In addition to the Cuddly Boutique, Kimberley and I run a dog walking and pet sitting business called The Cuddly Cottage! Below we share some tips on finding and choosing the right dog walker for you!
We were regular dog owners in Hoboken, NJ before starting The Cuddly Cottage. In fact, the business started as a hobby after a bad experience on Rover and hearing from our neighbors the same difficulty in finding trustworthy, reliable petcare providers that would “treat your dog like their own”. So we started taking care of our neighbor’s cats and dogs when we could, and less than two years later, we’ve grown into a business with several full-time employees - and we've learned a lot along the way.
Ask Your Community - If your neighbors have dogs, ask them who they use and what their experiences have been. If you don’t feel comfortable asking or using their recommendations, there are local community groups online - Kimberley and I run a Facebook group called Hoboken Dog Lovers with ~800 members in Hudson County that are always happy to give recommendations and share advice on selecting a petcare service. When you can, always ask for real experiences from current or former customers of a service.
Vet Your Petcare Provider By Asking Questions - Always, always, always ask lots of questions before letting someone take care of your pet! Ask questions like:
- Do you have a dog of your own, and are they a part of the business? How have they been trained? We’ve found that there’s a bigger quality difference when the owners have their own dogs that play an active role in the business. They help instill more discipline and solidify the pack mentality, and create a happier and healthier environment for your dog as well!
- If and how do you vet potential clients? You don’t want a dog walker who will take in any dog. A walker who won’t say “no” to a dog can take in dogs with behavioral problems - exposing your dog to aggression and injury. Likewise, the most common way for a dog to develop bad or unwanted behaviors are from the dogs around it - so make sure your walker is doing their job to create and maintain a healthy, happy pack!
- Do they do basic training, and with what methodologies? Dogs crave consistency, so you need a partner who will reinforce the training you do with your own dog, and correct any unwanted behaviors in a positive, happy way. While your walker doesn’t need to be a fully certified trainer, they should at least know the basics of positive reinforcement training and work with you to give feedback about your dog’s progress. Transparent, honest communication is essential to correcting any unwanted behavior and continuing to improve your dog’s leash manners and obedience.
Do a Meet & Greet - It’s always best to do a meet and greet with your walker (and their team, if applicable) so that both parties feel comfortable and good about the arrangement. Most companies should require this, but always ask for one if they don’t make it mandatory. You should try to meet as many of the walkers employed by a walking service as you can, so that you’re comfortable with anyone who may need to cover your dog’s walks (in case of a sick or vacation day).
Have a Back-Up - It’s always nice to have a full-service pet sitter l that can help with any kind of pet care need (not just weekday walks) - but you should always have a few back-up services in case your primary provider is fully booked or otherwise unavailable when you need coverage. Many petcare providers are small businesses operated by their owners, so there are limits to the number of clients that can be serviced on any given date, and personal obligations may mean the business will be closed when you need service. When looking for a new dog walker or pet sitter, find a few that you're comfortable with just in case!
These tips were also featured on Hoboken Girl