How to Choose a Dog Walker

| January 13, 2023

What used to be a part-time gig to earn a few extra dollars has now become a full-time profession that requires specialized knowledge and training in animal handling and behaviour.  

Dog walking services can range from large companies with multiple employees, sole proprietorships owned and run exclusively by one person. Some companies provide only solo dog walks through your neighbourhood, while some companies specialize in group excursions to local dog parks. Some businesses invest in private acreage outside of the city where several dogs are picked up in the morning, play outdoors all day, and are dropped off at the end of the day. There are tons of dog walking options out there, so how can pet parents know which service is the best for them and their dog?  

Here are some research tips for pet parents to consider when thinking about hiring a dog walker. 

What Makes a Good Dog Walker?

Regardless of the service they are offering, dog walking is physically and mentally challenging after spending an entire day, Monday to Friday and week after week, exercising multiple dogs with varying personalities, behavioural quirks, and physical needs. This takes a certain type of individual. 

Great dog walkers are also organized, efficient, reliable, and hold a strong work ethic. This will help them plan their dog walking schedules and keep consistent communication with pet parents. On top of all of that, they need to have the experience and skill to help the dogs they’re walking every day. They need to be masters of reading canine body language, have advanced dog handling skills, and know which dogs can be walked together. 

Consider the Services They’re Offering 

Different dog walkers provide different types of services. Below outlines typical business models. 

Private neighbourhood walks: This service is considered a premium service and is appropriate for dogs who are not comfortable walking with other dogs in a group or going to dog parks, or who might have other behavioural issues to work through that require a walker’s full and undivided attention. Walkers who provide this service walk fewer dogs daily than walkers who provide group service, so expect to pay a higher rate per walk. 

Semi-private neighbourhood walks: This service is like private walks except your dog may walk with one or two suitable buddies. Often, this service is dependent on the walker having other suitable clients in a geographical location close enough to you to be able to pick up the dogs and complete the walk in a reasonable time frame. 

Group neighbourhood walks: This is similar to the semi-private model, but the walker will pick up the maximum number of dogs allowed by their municipality for the walk. In Toronto, dog walkers may walk up to six dogs at a time.  

Group adventure style walks: This model usually involves several dogs being picked up in the dog walker’s vehicle for a trip to a dog park for off leash play, or to a hiking trail for a leashed trail walk. Dogs joining this type of service must be comfortable riding in the car with other dogs. 

In home day care: Some sole proprietors follow a business model that has the walker picking up a number of dogs in the morning and bringing them to their home for a day spent with the walker and the dog’s day care friends. Generally, a walk is included in the service unless the dog walker has a large enough yard to allow for a playgroup on property.  

Commercial day care: Commercial day care businesses are brick and mortar type commercial establishments. Most offer pick up or owner drop off options. Dogs in service spend their day playing with other dogs in the day care space while being monitored by day care attendants. Some day cares offer “play all day” service, while others follow a structured program including rest time and supervised play and outings. 

Toronto Humane Society Offers Day Training  

Toronto Humane Society offers a Day Training package that allows a certified trainer to come to your home during the midday hours to train your dog for you with a plan created to meet your goals. Training takes place either in your home or neighbourhood, and provides wonderful midday enrichment. The package provides 20 weekday sessions to help you jumpstart your dog’s training.   

We are currently offering this service in the following neighbourhoods: 

  • Queen and River Street area (Parliament to Bayview, Gerrard to Mill St) 
  • West Toronto (Islington and Lansdowne area, Eglinton and Bloor area, and the High Park area between Bloor Street and the Queensway) 

If you’re interested in hiring one of our certified dog trainers, or would like more information on our Day Training package, please book a complimentary virtual consultation to speak with our Public Training team.