MEGHAN and Harry are looking for a dog walker – but they should be vigilant about who they choose, according to pet experts.
The Duke and Duchess need someone to take their two pooches for strolls around the grounds of Windsor Castle as they juggle work and the demands of baby Archie.
But although one in three British owners use a dog walker, the service is alarmingly unregulated. Today experts tell Paws and Claws how to avoid the pitfalls.
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 per cent of dog owners have no contract or legal agreement in place with their walker to protect them and their dog.”
The RSPCA, Dogs Trust and the Pet Industry Federation have drawn up guidelines.
The checklist includes:
TRAINING: Walkers should have up-to-date knowledge of dog behaviour and handling. They should also have canine first aid certificates and carry a first aid kit with them.
INSURANCE: All professional dog walkers should have third party liability insurance outlining the number of dogs they can take at one time. Always check what they are covered for.
TRANSPORT: Dogs should be transported in regularly cleaned and disinfected vehicles with good ventilation and temperature control. Your dog should be comfortable and secure with a harness, crate or container.
LICENSE: Do they need one from the local council? Regulations vary significantly, so check your council website to see if this is needed.
REFERENCES: Ask for them, or reviews, so you can understand from other clients the level of service. You can’t do too much research.
RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Sam Gaines adds: “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 the dog walkers themselves.”
Meghan’s beloved beagle, Guy, who made the journey from Canada, and the couple’s recently acquired Labrador need lots of exercise. And a walker will become even more important as Meghan now plans to get a rescue pooch for Archie.
A royal source says: “The couple love being outdoors and they take Archie for long pram walks in Home Park, although due to their hectic schedules, they are privately advertising for a dog walker for their black labrador, and Meghan’s rescue dog, Guy.”
Richard Setterwall, from pet service rover.com, sympathises with the Sussexes, saying: “Choosing a dog walker for your four-legged friend can feel stressful. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to simplify the process of finding loving and trustworthy pet care.”
Star of the week
DOUG the pug has brought sunshine into the lives of countless people. Even the most lonely, ill or anxious have flourished in his soothing company.
He has been a therapy dog for eight years.
Owner Cate Archer first saw Doug, now nine, work his magic on a sick relative. She says: “He is calm and gentle with a lovely demeanour – the perfect companion.”
Sensing he should continue his good work, Cate took him to charity Pets As Therapy where he passed the vet assessment with flying colours. Doug now visits mental health units, schools, pupil referral units, care homes and hostels.
SEAN McCORMACK, head vet at tailored food firm tails.com, is on a mission to help pets.
Janice Tabb, from Norfolk, has a Pug, aged five, called Buster. She was quoted between £250 and £500 to have his teeth cleaned. Does this sound right?
Sean says: “It’s always difficult to predict exactly how much needs to be done in a dental procedure until the pet is under general anaesthetic. Only then can a thorough exam be carried out using dental probes that a conscious dog just wouldn’t allow.
“This is why your vet will give you an estimated price range, to cover all eventualities if extractions may be needed.
If it’s just a scale and polish with general anaesthesia, and maybe some anti-inflammatory medications to go home with, then £250 sounds reasonable to me for a dog that I’m guessing weighs about 8-10kg (drugs and anaesthetic costs are based on body weight).
If there are extractions, it increases anaesthetic time and will need more aftercare.”
Emily Swainston, 34, from Barking, has a cat called Bubbles that has a mad half-hour sitting on top of the curtain poles and running round the living room. How can he be stopped?
Sean says: “I’m guessing Bubbles is a pretty young cat as this sounds like absolutely normal kitten or young cat behaviour. In dogs we call these mad moments ‘the zoomies’ and cats get them, too.
“Redirect this natural behaviour into another form. Cats like to get up high, so buying or making your own cat tree with an elevated platform will encourage him away from the curtain pole. Dangle cat toys on strings from the cat tree and use catnip to entice him.”
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