Are you looking for a side gig, career, or even a business that allows you to hang out with dogs as long as you want and as often as you want? If so, you might have wondered how to become a dog walker.
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Dog walking has always been around as a side cash opportunity for students, part-timers, and anybody who loves dogs and has some free time.
With the advent of new websites and applications, more and more opportunities to walk dogs are becoming available.
Today, we’ll explore the different websites and apps you can use to find dog-walking gigs and go through the steps of setting up your own dog walking business if that’s the route you want to take.
How to Become a Dog Walker
A dog walker picks up dogs at the clients’ respective homes, leads them through pre-planned walking routes, feeds the dogs, and makes sure the dogs are healthy under their care.
You may not need traditional educational attainment like a college degree, but there are still specific requirements to become a professional dog walker:
- High school diploma, GED, or any equivalent – Most clients don’t care about your educational attainment, but if you’re planning to work for a dog walking company, know that they prefer high school graduates. It’s a plus if you took high school courses in animal science. If you haven’t finished high school or taken a GED, you could check complete training programs for animal caretakers and become certified.
- Driver’s license – You may need to drive the dogs to the vet during emergencies, or picking up dogs far from your home.
- Business license – Check with local laws if you’d need to obtain permits to walk dogs as a profession. (This is a must if you’re opening up a dog walking business though).
- Experience – Being a dog lover isn’t enough. You need to have experience and knowledge when it comes to controlling their behavior, transporting them on cages, handling restraints, giving first aid treatments, animal nutrition, and so on.
- Physical fitness – Because the job entails literal walking, you need to be physically fit enough to walk extended periods and be ready to run when needed.
- A phone – Most dog walking companies work much like Uber, so you’d have to log on to an app and check for active gigs near you.
What skills and characteristics do you need to have as a dog walker?
When pet owners choose dog walkers, they normally look for a few skills or attributes to assure them that their dogs are in good, capable hands.
Here are some of the skills that the best dog walkers have.
Organizational and time management skills. As a dog walker, you’ll need to have a file on each and every dog you handle and dog owner you deal with.
It should have their preferences, medical issues, special needs, and schedules. It’s also good to have contact numbers and payment records for the dog owners.
Interpersonal skills. You need to gain your clients’ trust, and that involves building a rapport with them. Aside from empathy for dogs, you need to have empathy for their owners.
Problem-solving skills. Dogs are unpredictable beings, and you’re likely to experience a few unpleasant situations when you’re with dogs. You’ll need to be able to deal with these situations calmly and with a problem-solving mindset.
Reliability and punctuality. When you confirm an appointment, dog owners need to know that you’re going to keep it. Flaky dog walkers rarely last in this business long.
Genuine love for dogs. It’s going to be a burden to take care of dogs and have their best interests at heart if you don’t love dogs in the first place. If you don’t care about dogs or animals in general, maybe you shouldn’t be a dog walker.
Do you need insurance to become a dog walker?
Professional dog walking involve structured activities, but anything can happen from picking up the dogs, to the actual walk, to dropping off the dogs to your client’s home.
Fortunately, there is insurance available customized for this specific profession to protect pet sitters and dog walkers like you from possible legal action if a dog causes damage while under your watch. A good example of a company you can talk to is Pet Sitter Insurance.
Do you need a license or permit to walk dogs?
In some states, yes. In others, not anymore.
You need to be up-to-date about licensing requirements from the city where you’re offering your services. Determine if your city has limits on the number of dogs you can walk at a time. Learn all about leash requirements and procedures for animal transportation (especially for public transportation), dog waste disposal, or reporting of lost pets.
When it comes to permits, most cities would require you to obtain one if you’re walking dogs within public parks.
Those who are certified dog walkers would have to renew their certifications every so often by taking an exam, paying a renewal fee, or completing continuing education.
Self-employed professional dog walkers may need to record dog license numbers and vaccination histories.
7 Sites to Find Dog Walking Jobs
Aside from online boards and traditional community centers, you can also check these sites/apps out:
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Rover doesn’t just offer dog walking services. It also allows experienced dog sitters to provide house-sitting, doggy daycare, and dog boarding.
