With our lives getting busier and more hectic by the day, finding the time to walk our beloved dogs can be difficult. It's no wonder more and more people are turning to professional dog walkers to help them out, but be aware there are important guidelines that professional dog walkers need to adhere to.

Note: This was originally produced in conjunction with the Pet Industry Federation

dog walking guide

Animal Welfare Act 2006

Dogs are protected under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The law states that dog owners are always responsible for their dogs. Dog walkers are also identified as being responsible for the dog whilst it is in their care. So, a dog walker has legal responsibilities and can be held criminally liable under the Act. It is essential that professional dog walkers are aware of this Act and are compliant with other relevant bylaws.

What does my dog walker need to know?

Every dog is an individual with specific requirements that need to be understood by your dog walker. Some conditions may affect your dog’s ability to go for walks such as their age, but other factors such as behavioural issues may affect how or where they can be walked. This is particularly important if your dog does not get on well with other dogs. In addition some dogs may find certain situations stressful such as loud noises. If you put your requirements into your listing, Tailster will be able to find a walker that can accommodate all of your dog's needs. The dog's physical health and metal wellbeing should be the walkers main priority at all times.

Here at Tailster we always recommend a meet and greet with potential dog walkers:

  • Meet and greets allow Tailster dog walkers to pre-assess your pet and evaluate your dog's behaviour before commencing with the walks. It also allows the dog to become familiar with the walker.
  • They also provide an opportunity to discuss your pets personality and behavioural conditions. For example if your dog does not react well to other dogs, your Tailster walker would be able to walk your dog independently.
  • You should always inform you Tailster dog walker of your dog's training and cues, so these instructions can be followed when your dog is being walked.
  • Make your walker aware of any medical issues your pet has such as allergies or medication. It is important to pass on the details of your veterinary practice incase of an emergency. For peace of mind, every walk is fully insured, including emergency vet fees, when booked through the Tailster platform.
  • Different breeds of dogs need varying amounts of exercise, it's vital that your dog's needs are met by your Tailster walker. So planning walks dependent on the age, fitness, health and behaviour of your dog are key to keeping them happy! Download the Tailster app to track walks so you can keep tabs on how much exercise your dog is getting.

Transporting your dog from A to B

Keeping your dog stimulated can include varying where your dog walks take place. If your Tailster dog walker wants to change up the walk to keep it interesting, bear in mind that dogs in vehicles can be extremely distracting and can lead to accidents. There are also other dangers that face your dog such as overheating in vehicles on hot days. Here are some rules that should be followed by dog walkers:

  • There should always be adequate ventilation and water available to your dog when travelling in a vehicle.
  • Dogs should not be restrained by leads, the vehicle should be fitted with a crate or cage as this is the safest way to transport your pet.
  • In particularly hot weather, the distance and time travelled in a vehicle should be kept to a minimum for your pet.
  • If multiple dogs are being transported in a car, care must be taken to ensure their safety and no dog is at risk of injury. Dogs should be separated as much as possible for their comfort.
  • Dog walkers should never leave your dog unattended in a car.
  • All equipment used by the walker should be capable of being cleaned and disinfected regularly. This is very important to keep the spread of disease to a minimum.
  • All transport legislation must be followed (Welfare of Animals (Transport)(England) Order 2006)

Providing exercise 

Walks are the key to keeping your four-legged friend happy and healthy. A dog's welfare can be greatly impacted by how they are walked and the interactions they have with their walker.

Commands

It is important that dog walkers stick to commands the dog is familiar with. They should not try and modify or offer any advice on the dog's behaviour unless they are suitably qualified and have the owners consent. This should be discussed with your Tailster walker during the meet and greet.

Equipment

The dog walker should never use any equipment that the dog is not used to as this may cause distress and anxiety. For example, electric shock, spray or choke collars are not appropriate and can cause great distress to dogs.

Walking on a lead

All equipment such as leads and collars should be checked before the walk starts to make sure they are fit for purpose. This will help decrease the risk of the dog escaping from the walker. Dogs should only be allowed off the lead if the owner and dog walker are confident with the dog's recall. If this is not possible, then dogs should be kept on the lead at all times. When dogs are required to be walked on a lead they should ideally be trained to walk calmly on a loose lead. The lead should be held in a secure manner, and be maintained at an appropriate length. They should only be let off the lead in secure areas where the dog is unable to escape.

