Based on our experience and education, what you want to avoid is a quick, directionless, "hello/goodbye" type of meeting. Everyone involved should keep in mind the WHY behind the meet and greet and remember how important it is that all are on the same page, communication is flowing freely both ways and questions are being asked and answered. The details absolutely matter.
If a new dog walker or pet sitter simply takes your keys, pets the dog a few times and says goodbye, that is probably a sign they are not very experienced and there is potential for greater risk and less professional service. We structure our meet and greets by following a set of guidelines, but NOT a script. Each dog and each family is unique and our service should be tailored to address and adapt to each dog's unique needs and personalities.
We will set up a time that is convenient for you. We will normally call or text to tell you we are on the way or call and tell you we have arrived. We try our best to avoid exciting your dog when we enter. A calm and collected presence (despite our enthusiasm) is the best way for us to meet a new dog. We do not enter the dog's space without gauging the situation first. Some dogs need more time than others, some trust immediately, others trust after the first few walks.
It is also important for us to sit down when we conduct a meet and greet. Standing or chatting in the hallway feels rushed and being rushed leads to missed or misinterpreted information down the line. Once we are introduced to you and your dog, we sit down and begin asking questions about your dog(s).
How does your dog react to children, bicycles, skateboards, joggers, other dogs, delivery trucks, etc. Does your dog have any allergies or food restrictions? Is your dog free to roam about the house? We try and cover as many angles as we can because all the information we are collecting is relevant and valuable and helps us maintain and provide a quality walk for your dog.
We collect vet information, some background/history on your dog, emergency contact numbers, double check phone numbers and email addresses and establish your dog's walking schedule or time window as we like to call it. We will also explain our policy and procedures, go over billing with you, explain our bonding and insurance, and answer ANY questions you have. We also make a point of describing our company philosophy based around open, honest, healthy communication. If you have anything, no matter how small, that is important to you, or you want to adjust, we encourage you to communicate that to us. We also tell our walkers the same thing. Quality is so important to us and communication is extremely important to maintaining quality.
After we gather information about your dog, we might spend some time just being with your dog, letting him/her touch us or play with us. If you would like us to give your dog a treat, we're happy to do that as well. Anything that makes your dog comfortable around us, is good for us. We also test both key sets (we require two key sets) on all the locks and we locate leashes, harnesses, water bowls, etc. If a leash or harness is unfamiliar to us, we watch as you demonstrate the correct way to use it.
The meet and greet is always free and we're always happy to follow up and answer questions or continue to introduce new elements into your dog's walk. In the past, we've had walkers spend time with certain dogs outside of their route to help skittish dogs become more comfortable with them. A solid meet and greet is well paced, never rushed, covers a lot of important ground, establishes a bond between the service providers and the dog, answers questions you may have about us and our service and tests out any gear we may be using to ensure it is working. All of this has been learned through experience and we hope to continue to learn and continue better ourselves so we can provide quality walks and make the dogs we serve healthy and happy.
Hopefully, this demystified the meet and greet process for anyone considering hiring a dog walker.