Maybe you are a student and need a part-time job. Maybe you just need a little extra income in addition to your main job. Maybe you want to go all out and try to make a living from dog walking because you simply love dogs. No matter the reason, here are some tips that you can follow if you want to know how to be a dog walker, and a successful one at that.
As with any other dog business, preparing and having a good plan for this new venture is the only way to be successful. Jumping into any pet related business, whether full- or part-time, is a major decision that needs to be taken seriously and considered carefully.
Doing a little bit of research on how to become a dog walker, what these people do and how they start will help you understand exactly what you're getting into and whether or not it's a good option for your situation. Some people assume that dog walking business is a simple job that anyone can do. As a dog walker, let me tell you – that's not true at all. If you're hoping that your love of dogs is the only qualification you need, think again.
Hopefully after you go through these tips, you'll have a better idea about dog walking.
My 7 Tips on How to Be a Successful Dog Walker
Do you live by a lot of apartment buildings? Are there a lot of working families around you? You may love dogs and really want to walk them for cash, but if the market isn’t there, it won’t work.
I live in an area with a lot of retired folks. They are always out walking their dogs. Unless they get sick or hurt, I probably won’t be able to find regular dog walking jobs around my area. If you are willing to travel, that would be a whole different story.
Your strength and constitution will also factor in. How many dogs can you effectively walk at one time? If you live in an area with only a few prospects, it would be fine if you can only walk one dog at a time.
ASK A DOG WALKER: What's the Dog Walker Salary & Dog Walking Rates?
2. Consider Your Availability for the Job
Most people need dog walkers because they themselves do not have the time to do it. Maybe you can only walk in the morning or in the evening, but a lot of people need a dog walker for while they are at work – this means in the middle of the day.
To be a successful dog walker, you need to be available when people need you.
Being available at the right times could mean the middle of the night (for shift-workers), on rainy days, on snowy days, or just in the mid-morning. Decide when you are willing to work, and make sure your clients are clear on your schedule before the work starts.
3. Consider the Initial Costs and ROI
In any business, you need to be competitive. Don’t charge $20 for an hour walk if everyone else charges $15 or less, especially if you're just starting out. That said, cutting yourself short is also not a good idea. You will need to cover your own expenses as well as make a profit, thus once again, proper research and planning are key here.
My best tip for this is to call other area dog walkers and see what their going rate is. Online classified ads (like Craigslist) are a great place to check out your competition.
Further into this, make sure you ask potential dog walking clients if they will provide leashes, harnesses, etc. (normally, they do), or if you will be expected to provide these items yourself. See how other dog walkers work in terms of this.
4. How Are You Going to Advertise?
Primarily, this will depend on your budget and your location. If you just want to walk dogs in your neighborhood and do a small-time thing, you can put flyers on cars, flyers in mail boxes, or business cards at other local businesses who allow that.
Supermarkets and flea markets often have bulletin boards for community announcements. Remember to not pin to telephone poles or street signs without checking the laws in your area – that may be illegal. Some areas even have bans on placing flyers on cars.
If you are willing to travel around, you could put an ad in local papers, on Craigslist or other classified websites. Another popular site for these services is Backpage. Just make sure you stay safe and always meet potential clients in a public place.
Even if your plan is to go big and start a bona fide dog walking business, it's best to begin with walking dogs in your neighborhood to understand how it works and familiarize yourself with the process. Going big just means more dogs, more clients and more phone calls, so you can always expand from there.
5. Make a List of Gear and Equipment You'll Need
This is an often overlooked section by aspiring dog walkers. If you are going to be walking around for possibly hours a day, you need the right stuff. Dogs can’t hold it and wait for a good weather. Dog’s need walking in the rain, sleet, cold, heat, etc.
Once you have your own rain gear, comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, hats, and anything else you may need for any situation, then you may even want shoes for the dogs. The costs for these items will need to be factored into your rates for walking, so do the research beforehand. Factor all pricing as your initial investment to see if it's doable.
Here are lists of gear you'll likely need – check prices and see what you can afford:
Other doggy gear that you may want to splurge on but is really optional includes:
- A doggy water bottle
- Collapsible dog bowls
- Dog GPS trackers (in case of emergency)
- Raincoats for dogs
- Sunglasses for dogs
The above gear is optional but may be necessary if you're planning to do long walks with dogs, and especially for extreme climates – tons of rain, or sun, or snow, etc.
6. Your Safety and Liability as a Dog Walker
Be prepared to stand up for yourself and say no. If it is a blizzard and your health and well-being and the dog’s health and well-being are at risk, you will need to be able to refuse walking dogs now and again. Sometimes people can be pushy communicating their needs, so you need to have enough self-confidence to argue your point.
Make sure you are licensed and insured if your state requires it. You should always have insurance, even if your state does not require it. Be ready to pass a background check and a drug test if your employer wants these.
If you'll be working for yourself, make up a contract stating what you will and will not do. Put down what you will and will not be liable for as well. Have every client sign it, and you'll need to sign it. If possible, even get a witness or notary to sign it.
7. Communication and Proper Planning
The most important thing in starting your dog walking business is the most important thing when launching any business ventures. Sit down and really think. Try to think of everything that could occur – broken leashes, lost dogs, biting incidents – everything.
Do not jump into dog walking on a whim.
Get a friend or family member to help you brainstorm ideas. Then make a plan for everything you thought of. Plan how you will handle it, what you will do, what is the owner’s responsibility and so forth. Now, put those things in your contract. Successful working relationships are built on clear communication.
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