Dog walkers must ensure that dogs are never left unattended in public places. If a dog gets lost whilst in the care of a walker, the walker must contact the owner and dog warden immediately.

Things to take into consideration

Tailster dog walkers are recommended to try and vary the dog's walk to increase interest and stimulation. Full attention must be given to the dog in the walkers care.

Bitches in season should be walked in quiet areas, on the lead and walked alone. Unless prior written consent is given by the owner detailing which dogs the bitch can be walked with.

Before walks start, the Tailster dog walker must check that dogs in their care are microchipped and wear a collar with the owner's name and address. The walker should gain the owner's permission before giving the dog treats.

Group dog walking

Group walking dogs can be beneficial for socialising your dog. Tailster dog walkers will be fully insured and can walk up to 6 dogs dependent on the local authority requirements. The number of dogs walked in a group should not exceed this number. We recommend that no more than four dogs are walked at any one time. Dog walkers should have each dog on an individual lead when walking a group.

A general rule to follow is that small dogs should be walked with other small dogs. It can be very easy for big dogs to injure their smaller peers.

There are drawbacks associated with group dog walking such as increased risk of exposure to infections. Steps should be taken to minimise the risk of disease spreading between animals and to ensure all dogs interact amicably.

Spread of infection can be prevented by the dog walker being familiar with signs of disease, infection and illness so that dogs showing signs of infectious disease, such as kennel cough, are not walked or socialised with other animals. The walker should check that all dogs are vaccinated, wormed and treated for fleas regularly, unless, certified exempt by a veterinary surgeon.

Each dogs temperament should be assessed before deciding if they can be walked together in a group. The dog walker should be assured that each dog will be relaxed and happy during transportation and the walk.

All dogs under a dog walker’s care should be reliably under control at all times and transported in accordance with the guidance in this article.

If you feel group walking would not be suitable for your pet, Tailster can find you a solo-walker. All you need to do is let your Tailster walker know your requirements.

Be cautious with fearful, anxious or aggressive dogs

Owners with dogs that exhibit fearful, anxious or aggressive behaviour towards other dogs or people should always be upfront with their Tailster walker. The walker will then be able to cater to the dog's requirements by walking the dog on a lead at an appropriate lead length at all times. Consideration should be given to avoid walking in areas where meeting other dogs are likely. An appropriate (basket type) well-fitting and secure muzzle which allows panting, drinking and vomiting might be considered if necessary and with the owner's permission.

Returning home 

When returning home the dog walker should always ensure the dog is comfortable and if appropriate the dog should be dried with a towel. The walker should securely lock the clients property when they leave. Dog walkers should report back to owner after the walk with any concerns about the dog's health or behaviour.

Emergencies

Although you may try to minimise the chance of accidents occurring, sometimes they can't be avoided. It's essential that dog walkers are prepared for any unforeseen incidents to maintain the welfare of all dogs in their care.

The dog walker should always have the emergency contact number of the owner at hand. Prior to the walks starting a written agreement should be made between the owner and walker over actions if a dog becomes sick or injured during a walk. This should include the authority to seek veterinary attention and the level of decision-making agreed to by the owner, if the owner is not contactable. It should also be confirmed which veterinary practice the dog should be taken to.

Walkers should always have a first aid kit designed specifically for dogs stored in a convenient location such as their vehicle in case of an emergency. If travelling by vehicle, full breakdown cover should be in place in case of a break down.

Dog walkers should not enter any area where there is a perceived threat and should leave the area if a risk becomes apparent. Extra care should be taken when lone walking to ensure the walkers personal safety. Dog walkers should always carry a fully charged mobile phone and have emergency numbers on speed dial. It's recommended that all walks are tracked via the Tailster app.

The impacts of dog walking

Environmental impacts

Regular walks are essential for the mental and physical well-being of your dog. It's so important to provide exercise and stimulation to keep your dog's daily routine interesting. Walks can have huge positive impacts on your pet's health but what about the environment?

