Love dogs? Then you’re halfway there to becoming a dog walker and making good money.
Dog walkers provide an invaluable service by helping busy people take great care of their dogs. Pets benefit as well, since they’re not cooped up all day in a house or an apartment. Rare is the dog that wouldn’t prefer to be outdoors, exploring the world on a walk or a romp in the park.
Working efficiently and walking two or more dogs a time, if you can manage more than two, you’ll be able to earn a living as an entrepreneur running your own business and setting your own hours – to the extent they also meet your customers’ needs. There’s also the benefit of daily exercise and the satisfaction of knowing that the dogs in your care are living a better, healthier life as a result of the services you provide. If that’s not enough, you can always enjoy the walk by seeing the world through a dog’s point of view, which is pure delight and wonder.
But enough talk. Let’s walk the walk. Read on to discover what’s involved in becoming a dog walker.
In this article you’ll learn:
- How much money you can make as a dog walker
- The required training and certifications
- Professional groups to join
- Employment opportunities for dog walkers
- Finding clients
- Plus helpful tips
How much money can you make?
Dog walkers average $16 an hour based on separate surveys conducted recently by GlassDoor and Indeed. At that rate, those who are able to work a 40-hour week would earn $2,560 per month, which translates to $30,720 per year. Enterprising dog walkers may arrange to walk two or more pets at the same time for either the same owner or perhaps neighbors. This instantly doubles the average hourly income to at least $32.
Training and Certification
Formal licensing is not required to become a dog walker, however, training and certification will set you apart in the field. You can pursue training through a variety of online and in-person courses. You can even check the local community college for certificates in animal care. Also contact area pet centers to ask about the availability of training programs.
Online training and certification programs range from about $150 on the low end to $650 and up.
Here is a selection of dog walker training programs to get you started.
Some of what you can expect to learn in a training program:
- Planning Routes and Managing a Schedule
- Handling, Transporting, and Supervising Dogs
- Evaluating Dogs and Their Owners (before accepting them as customers)
- Health, Safety, and Security
- Starting Your Dog Walking Business
- Licensing, Insurance, and Permit Issues
- Setting Prices
- Managing a Dog Walking Business
- Attracting Customers and Getting Referrals
- Marketing Tools
- Handling Problems/Communication Skills
Professional Groups to Join
Being a member of a professional organization helps your career. You can network with other members and share ideas, learn more efficient ways of running your business and get access to ongoing education. Professional affiliations also impress customers and potential employers who will see that you are serious about your work.
The International Organization of Professional Dog Walkers provides education and business improvement services for individuals working as or training to be a professional dog walker. A professional membership is $49 a year paid in advance.
There are also many informal networking groups for dog walkers. A list of nearly 100 can be reviewed here.
You’ll find jobs for dog walkers advertised at large veterinary practices, pet-store retail chains and online. When applying, it’s helpful to make copies of your resume and professional credentials in advance so you’ll have them ready. You’ll also need copies of reference letters and contact information for the people endorsing your services.
Don’t overlook online employment-search services like Indeed and ZipRecruiter. You can set up notifications on these sites to receive email alerts about job openings that match your interests and geographic location.
Every small business needs a website and calling cards. The website is necessary so people can discover your business as well as learn more about you once they have your business card.
Everyone is online these days, so that’s where your marketing efforts should focus.
Set up an Instagram page to showcase your dog walking business. Instagram is the #1 online venue for professionals to showcase their work. A dedicated business page on Instagram is always working for you. Include pictures of you in action, walking dogs and smiling.
Next, build a Facebook page for your business. This is how you attract even more followers and provide tips to improve their life with pets. You can run discount specials and create teaser links to your business website by offering articles and news about dogs.
Next, create a Google My Business page. This service lets you display your hours of operation, photos and reviews of your service so you can encourage customers to post great comments about your dog walking service.
Setting up each of these sites should take less than an hour. All of them are free and work 24/7 to promote your business. That frees up more of your time to focus on dog walking and less on marketing.
One challenge with a dog walking business is overcoming common customer hesitations. Pet owners know their dogs need exercise, but paying a dog walker may be perceived as an unnecessary expense or a luxury they cannot afford. This is an opportunity for you to get creative.
Pitch your services as an investment. For example, note on your website and tell prospective customers in-person that your services will help them focus on their careers, while saving time, stress and money by not leaving work in the middle of the day to walk the dog.
Additional strategies for finding clients:
Contact local veterinarians and cultivate friendly business relationships with them. Dog owners routinely ask their vets about training, so you strive to be the trainer vets recommend to their clients.
Partner with Local Shelters or SPCA
This serves two purposes. First, it gets your business in front of people who are adopting dogs and second, it solves an immediate need for busy professionals – getting their dog some exercise during the workday. The idea here is to leave flyers and business cards at the local shelter or SPCA, then encourage staff to recommend your dog walking business when people adopt pets. Volunteering for an hour or two each month at the shelter can build goodwill.
Partner with Independent Pet Stores
Small business owners understand the value of collaborating with other professionals in the community. Focus especially on pet stores that sell organic pet food, specialty chew toys and other items that tend to attract more affluent customers.
Visit Local Businesses
Lots of small businesses now welcome pets and their owners. These include breweries, wineries and coffee shops. Identify area businesses that are pet friendly and approach the owners with your flyers and business cards.
Leave Your Calling Card at Neighbors’ Houses
When you go to a customer’s home regularly to walk their dog, before long you’ll come to know the neighborhood. Pay attention to houses where you hear barking dogs, but no cars are in the driveway. Chances are, someone lives there who could benefit from your services. So leave a business card at their door. This also helps you because it is much more efficient to walk several dogs in the same neighborhood than driving all over the county to serve all your customers.
Good to know
Before starting a dog walking business you’re going to need references. Good ones. Because dog walkers are principally tasked with walking pets while their owners are away, that means you’ll have access to your customers’ homes. People need to know they can trust their dog walker. References should come from other people whose dogs you’ve cared for as well as current and past employers. A reference from a veterinarian can be especially helpful because of the respect that medical professionals enjoy.
In addition to references, a business liability insurance policy is a good idea. This affords basic protections should any problems arise. You can get insurance on a pet care business for as little as $25 a month – and there’s no putting a price on the peace of mind insurance coverage can provide.
If you enjoyed this article, check out some more great PocketSuite.io content that can help you grow your career as a dog walker. Here’s a great place to start.PocketSuite has thousands of business owners who all started where you are right now. Our community is always happy to help you ramp up, grow your client base, and achieve your income goals, both within the PocketSuite app and as part of our exclusive Facebook Community Group. PocketSuite’s vision is for any professional to be able to work for themselves and make a great living. It starts here. It starts with you. It starts today. Let’s get started, download PocketSuite now! Feel free to reach out with any questions (we’d love to hear from you)! Text us @ (415) 841-2300.