Animal groups join forces to launch guidelines for professional dog walkers

Leading animal welfare organisations have joined forces to release a set of guidelines for the unregulated profession of dog walking.

Dogs Trust, Pet Industry Federation (PIF) and RSPCA all worked together to produce the Professional Dog Walkers’ Guidelines in a bid to ensure the best welfare for dogs who are being walked by professional dog walkers employed by their owners.

The guidelines also aim to ensure high welfare standards and assist the dog walkers in meeting the requirement of the Animal Welfare Act.

The guidance outlines:

  • How walkers can ensure they understand a dog’s indvidual needs
  • Best wayst o transport animals safely
  • How to provide exercise properly
  • Best practice for walking in a group or walking alone
  • How to return the dog home
  • How to react in an emergancy
  • The need for all walkers to be trained in canine first aid and always carry a first aid kit in their vehicle.

Recent Dogs Trust research revealed that there is a growing demand for dog walkers and 13% admit to counting on them to ensure their dog gets enough exercise.

With owners increasingly having more demanding working hours a clear dependency was emerging and it is this that led the group of leading animal welfare organisations to create those guidelines.

Serving to advise dog owners, Local Authorities and the profession on best practice to ensure man’s best friend is protected, these guidelines have been designed with dog welfare at its core.

RSPCA dog welfare expert, Dr Sam Gaines, said: “Dog walker are currently unregulated and unlicensed meaning there are no check on who these people are and how they ensure the needs of the dogs in their care are being met.

“We felt it was extremely important – not only for the welfare of dogs, but also for dog walkers themselves – to produce a set of guidelines to ensure that dogs are always being well looked after and to guarantee that dog walker know what is expected of them. We hope these new guidelines will also help dog owners make informed decisions when choosing the right dog walker for them and their pet.”

To date only a small number of local authorities have introduced any form of regulation for local dog walkers and, as such, it can be a postcode lottery in the quality of service provided.

Dogs Trust Veterinary Director, Paula Boyden, says: “The unregulated dog walking industry is a minefield for owners and we want to make it safer for all involved. Worryingly, almost 60% of owners have no contract of legal agreement in place with their dog walker to protect them and their dog.

“We have worked with the RSPCA and PIF to create a workable set of guidelines that can provide information for local authorities and provide a framework for dog walkers, as well as helping pet owners understand what they should expect from a suitable dog walker.”

Dog ownership has changed over the decades as our lives get busier and RSPCA research has shown that 22% of dogs spend four or more hours along during the average weekday. Employing a dog walker helps to ensure your dog is not left alone for too long. These guidelines will help dog owners to ensure that their four-legged friends are in the best hands possible when they’re not at home.

PIF CEO, Nigel Baker, said: “Professional dog waling is certainly a fast-growing pet service, both in its own right and as an additional service offered by a range of pet businesses. This makes it all the more important that a comprehensive framework exists to help guide businesses about best practice in dog walking; and provide dog owners with a benchmark of what they should look for when using a professional dog walker. By doing so, the intention is that these guidelines will raise standards in this unregulated industry and help to safeguard animal welfare.”

The guidelines also serve as a reminder to walkers how to ensure they are responsible when working in the environment, aorund other people and around other aninals, as well as advising how to comply with relevent legislation.

For more information and to download the guidelines, visit https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/dogs/behaviour.