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We all love our pets and want to spend as much time with them as possible. However, there's no getting away from the fact that holidays or work, as well as the unexpected curve balls life throws from time to time, mean that many people need to consider a little extra help with caring for their dog now and then.
Pet sitters and dog walkers provide a range of services such as walking your dog while you're out at work and unable to do so yourself, feeding and watering, performing welfare checks, and providing companionship for your animals when you are not around.
If like most of us, your dog is a part of the family, then you'll want to be sure you find the very best person for the job; someone who is confident, competent, knowledgeable about animals, and who will care for your pet as much as you do. So how can you find the perfect person?
One of the best places to start looking for a dog walker is at your local veterinary surgery. Lots of veterinary nurses and student veterinary nurses often provide a pet sitting or walking service as a sideline, and of course the kind of training and experience they receive in practice makes them a perfect choice to care for your dog. Also, veterinary practices often keep a list or database of pet sitters and walkers in the local area, and a recommendation from your animal's own vet is always a plus point!
Recommendations from other pet owners can be another source of information, so ask around. Websites such as Petslocally.co.uk and other local advertisement boards, pet specific online classifieds forums, and telephone directories all list pet sitters and dog walkers too.
Once you've found a few potential animal lovers offering their services, there are several things you will want to consider to ensure the best fit for your own dog.
Firstly and most importantly, choose a pet sitter or dog walker who holds the necessary insurance for the job. Remember, this person will be coming into your home and holding the duty of care for your animals either in your house or out walking- You'll want to make sure that they are covered if something unfortunate should happen, such as your dog becoming injured on a walk or causing damage or injury themselves.
Always ask your potential pet sitter or walker to provide references from their other clients, and follow up on them.
Meet with several potential candidates, to see how they interact with your pet and how your pet feels about them. Find out a little about their background, and what relevant experience they have with dogs.
Ask what they would do in the case of an unforeseen situation if they were ever unable to make it over to walk or care for your pet when they have agreed to. Do they have contingencies in place, and are you happy with them?
Ask them how they will safeguard your animals, keys and home and what protocols they have in place to ensure your security. For instance having a name and address attached to your key fob is not a good idea for the owner, so make sure that the sitter or walker isn't doing this either!
Question them as to what they would do in an emergency, or if your animal was sick and injured while in their care. Do they have a clear idea of how they would manage this, and can they satisfy you that they would be able to deal with it effectively and in the way that you would want?
Consider if your dog will require one- to- one walks, or would be happy in a pack. If your walker takes out multiple dogs at the same time, ask them how many, and ensure that you are comfortable with that number and confident in the dog walker's ability to manage and care for them all.
Check with them if they make sure that any dogs which they bring into contact with your own are vaccinated and up to date with their flea and worming regime- The last thing you want is for your dog to bring home something nasty as a result of the arrangement!
Find out where your walker intends to take you dog- Is it safe, stimulating and appropriate? Where might they be allowed off the lead, and is it secure?
Establish what happens if your dog is brought home wet, muddy or having rolled in something unspeakably nasty. You'll want to make sure that your dog walker will dry your dog off and clean them up to a reasonable standard before leaving them in your home.
When interviewing a few dog walkers to find the best fit, remember that a competent and experienced person will want to ask you as many questions as you put to them.
They should be interested in your dog and in finding out what is important to you, and address any specific concerns you might have.
Professional pet sitters and those who take the duty of care of your dog seriously will probably ask you to sign an agreement contract, covering both what they will and won't do, and what they expect from you in return.
Finally, in the initial stages of trialling a new dog walker, it will give you added peace of mind if you are confident that they are doing what is expected of them and caring for your dog in the way that you would want.
If at all possible, try and have a 'dry run' while you are able to be nearby, to make sure that your chosen carer comes when they say they will, does what they say they will and that everything goes off without a hitch and is a positive experience for your dog.
It's worth it for the peace of mind you'll have in future when you're not there to step in, and are reliant on your dog walker for your best friend's care in your absence.
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