Thanks to the development of web- and app-based walking services, in most cities there are now four major options for hiring a dog walker:
- Leashed walks with a dog walker found online
- Leashed walks with an on-demand walker
- On-leash walks with a professional dog walking service
- Off-leash walks with a dog professional
While every dog needs walks, not every dog will do well with every type of dog walker. In some cases, you can prepare your pup to meet their walker by improving cues like “come” and “leave it.”
In other cases, all the preparation in the world isn’t going to make your dog a good candidate for a particular type of dog walker.
Our guide on how to set your pup up for success with their new walker will help you to figure out which service is right for your best friend and how to help them shine in the eyes of your new walker.
How Training Can Help Prepare Your Dog
Play the Red-light Green-light Game
- When your dog pulls on the leash, stop moving and wait for them to stop pulling. When they are loose on the leash, start walking again.
- Frequently call your dog’s name and reward them for turning their head toward you (treat them while moving). Reward your dog to the side of your body, not directly in front of it.
- The cues “touch” and “leave it” can bring your dog back to you when they’ve wandered too far away and begun to pull.
- “Touch” brings your dog’s nose, and their body along with it, to touch your hand while “leave it” asks your dog to move away from a scent or anything else that has their attention.
The more often good things happen at your side, the more time they will spend there.
Preparing your dog for the online walker
Apps and sites like Rover allow you to search the profiles of dog walkers and book them in advance for both regular outings and occasional ones.
In most cases, a walker you hire via Rover will only be walking one dog on-leash at a time so improving your dog’s walking skills and recall aren’t completely necessary in order to prepare your pup for their first walk.
If you do have a puller, however, switching your walking gear to the anti-pull front-clip harness or head harness discussed above can make everyone a little bit happier.
With walkers on Rover, you can look at their qualifications and reviews before making a selection, and set up an advance meeting. This is ideal so that you can introduce your pup and make sure the walker is comfortable taking your dog out. This is especially true if your dog is fearful, reactive, or extra-large and excitable.
Preparing your dog for the on-demand walker
These days, just about everything is available on-demand, and walks for your dog are no exception. Just like ride-sharing apps, an on-demand dog walking service will send over the closest available walker to take your pup out.
If your dog is a lover-of-all-humans, confident and always good-natured, they could be a good candidate for on-demand walking.
Since you, yourself, will probably never meet the walker, nor will you always have the same one, the only preparation needed for on-demand walking is to make sure that your dog is in an open space, preferably blocked with a baby gate (so that your walker can move about freely if your dog does not react well to them).
This is a much better option than placing your dog in a crate, which your walker will have to reach into.
Be sure that your dog’s harness and leash are easily accessible and, if your dog is at all sensitive about being touched on their legs or head, you may want to put the harness on them before you leave for the day.
Preparing your dog for the professional dog walking service
Professional on-leash dog walkers may offer group walks, solo walks, or walks with only one or two other individuals, so be clear about this when discussing options. If your dog doesn’t do well in large groups of dogs, it’s important to talk about this with the service provider in advance.
No matter what, your dog will be most successful if they have some good leash skills under their belt—or, at the very least, the right kind of walking equipment.
First off, your gear. If your dog pulls throughout their walk, they’ll drive your walker nuts, especially if they have several pups on leash all at once. Luckily, the type of harness you use can have a big impact on the quality of your dog’s walk.
For most dogs, the anti-pull harness can be used immediately after purchase but all dogs will need to be desensitized to the head harness for several days, if not weeks, before it can be used for a walk. Be sure to complete this before attempting to allow your walker to take out your dog.
Preparing your dog for the professional off-leash dog walker
There are typically two kinds of off-leash walks offered by professional dog walkers: those that take their pack of four to ten dogs to an open off-leash space, and those who take them to an enclosed dog park.
Walkers who take their dogs to enclosed dog parks will not require their pack to have perfect recall but will only be able to take well-behaved individuals who get along well with other pups.
Walkers who use open off-leash spaces may be able to take dogs who are a little more selective in who they choose to befriend but will need your pup to have excellent recall.
Many professional walkers prefer to do a trial run with a dog before accepting them as part of their pack so your most important prep work will be sharpening up your furry friend’s ability to come when called.
We can’t get into exactly how to teach your dog a strong recall here, but we can remind you of some important ground rules for working with your dog on recall.
Dogs learn recall (like most dog behaviors) in stages; in order to move to the next level of difficulty, they need to master the preceding level. It’s easier to think of it like your dog going through a recall “school”:
- Grades 1 and 2 they can come to you when you call them in the house
- Grades 3 and 4 they can come to you when you call in the backyard,
- To get your dog to come to you in an off-leash space or enclosed dog park, they’ll need at least a 12th-grade education on the subject.
Pro-tip: using a long line—a 30-ft leash—with your dog in a park is a great way to work through the challenges of the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.
Always call your dog in a happy, excited tone of voice. If they don’t come to you directly, move closer to them and try again. Never call your dog if something nasty is going to happen immediately after (i.e., a bath).
Reward your dog heavily for coming when you call them. If coming to you results in a gigantic, delicious treat, they’ll be more likely to come to you in the future.
The bottom line: you know your dog best. Prepare them for success with training and choosing the right kind of dog walker for their temperament and abilities.