Can you rely on reputation alone?
What makes a person or an organisation reputable is generally speaking the public opinion of them. However, I'd like to talk about why a reputation is not enough when it comes to choosing a pet professional.
A recommendation is only as good as a person's knowledge of a service or individual. Say for example you are looking for a dog trainer and a friend you trust recommends someone they've used. They were happy with the methods and results and so you think this is a pretty dead cert. It's from someone you trust and respect and they got the desired results right?
Well, let's consider the fact that there are lots of different methods and attitudes to the 'right way' to train a dog. There are people who believe in dominance and pack leader theories, there are positive, rewards based trainers and an awful lot in between.
So, before you even begin to look for a trainer or scout around for recommendations, you need to decide what you think and feel about the various training methods. You need to research, you need to learn, digest and inform yourself. And only then will you know what you are looking for. You will be familiar with the red flags that may crop up and you'll feel more confident in reviewing potential candidates for the job.
Your dog needs you to advocate for them. It's simply not enough to take the easy route, skip the research and plump for whoever everybody else uses.
And that goes for all pet professionals, not just dog trainers. Sally next doors opinion on her dog walker is only as good as her knowledge of dog walking and of her individual walkers actual practices. Do you even know what Sally would want from her ideal dog walker? Does it match what you would want. Hell, have you even thought about what you want beyond someone to break up your dog's day so you can work guilt free?!
Please do not get me wrong. I know you love your dog. That's why you're reading this.
Life is busy and there is so much information out there, how on earth do you make a decision about what is right for your dog? It's overwhelming.
The pet industry is largely unregulated. That means there is nobody overseeing what professionals get up to for the most part. And more often than not people who have had awful experiences with pet professionals shy away from naming and shaming.
I have known people whose dogs have been severely affected by pet care professionals; dogs who have died in the hands of a walker, been injured or who have been affected behaviourally to alarming levels by professionals in different capacities.
But they don't want to name or shame or shout their stories from the rooftops. They stay quiet when that awful dog groomer, trainer, vet, walker, etc are recommended. They have suffered enough and feel guilty enough about what their dog experienced, embarrassed even, despite it not being their fault. Ultimately, they don't want to re-live it.
So, take your time, do your own research and make your own conclusions. And do not shy away from asking as many questions as you possibly can. Afterall, it could be the difference between life and death.
For questions to ask a dog walker before you hire them, check out this blog.