Are you considering hiring a dog walker? Maybe you’re time-poor and struggling to get your dog outside, or perhaps you’re dealing with mobility challenges. If you’re worried about how much exercise your fur baby is getting, hiring professional help can be a great solution. This guide will help you decide whether hiring a dog walker is right for you and your pup.
Reasons Why People Hire a Dog Walker
All dogs need exercise, socialisation and mental stimulation throughout the day to keep them healthy, happy and fit. But sometimes life gets in the way and we’re not able to meet those needs ourselves. Below, we’ve outlined a few of the many reasons that loving owners choose to hire a dog walker, to help you decide if you should be considering doing so too.
The Owner Works Long Hours
Pet ownership boomed during the recent pandemic years when most of us were working from home with plenty of time to dedicate to our furry friends. While heading back to the office has come as a welcome relief for many, it does mean that some pet owners are now struggling to find the time to dedicate to caring for their pets as much as they used to.
Spending whole days alone can be a difficult adjustment for some dogs, particularly those prone to separation anxiety. If you find yourself working long hours, hiring a dog walker can help to alleviate some of the stress for both you and your dog, and you can rest assured that your busy schedule isn’t getting in the way of your dog’s exercise and socialisation needs.
Dogs Need Socialisation
Dogs are inherently social animals, healthiest and happiest when getting plenty of exposure to other dogs and people. Without enough social interaction, dogs can suffer boredom and loneliness, which can quickly escalate into anxiety and other health or behavioural problems if not addressed. If you’re unable to provide the daily stimulation your dog needs on your own, hiring a dog walker is a great way to make sure they’re still getting their needs met.
Dogs Need Exercise
Just like us humans, dogs need daily exercise to stay healthy and feel their best. If you’re unable to provide the amount of exercise your dog needs to maintain their physical and mental well-being, hiring a dog walker to help out is a simple and worthwhile solution.
The Dog is a Breed that Needs Plenty of Exercise
While all dogs require daily exercise, some breeds are particularly high-energy. These are typically breeds that were originally bred for work – think Spaniels, Australian Shepherds and Border Collies. Guidelines vary depending on your dog’s breed and age, but some dogs need up to two hours of exercise every day! Not too many of us have the time or energy to fit that into our everyday schedule, so sharing the load with a professional walker can ensure that your dog isn’t missing out on the chance to use their impressive stamina to its fullest.
If you’re struggling to walk your dog because of behavioural issues, hiring a professional dog walker with plenty of experience training dogs can be a great way to get your dog better adjusted to on-leash escapades. After a few professional sessions, you should notice some improvement and can start to build up the confidence to take your dog on your own walks between sessions.
The Owner Has Health Issues
Whether you’ve been injured, become sick, deal with chronic health issues or live with an ongoing disability that affects your mobility, it can be challenging to keep up with your dog’s exercise needs. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a great dog parent! Hiring a dog walker can ensure that your dog doesn’t miss out on the walks they need to stay healthy, without requiring you to compromise your own well-being or push yourself further than you should.
Peace of Mind
Loving dog parents only ever want what’s best for their pups. Hiring a dog walker can put your mind at ease, knowing that your dog is getting the exercise, attention and stimulation they need to be happy and healthy when you’re not able to provide it yourself. A good dog walker will be more than happy to send you snaps and updates during the day too, so you can truly rest assured that your dog is in good hands.
Dogs Need Mental Stimulation
It’s not just the physical exertion that benefits dogs when they’re on a walk, but the mental stimulation too. Imagine if you had to stay home all day, every day! Not much fun, right? All the new sights, smells, people and dogs that you come across on a walk around your neighbourhood do wonders for your dog’s overall wellbeing. Hiring a dog walker ensures that your dog isn’t missing out on all this vital stimulation when you’re unable to accompany them outdoors.
The Benefits of Hiring a Dog Walker
Hiring a dog walker can generate a whole lot of positive outcomes for both you and your pooch. Read on for some of the key benefits of getting a professional to take the reins on walkies.
