One sure way to keep your dog exercised and entertained during the day is to provide a bit of company and some built in exercise time. For many owners that work, finding the time to get home on their lunch break, especially in city areas, is often simply impossible. Winter driving conditions can make even a short drive home a lunch a real hassle and problem, which only adds to the stress of the day.
Many owners choose to have someone stop in and spend some time with their pet just to give the dog a change of scenery and a chance to do something different throughout the day. This really is a great option and one that can be beneficial not only to your dog but also a great way for the other person to get some exercise and perhaps even earn a bit of cash.
For the vast majority of dog owners the people that are most commonly asked if they would be willing to drop by and walk the dog while no one is home are family, friends and relatives. While this can be a great way to provide exercise and companionship for your dog at least some of the time when you are away, it also has its own built in pitfalls and potentially difficult situations.
The greatest problem with relying on family and friends to come over and take your pet out for a walk when you are at work is the actual commitment that the other person may have to the task. If you are doing this as a friendship or family arrangement, do they actually see this as a job or just something they can do if they don't have anything else that needs to happen on that day?
Sometimes when family or friends make the commitment they may regret their decision as it actually is more time and effort than they had originally considered. They may, however, not want to share this with you as they may be a bit guilty about making a promise to you that they can't keep. Over time you may find they simply aren't arriving to take your dog out or that the actual walks are getting shorter or shorter. Worse still is the fact that they may be starting to resent both you and your dog and they can't think of a good way to gracefully get out of the commitment they made.
Another potential problem is how you may have to handle asking them to stop walking and interacting with the dog for some reason. Perhaps you notice your dog is developing bad habits on the leash or is actually beginning to ignore you and your commands and you suspect this is because they are getting away with things when with the friend or family member. While this often isn't a huge problem, for some dominant types of dogs it can change their entire behavior, especially if they now see themselves as the leaders of the household.
One way to prevent any of the potentially difficult situations mentioned above is to consider using the services of a professional pet sitter or a dog walker. The two are very different and depending on the needs of your dog either one may be a perfect option. In general terms a pet sitter actually comes in and spends time with the dogs, which may include taking them for a walk. A pet sitter may also feed, groom or play with the dogs for the time allotted in your agreement with them. Many pet sitters provide overnight care services as well, all in the comfort of the dog's own home. While you may not need to have the sitter with your dog all day, he or she can spend an hour or two per day with your dog just to break up the time left alone.
A dog walker, unlike a sitter, doesn't engage with the dog in anything but going for a walk. They arrive at a designated time and take your dog a specified distance, which can include time at an off-leash park if that is part of your agreement. They do not groom, feed or monitor the dog outside of being on a walk. Often dog walkers will take more than one dog at a time on a walk, providing socialization and play time for the dog with other canines.
Some dog walking services may offer private dog walking for dogs that aren't well socialized or that have special exercise needs. Often senior dogs, young puppies, or intact females are walked separate from other groups of dogs for safety as well as ease of control for the dog walker.
Often a pet sitter or a dog walker is much less costly than taking your dog to a doggy day care, plus you don't have to worry about transporting your pet to and from the facility. In addition you can schedule your dog to have exercise when you want and you can also stipulate the types of activities the sitter or walker does with your dog.
Choosing a pet sitter or dog walker is always a bit difficult since they are going to be both in charge of your beloved pet as well as in your home or apartment. Look for services that have a significant time in business, have great customer reviews on independent websites and through your vet or groomer. In addition ask around with co-workers, friends and family members and find out the best companies that provide these services in your area.
Always plan to introduce your dog to the walker or sitter before leaving them alone together. A good company will insist on this as well as provide you with the necessary paperwork and information on their services. You may also want to find out the company policy for job assignments so you can be sure the same person or small number of people will be walking or exercising your dog each time. This will provide you peace of mind as well as help your dog from being stressed with new handlers all the time.