“Wanna go for a walk?” Dog walkers are saying these magic words to canine companions across the country every day. According to the ASPCA, Americans own roughly 78 million dogs. And those dogs need — or demand — their walks. If you’re an owner who works all day or is otherwise busy, a dog walker might be a good solution.
It’s understandable to be concerned about leaving your beloved pet in the hands of a dog walker. But these people are professionals, who often are trained and insured, especially when you hire them through a company, such as Rover. And they almost certainly have your pup’s best interests at heart. Here are 15 things your dog walker wants you to know.
1. We’re working here
Dog walkers aren’t just going on leisurely strolls all day. Their schedules are very rigid, especially during peak hours. “We fit in a ton of work within three very busy hours of the day (not many need us before 11 a.m. or after 2 p.m.). Every client has a different routine, every dog a different need,” one dog walker writes on Rover-Time.
So if you want to schedule a last-minute visit, know the lunch hour is probably booked solid. And if you cancel with short notice, remember your dog walker probably turned down other work to accommodate you.
2. Your dog is overweight
They might not be veterinarians, but dog walkers notice your dog’s general health. After all, it’s not too difficult to spot an obese pooch. They also might take into account whether your dog’s nails are overgrown, his fur is matted and dirty, or something else seems to be bothering him.
Typically, dog walkers will mind their own business unless they fear for a dog’s health and safety. But they really wish you would give your dog a bath — and maybe schedule him for a few more calorie-burning walks.
3. Pee happens when it happens
Despite dog walkers’ rigid schedules, dogs don’t know how to tell time (except when it’s time to eat). Dog walkers care whether your dog does his business outside. For one, they want to make sure he doesn’t have any accidents in the house later, making a client question why they even hired a dog walker. But also, dog walkers want to give your pet a little relief and excitement to take him through the rest of the day.
Dog walkers might have to spend a little extra time with a dog who’s being stubborn about picking his spot to go. (And they have no shame in walking around your neighborhood energetically pointing out places for your dog to pee.) Plus, they might have to clean up an unfortunate mess inside someone’s house. So if your dog walker shows up a little late, cut them some slack. Some days they’ll probably spend extra time with your pooch, too.
4. Tips are appreciated
Dog walkers probably aren’t in it for the money. According to PayScale, their median rate is $13.27 per hour. But remember, it varies how many hours they work per day based on appointments. Plus, if they work for a company, a good portion of what you pay is going to the business, not your favorite walker.
So if you really like your walker or are thankful for their handling of your difficult dog, tips are a good way to show it. That’s especially true when you hire them for weekends or holidays. And just like your dog, walkers love — and will remember — when you give them a treat.
5. We can’t train your dog
Most dog walkers, especially those who work for companies, go through a training process. It often covers basic dog behavior, obedience, and what to do in emergencies. But when you hire a dog walker, you’re not getting an obedience instructor, too. They might try to teach your dog how to walk better on a leash just to make their job easier, but it’s not in the job description.
Plus, it’s much more important for owners to undertake obedience training with their dogs. It helps to strengthen your bond. After all, you wouldn’t want your dog walker to become your dog’s favorite person, would you?
6. We also can’t give medical advice
Just like with obedience training, dog walkers aren’t equipped to give medical advice. And often their companies prohibit it outright. On the other hand, dog walkers know a lot about dogs and probably have canine clients with specific medical needs they have to accommodate. So if they notice something isn’t right with your dog and advise you to see a vet, take it seriously.
“If there was a severely underweight dog, I would just say I noticed the dog’s ribs were sticking out when I was giving him a belly rub, and I would suggest a higher calorie food to help put weight on,” dog walker Kate Beckman tells Cosmopolitan. “I frame it as, ‘Let us know if we can help,’ if we notice something off about a dog.”
7. Leave us the goods
Dog walkers might have a spare leash, treats, and some bags on hand. But they really appreciate it when you provide them with all your dog’s accessories. Often, dog walkers pay for these items out of pocket because they don’t want to be caught unprepared. But they’d much rather use what your pet is used to. And please, tell them where they can dispose of dog waste. It’s the least you can do for the person picking up after your pet.
