Whether big or small, old or young, dogs of all shapes and sizes need regular exercise for optimal health and well-being. Not only do walks provide much-needed physical activity, they also serve as an abundant source of mental stimulation, which goes a long way towards promoting positive mental health, too.
Every dog has unique physical and mental requirements, and the duration and frequency of their exercise needs vary. For example, a high-energy working breed like a Husky or Jack Russell Terrier may need several long walks every day to burn off their seemingly endless energy, whereas an English Bulldog may only require two short walks a day.
Ideally, every capable dog should have at least two adequate walks a day to stretch their legs, have a few sniffs, and do their business. Morning and evening walks are essential, however a midday walk is very beneficial, providing it’s not too hot at the time.
For many pet owners, regular walks can be difficult to accommodate at times. This can be due to everything from a demanding work schedule, to a busy family life, disability or injury, and more.
That’s where dog walkers come in! These wonderful pet service providers fill the gaps in your dog’s schedule to ensure they get the exercise, enrichment, and stimulation they need on a daily basis.
But how do you find the right dog walker?
There are a few things to consider when looking for a dog walker: experience, training, cost, and qualifications should be top of mind. Whether it’s walking, training, boarding, or grooming, always ask for qualifications and references before taking on a new pet service professional.
An untrained dog walker can be a great, cost-effective option for dogs who are very well behaved on leash. Many teenagers take up dog walking as a summer job, for example. However, animals can be unpredictable even under the right circumstances, so make sure your dog walker is someone you know and trust, and has plenty of experience handling animals.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, many certified dog trainers offer dog walking services. Under the guidance of an experienced dog trainer/walker, your pooch will learn proper loose-leash etiquette, and they can also learn advanced tricks and commands, too.
Moreover, a pet professional skilled in canine behaviour can help prevent unwanted altercations before they happen. This is especially beneficial for reactive dogs who become quickly overstimulated while on leash.
Dog walkers usually offer multiple packages to choose from:
A Basic Walk
This is the plain vanilla package. Basic dog walking packages do not include anything extra like training or behavioural work. While many dog trainers offer basic dog walking options, this is commonly a service offered by a dog-loving summer student or retiree looking to make a little bit of money while getting out in the fresh air.
Basic dog walking services can be a great option for the right dog, however it is not always a viable option for reactive dogs, high energy breeds, or those needing behavioural work.
A ‘Walk and Train’
This is a walking service offered by canine behavioural experts. Training your dog while out in public adds an extra layer of stimulation, and that can go a long way towards helping your dog focus more in real world settings.
“Mental stimulation is equivalent to physical exercise. Using physical exercise and mental stimulation together is the ultimate in meeting your dog’s needs,” said Meaford resident and certified canine behaviourist Jodie Hawker, owner of Happy Paws Canine Solutions. Jodie knows first hand the benefits of combining activity and training to produce well-balanced dogs.
Dog walkers often offer group walks. This gives your dog the added benefit of social time with furry friends while on their walk. However, unless these walks are on private property or a designated leash-free area, group walks in the Municipality of Meaford must be on-leash, so there isn’t a lot of time for running and playing.
Many dog walkers use leash-free parks. Currently, the Beautiful Joe leash-free dog park in town allows dog walkers to have a maximum of three dogs off leash at a time.
Certain dog walkers offer private or group hikes for canines in the area. This can be on-leash on public property, or off-leash on private property. Just like humans, dogs receive many benefits from spending quality time in the great outdoors. With plenty of things to sniff and interact with, hiking provides plenty of enrichment for dog and handler alike. For many dogs, hiking is the ultimate in sensory stimulation!
Dog walking is an unregulated industry. Anyone can offer dog walking services, even with no experience or qualifications whatsoever. This is one of the biggest reasons why you shouldn’t always go with the cheapest pet service provider; they are usually the ones least qualified.
The legal number of dogs a dog walker can take at a time, with most reputable insurance companies, is six. Dog walkers should always carry insurance; if something happens to your pooch in their care, you’ll want to ensure medical expenses will be covered. Ensure your potential dog walker is insured before hiring them to care for your pooch. Additionally, be sure to ask for references, check their social media accounts, Google reviews, and more.
When it comes to selecting the right dog walker for you, it is imperative to start by asking the right questions. After all, when it comes to hiring someone to care for your best friend, there should be no room for compromise.
Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.