How to Make Money as a Dog Walker

By Emma Philo

Published:

Side Hustles

Emma Philo

Emma Philo

Writer & Career Coach

In a world where the demands of modern life can sometimes leave us longing for a breath of fresh air and a wagging tail, the opportunity to combine our love for our canine companions with a flexible income stream has become an enticing reality.

Exploring how to start dog walking can be an exciting journey for those passionate about dogs and the outdoors. If you’re someone who finds solace in the company of four-legged friends and seeks ways to boost your earnings, then the realm of dog walking might just be the ideal side hustle for you.

In this guide, we’ll delve into the art of transforming your affinity for dogs into a profitable venture, exploring not only how to start dog walking but also shedding light on the question that’s on everyone’s mind: how can you make money as a dog walker?

How To Start Dog Walking

Skills and Qualifications Needed

To excel as a dog walker and provide top-notch care for your furry clients, certain skills and qualifications are essential. While you might not need formal degrees, specific traits and knowledge can set you apart as a reliable and trusted dog walker. Here are the key skills and qualifications needed to thrive in this role:

  • Love and Understanding of Dogs: The foundation of being a successful dog walker is a genuine love for dogs. You should enjoy spending time with them, understanding their behaviors, and appreciating their unique personalities.
  • Patience and Calmness: Dogs can exhibit a wide range of behaviors, and some may be challenging. Patience is crucial when dealing with dogs that are anxious, excitable, or have behavioral issues. Remaining calm in various situations will help you manage dogs effectively.
  • Physical Fitness: Dog walking can be physically demanding, especially if you’re walking multiple dogs at once. You should have the stamina to handle dogs of varying sizes and energy levels, and be able to walk, run, and handle dogs on leash comfortably.
  • Communication Skills: Effective communication is important not only when dealing with dogs but also when interacting with dog owners. You’ll need to convey details about walks, share updates on their pets, and possibly handle emergency situations. Clear and respectful communication will help build trust with clients.
  • Basic Training Knowledge: While you’re not expected to be a professional dog trainer, understanding basic training commands and techniques is beneficial. This can help manage dogs during walks, reinforce good behavior, and address minor issues.
  • Time Management: Dog walking often requires adhering to specific schedules and commitments. Being punctual and managing your time effectively will ensure that you meet clients’ expectations and provide consistent service.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: Situations can arise unexpectedly during walks, such as encountering other dogs, handling leash tangles, or addressing minor injuries. Being able to think on your feet and find practical solutions is essential.

Remember, as you gain experience and build your reputation, your skills will naturally evolve and improve. Being open to learning and adapting will help you provide exceptional care to the dogs you walk and maintain a strong rapport with their owners.

Essential Gear for Dog Walking

Equipping yourself with the essential gear ensures that both you and your furry charges have a safe, enjoyable, and comfortable experience. From leashes that offer control to gadgets that enhance safety, here’s a comprehensive rundown of the must-have gear for every dog walker:

Leashes and Collars
  • Standard Leash: A sturdy, well-made leash of appropriate length provides you with control over the dog’s movements during walks.
  • Retractable Leash: While not suitable for all dogs, retractable leashes offer more freedom while maintaining control. Use them cautiously, especially around traffic and other dogs.
  • Harness or Collar: Opt for a comfortable and secure harness or collar that fits the dog properly. Harnesses are particularly useful for dogs that tend to pull on the leash.
Waste Management Supplies
  • Poop Bags: Always carry an ample supply of biodegradable poop bags to clean up after the dogs. Being responsible about waste management reflects positively on your professionalism.
  • Dispenser: A bag dispenser that attaches to your leash or belt keeps your hands free while ensuring you’re always prepared.
Comfortable Footwear
  • Invest in comfortable, supportive footwear suitable for walking long distances. Good shoes protect your feet from strain and ensure you stay comfortable during extended walks.
Weather-Appropriate Clothing
  • Dress in layers and choose weather-appropriate clothing that keeps you comfortable regardless of the conditions. Staying dry and warm in winter and cool in summer is essential for both your comfort and safety.
Water and Treats
  • Always have a portable water bottle and collapsible bowl to keep dogs hydrated during walks, especially on hot days. We also recommend carrying small, dog-friendly treats to reward good behavior and encourage positive interactions.
First Aid Kit
  • A basic first aid kit equipped with essentials like bandages, antiseptic wipes, and tweezers can be invaluable in case of minor injuries.

