Is Your Dog Walker Walking Your Dog?
A good dog walker can be a life-saver, but what if you suspect your dog walker is not doing their job?
Lisa Gates |
Posted: September 10, 2014, 7 a.m. PST
You come home, and something is not quite right.
On a stormy day, Sparky is clean as a whistle.
You bought a six-pack, but now only see five beers in your fridge.
Spot sure seems energetic for a dog who was supposed to have a vigorous walk mid-day.
Remember what Oprah says "listen to your inner voice.” In this case, it’s the same voice that spoke to the bear family Goldilocks moved in on. It’s whispering: "Your dog walker is ripping you off.”
I have been a professional dog walker – yes, the kind that shows up and actually walks your dog for the contracted period of time-for almost 20 years. Based on what the folks who hire me report, and what I occasionally see out on the trail, there are some pretty wide variations in what we might call professionalism in my business. There are many excellent dog walkers out there, but like any profession, there are bad apples mixed into the bunch.
How to Choose a Dog Walker>>
In an article in NYMag, a new dog owner discusses the process of discovering that her dog walker never actually walked her dog. Her leash never got moved and her friend's nanny cam caught the same walker leaving with the money and not the dog. While this might seem like it should be a bad dream, it actually happens more often that you might think.
Here are just some horror stories I've heard:
- The Time Waster. Advertises one hour off-leash walks but walk on-leash for 30 to 40 minutes. Some spend 20 to 30 minutes fussing over the dogs, giving them water and cleaning them up. Or they just drive off taking the long route back to the dog’s homes. When clients sign up for a one hour off-leash walk, I am pretty sure they don’t think half of it is being spent on the dog getting water, groomed and on-leash for most of the walk.
- The Switch-a-Roo. Walks six or even more dogs at a time, leaving six others in the car. After 30 minutes, they switch them out. This means two things; there are 12 dogs in the car at once during the drive to the park, which can be stressful for dogs AND your dog is sitting in the car for half their paid walking time.
- The Slacker. Raids your refrigerator, couch, HBO and pay-per-view channels. I read about a dog walker in New York City whose owner came home early from work to find him dressed in her favorite gown practicing dance moves in front of the mirror while the dog watched. And one about an owner strolling through Central Park on her lunch hour only to spot her dog and walker dressed in matching clown outfits with a sign that said "Circus Act” with a dish for money.
- The Socializer. Treats their paid time with your dog as an opportunity for socializing with other dog-walkers, and stand around talking, smoking cigarettes, texting and not paying attention to the dogs.
- The Fair Weather Friend: Treats rainy days as we did in Kindergarten: stay indoors, eat a snack and color. I mean text.
One reason I have been privy to these insights is on occasion, a fellow dog walker and I have filled in while another walker vacations. The owner noticed a relaxed Fido, calm, and tired, not jumping off the walls. No, the dog is not depressed and desperately missing his regular walker. Nor is he sick. The dog is finally getting what you paid for: an hour of off-leash fun!
Hopefully none of these are happening to you, but if you have your fears, here are some suggestions to check up on your dog walker. As sad as this may be to resort to such dire techniques, it can be worth the peace of mind:
- Nanny cam: You can observe your dog walker picking up and returning your dog.
- If you happen to be ill one day or decide to work from home, stay in your bedroom and don’t cancel the dog walker. You will find out what time they pick up and return your dog. And whether they help themselves to your refrigerator.
- GPS collar – This tells you where the dog has been and how long the dog is out of the house.
- For crated dogs, tape your crate to notice if the tape is broken when you return from work.
- Remote alarm entry systems: These alert you when a person arrives and returns to your home, hopefully with the dog.
- Ask your dog walker for pictures on the walks. This is practical and fun!
- Ask a neighbor to keep an eye on the situation. If they are around during the day, ask them to take note of the walker; arrival time, return time, with dog or with a sandwich from your refrigerator.
- Go for a walk or run in the park where they take your dog. See where they walk the dog, how long they are in the park and if your dog is getting the exercise and attention you paid for. Or is your dog visiting the dog walker’s home to catch the latest on the Dr. Phil show. After all, your dog walker "has a backyard for the dogs.”
- Yelp reviews: Check periodically because if your dog walker has been caught in a dirty deed most likely it will be expressed on Yelp.
A good dog walker, won't mind you checking in and with a really good dog walker, it's likely they'll be checking in with you!
Follow Lisa @BarkSideLisa
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