If you’re looking for a dog walker in Milton Keynes or Bedford you will be inundated with names of either businesses who offer this service or individuals who do a bit of walking on the side. You may even get some parents offering their child up for a fiver. There are almost too many options now which makes picking the right dog walker for you and your pooch tricky, if not a little stressful.
To start with, you need to understand what it is you want out of the relationship and how much you want to pay. If you are pinching pennies and want the cheapest walker going then you need to understand how this will impact you and your dog; often the lowest price means lowest service. Not always but often. Dog walking is hard work, and a business who prices themselves appropriately in the market place will have taken the time to understand the logistics behind dog walking and will not just be bunging your dog in a van with twenty others because it’s easy money.
Reliability is a huge factor too! We get so many clients coming to us because their previous walker let them down. It is often assumed in our line of work that walking is something that’s required 365 days of the year, but of course everyone needs a break. If you’re going for the cheapest rate then there is a good chance that your walker will be working on their own and therefore will be seemingly “letting you down” when taking a holiday. Do understand that a walker is just like you and I .. with the same need to rest and recoup after all that exercise and braving the elements. This may suit you ok, or you may need to use someone that has a cover system in place. Just something to think about before you choose your walker.
At Jog My Dog we have a team in place so when your usual walker takes a holiday, or is sick unexpectedly, one of the team will step in. This cover walker will have been shown the ropes already (usually when you sign up) so that they are ready and able to take up the reigns so to speak when it’s that time of year when you’re walker needs a break. The way we work is really unique I believe as we are able to offer you an individual walker who you and your dog can build up a relationship but provide cover so that you can have that all important dog walk every day of the year.
I’m always surprised how rarely (if ever) we are asked how the dogs will be transported to and from their walk. But people this is HUGE!! So so many dog walkers are cramming ten, twelve or sometimes twenty (yes you read that right) in a small van and then releasing them in a field together. Sure the dogs are usually fine, but what if it’s hot and a flat faced breed is struggling with the heat and proximity of other dogs and one time it’s not ok? What if some of the dogs have issues being this close to others and it starts to bring out the worst in them?
Then there is the opposite end of the spectrum, where dogs are travelling in cars loose and sat in foot wells, clambering over seats, moving around in the boot and generally distracting the driver. Your dog should be in a harness and then strapped in just like you or your child would be when driving in a car, it is against the law to have them loose and out of control. And what if the walker were to have an accident? It would be your dog flying through that windscreen faster than you can say bam!
Again this comes down to doing your research. Ask how the dogs will be transported and what systems are in place to ensure they are secure if travelling in a car not crate. At Jog My Dog we put dogs in their own individual crate unless they are from the same household (with owner agreement) or they are very well known to each other and small enough to still fit comfortably. If dogs are unhappy travelling in a crate – and some are – then we ask owners to leave out a harness so that we can strap them in with our doggy seat belts. Any dogs that are in the boots have a long leash attached to them which is in turn attached to the vehicle in some way, so that they do not bomb out of the car when the boot is opened.
How many dogs will they walk with?
Every dog walking business is different and the first thing to highlight is that this is a very individual situation which comes down to the experience of a walker, the dog breed, temperament and age, along with the location of the walk.
An experienced walker can quite easily and safely manage 5 dogs if walking in a secluded wood, and if the dogs are known to each other, well behaved with good recall and a calm demeanor then this type of walk would be a delight and totally appropriate. You can, however, have 3 extremely wild and naughty dogs with poor recall and in this case 3 would be the max this walker should take out, with 2 probably being more appropriate.
A professional dog walking business will assess the dogs carefully before accepting them, through a detailed phone conversation and a trial walk during the meet and greet. We do this at Jog My Dog, however, sometimes this won’t show the full picture and we only start to see the real dog during their group play. Dogs that do not listen, have poor recall or ‘harass’ other dogs on their walks are not suitable for group walk sessions with us as we already have groups in place and no more room for solo dog walking.
Most of our group walks are with 3 or 4 well behaved dogs. We take them to safe areas such as the woods (Aspley and Woburn Sands being our favourite), enclosed fields (Woburn Sands or Wolverton Mill), rural areas along the North Bucks Way to name but a few. But of course there is a chance we will bump into other people or dogs so it is a must that yours is well behaved with reliable recall and presents with no aggression in order for them to join these types of walks.
Walkers often meet up as it gives us a chance to further assess the suitability of dog combinations so that last minute emergencies, holidays etc can be catered to. As the picture below shows, we look for good recall, a reliable ‘sit/stay’ and whether there is any reactivity around treats or toys. With two people present, and in fully enclosed fields, we are able to do these sort of checks which I believe is really key to stress free and safe walking.