How to start a dog walking business?
When I hear people asking how to make extra money or see lists of side jobs, I usually encounter dog walking on that list. It sounds easy and fun taking a dog on a walk but this type of busines takes commitment and an understanding of dogs that not everyone understands. I am not writing this blog post to discourage women who want to start a dog walking business, it,s more to share some points to make it go well for you, the potential clients, and most importantly the dogs.
Be ready and open to learn
Describing yourself as a dog lover is great, but that does not mean you are completely knowledgable about them. I say this because when I have conducted interviews for dog walkers to work for me, that mostly has not meant they understand how dogs think and what to do with each one. The past experiences, whether good or bad with our dog or others can make us not realize we should approach things differently.
For example, your dog may love when you put a collar or harness on them but maybe a dog you take as a dog client is fearful and does not like being touched or your approach has to be slow. It is a big reality check to understand that your dog(s) are not like other dogs and putting the same expectations and actions on other dogs is not a good thing to do and could hurt you or the dog. Therefore, apprenticing with a local dog trainer that uses positive reinforcement could help, as well as taking some courses online or webinars like ones the Association of Professional Dog Trainers offer.
There are a lot more ways to get a dog education online, locally, as well as books too. Hopefully, you do not feel overwhelmed and make small steps to learn more about dogs. Moreover, you will be able to give the best service when you are educated and confident in working with dogs because knowledge is power for your business.
Another resource that could be very useful as a new Dog Walking Business is my Dog Walking Guide: A Blueprint to More Enjoyable Walks and a Better Relationship with Your Dog I created this blueprint as a way to breakdown what you should do before, during, and after a walk the same way I do it with each puppy or dog I work with each day. Yes, you may have knowledge if you are a dog owner but being a dog walker requires you to be more observant and see what works and does not with each puppy or dog you walk.
I recommend getting my Dog Walking Guide: A Blueprint to More Enjoyable Walks and a Better Relationship with Your Dog to be a quick reference to be a great dog walker and learn how to make each walk you go on better. I want to save you time that I spent many years learning things about walks through trial and error. This blueprint will give you an advantage that I did not and show your dog walking clients you are serious about giving the best walks possible.
Know your schedule and set boundaries in the beginning
I made the mistake in the beginning of my business by saying yes to everyone and not always checking my availability and if it was compatible with clients. It lead to stress, burnout, and feelings of resentment and being unappreciated. Keeping a calendar whether it is on your phone, or old school, like a paper one will remind you of what is booked and allow you to not overbook and have a life outside of this business.
Do not be afraid to say no as this will remind your clients to plan ahead better. This helps not only you, but their dog as well. It might not seem natural to write down as well as tell your clients you availability and limitations, but if you do not follow what works for you then this business will overrun your life.
Communication between Clients and Dogs is Essential
While walking dogs is your part of your job, you also need to have great communication with clients. If you notice a dog is limping, one who has diarrhea, or anything out of the ordinary, it is your responsibility to tell the dog owner. When everyone is on the same page it helps to handle problems in a quickly and in an effective manner.
Payment System setup is Essential-You are a Business not a Hobby
Sometimes starting to offer dog walking may be for extra money or by accident (not really) but if you want it to be a full income, setting up ways to get paid, as well as having payment policies will minimize those whom sometimes will give you the run around. Do you want to do check, cash, credit card, or PayPal as payment methods?
Definitely do your research as well as know if you can actually manage them too. The last thing you need is not getting payments because it is not easy for your clients to pay you, or for you to invoice and have a good system to record them.
I myself use Quickbooks as well as an app called Lucky Bitch to enter payments on my cellphone or laptop when I receive them from my clients. It gives you a clearer picture of the income you are actually making, rather than just estimating with no records what you are making.
Tools to Help Have Success on Dog Walks
Treat Bag- Having a treat bag is essential when walking dogs. I love the Doggone Good Rapid Rewards Pouch and it comes with a free belt strap.
Dog Treats- I carry 3 to 4 different treats for the walks as variety is important. Every dog seems to have different tastes when it comes to treats. Here are a couple treats I like to us myself: Zuke’s Natural Training Dog Treats, Merrick Power Bites, and Pet Botanics Training Reward are just a couple treats I like to use with the puppies or dogs I work with each day.
Poop Bags- These bags are vital and you can never have enough in your car or on you in this type of dog business. I like Pet-N-Pet Earth – Friendly Large Unscented Dog Waste Bags
Pepper Spray- I think it is important to carry mace as you never know what situation you may come across like a loose dog or a person. Safety is important as I do dog walks solo. I carry Sabre Red Flip Top Spray Pepper Spray with keyring and I put it on my treat bag belt strap.
Water for the pups- We have hot summers where I live and having a Portable Pet Water Bottle is very helpful. It will help to keep your puppy or dog hydrated which is important.
Ear Piece- I think having an ear piece is very important especially when you are driving from house to house and you get a phone call. It keeps your hands free and that is important with this type of business. I use Plantronics Explorer 50 Bluetooth Headset and I find it easy to use.
Cell Phone Clip- I use a cellphone clip with my phone and it is easy to clip on my pants or on my dog treat bag belt. I use the Otttobox Defender Series Holster Belt Clip for my Iphone.
Cell Phone Cover– I think with this type of dog business that it is important to have a cell phone cover as I know I have dropped my phone plenty of times unintentionally throughout the years. I like Ottobox Defender Series for the iphone and this cover comes with a clip which is great to have as well.
Related Post: How to Choose and use Dog Training Treats with Your Dog
Insurance and liability to cover things
When I started my dog walking business I was also doing pet sitting. I can talk more about that in another blog post. I joined a Pet Sitters Organization (PSI- Pet Sitters International) and they had a recommendation for insurance. I have been using that one ever since. I added on liability when I wanted to add an employee to my business.
Thinking about how to keep you and your business safe and covered if unexpected things come up in your business is essential. Fortunately, I have never had to make an insurance claim in almost ten years of having my business. Therefore, the insurance gives me the confidence and security to know that if something happens that I have a way to fix it. Also, if you have employees going in the house then you want coverage for them, yourself, and your business.
I want you to avoid the mistakes I made and enjoy this fun and rewarding business. Leave a comment or question below. I hope this blog post is helpful and leads you to a rewarding business with dogs. Remember the sky is the limit to what you can do with your dog walking business.
Access my powerful resources to enjoy spending time with your dog and never be embarrassed by their behavior again:
ENJOY YOUR WALKS TOGETHER
Take the Leash Manners Assessment to learn why your dog is pulling on the leash
STOP YOUR DOG FROM JUMPING
Tired of your dog always jumping up? Learn why they jump and how to fix it here
GUESS WHO’S COMING OVER
Tired of your dog losing their minds when the doorbell rings? This is for you.