Do dog walkers need a qualification?
The recent and tragic event that resulted in the death of a woman that was walking dogs has highlighted an issue that will have concerned many dog owners all over the country, even before this tragedy. As a dog owner looking to hire someone to walk a dog or in my case recommend someone to help out one of my clients, choosing the right person cannot be based on qualifications, certification or licence, there are none! Councils offer only guidelines and advice to prospective dog walkers, and certainly no one checking that those working as dog walkers are meeting the guidelines, or even if they have any insurance.
Local council dog wardens are already overstretched in their work, and although it would be their job to follow through if there were a complaint, there is no time for prevention or monitoring dog walkers.
The other side of this coin is as a walker of my own dog and as a trainer I often accompany other dog owners for training, it is pretty scary meeting a dog walker with multiple dogs, to be fair many of them don’t choose areas where there are other walkers, but those that dog are not always respectful of the impact they have on others. As a dog trainer, I would not train more than one dog at a time, for choice I would only walk 2 dogs together if at least one of them was really well trained. And I would never walk more than one giant or large breed at a time, not anywhere public, there is no way anyone could stop 2 dogs that want to really take off!
On that basis why do councils say in these guidelines, that no one has to abide by, maximum of 4 dogs at a time and some say 6? What knowledge are they basing that on? Given that they have no requirement for the dog walker to be qualified. Any dog walker worth employing would not walk multiple dogs, never more than one large breed at a time, at least none that I have known. You can guarantee if they did at some point it will go wrong for someone.
What can we do about it? Firstly we need to lobby politicians and councils to require more of anyone employed as a dog walker in their area. There are associations for dog walkers to join, I have no real knowledge of them, there is no requirement for any dog walker to join any organisation, or anyone to overseer them either, my best guess is the quality will vary, with some of them simply entrepreneurs capitalising on this very new industry.
My advice would be to speak to people, vets and other dog owners to get a recommendation and be very wary of anyone that offers to walk multiple dogs with yours.
(In my next blog I look at why the need for dogs walkers has grown and does your dog really need one?)