How do I find a dog walker in New York City?

The web is loaded with sites offering lists of local dog walkers and pet sitters, and New York City certainly has no shortage of folks looking for gigs.

So you just check the listings, call one up, and hire them, right? Not so fast. You don't want your pooch hanging out with just anyone. You'll need someone that you can trust with your pet's health and safety (and with access to your apartment)!

Don't know how you'll find someone that you can trust? Here are a few basic steps to finding Fifi's perfect match.

Dog Walker in NYC

Step 1: Ask Around
"Ask everyone at the dog park," suggests Midtown resident and dog owner Josh Brody, who hires walkers when he leaves town. "That's what I do every time, and it's always worked out great." Another NY pet owner, Nancy Clayton, found her dog walker through the doorman at her Upper West Side apartment building. "They see the walkers all the time, so they always know lots of great people," she says. Some doormen may even be up for taking on the duties themselves for a little extra cash, though they may not be able to go much further than the flowerpot by your building's entrance.

If you don't have a doorman, don't be shy about asking for suggestions from those working at nearby buildings. They will likely be more than happy to help out. (They'll probably just be glad to have someone to speak to, actually.) If your vet is in the neighborhood, she's a great person to ask, too.

If you are simply too shy to ask advice from a stranger, lots of dog walking businesses post fliers and business cards on the bulletin boards at pet shops, and there's always Google. If you choose to try out a person without an initial recommendation, just be sure to ask for referrals and be extra-cautious in your interview.

Step 2: Meet Them and Grill Them
Personal recommendations are a great start, but don't go totally on hearsay. Once you've found a potential walker, be sure to set up an interview. This is a time for you to get a feel for the person, see how they interact with your pup, and ask lots of questions. "Treat this like looking for a babysitter," urges the management from Midtown doggie-hub The questions that you ask should be similar to those you'd ask when hiring a sitter for your child. Here are a few to get you started:

"How long have you been dog walking?"
"Will you walk my dog privately, or with a group of other dogs? How many?"
"How do you deal with negative behavior (barking, growling, trying to run off)?"
"Have you ever dealt with an aggressive dog? How did you handle the situation?"
"Have you ever lost a dog?"
"What would you do if my dog got sick?"
"If you are ever unable to make it, would you call me or send a replacement?"
"Do you have replacement walkers? Would I be able to meet them beforehand?"
"Do you have any sort of training or certifications?"
"Are you bonded and insured?"

Many dog walkers pet sitters are bonded and insured these days, meaning there is protection in place if your dog were to, say, knock over the Mexican delivery guy while in your pet walker's care. You can also check for affiliations with official pet sitter organizations like Pet Sitters International (PSI) or the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS).

Step 3: Get References, and Check Them
Even if you found your walker as a referral from a friend, you should ask for additional references. There are a lot of people in New York, and it's nice to have more than one opinion. Ask for the phone numbers or email addresses of three previous clients, and contact them all, just to be sure that none of them have any reservations about the person that you are hiring.

Step 3: Go with Your Gut
Just like if you were seeking a babysitter, you should trust your instincts. If anything doesn't feel right, forget it and move right on to the next candidate. If things simply click, go for it.

Step 4: Stay Involved
Once your dog walker is onboard, be sure to pay attention to any changes (positive or negative) in your pet's appearance or behavior. If anything bothers you, bring it up or investigate on your own. It may be good to even come home early once or twice, just to be sure things are happening as they should. (Don't get too crazy and scare away Fido's new friend, though. Chances are good that everything will be just fine.)

-- Erin Walters for

Bookmark and Share