So you want to be a dog walker. It’s an amazing business. You don’t have a boss, you can set your own hours, and there you have amazing clients (the dogs of course). You’re not sitting in a cubicle all day. You’re moving around burning calories, and you can listen to podcasts, YouTube videos, and music to pass the time. I’m telling you, dog walking is one of the most fulfilling jobs out there. How do I know? Because I ran a dog walking business for over 10 years.
With that decade worth of experience, I know exactly how to start and grow a dog walking business. In this post, I’ll share everything I learned from dog walking and how you can get started.
Start A Dog Walking Business In Your Neighborhood
To start a dog-walking business you need to live in a neighborhood that has a lot of dogs. These dogs should be within walking distance of your house. Although you could drive, this becomes inefficient as you make the most money walking multiple dogs at once.
How Many Dogs Should I Walk At Once?
It isn’t uncommon for an experienced dog walker to have as many as four dogs at once. However, when you’re just getting started, try to limit yourself to two dogs per walk. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself. Also, every dog behaves differently. Some will have a lot of energy, some will want to sniff around, and some will hate to walk.
That being said, there is no legal number to the number of dogs that you can walk at one time. Just make sure that you can handle all of your dog’s comfortability. If you’re walking four dogs who are all calm, it may feel manageable. If you’re walking young dogs that have a whole bunch of energy, you may only be able to handle two. It all depends on the profile of the dog you’re walking.
Do You Need A Business License?
There is no official business license you need as a dog walker. However, if you want to dog walk full-time you probably should get Incorporated. By becoming Incorporated you help yourself from a tax perspective and you take on less risk as a business owner.
This isn’t something you need to worry about if you are just getting started. You should only worry about getting a business license once you already have a thriving dog-walking business.
Do You Need A Professional Dog Walking Certification?
While there are dog walking certifications out there, you don’t need them. It’s not like being a doctor where you have to go to med school. Most people would rather a dog walker that has experience over one with just credentials.
Think about it this way, if you wanted to run faster who would you hire as a coach. Someone who read a book on running faster, or a professional runner? The question is rhetorical, but it goes to show that experience is valued more than how much you study.
How Much Should I Charge Per Walk?
This depends on two things. How long you walk the dogs for? How much do other dog walkers in your area charge for a walk? Usually, there are two types of walks you will provide. A 30-minute walk, and an hour walk. At the peak of my dog walking business, I would charge $20 for 30 minutes, and $30 for an hour.
This is still much less than the average dog walker as it isn’t uncommon for someone to charge $30 for just a 30 minute walk. The reason I charged less was that I was fairly young, only around 18 years old when I started my business. I also knew that the less I charged, the more walks I could provide.
I was fine sacrificing some extra dollars to be the lowest cost dog walker in my neighborhood. By being low cost, it allowed me to walk up to three dogs at a time. The times where I would walk 3 dogs at once, which happened around 1-2 times a day, I would make $60 in just 30 minutes.
Again, take note of how much the average dog walker charges in your neighborhood. Try to price your services just a little bit below the average. Don’t go too low, as that might seem sketchy. The goal is to go just low enough where it seems like a good deal. This is especially helpful at the beginning of your business when you don’t have any reputation within the neighborhood.
How Much Does It Cost To Start A Dog Walking Business
Starting a dog-walking business doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. In fact, there are almost no costs associated with it. If you’re walking someone else’s dog, they already have a leash and collar, and most of them will have bags to pick up poop.
That being said, a smart investment would be a bag of treats to help with the dogs who are a little more rambunctious. This comes especially in handy when you walk more than one dog at a time. A treat is a great incentive to get the dog’s attention and help calm it down. You also want to invest in your own baggies, as some dog owners won’t always have them readily available. It’s easy to carry all of this with you in a fanny pack. I personally preferred the strap backpack.
What Insurance Do You Need For Dog Walking / Pet Sitting?
