With my kids old enough to go to kindergarden this year, I'll be starting a new job again in the Fall. My husband and I are going to start a search for a good dog walker and we were wondering if anyone had any tips or suggested questions to ask that would help us make sure we find the right one?
We live in Calgary, Alberta (in Canada) if anyone has any good walkers to suggest!
Google "dog walker" Alberta That should get you off to a good start.
Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring-it was peace. - Milan Kundera
Hi Jackie, I am a dog walker and I board people's dogs so hopefully I can give you some advice from the other side of the fence so to speak.
The first thing I suggest you do is go on a walk with the dog walker [DW] - meet the other dogs that will be walked with yours, and see for yourself what the dog walker is like and how s/he is with the dogs. You also want to see just how your dog gets on with the dog walker and the other dogs! I invite owners to do this everytime - I have nothing to hide. In all honesty though, I have never had anyone take me up on it. I always find that so weird - I wouldn't leave my babies in the hands of a stranger without checking them out as best I can first of all.
You also want to know the following -
 if your dog got injured what would DW do? eg, do they know any canine first aid? carry a kit? salt water, do they know where the nearest vet is relative to where they are walking your dog, do they have your vet details on them at all times, etc?
 if your dog was to get into a fight what would DW do? how would s/he break up the fight?
 does s/he have proper insurance, ask the following - what happens if the DW loses your precious dog - are they going to refund the cost to you? what if your dog causes an accident to another - is the DW covered for third party accidents and injuries??? - ask for a copy of the insurance certificate and check it is indate. I have my current certificate and insurance certificates going back the last 4 years.
 if the DW lost your dog what would they do? really here you want to know what steps and procedures this dog walker will take to find it - how long would they look for it? who would they contact - you/who else? and at what point would they contact you or anyone else [eg, dog wardens/control etc] - after 10mins, 30 mins, an hour???
 ask for a minimum of 3 referances and check them out
That's about the best you can do. I always tell owners that for the first couple of weeks I will keep their dog on a long line until I am happy the dog is listening to me and comes back when I call. I explain that this is just a guideline though. I had one dog I let off on day 2, she was used to being walked by a variety of people and her recall was ace, but with another dog it was 3 months before I could trust him off-lead.
As for the other side of the coin - how can you help your dog walker, well:
 always leave out a towel for rainy days. Make sure your dog always has it's collar on and ID details are up-to-date. If you want it to wear a coat - please make sure it is an easy one for the DW to put on and take off.
 be honest with your walker in the first place, tell them if it chases squirrels, swims in the pond, isn't good with male dogs or bitches, small dogs/big dogs etc., also how reliable its recall is if something 'exciting' is going on nearby. Even 'naughty' things - the dog walker will find them out anyway so there's no point not disclosing them - far better that you tell the dog walker everything so at least then s/he is aware of any potential 'problems' and knows how to deal with them!
 this might sound obvious, but pay on time, or at least have the courtesy to leave a note or send a text saying that you don't have the money and will leave it out the next week.
Hope some of this helps you anyway.
Wow Stephanie, this is more than I could have asked for... Thank you a million times over.
Your list of questions is so thoughtful and its great to get the inside scoop from your experience as a dog walker. I'm surprised that no one has taken you up on your offer walk with them, I guess just the fact that you invite them gives them comfort.
Do you have any thoughts as to the maximum number of dogs that a dog walker should be handling at any one time? I want to make sure that they are maintaining at least the minimum attention to my dogs.
Stephanie a huge thanks for your help on these questions !
You are welcome Jackie, I have many mixed thoughts on how many dogs a dog walker should be walking, but it kind of depends on what sort of walk it is and what dogs are on the walk. I don't know how things are in your country - do you have open spaces where you can just let dogs run off-lead or are you confined mostly to enclosed dog parks? Over here dogs are allowed off-lead in most parks and woods and in a situation like this, 4-5 dogs with good recall are quite manageable.
If your walker intends to spend the time walking on the roads then consideration has to be given to how the dogs walk on lead and whether they are reactionary to things on the walk, eg, other dogs/cats, etc. In the latter case, the number of dogs would need to be determined by the dogs personality & I guess the strength/weight of the dogs, eg, 4-5 smaller dogs are easier to handle than 4-5 big ones! I am thinking aloud with this though because I walk the dogs off-lead and only have them on lead to get them out of the carpark area and back into the car again after.
I have no experiance of enclosed dog parks so I can't advise you how many dogs a DW should handle at this time, I guess it all depends how busy the park is.
It may interest you to know that in all the local parks where I live, dog walkers are actually restricted by local by-laws to 6 dogs per walker.
Stephanie - thanks again for the feedback! I believe that most instances will be walking with the dogs in a part, where they will be mostly leashed with some time to run around in off-leash areas. This makes a lot of sense to me, I'll follow up with the questions of what sizes are the other dogs the DWs are walking and where they intend on taking them on a typical day.
That max of 6 is a helpful data point too, I was thinking 3-4 was a good number but agree that 4-5 smaller dogs would work ok too!
Can you please explain what you meant by "good recall"? Thanks again Stephanie!
Most welcome Jackie, "good recall" simply means the dog comes back when it is called in the face of distractions, eg, other dogs, cats, ducks!, squirrels, footballs, kids screaming and running around, etc..
Thanks for the very very thoughtful answers!
Stephanie that was very good advice especially the bit about checking on the insurance situation. I have not used a dog walker but we have used a 'home from home' service when we have gone on holiday. Your advice can be applied to that too.