As any pet parent knows, owning a dog is pretty similar to having a child. They add so much happiness to your life (and so many pictures to your smartphone’s gallery – seriously, there are hundreds), but they’re also a huge commitment. Taking care of little Buddy requires devoting a great deal of time, money, and energy to ensuring he’s healthy and happy.

In an ideal world, that may be no problem for you. But what happens when you start working longer to finish that big project or going to happy hours with friends after work? You may come home and find Buddy going crazy with boredom or feeling guilty about the accident he had on the rug. That’s when a dog walker may come in handy.

So, should you hire a dog walker to help take care of Buddy? Here’s why you may want to find one and how to go about it:

Why Hire a Dog Walker?

There are a number of reasons hiring a dog walker is a great idea, but one of the most common reasons pet parents need the extra help is because their pup is having behavioral issues. When dogs don’t get enough exercise – especially active breeds – they often try to get energy out indoors, which tends to be pretty messy. We’re talking scratched floors and furniture, chewed-up shoes, and torn-apart throw pillows.

But daily exercise is more than just a recourse to use if your dog starts acting up. Getting outdoors, spending time with other pups, and staying active are all crucial factors of a healthy lifestyle for dogs. Not to mention, having a dog who’s constantly stimulated and exercised will give you some serious peace of mind on the days when you can’t get out of the office at a reasonable time.

Look to Your Schedule

So the question still stands: Should you hire a dog walker? The first step when answering that question is looking to your own schedule and deciding how much time you can truly commit to giving Buddy the amount of exercise he needs. If your job is flexible, perhaps you could take him on a long walk in the morning a couple of days a week and head to the office a little later than usual. Or, maybe you could fit a walk into your lunch break or work from home once a week.

Consider Your Budget

Another thing to think about is how much extra care you can afford based on your current budget. Dog walkers aren’t free, which means you’ll have to shell out at least a few bucks a week to keep Buddy active and entertained (expect to spend about $20-30 for someone who’s trained and certified). Remember that if hiring some help is what Buddy needs there are always ways to cut down in other areas of your budget.

Talk to Your Roommate

If both your budget and your schedule are a bit tight, talk to your roommate if you have one to see if he or she could give you a hand. Though expecting your roommate to take care of your pet for you can only lead to Cold War-level tensions in your apartment, asking nicely and providing some incentives could make him or her a little more likely to help out. Offer to clean the bathroom or cook dinner in exchange.

Do Your Research

After considering all of these factors, it’s highly possible you’ll decide you want to hire a dog walker – at least on the days when both you and your roommate aren’t going to be around. If that’s the case, do a bit of research online to see if you can find any reputable agencies in your neighborhood that don’t charge more than you can afford. Take your time looking for an affordable option – even if it’s just the high schooler who lives on your block, you’ll likely be able to find a rate you’re happy with.

Hold In-Person Interviews

Before allowing a stranger free access to your apartment and your furry friend, you’ll want to take a few precautions. For one thing, it’s important to meet any prospective dog walkers in person. Not only will you be able to get a better feel for who they are, but they’ll also be able to meet Buddy (and more importantly, Buddy will be able to meet them). You don’t want to hire someone either of you aren’t comfortable with. If Buddy shrinks away from a potential candidate, growls at him or her, or otherwise acts like he doesn’t like the person, move on.

Take a Test Walk

Once you’ve found someone you’re happy with, it’s a good idea to go on a test walk together so he or she knows Buddy’s habits and training commands. After walking with you first, your new dog walker will be much more comfortable taking the dog out on his or her own!