Dog walking

Animal groups join forces to launch guidelines for professional dog walkers

31% of owners admit they rely on dog walkers

We've joined forces with other leading animal welfare organisations to release a set of guidelines to ensure high welfare standards in the unregulated profession of dog walking and to better inform owners as 31% admit they rely on dog walkers.

We worked with Pet Industry Federation (PIF) and RSPCA 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, as well as to assist the dog walkers in meeting the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act.

Professional Dog Walker's Guidelines PDF 6.08 MB

Our recent 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 this that led the group of leading animal welfare organisations to create these 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 walkers are currently unregulated and unlicensed meaning there are no checks 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 walkers 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 or 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. Research by RSPCA** has shown that 22% of dogs spend four or more hours alone during the average weekday. Employing a dog walker helps ensure your dog is not left alone for too long. The survey also found that one fifth of dogs were reported to, or had in the past, shown separation related behaviour when alone. But a simple solution to further reduce this number is the employment of a dog walker. These guidelines will further 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 walking 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 safeguard animal welfare.”

*Research conducted by OnePoll between 23 July – 3 August 2018 surveying 2,000 dog owners.

**‘Being #DogKind: How in tune are we with the needs of our canine companions?’ (RSPCA, 2018)

These guidelines have also been endorsed by the Canine and Feline Sector Group and Tailster.

Professional Dog Walker's Guidelines PDF 6.08 MB

The guidance outlines:

  • How walkers can ensure they understand a dog’s individual needs
  • Best ways to transport animals safely
  • How to provide exercise properly
  • Best practice for walking in a group (and how this impacts their insurance) or walking alone
  • How to return the dog home
  • How to react in an emergency
  • The need for all walkers to be trained in canine first aid and always carry a first aid kit in their vehicle
  • The guidelines also serve as a reminder to walkers how to ensure they are responsible when working in the environment, around other people and around other animals, as well as advising how to comply with relevant legislation.