Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Expert Advice: Important Questions to Ask Your Potential Dog Walker

You may know that Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid was initially a mobile dog walking and pet sitting company. That's right, for 10+ years we zoomed around to our client's Vancouver homes collecting and walking our furry dog friends.

Securing new dog walking clients always went the same:
1. A phone call or email would come in requesting service for an animal.
2. We would determine whether the inquiry lived in our geographical service area and was agreeable to our fees
3. We'd arrange a complimentary meeting at their home to obtain care information and pickup house keys.

The troubling thing was, many of these clients didn't have a clue what they were looking for in a dog walker. We truly felt we were the "BEST" but they didn't really know what stood out between "us" and "them".

To delve into this deeper, I consulted colleague Vanessa Johne, owner of Vancouver's Best Friends Pet Care. Vanessa took over our pet care operations when we decided to focus solely on Pet First Aid. I figured that between the two of us we could help pet owners make an educated decision in who to trust with their furry family members.

Me: "What 3 pieces of information do clients usually NOT ask you that you wish they would?"
1. "New client enquiries rarely seem to ask prior to meeting if we are licensed/insured/bonded. And if they do ask, they never ask me if we will provide them with proof of that at our initial meeting.
2. NEVER do I get asked for references, I keep some on hand just in case someone asks for them, however in the past three years I've not handed them to anyone.
3. I'm never asked about the training process for my employees nor how their dog specifically will be handled and transported."

Hard to believe isn't it? You are giving the keys out to your home and you don't know the background of the people entering? You don't know how these people are trained nor how your pet will be cared for all day? Sounds scary! People need to be more educated about what's going on with their pets!

I asked Vanessa: If you were hiring a dog walker, please share a list of other questions that a client should ask and why?
Vanessa replied with a lengthy list, clarifying "here are the essentials, though people should also have more specific questions relating to their personal situation".

- how long have you been in operation?
- how many staff do you have?
- how are they trained?
- is every one certified in pet first aid? Is the certification maintained throughout employment?
- are you insured and what are the particulars of your insurance, including liability and negligence coverage?
- how do you transport my dog?
- where do you walk the dogs?
- do you comply with municipal commercial dog walking permitting laws & other regulations?
- how long and what time will you be out of the home with my dog?
- what is your procedure in case if animal (or other) emergency?
- will my pet ever be left unattended?
- how do you ensure proper handling of my dog from staff member to staff member?
- where and how will my house keys be labelled/stored?

Great questions! The above should be information readily provided by your potential dog walker. And knowing this information will indicate whether you are dealing with a true professional. Speaking of professionals, I asked Vanessa: "Why are some dog walkers so much lower cost than others?"

Her reply: "As with most things in life, you usually get what you pay for. Most companies who cost a little more offer better trained (longer term) staff, insurance coverage, and more experience working with dogs professionally. Typically the lower cost walkers are new or start up companies who do not have the years of experience to draw from while out and about in the world with your dog."

So the experience of dog walkers can vary significantly. This is a good thing to ask your dog walker! Imagine someone inexperienced with dogs being responsible for keeping 6-8 of them safe! So, I ask, "What kinds of qualifications are required to be a commercial dog walker?"

You might be surprised by Vanessa's reply: "None! Seriously. Anyone can start a commercial dog walking company without any prior certification or training. That's why it is so important to ask any and every question you can think if prior to handing over your house keys to a dog walker. If you are even somewhat dissatisfied with the answers you're receiving do not be afraid to move on to another company, there are so many great ones to choose from!" if this is the case, "What are some requirements that you think should be expected of all professional dog walkers?"

Vanessa's reply: "At absolute minimum: Insurance, Pet First Aid, and making safety of our furry charges our top priority. After all, people are entrusting us with a member of their family."

To learn more about Best Friends Pet Care please visit their WEBSITE
Learn more about Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid and safety program HERE


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  2. Thanks for sharing !
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