Investing in high-quality gear not only enhances your professionalism but also ensures that you’re prepared for any situation that may arise during your dog walking sessions. By prioritizing safety, comfort, and efficiency, you’re setting the stage for a successful and enjoyable experience for both you and your four-legged clients.

How to Find Dog Walking Gigs

So, you’re all set to embark on an exciting journey as a dog walker, and you’re probably wondering about the potential earnings. We’ll walk you through various avenues to land those sought-after dog walking gigs. From online platforms like Rover to the good old grapevine, we’ll explore how to start dog walking on the right foot.

Online Platforms
  • Rover: As a leader in the pet care industry, Rover offers a platform connecting dog walkers with pet owners seeking trusted caregivers. Create a captivating profile, highlighting your love for dogs, experience, and services you offer. How much can you make on Rover? A part-time dog walker can earn up to $1,000 a month on Rover. This platform is a great opportunity to dive into the world of dog walking by exploring various rates and offerings.
  • Wag: Wag, much like its counterpart Rover, provides an accessible and user-friendly online platform that opens the door to a world of dog walking opportunities. With a few clicks, you can create a profile that showcases your experience, enthusiasm, and unique approach to dog walking. You’ll be able to coordinate walks, share updates, and ensure that both pets and owners experience peace of mind.
  • PetBacker: PetBacker provides a platform for various pet services, including dog walking. It connects pet owners with local pet caregivers, allowing you to offer not only dog walking but also pet sitting, grooming, and more.
  • Care.com: While Care.com primarily focuses on a wide range of caregiving services, it also includes dog walking. This platform enables you to create a profile highlighting your experience and services to connect with pet owners seeking assistance.
  • Fetch! Pet Care: Fetch! Pet Care is a dedicated platform that connects pet owners with professional pet sitters and dog walkers. It operates as a franchise, providing local services in various regions.
Freelance Websites
  • Freelance platforms like Upwork and Fiverr can also serve as avenues to find dog-walking gigs. Craft a compelling profile, outlining your skills, love for dogs, and availability. While these platforms might not focus solely on dog walking, they can offer a diverse range of opportunities that contribute to your dog walking venture.
Local Classifieds
  • Check local classified ads, both online and in print, for dog walking opportunities. Individuals might post ads seeking trustworthy dog walkers for their pets. Respond with a well-crafted pitch showcasing your dedication and experience, shedding light on the value you can provide.
Social Media Groups
  • Join local pet care communities on platforms like Facebook, where pet owners often seek recommendations for reliable dog walkers. Engage actively, share your passion for dogs, and let your potential clients know about your rates and services.
Flyers and Business Cards
  • Traditional methods like distributing flyers and business cards in your community can help attract local clients. Design eye-catching materials that highlight your services, experience, and contact information. Address the curiosity with a friendly note that outlines your rates.
Word of Mouth
  • Spread the word among friends, family, and acquaintances that you’re starting a dog-walking side hustle. Personal recommendations can lead to trust, and referrals from satisfied clients can pave the way to growing the client base.

Understanding the fundamentals of how to start dog walking can set the stage for a fulfilling journey where you get to enjoy the company of dogs while providing a valuable service to their owners.

How Much Do Dog Walkers Make

The earning potential for a dog walker can vary widely based on factors such as location, experience, the number of dogs walked, the duration of walks, and the specific services offered. On average, dog walkers in the United States can earn anywhere from $10 to $30 per hour.

In metropolitan areas or densely populated cities, where demand for dog walking services is higher, dog walkers tend to command higher rates. Additionally, if you offer specialized services, such as group walks, training, or additional care tasks, you may be able to charge a premium.

