For many self-employed people, the idea of being your own boss and gaining control over your life is what got the ball rolling. For dog lovers, starting a business can involve anything from crafting your own pet food to opening a boarding kennel, but if you’re also an outdoors enthusiast, this information on how to find dog walking jobs or how to start your own dog walking business could be the answer to your prayers.
Why not mix business with pleasure, since many of us spend most of our lives at work? Enjoying the company of our canine friends while meeting new people and getting some exercise is a win-win. There’s a lot to consider before taking the first step, so let’s take a look at all that’s involved in starting a dog walking business.
Things to Consider Before Grabbing That Leash
If you’re a dog lover who likes the idea of walking dogs for a living, it’s important to take note of the pros and cons of running a business that includes dealing with clients and their precious pups. It takes many skills to run any business and for a dog walking service, there’s a lot to prepare for, such as:
- Being in tune with the needs and temperaments of all kinds of dogs
- Being organized for running a successful business
- Being professional and prepared to provide excellent customer service
- Being knowledgeable of the local areas where you will do your dog walking
- Being properly licensed and adhering to local laws, where applicable
Where to Begin
You might be adept at walking your own pooch but what about those belonging to other people, especially those you don’t know? A good way to build up your skills is by walking different sizes and breeds of dogs, so put the word out to family, friends, coworkers and neighbors. Also, learn how to handle aggressive dogs and which breeds do or don’t get along.
After getting some experience and some extra cash, this will pay off when you start advertising your business, as the reviews from satisfied dog owners will boost your profile, whether online or in local newspapers, flyers or business cards you can hand out. Word of mouth is also a great way to build your reputation, so make sure you offer superior service for both dogs and their owners.
Joining a Dog Walking Agency
You might be eager to dive in and open your own business but getting to understand the legal issues and networking is important before taking the plunge. Putting your name out there can be daunting for those with no experience in running a business, so joining an agency will give you the knowledge and skills needed before hanging out a shingle of your own.
- Gaining experience
- The agency handles the legalities
- Cuts the costs of personal advertising
- Builds your resume
- The agency will take a cut of your money earned
- You won’t be 100% your own boss
- Without certification, you won’t be as credible as other dog walkers
Dog Walking App
These days, there’s pretty much an app for everything and dog walking gigs are no exception. Hooking up with an agency that has a great, user-friendly app will enhance your reach and guarantee work if you decide to go this route, before starting your own business. Quality services should have apps that are available on Android and iOS devices.
With the widest reach, Rover.com has over 65,000 dog walkers and sitters throughout the U.S. with an app that allows dog owners to locate, book and manage their pet’s care around the clock. This company performs background checks on all their dog walkers and sitters, offering the ability to see their photos and reviews.
Customers can request an initial meeting before making the decision to hire you and payment for your services can be performed via the app. They also empower dog walkers when deciding to start their own business by offering tools to help them succeed, so this can be a great first step to take.
Considered by many to be the Uber for dogs, Wag offers 24/7 on-demand access to services such as dog walking, boarding and sitting for their users. Offering puppy tracking GPS, Wag customers can connect with dog walkers who are insured and bonded within 30 minutes.
After the walk, this app sends a Pup Report to the owners, which details the distance, time, poop and pee updates and even photos of the walk. If that extra effort doesn’t really appeal to you, or you think it could lead to high-maintenance customers, it’s good to know ahead of time.
Only available in certain states, this service makes sure their walkers are fully vetted and insured. They even donate meals to dog shelters.
Offering dog walking services (And dog walking jobs) in over 15 countries, the Care.com app is available on both iOS and Android, with full profiles of their dog walkers that include locations, background checks and reviews. You can set your own hours and you can search the site for free.
It’s worth noting that Care doesn’t specialize in dog walking in particular as they cover many different industries. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, or a reflection on the quality, some dog walkers might prefer a more modern-feeling service that’s more catered to their industry alone, rather than just being a branch of a much larger tree.
