I've always thought that one of the perks of being a dog owner is being able to go for walks with my dogs every day.
But not everyone shares that sentiment. To some dog owners walking their dog may be more of a begrudged chore rather than a time seen as running and bonding with the pack.
For those people who either don't have the time or don't want to make the time to walk their dogs, professional dog walkers provide the assistance they need to keep their dog healthy and socialized.
There was a time, a number of years ago, that anyone could call themselves a professional dog walker, collect 10 or 20 dogs in the back of a van, drive up to the top of Cypress or Grouse Mountain and walk the huge pack of dogs for an hour or so. At that time the Commercial dog walking business was not managed, it was unregulated and often times the marauding dogs and walkers caused havoc, accidents and terrorized anyone they came in contact with along the trails. These dog walkers were the bane of my existence years ago and I voiced my opinion about their unprofessional and unethical practices many times in this column.
But today, the Commercial dog walking business has changed, thankfully and on the North Shore, it is highly regulated.
Professional dog walkers are required to carry identification, they are limited to the number of dogs they can walk at one time and also limited to the times they can walk their pack at certain popular parks and trails.
They are now required to have permits, insurance and many are bonded to further their credibility as professionals.
But even with these regulations there are still a few rogues that fall under the radar of bylaw officials, and the word professional should not be included in their business title. These ne'erdo-wells continue to give the professionals a bad rap
So how do you know a good dog walker from a bad one?
If you are going to hire a professional dog walker don't jump at the first one to offer you the cheapest rate. Take your time, call around to the number of walkers available and interview them as you would interview a caretaker for your child.
The walker should be willing to meet and show you identification and information stating they are a registered business professional within the district of North Vancouver (if that is your local) in good standing.
Ask for a list of references and from that list you should be able to randomly pick at least three of the walkers' clients to call.
Before you hire a walker, plan to go on a walk with them. If they decline, find another walker. While on the walk, watch how they handle and interact with the dogs on leash and off. Are they implementing any training or rules of conduct or simply allowing the dogs to wander willy-nilly. Do their forms of canine management (discipline) coincide with yours or do they use methods you do not agree with? You should want your dog walker to be an extension of you and your leadership, to assist you in the care and training of your dog to improve or at least maintain your dogs behaviour, not someone who allows the dog to run around for an hour unmonitored while they grab a coffee and chat with other walkers at the dog park.
Don't be shy about asking the dog walker if they have any special training such as canine behavioural classes, pet first aid, or dog training classes. If they say yes they should be able to provide documents.
Ask if they have ever lost a dog, and if they have a protocol in place in case a dog gets lost.
There are a number of good website outlining additional questions you should be asking a dog walker before hiring them, just google 'tips on hiring a dog walker.'
A good professional dog walker can be great asset to you and the care of your dog. Take your time and hire one with a solid reputation, your relationship with your dog depends on it.