How To Make Extra Money As A Dog Walker

Specialized Services

As a dog walker, offering specialized services can set you apart and cater to the specific needs of both dogs and their owners. These services go beyond the standard walk and can enhance your reputation, attract a broader clientele, and potentially increase your earnings. Here are some specialized services you might consider offering:

  • Jogging with Dogs: If you’re an avid runner, this is a fantastic service to offer. Many dog owners struggle to find the time to give their energetic pups the exercise they need. A jogging session can provide both physical activity and mental stimulation.
  • Puppy Play and Socialization: Puppies have unique needs for socialization and exercise. Offering short, structured play sessions that help them interact with other dogs and learn essential behaviors can be a valuable service.
  • Senior and Special Needs Dogs: Older dogs or those with physical limitations might require gentler, slower-paced walks. Specialized care for these dogs can involve shorter walks, mobility assistance, and even administering medications.
  • Training Reinforcement: Combine dog walking with basic training commands. Reinforce commands like “sit,” “stay,” and loose-leash walking during your walks, providing an extra layer of value to your service.

By offering specialized services, you can address a variety of client needs and create a more personalized experience for both dogs and their owners. However, it’s important to have the necessary expertise and skills for these services, as they often require additional knowledge and understanding of canine behavior and care. Always ensure that you’re well-prepared to offer these services in a safe and professional manner.

Expand Your Offerings

Expanding your offerings not only caters to diverse client needs but also enables you to tap into new revenue streams. Beyond walking, consider broadening your services to attract a wider clientele:

  • Pet Taxi: Provide transportation services for pets that need to visit the vet, groomer, or any other appointments. This convenience can be especially valuable for busy pet owners.
  • Pet Sitting and Overnight Care: Extend your services to include pet sitting, where you care for dogs in their own homes while owners are away. Overnight care can provide comfort to dogs that are accustomed to having company during the night.
  • Adventure Hikes: Offer longer hikes or nature outings for dogs that thrive in outdoor settings. Adventure hikes can include more extensive exercise and mental stimulation, appealing to active dogs and their owners.

Package Deals

Create package deals that encourage repeat business and larger bookings. For instance, offer a discounted rate for clients who book a certain number of walks in advance or combine walking with pet-sitting services.

When designing package deals, consider the needs and preferences of your target clientele. Tailor your packages to offer convenience, savings, and a well-rounded pet care experience.

Clearly outline the benefits of each package and the cost savings compared to booking services individually. Keep in mind that the goal is to create packages that not only attract new clients but also build loyalty among existing ones.

Expand Your Hours

As a dedicated dog walker, expanding your hours can open up new opportunities for client engagement and revenue growth. By offering more flexible scheduling options, you can cater to a wider range of pet owners’ needs and accommodate varying routines. Here’s how you can effectively extend your dog walking hours:

  • Early Morning and Evening Walks: Consider offering early morning walks for clients who have busy work schedules or early commutes. Similarly, evening walks can accommodate those who need their dogs exercised after work hours. This flexibility can attract clients seeking convenient options.
  • Weekend Availability: Expanding your services to include weekend walks and outings can be particularly appealing to clients who want to ensure their dogs’ active engagement during their days off.
  • Lunchtime Breaks: Offer midday walks to cater to pet owners who want their dogs to get some exercise and relief while they’re away at work. This can be especially valuable for urban clients who might not have the opportunity to return home during the day.
  • Emergency and Last-Minute Walks: Market yourself as a go-to option for emergency or last-minute walks. Whether a client’s plans change unexpectedly or they’re faced with a sudden work commitment, being available for on-demand walks can establish you as a reliable choice.
  • Vacation and Holiday Services: Extend your hours to offer pet sitting and extended care services during clients’ vacations or holidays. This can include overnight stays and additional check-ins to provide full-time care while they’re away.
  • Automated Booking Systems: Implement an automated booking system that allows clients to schedule walks at their convenience. This streamlines the scheduling process and enables you to manage a larger volume of requests.

Expanding your dog walking hours requires effective time management, commitment, and a genuine dedication to the well-being of the dogs in your care. By offering flexible scheduling options and catering to different client needs, you not only increase your earning potential but also strengthen your reputation as a reliable and accommodating dog walker.

