the world. But, let's face it: the idea of giving someone new the key to your home can be unnerving at first. Having someone walk your pup, also likely means inviting them into your home when you are not there to get your dog, which even the most trusting people can find a little unnerving.
- Added costs: Because you are hiring someone to walk your dog, you are also paying them. The cost of getting your dog their needed exercise should go into your decision to hire a dog walker and should be included in your pet (as well as your personal) budget considerations. Hiring the cheapest dog walker isn't always the best idea, but it also doesn't mean that they won't do a great job; the same can be said of more premium dog walkers — just because they cost more doesn't guarantee they are the best for you and your dog.
Finding a Dog Walker
When the time comes to find the right dog walker for you, the AKC advises, "A great place to start is through recommendations. Talk to friends and other dog owners to see if they can suggest someone. There are also websites that can assist in helping you find a dog walker in your area." Your veterinarian or groomer might also have some recommendations of people near you.
How Much Will It Cost?
When it comes to the question of price, most dog walkers cost between $15 to $30 for a 30-minute walk. However, ranges can vary. If you live in the city where competition is higher, you may have to pay a bit extra. Ask fellow pet parents, a local veterinarian or pet store to get an honest gauge of the general cost of local dog walkers.
Choosing a Dog Walker
So, you're committed to the idea of helping your dog get the necessary exercise they need, but you're still not sure who to choose? Any dog walker should be receptive to having a meet and greet with your dog. If you're not comfortable meeting with them at your home, a local dog park is a great place to meet. Here your dog can meet and get familiar with this new person where you can determine if they are going to get along well.
See how the dog walker interacts with your pup. Talk to him or her about their philosophy? How long have they been doing it? How many dogs do they walk in a typical day? Will your dog be going on walks with other dogs too? Where do they tend to walk dogs in your neighborhood? Asking these types of questions will give you a sense of how this person will care for your dog when you're not there.
Have the dog walker walk your dog around the park and pay attention to how they treat each other. Trust your instincts. It's okay to talk to more than one service provider before choosing a person. It's also okay to trust your dog's instincts, too. If they seem hesitant when normally very friendly, they may be trying to tell you that this is not the person for them.
Finally, look for credentials. There are services out there that run background checks on anyone that wants to become a dog walker as part of their program. These services can also add added benefits like GPS tracking, so you can follow along with your dog as they go out on their afternoon stroll. This feature allows you to get notifications for when your dog is picked up, returned home and how the walk went.
What If a Dog Walker Isn't for Me?
There are plenty of other ways to ensure your dog gets outdoor playtime if a dog walker isn't the best fit for your pup. Doggy day care is one great way to socialize your pooch during the workday and ensure they get lots of attention and playtime. And while it's totally appropriate to have a dog walker whether you live in a bustling city or in the suburbs with a big yard, if you do have extra land, consider building a fence or creating a run so your dog can have some solo outdoors time for part of the day when you can't go out together.
If you find yourself asking if you need a dog walker or not, then you're asking an important question that comes from a place of deep care for your pup. Whether or not a dog walker is right for you, keep thinking proactively about ways to engage your dog with the great outdoors. They'll thank you for it!
Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.