8. Warn us about neighborhood quirks
Does the golden retriever from across the street always come running when he sees your pretty poodle? Does your dog not like kids? This kind of information is really valuable to dog walkers. Let them know your typical walking route, places to avoid, things that drive your dog nuts, etc. Your dog walker obviously will be alert when out with your pup, but anything to make the walk go more smoothly and safely is appreciated.
9. We’re out there, rain or shine
If your dog freaks out when he hears loud noises (such as thunder), let your walker know. Unless you cancel your appointment, your dog walker will be there no matter what the weather’s doing. “If the post office is running, so am I, and also when they’re not running,” dog walker Mike Clark says on Dogtime.
Clients can ask for a quick potty break followed by indoor play for the rest of the appointment in inclement weather. Or they might still prefer their husky takes a 30-minute walk outside in the snow. Either way, your dog walker is prepared to face Mother Nature as long as it’s safe for your dog to be out there.
10. There are problem clients (and you might be one)
Some dogs go berserk on a leash. Others attack anyone entering their house, including the dog walker. And then there are the owners who want to micromanage their dog’s life, down to the rhinestone sweater they insist the walker put on their dog each walk — for style, not for warmth. Dog walkers have seen it all, but that still doesn’t make the job easy.
Take honest stock of your situation before booking a dog walker. If you have two wild 100-pound Labradors who you know are impossible to walk together, you’ll need to book a longer appointment, so your walker can take them out separately. And be truthful about your dog’s quirks, so your walker can approach every appointment safely.
11. We find it weird when you’re home
If you’re working from home, sick, or otherwise unable, it’s totally acceptable to get help walking your dog. Even if you’re home occasionally when your dog walker comes by, just enjoying some personal time, that’s perfectly understandable. But it’s the owners who are there all the time, seemingly just twiddling their thumbs, that really confuse dog walkers.
“We have clients who are home every time their dog is walked,” Beckman says. “They just didn’t want to walk their dog.” Your dog walker might silently judge you for always passing off your pet owner responsibilities when you’re perfectly able to do them yourself. But, as Beckman says, she keeps those thoughts to herself and happily walks her clients’ dogs.
12. You might not get the same walker each time
If you request a dog walker through an agency, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your favorite person for each appointment. Dog walkers try to work consistent schedules, but sometimes the appointments don’t allow for it. So that means a new walker whom you haven’t met could be coming to your home.
If you don’t like this idea, you can inform your agency you only want appointments with a specific walker. You just have to accept some days that walker might not be able to make it. Or you can hire a private walker if you’re comfortable screening them yourself. But know if you go this route they might not always come trained or insured.
13. We do more than just walks
A walk around the block is nice, but if you wish your dog walker could do more you’re in luck. Many dog walkers — either as part of their job descriptions or out of the goodness of their animal-loving hearts — will help you out with other small tasks. That includes grabbing your mail or bringing in packages, turning on household lights, or even feeding your dog if she’s due for a meal.
Plus, some services offer much more. Rover, for instance, provides dog boarding, house sitting, day care (where your dog goes to a sitter’s house for the day), and quick drop-in visits. It’s always nice leaving for a vacation with someone you already know and trust watching your home and pet.
14. We love leaving you notes
Don’t be shy about asking your dog walker how their visit went with your pooch. They’re working for you, after all, and they surely understand about helicopter pet parents. Your walker will be glad to leave you notes, telling you whether your dog went potty on the walk, whether he got anything to eat, how he was acting, and anything else you’d like to know. You might even glean from the notes that your dog never relieves himself during these visits and adjust them to a better time.
15. We know and love your dog
Dog walkers see a lot of canine clients. And they remember each and every one of them. “When you hang out with a dog every day for a few years, you can’t help but build a strong bond with them,” Clark says. So if you decide you no longer need the dog-walking service, give your walker a heads-up before their last visit. They’ll appreciate it more than you realize to have that last walk with your pup to say goodbye.