I am a very active dog owner!  And my two hyper-athletic pups have gotten very used to hiking several times per week, doing agility classes, and basically going everywhere with me.  So when I recently found myself sidelined with an injury for 2 months, it became apparent very quickly that they needed more than I could give them.  It was time to hire a dog walker!

But there were so many choices out there; it was hard to know who was best.  So I turned to my friend Andrea Fenner, owner of Walkies LLC; an awesome pet care company based in Philly/South Jersey to decode the mystery of finding a great dog walker!  Here are her tips:

Choose a Professional Pet Sitting Service Rather Than a Random Dog Lover.  “Even though they may be slightly more expensive, trust me, it’s worth the reliability, trust and coverage.” Fenner says.   Professional Pet Sitting Services have experience, liability insurance and a client base of references that can all give you peace of mind. These services also have multiple sitters on staff so should your regular or “assigned” sitter get sick or have an emergency, your pets are covered.  Andrea also suggests going with a service that places you with one sitter/walker, and one back-up sitter/walker

Check the Web! In this day and age most reputable pet services have a web presence.   A website is a sign that the company owner takes their business seriously, has invested in their business and wants you to know who they are!  Fenner says, “A good website should have their services and rates, sitters or walkers and some testimonials from happy customers.”  The site, Yelp, is also helpful for reading unbiased reviews from past customers.

Always meet the sitter or walker BEFORE you hire them and leave them in your home alone.  A thorough meet and greet allows you to get to know your assigned sitter. Expect the sitter or walker to introduce themselves to you and your pet, pick up keys, confirm pertinent information about your pet (e.g. vet information, emergency contact, special requests, etc.), and answer any additional questions you may have. . . oh, and of course give lots of hugs and kisses to your pet!   And let them ask questions too!  You want someone to have as much information as possible since they will be acting as a ‘stand in’ for you. “Your sitter should treat your pet and home the way you would.” Fenner says.  “If a sitter or walker seems aloof with you, chances are that’s how they will be with your pet.”  Trust your gut…if you EVER feel uneasy go with someone else.  And always ask for references…it’s your right to know someone who has the keys to your home!

Appreciate your dog walker or pet sitter!  Andrea shares this from experience. . . “Don’t treat your dog walker or pet sitter like ‘the help’.   Be grateful for them! They love your pets and take care of your home when you are unable to, and for not very much money when you think about what the job responsibility actually is.” Andrea Says, “You trust them with your baby, your home and all of your possessions…treat them well, pay them on time and tip them at Christmas.”

Armed with Andrea’s suggestions, I found a wonderful dog walker who serves my area and has been treating my crazy dogs like family 3 times per week for the last several weeks!  And I’m so glad I did!  Still have questions about who the right sitter/dog walker is for your pups?  Ask the expert.  And if you are in need of a great dog walker/pet sitter, check out www.iheartwalkies.com  for all of your pet care needs.