Any animal lover will say that there are few things more satisfying than being met by an excited dog who is happy to see you.

Such is the case for Joan Delehanty, who has been a dog-walker for 13 years and owns Bow Wow Bungalow. Delehanty says that the best part of her job is the joyful greeting she gets when she arrives to pick up one of her canine clients for the day’s walk.

Dogs are non-judgmental, unbiased creatures who give us unconditional love. It’s no wonder there are more dogs in Seattle homes than there are kids. And dog guardians want what’s best for their best friends.

So, how can we ensure our dogs are getting the exercise and attention they need, even when we are away at work? That’s where Delehanty and the many other dedicated dog-walkers in the greater Seattle metro area come in.

More and more people are hiring dog-walkers to give their furry friends enrichment when they can’t. And today’s trusted dog-walkers aren’t the comically overwhelmed characters we envision from a thousand movies, being dragged down a city sidewalk by a hopeless tangle of dozen leashed dogs. Our canine kids are picked up at home and taxied to a nearby off-leash dog park where they enjoy a long walk filled with friendly playtime, ball tossing, a buffet of scents and sometimes even a dip in the lake.

Patty and Wayne Methner have been walking dogs for the better part of 10 years. They’ve since made their role official, registering DogBreath Pet Services as a business two years ago.

Their canine customers jump in their minivan for a fun trip (what dog doesn’t love a car ride?) to the 8.6 acres of fenced, off-leash dog park at Magnuson Park. Once there, the small group enjoys a leisurely stroll on the winding paths to the dog beach area. The dogs stop to play and meet new friends along the way.

The Methners love being outside with the dogs, rain or shine.

“We believe that it is important for the dogs to get daily exercise and interact with their fellow canines and humans,” Patty says.

Benefits

The benefits of hiring a dog-walker for your stay-at-home hound are clear. Dogs who are left home all day are more prone to behavioral and even physical problems. Without human interaction or exercise their days are boring and frustrating, which can result in destructive actions. That’s no fun for anyone. Just like humans, dogs crave interesting interactions and fun play. Giving your dog the advantage of a dog-walker can make all the difference in his life, and yours.

“Being part of a dog park group has many benefits, including socialization with other dogs and people, exercise (a tired dog is a happy dog!), mental stimulation, and fitness,” Delehanty says. “All of these things which we value — health, fun, fitness, etc. — are important to dogs too. Dogs have friends; they run around with their pack-mates and find new buddies each day.”

While we go off to busy days filled with work, socialization, interesting challenges and excitement, we can feel good knowing our canine companions are also living full, enriched days.

The advantages in hiring a dog-walker go beyond just being good for the dog. As guardians, we can take great comfort in knowing our beloved pooch isn’t at home pacing with anxiety or sleeping too long from boredom.

Non-dog people benefit from happy dogs too. An exercised and content dog is less likely to bark, making your neighbors happy, and will be better socialized for friendly sidewalk encounters.

In addition to a world of entertainment and excitement for the dogs, sometimes dog park bound dogs get an extra special treat from the doggie gelato stand. Debbie, of Swell, Gelato For Dogs, brings her cart to dog-friendly areas around the Seattle area offering cool treats, just for dogs. Her gelato desserts are made with dog-friendly ingredients (no cream or refined sugar) and come in fun pup-approved flavors like banana-peanut butter and pumpkin-cheddar.

Finding the right dog-walker

There are several ways to research and find the right dog-walker for you and your pup. Delehanty recommends personally going to your nearest off-leash dog park to observe the dog-walkers.

They are usually easy to spot; many use bright colored ribbons or harnesses on the dogs to easily recognize their group. Watch to see how they interact with the dogs, how much attention they give, and how engaged they are. Another great way is to ask for recommendations from acquaintances who use dog-walking services.

In a city where dogs are not only welcomed but seemingly celebrated, Seattle’s dog-walking services are abundant and an essential norm for many.

Dog owners want the best for the canine companions they love so much. That means affording them vital canine and human interactions, outdoor exercise and important mental stimulation that comes from a fun afternoon with a skilled and attentive dog-walker.

Most offer affordable rates and flexible first time meet-ups so you can see them in action with your dog. Trusted services also offer references and a history of reliable experience. With a little research and homework, it’s easy to find a dependable dog-walker for your best friend. Your dog will thank you!

Amy Webster is the food policy outreach coordinator for The Humane Society of the United States.