It's difficult to think of a job that would be more appealing than getting to spend the day outside hanging out with dogs. Whether you're interested in a full time career or just trying to make some extra money in between classes or freelance gigs, dog-walking is a natural fit for animal-lovers. But dog walker jobs aren't always found easily, and they aren't always reliable.
Unfortunately, like most employment searches, looking for dog walking opportunities can present an overwhelming amount of variables. Where do you even begin to look? Should you start out as an independent business or look into an established company? Do you need to be insured?
These are just a few of the questions that would leave me at a stalemate at the start of a dog walking job hunt. I'm here to help you get the ball rolling, and hopefully on the fast track to dog walking success. Dog walker jobs may not be easily found, but with the right tools you can start building your reputation.
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Dog Walker Jobs: Where and How to Find Good Dog Walking Work?
Getting Started, Insurance, and Certification
When I began my search for dog walker jobs, I quickly realized that some form of certification and insurance is an absolute necessity in getting hired. In addition to caring for a beloved family member, dog-walking often entails going into a client's home while they are away.
The vast majority of people will not feel comfortable letting a complete stranger with no references into their private residence unsupervised. Most companies will also conduct a background check during the application process to put their customers at ease.
Professional experience with dog training and veterinary care will further increase your employment value, as they guarantee your ability to handle a dog with special health or behavioral needs should an incident occur when you're on the job.
For independent certification that will be universally recognized, both online classes and in-person training courses are available. Organizations such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) and Pet Sitters International (PSI) offer reputable certification programs and insurance policies that are sure to impress potential employers. However, these courses aren't free, nor can they be completed overnight.
Both will cost you a couple of hundred dollars and a decent chunk of time, but will undoubtedly be beneficial when it comes to building your professional reputation. Serious courses like these would likely be a great choice if you are hoping to make a career out of pet care, but may not be the most efficient path for everyone.
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Walking for a Company
If you have little to no professional pet care experience, I highly recommend looking into an established organization when you're starting out. A company with a reputation will usually perform a background check, certify, and insure their prospective employees. This will save you a considerable amount of hassle.
I personally began working, and continue to work through a company called Wag. Wag is managed through an app that functions similarly to Uber, but finds dog-walkers instead of drivers. The main benefit of using Wag for both employees and customers is the level of convenience it provides.
In addition to regular schedules, the app offers on-demand walks and quick potty breaks that notify all walkers in the area when a dog needs a walk on extremely short notice. If you have a flexible schedule, there will be ample opportunity for you to grab some last minute walks from clients stuck at work or in traffic.
If your schedule is more structured, there are plenty of regular, long-term dog walker jobs available as well.
ASK A DOG WALKER: Where and How to Find Good Dog Walking Jobs?
Wag has been a great find for me, but it's still relatively new and is currently limited to people living in major cities. Prospective dog walkers living in less densely populated areas will need to opt for something more local.
Fetch Pet Care is another company that will do the majority of the legwork for you and help you find clients. Though it is not app-based and doesn't offer walks on short notice, Fetch Pet Care is much more widespread and accessible than Wag for those living in less metropolitan areas.
Beyond specialized websites, be sure not to overlook dog walker jobs listed on websites like Indeed.com. Most dog walking agencies vary by location, and looking at pet care postings in your area specifically can help you to get an idea of your local options.
There are downsides to working for a corporate organization as well, depending on your occupational preferences. Besides the lack of independence to conduct business on your own terms, the company will set your rates and take a cut of your payments for their services.
Personally, I feel that it's worth it for the conveniences that they provide, especially if certification and insurance are a part of your contract.
ASK THE EXPERT: Where and How to Pick Dog Walking Insurance?
Starting Your Own Dog Walking Business
Maybe you already have some experience and are looking for a more independent approach, or you live in an area that doesn't offer any dog walker jobs that fit your needs as a walker. There are still ways that you can have a successful business; it will just require you to do your own legwork.
If you walk your own dog or the dog of a friend, have some distinct shirts and business cards printed to help you advertise while you walk. You'll be surprised at how many people ask you about your services, especially around public parks and neighborhoods.
I cannot count how many times I have kicked myself for not having a business card on me when someone asked me for my contact info while I was working.
It's so much easier and more professional to just hand a card over to them rather than having to make them get their phone out or keep up with a note so they can remember you.
If you want to take it a step further, set up a website that details your qualifications and services along with quality pictures of you with the dogs that you walk. The more clients have a sense of who you are, the better.
Think of how you would feel if you were trusting your dog with a stranger. If you aren't relying on the reputation of a trusted company, you'll need to make your own – and that may take a while.
In short, animal lovers who have busy schedules and want to pick up dog walker jobs for extra cash will have more luck joining an organization that handles matters of insurance and credibility for them. More ambitious walkers or walkers with prior experience in pet care will find it worthwhile to enroll in serious training courses and possibly even start their own business.
There is no correct model to follow. However you decide to go about it, dog-walking is a highly rewarding and enjoyable job. I hope that this article has helped you to narrow down what you want out of your dog-walking career and where to start looking. Happy walking!
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