Health and Exercise Benefits
We all know how important exercise is for our own health, and the same is true for our pets! They need to get enough movement in each day to keep them fit, healthy, strong and happy. The amount of exercise your dog needs depends on a range of factors, including their size, breed and age – while some dogs can get by on one or two short walks per day, other dogs need much longer or more frequent walks. Your vet can advise what’s best for your pup. If you’re struggling to keep up with your dog’s exercise needs, a dog walker is a surefire way to get them back into a healthy daily exercise routine.
Socialisation and Behavioural Benefits
Hiring a dog walker for daily outings can have a fantastic impact on your dog’s behaviour. Dogs are naturally social, pack animals, so they need to be around other people and dogs, and have enough daily stimulation, to feel their best. Without enough interaction, they’re at risk of becoming bored, which can quickly lead to destructive and antisocial behaviour. These behaviours will only escalate without intervention, so it’s much better to focus on prevention by addressing the root cause of boredom with adequate daily walks – which a dog walker can assist with if you’re unable to commit to them.
Hiring a professional dog walker who has experience working with behavioural issues can also be a great help if you’re working on remedying some existing behavioural issues with your dog, such as lead etiquette or being friendly with other pups. Just be sure to be clear and upfront with the dog walker about your needs and expectations before the first walk to make sure they’re up for the challenge!
Perhaps the biggest benefit of hiring a dog walker is the time-save! Sometimes juggling it all becomes a struggle, but that doesn’t mean you need to drop the ball on your dog’s health and wellbeing. Hiring a dog walker to pick up the slack means your dog can stay healthy and happy while you’re out there kicking goals in other areas of your life. A dog walker can help you get the best of both worlds, knowing that your dog is being well looked after without feeling guilty for going the extra mile at work or saying yes to that social event!
Dog Walker vs. Self-walking
You might be wondering whether it’s worth hiring a dog walker, or if you’d be better off shuffling around your priorities to do it yourself. Everyone’s situation is different, so considering the following factors can help you to decide.
While taking your dog for a walk is technically cost-free, factoring in the time you take to do it can paint a very different picture. If you have to compromise in other areas of your life, turn down shifts, or miss out on opportunities in order to take care of your dog, you should consider whether paying someone else to step in is worth the financial cost.
Your health is another more subtle cost to consider. If caring for your dog means you’re overloading yourself to the point where you’re risking burnout, the long-term costs will be much higher than whatever your dog walker’s hourly rate would be!
On the other hand, you might take a look at your priorities and realise that you really could afford the time to walk your dog more regularly, and pocket the money you would have spent on hiring a professional service. If you’re able to do so, getting into a regular walking routine with your dog can contribute to fantastic health and well-being outcomes for both of you, and is good for bonding too.
Another factor to consider when you’re deciding whether hiring a dog walker might be better than taking your dog for a walk yourself is the value-add that a professional service can bring. Firstly, they’re guaranteed to reliably meet your dog’s exercise requirements, whereas you might find yourself unable to do so because of time, fitness or other health and mobility factors.
A professional with experience working with a range of dogs can also help you to address behavioural concerns. If you struggle to control your dog due to poor leash etiquette or social difficulties, hiring a professional to get your dog used to walking calmly can be a worthwhile investment that will pay you back in spades in years to come.
How to Choose the Right Dog Walker
If you’ve decided to go ahead and hire a dog walker, the next step is finding the right dog walker for the job. Below, we’ve outlined the steps you should take to be sure you’ve found the right fit for you and your pooch.
The first thing you’ll need to do is gather your options. Dog walking is an increasingly popular occupation, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding plenty of people offering their services in your local area, but you don’t want to entrust your beloved companion to just anyone. It’s important to do your research to find someone suitable for you and your pooch, with the right combination of experience and expertise. The best way to find a stellar service is by asking around – nothing beats a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend, colleague or family member. There are also plenty of online forums and dog-loving communities you can turn to for local recommendations.
