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.
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.