What’s a DBS check?

2 hands in handcuffs

What is it?

DBS stands for the Disclosure and Barring Service. They are an agency that performs background checks on individuals in order to detail any previous, unspent convictions and conditional cautions. So what’s a DBS check in layman’s terms? It looks to see if you have a criminal record.

What’s the difference between a DBS and a CRB?

A DBS check was previously known as CRB or criminal record check. Between 2002 and 2012 the check was performed using the police national computer by the criminal records bureau. 

what's a dbs check?

Where do I get one?

There are four levels of DBS but an individual can only apply for the basic check. Employers can ask for more in-depth checks if their employees come into contact with young or vulnerable people. If you have a standard or enhanced check from a previous employer then that will hold more value than a recent basic check.

You can apply online but be aware that there is a different website to apply depending on where in the UK you live and work.


Don’t apply through any website other than the official links via the government websites.  Other sites are set up by agencies who take the same information from you, send it to the same place, pay the same fee and then charge you more.

There are some websites that offer a faster certificate, stating that you will have it in days rather than the two weeks average turnaround, however, I can’t imagine that anyone would find themselves in a situation where they would need it urgently enough to pay extra.

The official links and fees are as follows and valid as of January 2023:

England and Wales £18: https://www.gov.uk/request-copy-criminal-record

Scotland £25: https://www.mygov.scot/basic-disclosure/apply-for-basic-disclosure

Northern Ireland £18: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/accessni-criminal-record-checks

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What do I need to apply for one?

To start with you must be over 16 to apply for a basic DBS. In addition, you’ll need to provide full residential addresses for the past five years. (You also need to be over 16 to hold business insurance too)

They’ll also need your national insurance number and details of your passport and/or driving licence.

It usually takes up to 14 days for you to receive your certificate.

Do clients ask to see it?

I’ve only ever been asked for mine once, and that seems to be the typical response from pet professionals when you ask them. Clients rarely expect contracts and you’ll be surprised how often they’re happy to hand over a key and their dog to just anyone!

I found it more beneficial to have because when you start to network with other pro dog walkers they will be trying to see how capable and serious you are about your business. Having a DBS shows you’ve gone to the trouble and expense to show clients that you’re trustworthy and that in turn will indicate the same thing to other walkers who may then pass you business and help you out. 

Seasoned pro dog walkers have seen many new walkers come and go so if you’re looking to network with other professionals then it certainly helps to show that commitment. And in case you’re wondering, new walkers tend to start up in the spring and are gone just after the first frost of the winter… 

Is it law to have one?

No, you don’t need to have one to work as a dog walker

Although it’s not a necessity it does show that you’re serious about the job and proving your trustworthiness. It’s often said that the certificate is immediately out of date because it can only report up until the day it’s issued, but it certainly shows that you’ve not been convicted of anything for over 5 years. 

Most professionals update it every few years and keep it together with their paperwork for meet and greets with new clients in case they’re asked for it. Having your contract, terms and conditions, a copy of your insurance and DBS all together makes sense.

How often should I update my DBS certificate?

The frequency at which you should update your DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) certificate depends on the policies of your employer, if you are working for someone else, or the requirements of the role you are undertaking if working for yourself.

In general, most professional dog walkers renew their DBS certificate every one to three years.

What will be disclosed on my DBS certificate?

The information disclosed on your DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) certificate will depend on the level of the check being conducted. There are three levels of DBS checks:

  1. Basic DBS check: This check will show any unspent convictions and conditional cautions that you have.
  2. Standard DBS check: This check will show any spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and final warnings that you have.
  3. Enhanced DBS check: This check will show the same information as the standard DBS check, as well as any relevant information held by local police forces or other government agencies. This may include information about your suitability to work with vulnerable groups, such as children or adults at risk.

It’s important to note that not all criminal convictions will necessarily be disclosed on a DBS certificate. The disclosure of convictions will depend on various factors such as the type of offence, how long ago it occurred, and the individual’s age at the time of the offence.

Click to read our full guide on How to Start a Successful Dog Walking Business in 2023

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