It's a question that I hear all the time: “How much does a dog walker make?” I never quite know how to respond, since the most accurate answer is that there is no clear guaranteed salary associated with dog walking. Most pet care positions fall into this same category. A dog walker salary ultimately depends on many variables.
However, looking at research from reputable sources and the prices of businesses in your area can give you a good idea of what you can expect financially as a dog walker. If you're planning to start your own dog walking business, you want to make sure you check the prices of your competitors so you don't price yourself too high and drive customers away. If you're looking for a dog walker, price isn't the only thing you should be concerned about.
The cheapest dog walker may not always be the best option, and some dog walkers offer additional services. You may be able to pay a bit more and have someone water your plants, collect your mail, feed your pet or tend to other animals in your home.
You'll also want to check the references of any dog walker you are considering, as cheaper walkers may not provide the best quality service.
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Dog Walker Salary & Dog Walking Rates
Setting appropriate rates for your dog walking services is one of the most important factors in starting a dog walking business. You'll want to set your prices high enough to make it worth the effort, but low enough to get plenty of business without having tons of experience.
According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS), animal caretakers charge a median rate of about $16.00 for a thirty minute visit, which is the length of a standard dog walk.
At this rate, if you did five walks a day every weekday, your dog walker salary would be $19,000.000 per year. If dog walking is your sole profession and you offer a range of services, you will most likely make more than this.
Most dog walkers price competitively with strong consideration for supply and demand so one of the best ways to set a reasonable dog walking rate is to do some research on the prices of walkers in your area and base your prices around those.
This rule applies to whatever service you are providing. Take off just enough of the price to set yourself at a good value.
As you become more confident and are able to gather references, you can raise your prices slightly, thus increasing your dog walker salary.
It's up to you if you choose to require long term clients to bump their payments up to the new rate or keep them at the rate they started with. If you want them to pay the more expensive rate, you'll need to notify them well in advance.
You can also look to high profile dog walking services when setting your rates, even if you don't plan to work for them. A half hour walk costs $20.00 with Wag and $22.00 with Fetch Pet Care. You'll probably want to keep your prices lower than this for a while, since some of this extra cost is for level of convenience and the security that these companies can provide.
It's important to decide which services you're going to provide before starting your dog walking business. It may seem like a dog walker would only offer once service: dog walking, but this doesn't have to be true.
Dog walkers can offer a variety of services, which can drastically increase your dog walker salary. The average prices are including but not limited to:
- Standard dog walks ($16.00) – Consists of about thirty minutes of walking
- Extended dog walks ($30.00) – Consists of more than thirty minutes of dog walking; usually an hour but it can be more if you choose
- Play dates (usually priced by the amount of time that the dog will be in your care relevant to the walking prices above, including travel) – Play dates include taking the dog to the beach, a dog park, on a hike, etc.
- Bathroom breaks ($5.00 – $10.00) – This is just stopping by the owner's home to let the dog out so that he can go to the bathroom, but not taking him on a walk or giving him his daily exercise.
- Dog sitting and boarding (about $50.00 for sitting and about $65 for boarding per night) – Either of these services could include staying at the dog's home and caring for him there or keeping him at your home while his owner is away
Variables That May Affect Your Dog Walker Salary
There are a couple of pricing variables that should be settled early on to avoid getting into a mess later. First, decide on a limit for the number of dogs you will walk at a time. For beginners, it's not a good idea to go with over three, especially if they are large or energetic dogs.
Be honest with yourself about what you are comfortable with, because the dog's safety is at risk if you bite off more than you can chew. Of course you want to make a decent dog walker salary, but you don't want to sacrifice quality and safety to do so.
Once you decide that, settle on a price for walking multiple dogs. Most dog walkers keep these fees to ($3.00-$5.00) for each additional dog.
This is mostly due to supply and demand. Not only are there less people, and therefore less pets in smaller towns, but people who live in the country often have the space to let their dog wander and play in the yard.
It's usually not worth the cost of getting a dog walker to come take their pet out unless they have specialized exercise needs.
People who live in cites on the other hand often don't have yards with enough space for their pets to play in, and can't let them roam free.
Consider that dog walking can often involve transporting dogs in your personal vehicle. While any damages will be covered by your insurance, you should decide how far you are willing to travel for your services and how you are going to cover gas.
You can either just factor the cost of fuel into your base rate or you can choose to charge for compensation. I personally recommend covering it in your base rate to simplify things, but that depends on how far you are willing to travel for a walk.
The Condensed Version
Dog walking is normally a competitively priced service. In order to compete, you'll have to price your services with strong consideration of your competition in order to gain clients. In this business, salary is completely dependent upon experience and the services you plan to provide.
While you may not make much money to start with, if you stick with dog walking long enough to gain a positive reputation and confidently charge more for your dog walks, you could find yourself with a very decent salary doing something that you love.
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