Loyalty Programs

Implementing a loyalty program can be a smart strategy to retain clients, encourage repeat business, and show appreciation for their ongoing support. Here are some loyalty program ideas that you, as a dog walker, can offer:

  • Frequent Walker Discount: Offer a discounted rate for clients who book a certain number of walks within a specific time frame. For instance, after booking 10 walks, the 11th walk could be at a reduced rate or even free.
  • Monthly Subscription Packages: Create subscription packages that offer a set number of walks per month at a discounted rate. Clients who commit to a monthly subscription can enjoy cost savings and guaranteed services.
  • VIP Treatment: Offer VIP perks for clients who have been with you for an extended period. This could include priority scheduling, extended walk times, or access to special outings.

When designing a loyalty program, ensure that the rewards align with the value clients receive from your services. Clearly communicate the benefits and rules of the program to your clients, and keep track of their progress to ensure seamless implementation. A well-structured loyalty program not only enhances client retention but also strengthens the bond between you and your furry clients.

Sell Products

As a dog walker, you have the opportunity to expand your business by offering complementary products that enhance your services and cater to the needs of both dogs and their owners. Here are some products you could consider selling:

  • Pet Accessories: Leashes, collars, harnesses, and doggy bandanas can be sold as convenient add-ons for clients who might need replacements or upgrades.
  • Waste Management Supplies: Sell biodegradable poop bags, waste bag dispensers, and waste bag holders for clients who want to ensure responsible waste management during walks.
  • Treats and Snacks: Stock healthy dog treats and snacks that clients can purchase for rewarding their pets during walks or training sessions.
  • Grooming Products: Provide grooming supplies such as brushes, nail clippers, and shampoos that help clients maintain their dogs’ hygiene between grooming appointments.
  • Training Tools: Provide training tools like clickers, training treats, and training guides for clients who are working on obedience and behavior with their dogs.

Display products prominently on your website or social media platforms, and consider offering them in person during dog walks or meetings. Offering carefully selected products not only adds value to your business but also makes you a one-stop solution for clients’ pet care needs.

Challenges Of Dog Walking Side Hustle

Physical Demands

Being a dog walker is a rewarding job, but it also comes with its share of physical demands. Here are some of the physical aspects you should be prepared for:

  • Walking and Standing
  • Walking Distances
  • Lifting and Handling Dogs
  • Bending and Squatting
  • Walking Multiple Dogs
  • Handling Strong Dogs
  • Carrying Supplies

Weather Conditions

Just as your dedication shines through during your outdoor adventures, you’ll find yourself facing a variety of weather conditions. Whether it’s conquering rainy days and snowy landscapes or navigating scorching heat and chilly winds, your commitment to your furry companions remains steadfast. Equipped with waterproof gear on rainy days and snug layers in the snow, you ensure both you and your charges are protected.

Unpredictable Behavior

Being a dog walker comes with its fair share of surprises, as dogs can exhibit unpredictable behaviors during walks. Some dogs might get overly excited, jumping and pulling on the leash, while others could display leash reactivity, barking and lunging at passing dogs. Fearful dogs might tremble or cower in unexpected situations, and aggression can catch walkers off guard.

Dogs may also chase after squirrels, cars, or other distractions, posing challenges to their handler’s control. Resource guarding, where a dog becomes protective of items, and sudden health issues can also lead to unforeseen behaviors. To navigate these situations, dog walkers need quick reflexes, knowledge of dog behavior, and a flexible approach to handle the unexpected with confidence and professionalism.

Conclusion

Embrace the paw prints on your journey, and know that with each step you take as a dog walker, you’re not only enriching the lives of the dogs you care for but also creating memories that will last a lifetime. The road may be unpredictable, but the joy of a wagging tail and the companionship of your four-legged friends will make every moment worthwhile. Welcome to the rewarding world of dog walking—where every walk is an opportunity to make tails wag and hearts smile.

Related Articles:


Emma Philo

About the Author

Read more articles by Emma Philo