  • Dog walking can impact the local environment and walkers should aim to minimise this and show care and respect for the environment whilst meeting legal requirements.
  • Dog waste is unhygienic and can pose a health risk to humans and other animals. It can also cause serious damage to wildlife and animal communities.
  • All dog mess must be picked up by dog walkers and disposed of in suitable bins according to the Dogs (fouling of land) Act 1996.
  • Dog walkers must make sure they always carry enough poo bags for the number of dogs they are walking.

Impacts on people

We may all be dog lovers here, but bear in mind not everyone is as comfortable with our four-legged friends like us. You should be particularly careful around children or if walking dogs in a group. Many people are scared of dogs so it is best to avoid places with large crowds or playgrounds with children.

  • Dog walkers should avoid heavily populated areas. In some cases these areas will be covered by local bylaws preventing access for dogs, which must be followed.
  • Dog walkers must follow restrictions on the number of dogs to be walked, such as in Royal Parks.
  • Right of way should always be given to the public when walking groups of dogs. Wherever possible, narrow pathways and bottleneck points should be avoided.
  • Dog walkers exercising groups of dogs should not meet up with other dog walkers unless they are sure that they are able to control every dog they are walking.

Impacts on other animals

  • In some areas dog walking may be prohibited at certain times of the year, this may be due to wildlife or tourism.
  • Dogs must not interfere with local wildlife and can be prevented from doing so by keeping them on a lead at all times. Walkers must always be in control of the dogs they are walking.
  • Dogs may be released from their leads in case of emergencies, such as being chased by cattle as this may allow the walker and dog to get away.

Tailster Dog Walkers 

Here at Tailster our dog walkers put the safety, welfare and happiness of your pet above anything else. All of our dog walkers who exercise and handle dogs are adequately trained to ensure the dog's welfare and their safe handling.

We check all our dog walkers are suitably trained prior to joining our site. This includes up-to-date evidence-based knowledge of dog behaviour and sound handing abilities. We recommend regular training courses and that walkers should acquire a dog walking certificate of competence. Professional dog walkers should undertake regular CPD activities to make sure their knowledge is current. Recommend courses include the City & Guilds Level 2 Certificate of Competence in Dog Walking.

Many of our walkers have canine first aid certificates. As dog walkers are in charge of the dogs they walk, this means they are liable if an accident or injury occurs. Tailster offers peace of mind as all walks are fully tracked and insured. The insurance covers emergency vet fees. If an incident occurs with another dog when in the care of the walker, the dog walker needs to fully document the incident and report it to the owner.

Complying with legislation

Dog walkers should be professional and courteous to members of the public, set good examples of animal welfare and dog walking and comply with the relevant legislation.

Local council regulations vary significantly when it comes to dog walking, therefore you should always contact the local council before undertaking such activities to ensure you comply with the law.

  • Some local councils require dog walkers to have a licence and/or they must follow local council codes of conduct if present.
  • Dog walkers must only walk up to the number of dogs covered by their insurance policy and allowed by the local council authority.
  • On public highways, dogs must always be kept on a lead even if the owner has granted permission for the dog to be allowed off the lead.
  • Dog walkers must put dogs on a lead when asked to do so by an authorised officer.
  • It is a legal requirement to have a dog microchipped and wear a collar and tag with the owner's details. It is also recommended that the dog wears a tag containing the walker's contact details.
  • If a dog gets lost, dog walkers should contact the dog's owner and the dog warden immediately.

Cancelling walking arrangements 

The owner should be given prior notice when a dog walking arrangement is to be terminated. It is recommended that dog walkers have a written cancellation policy and clients are made aware of this before booking.

If keys were provided, arrangements should be made to return them in person to the owner. Any of the dog's belongings should also be returned, such as leads and coats.

Need a hand?

As the largest and most trusted dog walking business in the UK, we've helped over 160,000 dog owners find pet care including dog walkers. If you don't have the time to walk your dog, then we're here to help. With industry-leading insurance cover, tracked GPS dog walks and easy online payments, we've walked thousands of dog walks every week. If you're looking for dog walkers in the UK, Tailster can help.

Work, family and social commitments mean that there often aren't enough hours in the day to give our pets the attention that they deserve. Click here to find out how Tailster can put you in contact with hundreds of pet carers in your local area, meaning that you can rest in the knowledge that your pets are being well looked after.