Dog Walking Certification and Training
If you’re serious about building a reputable business, you’ll take the time to research quality organizations that offer dog handling certification and/or training. These are organizations like Canine Club Academy, who offer full scholarships for tuition. Some of the best agencies require this certification so if you prefer the idea of working through a dog walking agency, this may be a crucial step. You can look at the agency in particular to see what their requirements are, and which courses they accept/recommend.
For those who are determined to start their own dog walking business rather than working for someone else, there are many academies who offer support, such as DogBiz. They have online or in-person tuition, but be prepared to shell out upwards of $850, so do some research if you can’t afford it.
NOTE: The mention of Canine Club Academy and DogBiz does not come as an endorsement for either of these courses. They are mentioned in order to help point you in the right direction in terms of getting an idea about what’s out there, but we encourage you to do your own research if you’re looking into courses. Books and blogs from people who have already followed this path can also be very helpful.
Other Considerations When Learning How To Find Dog Walking Jobs
There are many ways to find dog walking jobs and if you’re not too enthusiastic about starting your own business. You can always search websites like Craigslist or job search engines such as Indeed or CareerBuilder.
Before you start out, consider the following:
- Get to know your city’s parks, trails and general layout to cut down on gas mileage
- Build your customer service skills if you want repeat business
- Be compassionate and tolerant when dealing with both the dogs and their owners
- Learn all you can about dogs and canine first aid
- Figure out how many dogs you can walk safely at the same time
- Learn how to pair various dogs, especially those who might be in heat
- Be prepared to do a large volume of poop-scooping
- Learn the local by-laws and be prepared to deal with by-passers who might not love dogs
- Be adaptable to different seasons and dress accordingly, with comfortable footwear
- If you’re not in shape, start to get in shape before you jump into dog walking (The job will help a LOT, but you need to make sure you’re able to handle it from the get-to)
- Learn all about different leashes and harnesses
Starting Your Own Dog Walking Business
Along with the above information, there are general rules of thumb when starting a business, such as registration, tax laws, insurance and permits, just to name a few. You need to be realistic about what you can do and what your service will offer, including the number of jobs you can take on and how much you’re willing to spend on things such as advertising and necessary equipment.
Advertising Your Dog Walking Business
Apart from the obvious social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you might want to invest in a website. Other ways to get the word out is by putting ads on veterinarian noticeboards, bulletin boards in various establishments and circulating flyers and business cards.
Linking up with a small business agency is a great way to learn all you need to know when running a business, like Score or the SBA, who offer free business plan templates, access to mentors and workshops, among other great resources.
If you decide to branch out and hire dog walkers to lighten the load, you’ll need to make sure you:
- Interview them properly and check out their backgrounds and references
- Obtain proper insurance and bonding
- Maintain proper accounting records and other financial considerations
- Set the prices according to the services offered
Make sure you offer a full spectrum of services, at least eventually. Some owners might expect you to run – not walk – their dogs, and some might have special requirements like taking their pup to a specific dog park. You’ll also need to check with each owner in terms of the food and treats they like their dogs to be given.
You might also like to eventually add other services, such as grooming, bathing, training, boarding or sitting. If you have an office to work from where the owners come to meet you, display any certificates of training and affiliation with quality associations, which should also be displayed on your website.
This is by no means an exhaustive source of information, as the world of dog walking is constantly evolving. There are just as many different types of dog owners as there are dog breeds, so if you are serious about stepping into the world of dog walking, be prepared to serve the owners and the dogs with compassion, respect and integrity.
It’s not just about walking dogs. As with any business, there’s the actual work you do, and then there’s managing it. When you aren’t walking dogs, you’ll be dealing with tax stuff, invoicing, marketing, complaints, and who knows what else?
If you love to walk dogs but aren’t enthusiastic about the rest of it, then finding a job might be the better route. If you love the idea of business and being an entrepreneur, and want to combine your passion for dogs with your work, then starting a business could be right up your alley!