Rover is available in over 50 cities, so you’ll have a better chance of becoming a dog sitter here. Plus, you can choose what kinds of services you’d like to offer, based on what you can accommodate or commit to.
To join Rover, simply create a profile, accept requests, and get paid two days after an assignment. Rover boasts that dog sitters can earn $1000/month just by playing with dogs.
Most dog walkers earn around $25/hour, but dog boarding pays the most.
This company only accepts experienced dog walkers who will pass two kinds of tests – one is to gauge dog knowledge, and the other is for situational assessment showcasing how well you can handle unpredictable situations.
Wagwalking is available in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Washington DC, Dallas, Miami, and Philadelphia so far, so if you reside in these cities, this company may be a perfect fit for you.
Wag! pays its walkers around $15 to 17 an hour, but your location, competition and reputation can make your personal rates go higher or lower.
3. Barkly Pets
Barkly Pets is a digital marketplace app designed for independent local dog walkers across the country to customize and grow their businesses. As the only commission-free dog walking app, Barkly Dog walkers set their own rates for services and keep 100% of their earnings—ensuring the quality of service by attracting the industry’s most elite dog walkers.
When customers use Barkly to discover an independent, professional dog walker in their neighborhood, they book directly with the walker of their choice each and every time.
To become a dog walker for Barkly Pets, there’s some extensive vetting (criminal background check, etc.) involved. You’d also need to attend one of the company’s “walker onboarding,” a kind of meet-and-greet with fellow dog walkers.
All Barkly Pets walkers are bonded and insured. As a dog walker, you have to create detailed reports after every assignment.
PetBacker is similar to Rover in that it offers services beyond dog walking.
If you’re willing to become a dog sitter, groomer, or a temporary home, PetBacker will match you to dog owners who need your services. You can access PetBacker via its website, Android app, or iOS app.
What makes PetBacker different from the rest is that its rating and review system is more comprehensive.
Clients can chat with a potential dog walker first and get a feel of their personality before making a decision. Plus, PetBacker is available in over 50 countries.
Care is probably the oldest one on this list. The site began as a classified ads website for childcarers and senior carers. They’ve since expanded to advertising housekeeping services and pet care. It is available as an app, and via website.
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If you’re an animal lover, you can begin your dog walking business here. You’ll need to fill up an extensive form, detailing your location, experience, services and rates, availability, number of employees, license, certifications and so on.
Rates range from $10 to $30 an hour, depending on your location and type of service you provide. City-based dog walkers usually price their services higher.
What’s great about Care.com is that everything is transparent – you can see address, reviews from past clients, business information, and other important details that other dog-walking apps lack.
PetSitter.com connects pet owners looking for pet sitters. They offer a variety of services, including pet sitting, pet boarding, pet grooming, dog training, and dog walking.
As a dog walker, you get to view all the dog owners looking for a dog walkers in a particular area and look at their requirements, your responsibilities, and even hourly rates before you even meet them.
Also, you can create your own profile in their website to have pet owners come to you instead.
If you’re based in New York City or Miami, Swifto is a good option to become a dog walker as a W2 employee; that is, you’re eligible for benefits and insurance.
Most of their dog walkers do between 25 to 40 walks a week, though 15 walks a week is their minimum requirement.
You would also need to commit to them for 6 months.
Which Do You Choose?
Unfortunately, if you’re a professional dog walker choosing between these companies, your choice would probably go down to which company allows you to work near where you reside.
Rover has the most locations in the United States, but it also has the most number of negative reviews.
PetBacker is more beloved by dog owners and is available in 50+ countries, but the company’s vetting system is strict (Only 30% of applicants make the cut to be a sitter on PetBacker).
Now that Barkly has opened up nationwide and completely revamped their business model, their offerings are looking more attractive than ever.
If you’re planning to scale up your dog walking gig into a business in the future, but just want to dip your toes into the industry first, Care.com would be your best fit.
As you can see, I can’t pick for you. Try one, try them all. Just find one that feels right to you.
How Much do Dog Walkers Make?
