Whole Dog Journal's Blog October 11, 2018

National Association of Professional Petsitters

Posted at 11:37AM - Comments: (10)

On the heels of a several-day visit in the San Francisco Bay area, I wrote an editorial for the October issue of Whole Dog Journal bemoaning the apparent lack of safe and well-educated dog walkers. As I drove and walked through several towns, visiting different friends, I saw LOTS of people who appeared to be hired dog-walkers; there seems to have been an explosion in the numbers of people providing this service in the greater metropolitan area. But practically every one I saw was either walking way too many dogs at once (not all that enjoyable for the dogs), walking a group of dogs in which each one was fitted with a shock collar, or walking “only a couple” dogs, but talking on their cell phones the entire time.

professional dog walkers are taking over cities across the country

The “professional” dog walkers have all but taken over all of the dog parks in the area, too – so much so that many of the cities that host these parks have had to pass local ordinances capping the number of dogs that any one person can bring at one time to the parks. And I have to say that for people who seem to have a full-time occupation, none of the folks I saw were being all that professional.

I mentioned that I think it’s great that there is a much greater availability of people for dog-walking, midday pet visits, transporting dogs to the vet, etc., and that we have the so-called “gig economy” to thank for this. And there are several companies that have dog walking apps and online tools that make it easier than ever to find and hire these folks. But I lumped in one organization – petsitters.org –with the others that really didn’t fit. (I have since omitted its inclusion.)

Petsitters.org is the website for the National Association of Professional Petsitters. A dog owner can use the petsitters.org website to find someone to house- and dog-sit when she has to go out of town, visit her dog in the middle of every work day, and yes, even take her dog for a walk. The difference between hiring a person from NAPPs and an app is: the NAPPs dog-care provider will be NAPPs-certified.

The certification program is a broad-range and in-depth self-paced course covering all topics relevant to pet sitting, including pet care, health, nutrition and behavior for a variety of animals. It also includes pet safety and a complete pet first aid course. 

From the NAPPs site:

“Certification acknowledges that the pet sitter is a serious professional who has obtained a level of expertise through personal study. Once the course of study has been completed and a passing score on the examination has been achieved, pet sitters and pet owners can be assured of a meaningful credential.”

NAPPs strives to be the most respected authority in professional pet sitting and offers several resources for pet owners to find the right pet professional for their family, including a pet sitter locator and tips for hiring a professional pet sitter. There are about 2,200 NAPPs members nationwide.

I fully support the professionalization and education of these dog-care providers! Visiting your home and taking your dog for a walk isn’t a job that should be handed to just anyone! The risks to your dog are just too great.

Comments (10)

I had a dog walker who made much of matching my dog with the right small group of 4 dogs to run and swim. She picked up my dog weekly for a couple years. She sent me terrific pictures of my dog swimming and playing with the same couple dog friends, and I thought it was great. It turned out that she had increased to 9 dogs running around loose at the creek park. I only found out because one day she left a note complaining she was tired of my dog's limp holding back the group, annoyed that my dog wanted her attention and didn't "respect" the other dogs, and basically firing us. I was horrified by that crowd of dogs, no warning, and worst of all, that I hadn't seen any signs of a limp. By the time my dog got home and I saw her every week, she seemed normal. So even if something seems good, don't do like I did and assume it's the same as when you started. If I knew how to put that woman out of business, I would. My dog needed very serious surgery because of the long aggravation of trying to run on what turned out to be a serious bone infection.

Posted by: Shalako | October 12, 2018 12:01 PM    Report this comment

I'm bombarded with ads from FETCH and WOOF. Anyone have information about these businesses? They seem to be large businesses who manage dogsitters/walkers in many areas. Do they have background checks or training of their employees?

Posted by: Linda - Washington State | October 12, 2018 3:17 AM    Report this comment

Carlo: Skunks? You crack me up. No kidding: skunks will get out of your way whenever possible. Even if he had spotted you, unless you allowed your dog to give chase or unless you had the bad sense to corner that skunk, you should have been okay.

As to previous comments here. I am amazed that no one has mentioned the fact that ---- Hooray, these dogs are at least getting out of the house/yard.

We all knew this would happen, right? When owning a dog became a "trend," and because a great many people seem unable to or care to make the time to exercise their own dog(s), we all knew a great new opportunity had arisen for professional or not-so professional dogwalkers to rake in the dough. I am grateful people are willing to pay dog walkers. That's something good.

