Love dogs? Love walking? Never walk alone again! It doesn’t take an online quiz to make you think that starting a dog walking gig would be the perfect job for you.
However, as with setting up any business, it’s not quite as simple as that.
Here we have put together some of the key things to think about when setting up a dog walking business.
How Much Do You Actually Know About Dogs?
As much as you may love dogs, be realistic. Can you spot the early signs of sickness that you need to act on? Whether this is contacting the owner and spending some time in the home to monitor Fido or whether you need to seek veterinarian attention. If you had planned on walking multiple dogs at once, how would this scenario impact on your schedule?
Can you read dog body language? Will your walks include time spent in the dog park? Can you spot a potential disastrous interaction before it gets out of hand? A soft, fluid body with a wagging tail is your ideal pooch, one that play bows and understands that dogs don’t approach head on, but from the side. If you have a stiff, rigid dog, who is walking awkwardly, do you feel confident to remove them from whatever situation is making them wary? If the dog has his hackles raised and his tail up, can you assess what is making him stressed before he behaves aggressively?
Are you mindful of the typical stress signs in dogs; lip licking, yawning, “shaking off?”
As a dog walker, you are responsible for the health, hydration and well-being of all dogs in your care, if they are stressed or anxious, you need to get them out of that situation.
Start With Insurance Before Marketing
As we’ve mentioned, you are responsible for the health and well-being of all dogs in your care. Even if you have done everything you should, accidents can and do happen.
You are still liable. A dog may get hit by a car, may suffer an injury or a dog may be the cause of an injury to another dog or human. For peace of mind, and financial security, insurance should be on the top of your to-do list.
Policies vary, most insurers cover damages to premises, medical bills (human and canine), lost keys and legal expenses. Compare policies to see which suits you best, but the small annual fee far outweighs the potential risk of not being insured.
Actually Start Your Business
Market yourself properly! In the age of social media, it’s really simple to get your business out there. You can create a business page and share to local dog walking and dog groups. This is also a good way to vet potential customers too – whilst they look at your business page, you can check out their profiles and dogs. Create flyers and ask local veterinarians, pet stores or groomers if they will hang one for you. Wear personalized uniform – a T-Shirt or coat. There’s no better advertising than doing your job well
with potential customers noticing whilst you are out walking client’s dogs.
Offer a loyalty scheme, a customer may get their 10th or 15th walk free or a cheaper subscription pricing model. You should start around a $10/hour walking price, this can be reduced based on frequency of walks. Networking with other dog professionals is crucial; dog owners ask dog professionals about people in the business. Contact local dog trainers and ask if you can leave some flyers or business cards at their obedience or puppy classes.
Whilst dog lovers may think that dog walking is the perfect business for them, it’s not easy to turn a hobby into a business.
Be realistic about your capabilities and experience with dogs (all shapes and sizes). If you’re confident in these, there couldn’t be a more fulfilling job. Network, get yourself insured and make that 30 minute or 1 hour walk, the highlight of your customer’s day. If you aren’t yet confident enough, try volunteering at a shelter to gain free experience in handling dogs before starting a dog walking business.
About the author John Woods
John Woods, a dog parent to Jamie and Jeff, member of Association of Professional Dog Trainers and editor at All Things Dogs.