By Lesley White, Owner, Peak City Puppy
We’re already six weeks into the New Year. If like so many, you found yourself welcoming a Christmas Puppy into your home, you have some big decisions to make. Six weeks is a big milestone for puppies. While every puppy is different, by now, she should be able to go about 2-3 hours in between potty breaks and you may be ready to leave her unattended for awhile. So, how do you approach hiring a dog walker for your newest family member?
Granted, the lingering pandemic has made this the “Year(s) of the Dog”. With most owners bunkered down at home, dogs and puppies are getting around the clock attention, affection and proximity; some of their favorite things. But, eventually, you will need to leave your house and when you do, you’ll want to choose an option that ensures all the hard work you’ve been doing, doesn’t get undone.
Choosing someone to care for your new puppy or new dog in your home is a big decision. Not only are you allowing this person to have access to your home, but even more importantly, you are entrusting her with the responsibility to properly care for your newest family member. Just like interviewing a new babysitter to care for your children, it’s helpful to have a clear list of questions to ensure you’re making the right choice. Here is a list of questions to ask your prospective dog walker or pet sitter prior to hiring her:
Is your Dog Walker Bonded & Insured?
Peace of mind is a big deal when you’re talking about your home, your possessions and certainly, your family. It’s why we buy insurance to protect our cars, our homes and our lives. Why then, wouldn’t you want the same protections in place prior to turning your pet over to someone else’s control. Obviously, you hope nothing bad happens, but accidents are part of life. Anyone offering to take care of your pet should have a full liability policy and bonding. For a more complete review of this topic, check out our previous blog post on this topic “Should My Dog Walker Have Insurance? Absolutely.”
Does your Dog Walker Have Good References?
Word of mouth is our single biggest driver of business at Peak City Puppy. This makes sense, since, ultimately, you’re talking about trust. You want to know that the person you’re welcoming into your home and to care for your pet has a solid track record of experience, professionalism and ethics. At a minimum, a dog walker should be able to provide you with three non-family references. Even better is to check on-line reviews such as Google, YELP! or Angie’s List. These resources don’t allow business owners to update or remove bad reviews, so you should examine the big picture (how many reviews are available and what is the general consensus?). Peak City Puppy has over 100 Google Reviews, demonstrating our over 12 years experience with hundreds of Triangle dog owners. In this case, numbers matter.
Will your Dog Walker be Available when You Need Her and Over Time?
One of the biggest issues among pet sitters who attempt this work as a hobby is burn-out. A single pet sitter or dog walker (may-be your neighborhood go-to or entrepreneurial kid-next-door) risks burn-out because if she’s any good, she’ll be working all the time. In choosing a dog walker for your family, you want the assurance that this person will be available not just this weekend, but potentially, for years to come. Changing sitters can be stressful on you as well as your pet, so look for a company who offers policies that ensure your relationship will be solid over time.
Does your Dog Walker Have any Training?
If a pipe leaks in your home, you may be fine calling the handy neighbor to check it out. When a pipe bursts however, you call a licensed plumber. The same is true for establishing service with a dog walker or pet sitter. For the occasional “Can you Let my Dog out” request, perhaps the neighbor kid is a suitable option (and less expensive). But, when you are seeking to have a reliable dog walker day after day or for special needs like puppies or senior pets, you want to call a professional. Inquire what the training program is prior to accepting clients as well as the hiring/screening process.
Does your Dog Walker Have a Service Agreement in Place?
Given all these considerations, it seems intuitive to want a clear agreement in place prior to having someone care for your pet. Agreements are important to clarify expectations and reference in the event of confusion or worse, a mistake. A proper dog walker or pet sitter (or company like Peak City Puppy) will offer a Service Agreement that details policies and procedures used so you know what you’re paying for. An agreement allows you to know the price of a dog walker and payment terms. It helps you identify your responsibilities as a dog owner and property owner as well as what you can reasonably expect of your dog walker.
Ultimately, the choice to hire a dog walker for your new puppy or new dog to your home is a decision about trust. There are many reasons listed above why it’s important to examine what protections you have as an owner and what level of service you’re really going to receive for your money. While there are ‘hobby’ pet sitters and dog walkers in every neighborhood chat group, these potentially lower cost options may not be worth it if something goes wrong. At Peak City Puppy, our pricing is up-front, all-inclusive and backed by sound policies, insurance and team member training.