Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Can my intact dog participate in group hikes?
A. All dogs over 6 months of age must be spayed or neutered in order to participate.
Q. How old does my puppy need to be to hike with you?
A. Puppies must be at least 5 months of age and have completed their puppy shots.
Q. Where will you take my dog to hike?
A. Groups are hiked on trails and beaches in Marin where dogs are permitted, primarily in Golden Gate Recreation Area and on Marin Open Space fire roads, with occasional trips to Rodeo and Muir Beach.
Q. What types of activities do the dogs take part in during an outing with you?
A. Activities are tailored to meet the needs of each group of dogs. Outings may include hiking on trails, games of fetch, running as a group, and group play time.
Q. Will my dog be off-leash?
A. This is something we will discuss prior to your dog joining group hikes. We prefer to hike dogs off leash, however only do so if they meet our criteria for off-leash adventures. A few of the criteria include permission from the dog's owner, a reliable recall and having gone on enough hikes with us to build a positive relationship. We do have a limited number of slots for dogs that remain on-leash, and reserve the right to keep dogs on-leash at any time for safety reasons.
Q. For how long will you exercise my dog (excluding car time)?
A. Hikes are 45 minutes to 60 minutes. Your dog will be out with us for approximately 1—3 hours depending on where we hike. Your dog's safety is our number one priority, so if it is a hot day we may shorten our outing to prevent overheating. We also may shorten hikes due to rain, high winds, or other weather that may be unsafe for us. Fortunately with our climate this is infrequent.
Q. Do you include obedience during the hike? If so, how?
A.We sure do! Using positive reinforcement, your dog will practice basic commands like sit, down, stay, wait and come on every walk.
Q. What sort of punishments and/or rewards do you use?
A. We use positive reinforcement for teaching and rewarding behaviors. For most dogs we use food; we also use verbal & physical praise, tennis balls and/or squeaky toys. For misbehavior, we redirect the dog to an appropriate behavior or use a verbal "no" or "ah-ah", followed by a reward for compliance. We also teach "leave it" and "drop it" using positive reinforcement training methods.
Q. What is the maximum number of dogs you will walk on an outing? Do you separate dogs according to size? Age? Activity level?
A. Our maximum group size for hikes is 6 dogs, and we group dogs together based on temperament and group dynamics. We feel it's better to have mix of compatible temperaments rather than grouping by age; this allows younger dogs to learn from the older dogs. That being said, we only accept dogs that are friendly with other dogs. As small dog owners, we only accept large dogs that will interact appropriately with our smaller pack members. If we don't have a group that will accommodate your dog's size or temperament, we will do our best to refer you to another qualified walker.
Q. What is the protocol for introducing my dog into the group? For letting my dog off-leash?
A. New dogs will be picked up first or second on their initial walk day. This way rather than meeting 4 or 5 dogs at once, they meet each dog one at a time. All dogs will remain on-leash during the initial walk. Dogs we have been deemed good candidates for off-leash adventures are started on a long line so we can practice recall safely. Once we know the dog well and feel confident the dog has good recall, we introduce off-leash time in quiet areas with the dog dragging the long line. Eventually we wean off the lead completely.
Q. How do you screen dogs for dog friendliness?
A. After an initial phone screening with potential clients, we meet in the dog's home environment for an in depth interview. If all goes well, we take the dog out on an initial walk to see how he or she does in a group walk setting. Dogs are accepted on a trial basis to ensure they are a good fit with the current group and enjoy the group hikes.
Q. Will you provide any reports/updates on my dog?
A. We leave a report after each hike. The report not only verifies your dog was hiked that day, but also will list pertinent information about the outing, how your dog did, and any notes we may have. In addition, we post photos to our Facebook and Instagram accounts of your dog's outings when possible.
Q. In an emergency, what plan of action do you have in place?
A. Upon signing up for hikes, we collect emergency contact information as well as the medical history of every dog in our care. We carry cell phones and have pet first aid kits in our cars to ensure we are prepared. In the event of an emergency, we have contact information for each dog's veterinarian, as well as contact information for the emergency vet. The client will be alerted via the emergency contact numbers, and the dog will be taken to the client's veterinarian or the Emergency & Specialty Center of Marin, whichever is closer and has availability.
Q. Are you trained in pet first aid or CPR?
A. Yes, both.
Q. How long have you been hiking dogs professionally? Were you trained to manage multiple dogs? If so, where or by whom?
A. Paw Trekkers founder & dog hiker Jessica has hiked dogs professionally since 2006. Prior to that, Jessica worked in a daycare/kennel settings for several years where she supervised group play sessions. She's also a Dog*tec certified dog walker. You can read more about Jessica's experience here.
Q. Can you provide references from current and former clients? May I contact them?
A. Of course! We have testimonials here, as well as a business listing on Yelp. If you'd like to speak to a reference directly, please let us know. We value our client's privacy and will reach out to those that are open to speaking with you via phone or email.