Interviews and References
Before hiring a dog walker, you should always arrange to meet them for an in-person interview. Use this as an opportunity to learn more about their qualifications, skills, experience and approach. You should also ask them what their backup plan is should they be unable to walk your dog on a planned day due to illness or unforeseen events.
An interview is also a chance to introduce the prospective walker to your dog and determine whether they’re a good fit. Check whether they’re comfortable handling any special needs or behaviours that your dog might have, like a tendency to tug on the leash or aggression towards other dogs. It’s important to be honest so as to set up realistic expectations – sugarcoating behavioural concerns risks the possibility that your walker won’t be able to safely address them when they’re alone with your dog.
If you’re both happy to go ahead after the interview, make sure to contact a few references before making your final decision. It’s important to be completely confident that your pup is in good hands before entrusting them to a stranger! A reputable dog walker will have no problem providing contact details for several happy clients and colleagues.
You should be feeling pretty confident by the time you’ve booked your new dog walker for their first visit, but it’s still a good idea to start with a trial, or on an as-needed basis, before committing to a regular walking schedule. This will give you, your pooch and the walker themselves time to make sure you’re all a good fit for each other, and happy to work together for a more long-term, regular arrangement.
What Qualifications Should a Professional Dog Walker Have?
Dog walkers in the UK are not legally required to hold any particular qualifications. However, it’s recommended that your dog walker has undergone animal first aid training, in case of emergencies. Many dog walkers also hold qualifications in animal handling, veterinary nursing or animal behaviour. They might be providing dog walking services part-time while they study to become a vet, vet nurse, or dog trainer. It’s a great sign if your dog walker has a passion for animals and is investing time into making it their career, and the extra skills and knowledge they’ve picked up will obviously benefit your pooch.
Should Dog Walkers be Insured?
Your dog walker should be insured, and it’s important to confirm they are appropriately covered before entrusting your pooch to them. At a minimum, dog walkers need to have third-party public liability insurance to cover any injuries that could occur to members of the public while they’re walking your dog. Beyond this, walkers may choose to protect themselves with further insurance that covers harm to the dogs they care for or the equipment they use. If a dog walking company has multiple employees, they should also have further protection in place through an appropriate level of employers’ liability cover.
The Cost of Dog Walkers in the UK
The cost of a reputable dog walker in the UK varies, usually falling between £10 and £25 per hour. Often, you get what you pay for, so there are a few factors to weigh up alongside how low the costs are to understand the true value proposition of a walker.
Factors Affecting Cost
Several factors affect how much your dog walker will charge. One, of course, is the level of experience and reputability of the dog walker themself. An in-demand, well-established, reputable walker has the luxury of being able to charge more for their services – and of course, if you can afford it, it’s often worth it.
Location is another key factor in determining walkers’ hourly rates. Unfortunately, this is largely out of your hands. Londoners can expect to pay more, for example, than those who live in rural areas, where both the demand for services and the overall cost of living tend to be lower.
To save money on dog walking services without compromising on quality, try to avoid weekends and times of peak demand, like holiday periods. You can also enquire to see whether the walker provides any discounts for group bookings, where your dog is walked with other dogs, or multi-walk bookings, where you pay up-front for regular walks at a reduced cost.
Balancing Quality and Budget
When you’re working within a tight budget, the decision to hire a more expensive dog walker can be a tough one. You should of course never hire a dog walker just because they’re the cheapest option – make sure they’re reputable and adequately insured, at minimum. If your budget is tight, you could consider cost-cutting in other ways: perhaps you can reshuffle your schedule to shoulder your own dog walking for a few days of the week, and pay for a quality service on others. Ultimately, you need to do what’s right for both you and your pooch, without compromising your dog’s safety and well-being.
When life gets hectic, it can be difficult to ask for help. But sometimes, that’s exactly what you need! Whether it’s a regular arrangement or just a lifeline now and then, hiring a dog walker to step in when you’re busy or unable to meet your dog’s daily exercise and socialisation needs means your loyal companion won’t suffer. It also means you can gift yourself some precious time back – that’s a win for both pet and parent, in our book!