So You Need a Dog Walker but Where do You Begin?

You need more time in your day. We know! You’ve got a busy work schedule, planned vacation or work travel, busy social life and you need some backup for your furry family member for the times you can’t be there.  These are just a few of the reasons someone may want to start looking for a dog walker for their pets.  There are many options out there these days but the question you have to ask yourself is, which one is right for you and which one is right for my pup?  Many of your reading this are already our customers and have made your choice (and a good one at that), but for those of you who haven’t, we’re here to help!

 

When you look at your pet, what do you see?  Are they “just” an animal?  Of course they’re not!  They are 4-legged, furry family members and you want what is best for them. The task of finding a dog walker sounds simple, but it can be daunting.  It’s a big decision to invite someone into your home, especially when you’re not there, to take care of a member of your family.  Who do you turn to and who do you trust?  There are many options out there. Just go to Google or Yelp and type in “dog walker” and you’ll most likely see several right in your town.  But, when you’re looking, what do you look for?  When you reach out to them, what questions do you ask?  When you interview them, what should you look for?  We’ve put together a list of those questions for you:

When beginning your search:

  • How long have they been in business?
  • What area’s do they service?
  • Do they have reviews online from satisfied customers?
  • Are their prices comparable to the industry average in your area?

When you start making calls:

  • Will you get to meet face-to-face with someone from their company? Personal accountability goes a long way.
  • Are they insured and bonded?  And if so, what are the policy limits?
  • Are the walkers contractors or employees? It’s important to understand the differences:
    • Contractors work for themselves and are largely in control of their own schedules, and what jobs they do or don’t take. Typically they receive little to no training through the company and have little enforcement from ownership in regards to quality control or service standards. Contractors are independent from the company and therefore are responsible for their own taxes and expenses. You may also find a higher turnover rate.
    • Employees work directly for, and are a direct part of the company they represent.  They’ve been formally trained to perform their tasks and are held accountable for quality and consistency.  Ownership participates in taxes and expense reimbursement which also translates into quality relationships and less turnover.
  • How do they handle reporting and accountability for their services? Do they use a software package?
  • How do they hire their walkers? What kind of background checks do they do?
  • If they are an independant single person company, do they have backups in place for emergencies? Can you count on them to be 100% reliable?
  • Do they have a cancellation charge for appointments if you have to stay home from work and don’t need the service?
  • Can they be accommodating to last minute requests if things come up and you need service on the fly?
  • What kind of time frame to they provide for the walks?  If they work within a window, how wide is it?  1 hour, 2 hours, more?
  • Will it be the same person every time? And if not, how do they relay instructions to make sure the next walker is up to speed on your pup’s needs?

After You’ve Started Service

The way your pup reacts and responds to their walker will tell you most of what you need to know and the way their walkers/owners interact with you will tell you the rest. Good places to start are the walk summary and behavior of your dog. Walk notes should be detailed enough and go into more detail than “I took Fido for his walk” and “Rex did all his business.” You should also be able to see that the dog looks less energetic than they would had they not been walked mid-day. Finally, did they live up to your expectations and if not, what are they doing to make sure they do? Once you’ve started service with a company, you’ll know after the first few visits if they’re a good fit for you.

We hope this helps you find the right company for you! Only you will know what’s right for you and right for your furry family members. The suggestions we’ve provided here are just that, suggestions.  You will have to ask your own questions and make your own decision. The only way you will be able to answer some of these questions is to meet with the walker/manager/owner  that you’ll be working with face-to-face.

Our only word of caution we would offer is to be wary of downloadable apps that offer “Uber like” walking and sitting services.  These companies contract their walkers off the street with very little training and have little control over that individual.  The walker that is coming into your home is paid by the company, but they work solely and exclusively for themselves.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and we are sure many of the walkers that are contracted with those companies are wonderful dog loving people.

Local companies have a vested interest in providing the best service they possibly can and in hiring the best possible people to represent their company. If you are currently working with Prairie Path, or another local service, you have met and shook hands with the manager of that location and most likely your regular dog walker as well.  If you’ve ever worked with one of the “Uber-Like” companies, can you say the same thing about them?

At Prairie Path we believe in what we are doing and feel we offer first-in-class service. It’s our hope that you agree! Do we think we’re perfect? NO! Just like any service based business, there is always room for improvement.  The walkers, managers and owners of Prairie Path, and any other quality local company, are personally accountable for the product and service they provide.  We believe in what we do and we are in this business because we LOVE animals which is the way it should be.