Recently a “dog walker” in Toronto was witnessed walking half a dozen dogs off leash down a city street, while dragging a dog by the neck up on it’s hind legs. A passerby saw this happening and confronted this person in the street, all while filming him in the act. Later he posted this film online and has since been on the radio and tv news to tell his story. It turned out that the walker ran his own “company” called Woof Pack and did not have business insurance or a city walking permit.

There has been a lot of discussions online about what is required for dog walkers since this story broke. A lot of what I hear from both sides is not factual so I thought I would write a post to clarify how dog walking works in Toronto and, more importantly, what questions a dog owner should be asking a dog care company when they are in the process of choosing which one is right for them.

First off, as it stands in Toronto right now:

– A person must have a “Dog Walking City Permit” to have more than 3 dogs in their care.
– If the dogs are going OFF LEASH each person cannot have more than 6 dogs in their care with this permit.
– If the dogs are ON LEASH, this 6 dogs rule does not apply.
– The only thing a person must have to obtain a City Dog Walking Permit is insurance – however there is no stipulation on what level of insurance is required so it can be the bare minimum of pet care insurance policies.
– No training or experience is required to obtain a City Dog Walking Permit whatsoever.
– None of these bylaws or permits pertain to private land – the city can only regulate public areas / dog parks.

So what does this mean to you? It totally depends on what kind of service you’re looking for; on leash, off leash, on foot, vehicle transportation, public parks, private park, etc. The only way to find out these answers is to ask!

Here is a handy list of questions to bring with you to any Meet & Greet Assessment with a potential dog care company:

1. Are they insured?

If so, is it legit company insurance or is it just for an individual?

2. Who walks your dog?

Is it the person you are speaking to or do they have employees? If they have employees are they insured and will it be the same person every time or a rotating schedule of contracted walkers?

3. Where do they take your dog?

Are they going to public parks? If so, how do they control what types of dogs that your dog will come in contact with? If it is private land, what are the qualifications for a dog becoming a part of the pack?

4. How long is the outing?

If it’s an hour long outing door to door you must factor in walking/driving time and compare to the amount of time they are playing off leash.

5. What is the method of transportation?

Are they walking the dogs on leash? If so, how many dogs at a time per person? Are they going to an off leash park? Are they driving? If so, what type of vehicle is it and is it properly equipped to transport dogs?

6. What is the loading/unloading procedure?

This pertains to vehicle transportation only. Do they unload outside of the dog park onto the street? Ask for a run down of how they get your dog from the vehicle into the park and vice versa.

7. What is their method of correction?

Do you agree with the methods they use if they need to correct behaviour. All dog packs will need moderation from pack leaders so you need to make sure you know how they are going to handle your dog when they need to do so.

8. What are some of the risks/rewards involved?

Every company should be up front with you about potential risks of any kind of activities with multiple dogs. Each style of dog walking comes with it’s own pros/cons list and all companies should know what they are and be happy to discuss them with you to ensure that you’re getting the best fit for YOUR dog’s needs.

9. Does the company have reviews?

This is always a great way to get a feel for a company. Some companies have a 5 star rating but only have 1 – 10 reviews, while others may have a 3 or 4 star rating but have well over a hundred reviews with a vast majority of 5 stars. Always read reviews the same way you would read them for a restaurant or hotel to see what the complaints are and how they were handled. This can be one of the best tools if the company is well established.

10. Has the company been inspected/reviewed by professionals?

Some exmaples would be Toronto Animal Services, OSPCA, Ontario Boarding of Workplace Health and Safety. Have they been cleared for good business? Inspections are a good thing if they are doing things properly and should be welcomed on a regular basis! Companies should be upfront about their problems/issues and also with their solutions. Dog care industry standards will only move forward if people put the effort into raising the bar!

I hope this list helps anyone out there looking to bring a new dog care service into their lives!

Good luck with your search 🙂