How do you find a good walker or day care/overnight boarder for your dog? Here are some tips to help you….
Although you may be training your dog to be left home alone for short periods, a whole day is just too long and boring for most dogs. Unless you are exceptionally lucky, most will need some mental stimulation, a toilet break and some social contact if they are to not find their own entertainment and trash your house.
Finding the right help can be a minefield, so here are some pointers to help you decide who to hire to help you with your dog in your absence.
In all cases, businesses should be registered with HMRC, be DBS checked and absolutely have correct and up to date insurance to cover their specific activities (eg, walker, trainer, boarder etc). They should produce these for you to look at.
When it comes to choosing who to use, here are some key questions to ask.
How many dogs will be in the group walk, and how many will be on lead? Joining an established large group can be daunting for some dogs so a good walker will walk your pup in a smaller group to begin with. If they have some already on lead, then think about how this will work with your dog. Do they use a walking belt to free their hands to help your dog if needed (or to put yours and their pals on a lead near roads/livestock etc).
Where do they normally walk? You can check out potential hazards that may distract your dog – rivers, fields of sheep, roads near etc.
Do they use treats? Great for rewarding fabulous recall! Does your dog have any special diet requirements that could upset their tums – let your walker know!
Do they use your leads or use their own? Some walkers use their own slip leads that can choke your dog if it does not have impeccable walking to heel. If you supply a harness, will your walker use it (and use to clip a lead on).
Do they have the dog on the leads for taking the dogs from the car to past the gate entrance – and before they approach the car on the way back? Some walkers just open the boot and let the dogs run around car parks so check what your walker does.
How are the dogs transported? Go and SEE their vehicle and how it is set up. Ideally there should be dividers to separate the dogs to avoid them causing a distraction or fighting. Dogs that are not secured (in any vehicle – not just professionals) can invalidate motor insurance if they are causing a distraction.
If you have a puppy, then they may not be able to do a full hour’s walk with a large group so will your walker take your dog on shorter walks until the are older?
If your dog does not like large groups, will your walker do solo or pairs of dogs only?
Ask also how much they know about dog body language, and how they manage the dogs in their care.
Finally, ask how they store your front door key especially on the days they are not walking your dog.
For boarders and day care providers, then more questions are needed….
Dog boarders (including day care and/or overnight stays) must be licensed with the local council – you can check this on your council websites. Business owners must show you their documentation to prove this.
Ask what the maximum number of dogs are allowed there (this will be on the license), and typically the size and breeds of visiting dogs, where they are to sleep, how they are separated, how often they are left alone, and what are the feed time arrangements – this last one for me is important, as some dogs bully others for their foods, or if your dog is on a special diet, then the carer needs to make sure they get it and not eat other foods.
Check also who else will be in the house and what access they have to your dogs. If your dog may be nervous around certain size/breeds, speak to them so they may be able to accommodate your needs.
The new licensing regulations stipulate records are kept of the dogs including activity and exercise details. So ask what your boarder does.
Ask for recommendations, visit a few of them, walk with some walkers, do trial hours/days/nights with the boarder or daycare. See who you and your dog get on best with – you want to have a trust relationship with them. But above all, get looking early! The best ones are often busy so you need to plan ahead! Have a back up just in case.
Do your research thoroughly – they should not mind answering with all the details you need. Trust your instinct – if you are unsure about anything, the premises, or how they handle the dogs, then its ok to walk away and not use them.