Where I live, it has become dog-o-rama. There are people walking dogs everywhere. Not so many doing it professionally-----as yet. It is laudable to see these people walking their own dogs (or possibly their neighbors' dogs), but I find it kind of sad in a way that this one walk per day (if lucky enough to get that) is probably the highlight of these dogs' days.

It's a problem, this thing with professional or unlicensed dog walkers but, hey----I am happy the dogs are getting out and about. Exercised dogs make for happier dogs which means the dogs are less likely to be turned into shelters because they chew or bark too much.

The biggest problem for me would be if I saw a dogwalker not picking up after his/her passel of canines. Talking on a cell phone while dog walking means not paying attention, but we see that with people walking their kids or even when walking with their mates. Why would dogs be any more deserving of such selfish peoples' attention?

Let's celebrate the fact that a new job market has opened up, that dogs are getting out of the house/yard and the fact that some owners love their dogs at least well enough to pay to have the dogs exercised.

Posted by: MiTmite9 | October 11, 2018 10:30 PM    Report this comment

When I am dog sitting (or fostering), I put a GPS tracker on the dog just in case. Sometimes people think it's a shock collar.

Posted by: CarlCares | October 11, 2018 5:09 PM    Report this comment

My husband and I belong to Trustedhousesitters.com as well as Housesittersamerica.com. With the first one, Trustedhousesitters, they do their own background checks and sitters know to do an excellent job because the more positive reviews you accumulate on the site, the more likely it is that your application will be considered. It is pricey (about $100 per year), but the number of pet sitters and pet owners is huge. This is because it's a world wide organization. The idea is that it's a win-win. The pet sitter doesn't get paid but has free accommodation during their stay, and the pet owner has the peace of mind that their pet will stay in familiar surroundings and receive all the necessities: Walks (if a dog), clean up for all pets, lots of love and, of course, regular meal times. Housesittersamerica.com is smaller as only operates in the US. It's free to homeowners, and only about $30 to pet sitters. We do use these sites for travel purposes, but also have a lot of local clients. In the latter case, we don't get paid because rent our house out while we're pet sitting.

Posted by: orthon | October 11, 2018 3:52 PM    Report this comment

I live in London, and dog walkers are common here too. I live near the River Thames and walk my puppy along along the towpath where it is safe to let dogs off the leash. Walkers here are restricted by law to four dogs, however it is common to see a walker with six or seven, which I find most alarming, especially if they are all off the leash. And even with that number, yes, many are on their cell phone.

Posted by: Irene Cullis | October 11, 2018 3:37 PM    Report this comment

I understand that the petsitters organization is non-profit so we must give allowances for them not having a sophisticated website, but a petsitters.org search for my hometown (Sacramento, CA) returned only a handful of service providers (6 of them). For a city the size of Sacramento such paltry results is almost useless. Did the article’s author do their research?

Posted by: sylliec@gmail.com | October 11, 2018 3:31 PM    Report this comment

I want to second the comment from VSMcMullen. I, too, am a professional pet sitter, and have been for over 15 years. I am also a member of Pet Sitters International (www.petsit.com). When I became a pet sitter, I looked at both organizations, PSI and NAPPS, and determined that they were basically equivalent in their requirements and their benefits to both the pet sitter and her clients. I think you will concur, if you take a look at both.

As you have already revised your comments about pet sitting apps to distinguish the truly professional people in the NAPPS organization doing this work, I hope that after reviewing PSI, you will make another revision to include us, as well.

Posted by: RClark | October 11, 2018 3:20 PM    Report this comment

I am a business owner and member of Pet Sitters International. I 'chose' PSI over NAPPS only because as a hobby sitter many years ago, that's the one I was I was introduced to and I appreciate the continuing edu. materials they provide my company. They also set standards for the pet sitting and dog walking Industry and have a certification process, which my company is currently undergoing (I chose to focus on my certificate in companion animal nutrition from Southern Illinois University first, as that was already started when I pushed my business full time). From what I know, NAPPS is a great organization and its members are qualified, but please don't discount us over at PSI either. You can find the organization website at www.petsit.com

Posted by: VSMcMullen | October 11, 2018 1:56 PM    Report this comment

As I was walking my dog after dark, we approached a vacant lot which we usually frequent. About ten feet ahead of us I saw a skunk, I think before he saw us. If I had been distracted on my phone it would have been a very unpleasant evening!!

Posted by: Carlo | October 11, 2018 1:37 PM    Report this comment

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