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Do you love dogs? Wouldn’t it be great to work with them all day long? Have you thought about taking your passion for dogs and turning it into a side business, or maybe even a career?
You might be wondering, how can I do that? Well, it’s quite easy, actually. You can start a dog walking business. You’ve probably passed a dog walker on the street at some point. They’re pretty hard to miss as they’re walking numerous dogs at the same time, with anywhere from three to eight dogs possibly taking up their attention. Dog walkers are typically more common in big cities like New York City or Chicago, due to the busy lifestyle of the cities inhabitants. Dog owners with very little free time will pay dog walkers big bucks to take their dogs for a stroll since they’re unable to.
If you’re not as familiar with a dog walker’s responsibilities, take a look below.
Dog Walker’s Responsibilities
Dog walkers have a list of clients whose homes they visit regularly in order to take their dogs out for daily exercise. These walks generally happen in half-hour to one-hour increments. On special occasions, or for a specific client, this time cap may be adjusted, but naturally, the cost increases. In addition to daily exercise, dog walkers are tasked with picking up and disposing of dog poop, possibly feeding and/or giving the dog water after their walk, and also notifying the dog owner of any peculiar behavior which might require medical attention, such as the dog becoming sick or sustaining an injury while under the dog walker’s supervision.
Aside from actually walking their client’s dogs, many dog walkers also provide pet sitting services, where they’ll visit a client’s home and spend some time there, satisfying whatever requests the dog owner may have to meet their dog’s needs. This could include simply letting their dog out to go to the bathroom, feeding them, giving them water, or playing with them for a little bit. Sounds great, right? Pet sitting can also be something that’s done overnight if an owner is out of town for a period of time.
Since the client’s dog is under the dog walker’s supervision for various periods of time throughout the week, dog walkers will typically require clients to complete a document which includes their contact information, vet’s contact information, the dog’s age, breed, weight, medical conditions, medications, and maybe even tendencies.
This information is important to have in case anything were to ever happen to the dog while under the dog walker’s supervision. This way, the dog walker is able to contact the client and possibly take any necessary next steps based on the dog’s condition.
A Day in the Life of a Dog Walker
A typical day for a dog walker will begin around 5 am and usually doesn’t end till about 9 pm. Since most dog walkers actually have their own dogs, their days can involve plenty of back and forth, between caring for their client’s dogs, caring for their own dogs, and taking care of everyday duties. Dog walker routines will vary from person-to-person and even day-to-day, but here’s an example of what you can expect a dog walker’s day to look like once they’ve left their house.
- Pet sitting visits from 6-8 am
- Coming home to take care of your dog(s) from 8:30-10:30 am
- Walking client’s dogs from 11-3 pm
- Coming home for a break and to take care of your dogs from 3:30-5:30 pm
- Leaving again around 6 pm for evening/night pet sitting
- Arriving back home around 9 pm for the rest of the night
How to Begin Your Dog Walking Business
Selecting Your Business Type
If all of the above sounds like something you’re interested in then it’s time to start your business! By following a few relatively simple steps, you will be able to get started. To begin, you’ll first have to decide whether you want to begin your business as a limited liability corporation (LLC) or as a sole practitioner. Either way, working with an attorney as you move forward with your business is wise, as they can assist you with legal matters that you may not be as familiar with.
As a sole practitioner, you as the owner make all the decisions and are responsible for the payment of all debts and taxes. Your personal and business assets are not separate from those of your business. Starting your business as a sole practitioner is free.
On the other hand, an LLC does separate personal and business assets from one another. This means that you, the owner of the corporation are not personally liable for the debt of the business. Becoming an LLC costs about $1,000 on average.
Insurance Coverage, Service Offerings, and Contracts
Once you’ve decided how you want to move forward, you’ll want to consider getting insurance coverage that’s tailored for dog walkers. Insurance coverage, although a couple of hundred dollars a year, can save you thousands down the line if one of your clients’ dogs causes damage under your supervision.
Next, you’ll want to identify your service offerings, as well as your rate. This can depend on the city you live in, your experience, and more. Once you’ve done that, it’ll be wise for you to work with an attorney to come up with a contract that you will require your clients to sign prior to working with them. Make sure to be specific here. Your contract can outline what services you offer, options for payment, cancellation clauses, and so on. Depending on the clients’ needs and/or requests, you can alter the contract to suit them specifically. Before doing any work for a client, always make sure the contract is signed by both parties.
Now that you’ve established your dog walking business, you’ll need clients, which means you’ll need to do some marketing. Since you’re just starting out, you can keep it simple and cheap. Have a flyer and business card designed that you’re able to pass out, post on telephone poles, street lights, veterinarian offices, grocery stores, pet stores, and more. Utilize social media. Create a company page on Facebook and Twitter. Promote your services. Down the line, you’ll want to create a website to supplement these avenues. As your list of clients begins to grow, you’ll start to receive referral clients. Take note of where these are coming from and how they came across your business.
Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households own a pet. About half of those pets are dogs, coming out to about 90 million dogs according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Plenty of these dog-owning families or individuals could use a trusty dog walking service. That could just be you!