If you want to be serious about your dog-walking business, it is smart to get insurance. The reason you want insurance is it helps to cover the cost of legal claims against you if your dog sustains any injuries. While it is never our intention to have a dog hurt while under our care, some things are out of our control.
The most common injury that a dog will sustain is usually an attack from another dog. That’s why it’s really important when dog walking to make sure that if your dog wants to socialize with another dog, you ask the owner first. Dogs may seem friendly up until they get within biting distance of each other. All it takes is one good bite to send your dog to the vet.
Luckily, dog walking insurance isn’t that expensive. A good insurance plan should never cost you more than $500 a year, and you can even find insurance for as little as $200 a year. Just keep in mind that the less you pay for your insurance, the less coverage you will have. Alternative Balance is a great provider of affordable insurance for dog walkers if you want to check out their website.
Dog Walking Advertising Ideas
When I started my dog-walking business I was around 13 years old. The way that I advertised was by putting flyers in all the local laundromats in my co-op. There were 10 buildings that were apart of my co-op and each building had its own laundromat.
I created a flyer that had pull off tags with my number on it. On the flyer, I stated at the top “local dog walker.” I had my years of experience or any qualification right below it. Finally, I had the rate in which I charged for walking dogs (which at the time was only $5 for a half-hour). Then I added my number on the pull-off tags saying to call with any questions.
I would put these up all around the local laundromats and make my rounds every week to make sure they were still there. If I could have done this over, another great place I could have put my flyers would have been in the dog park itself. If you want to master your advertising, you need to think to yourself, “Where do the majority of dog owners go?” Maybe you see if you can get your advertising at a pet groomer or a pet store. Try to step into your audience’s shoes and think where they would go.
If the pet store or pet groomer wants to charge you for advertising in their store see if you can work out a deal with them instead. Say to them that you want to be able to advertise at their location for free, but you will refer all of your clients to them. This will help both of you generate more clients and it’s a win-win situation.
Knowing Your Target Audience
If you want to successfully start a dog walking business trick, you need to really know your audience. Who needs their dog to walk? This is a real question as not everyone does. The majority of the clients I had could fit into three customer segments. I have outlined them in detail below.
The Business Professional
These were people who didn’t have time to walk their dog during the day. They might work anywhere from 9 to 12 hours a day, and their dog can’t go that long without a walk. They are also single, meaning there is no significant other to walk the dog for them.
These business professionals love to have a dog walker come for an afternoon walk, and sometimes an evening walk. Even though many of them do come back by the evening time, the last thing on their mind is to walk their dog. Many of them will hire someone to do that for them.
The elderly don’t work as much as they may be retired or have reduced working hours. Although they are home with their dog, they don’t have the energy to take their dog out for a long walk. The best type of elderly clients are those that have a dog that require a lot of exercise. They will pay for longer walks, which will lead to more money for you.
The Frequent Travelers
My favorite type of clients were those who were constantly traveling. This is because most people can’t bring their dogs with them when they travel, especially when they’re flying. So not only did I have to walk their dog, I would actually have to let them stay with me. Since you’re doing more than just walking it, such as feeding, giving it water, and entertaining it you can charge more than just the amount of walks you give it throughout the day.
This is a great way to make money, and it is much less time consuming as you don’t have to commute to anyone’s house. Dog boarding is espicially lucrative during holidays when people are traveling to see family.
It’s a lot of people’s goal to start a dog-walking business. It’s fun, you have the best clients in the world, and you can listen to whatever you want while you walk the dogs. You don’t need a business license or years of experience to get started. It’s a nice way to get exercise, and as long as it’s not freezing cold or scorching hot the weather never really gets in the way.
When looking to start a dog-walking business you want to ask yourself: “Where do dog owners hang out, and which owners are most likely to need my service?” Stepping into the shoes of your audience is the most important thing you can do when starting any business. If you follow the steps that I outlined in this post, you will be 10 times further along than anyone else trying to start their dog walking business. If you want other ideas for successfully starting a side hustle, check out our ebook, How To Start A Side Hustle And Make Money In The First 90 Days.