How to Become a Dog Walker
Starting a dog walking business is a fun and flexible option, perfect for an animal lover who values being active.
You will naturally need to love dogs and will also have to have some kind of understanding of their needs, which may include common things like how much to walk them as well as more complex things like which dog probiotics to give which dogs and when.
In this article we’ll outline everything you need to know to start a successful dog walking business.
Where To Start Out as A Dog Walker
Experience is essential in this industry, knowing how to handle dogs will be invaluable if something is to happen. This includes dogs at all stages of their lives ranging from young puppies to elderly dogs. General and well-accepted advice when it comes to becoming a professional dog walker will typically include:
- Strong interpersonal and communication skills
- A high level of fitness” and, naturally,
- An affinity with, and understanding of dogs
If you’re lacking dog handling skills, fear not, you could always volunteer at your local kennels or rescue center. A kennel or rescue center will offer you a good range of dogs of various sizes, age and temperament.
You might also want to consider attending courses in animal first aid, as gaining a certificate would no doubt impress clients, showcasing your commitment to the dog’s welfare.
How Much Can I Make as a Dog Walker?
With the average dog owner spending around $300 a month, there is a big business and lots of profit to be made. According to some, the average dog walker charges between $15-$30 per hour, so there’s real potential for a profitable business.
Remember, it's a Business
If you’re an animal lover, you might have to pinch yourself to believe that it’s your job to walk dogs all day. But it’s essential that you remember that you’re running a business. You’ll need entrepreneurial skills and register with HM Revenue and Customs to set up your own business. If you're working on your own, make yourself the 'sole trader' of your company, you'll be responsible for things like tax and insurance.
Make sure you have a basic understanding of bookkeeping, you will not only need to balance your own books, but you’ll also be required to fill in your self-assessment tax return.
Getting your business off the ground will be a lot easier if you have a good understanding of marketing and self-promotion. Flyering can be a great way to do this, as it targets your local area, and with 5,000 flyers professionally printed costing you around $100, it’s a fairly affordable way of reaching customers.
Lastly, your success is dependent on your interpersonal skills. An ability to network and negotiate with customers and the local animal industry is vital. Being friendly is important but being professional is vital.
Rules and Regulations
There are relatively few regulations specifically targeted at dog walkers. Public liability insurance is a must for dog walkers and can help you cover fallout from incidents. You might also want to consider business legal protection and protecting dogs against injury or illness under your public liability insurance.
Find Your Niche
Dog walking businesses are popular and new ones will spring up all the time. That is why it is important to find a niche, distinguishing you from the crowd.
Carry out market research and assess whether there is room in your area for another dog walker.
Consider offering a pet sitting service as well as dog walking. Having a diploma in pet medication will allow you to cater to a specific group of dogs, widening your appeal.
Laura Robinson, DMV
Dr Laura practices at the Antonio Animal Hospital in California, where she was born and raised. She is an advisor to Wuffes, ensuring all our products and content is of the highest standard