Dog walkers who join sites like Wag and Rover can earn about $17.50 per walk for the $20 to $30 fee paid by the dog owner. Wag or Rover takes a cut from the fee.
If you build your own dog walking business and do it freelance, you can make from $20 to $40 per walk and be control discounts and other pricing details, the number of dogs you can bring per walk, and the services you wish to offer.
Dog walkers who are doing this part-time can earn legitimately for extra cash (but not as main income). If this is where your passion takes you and you want to bring it up to the next level, start your own, private dog walking business.
How to Start a Dog Walking Business
If you came from Rover or any other dog-walking company, you already know the strengths and weaknesses of each one. You can start by listing these things down and making a business plan based on what you’ve experienced.
However, if you’re coming into the business as a dog walker who wants to scale up his/her services, follow the guidelines below:
1. Acquire an LLC
Get a lawyer, or check out LegalZoom.com if you’re setting up an LLC for your dog walking business.
While there are other types of business structures you can choose, an LLC fits because it separates your liability with your company’s liabilities.
This will prevent clients running after you if ever something bad happens while their dogs are under your company’s supervision.
If you don’t have enough funds for an LLC, visit your city hall or state and see your options for filing a DBA, a.k.a. “Doing Business As.”
2. Build a website and online presence
Websites are so easy to create these days. You just need a domain name, a hosting provider where your domain will call home, and a pre-built theme.
Fill-up the content, add pictures, place your company’s information, and leave a form or contact details…and it’s ready!
You do have to spread the word about your website, since visitors won’t just come popping by once you build the company website.
Here’s where your online presence (Facebook page, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media and Web 2.0 platforms come in.
3. Secure permits, licenses and insurance
Park permits, business license, permit to walk more than 5 dogs at a time, and other legal requirements should all be in place before you open shop.
Note that permits and license requirements vary between states.
Insurance is also a must, since it will protect you against future liabilities.
It’s wise to talk to an insurance provider, since general insurance won’t cover everything your business provides. For example, if you’re planning to add dog grooming to your services, you’d need a specific type of insurance as well.
4. Find the right software or build an app
Even if you only have a handful of clients (at the top of your head), you should think big and plan ahead by choosing a scheduling software to keep things organized.
Some freelance dog walkers only use Google Calendar and Google Sheets for this, but you can choose a provider like Time to Pet (a dog-walking scheduler that costs $35/month) if you’re planning to scale up quickly.
If you have extra funds, you can invest in your own custom software or app, where your contractor dog walkers can log in, find assignments, and check their accounts. Consider a platform with invoicing feature for your customers as well.
5. Know legalities (employment laws, regulations, etc.)
Be up-to-date with local and state laws that could affect your business.
If you’re hiring people, check out employment laws. If you plan to groom dogs on top of animal boarding, see what limitations and rules you need to follow.
Learning the legalities and following rules as they chance will prevent any future problems you may face as a business owner.
6. Be Realistic
Compare pricing across your competition in the area you plan to serve.
This is important, since rates vary between cities and states.
Crunch the numbers and determine how much your business needs to earn. While you’re at it, you can also think about prices of your services.
It’s important that you don’t go overboard.
You may get excited and include dog training with your services, but your finances cannot handle hiring a certified dog trainer.
7. Market Your Business
Promote your business everywhere. Print flyers, fill-up online ads (go for free first, then check out paid ads later).
Ask your favorite vet if you can place a poster or leave calling cards there. Stick posters at community centers, your church and other commercial areas nearby.
At the end of the day, word of mouth still is the most effective way of promoting your business, so once you get a client, provide the best service you can give.
Referrals will work to your advantage.
Is Becoming a Dog Walker For You?
Dog-walking gives you plenty of exercise, a chance to go outdoors for at least a few minutes a day, and is simply a fun activity to do!
For others, being a dog walker may even be therapeutic.
I hope this post helped you make an informed decision on whether to be a dog walker and which approach to make.
See our other posts to learn other ways to get paid to walk.
Or, if you eventually plan to open a business that lets you spend more time with dogs, see our article on how to open a doggy daycare business from home.
Does becoming a dog walker sound appealing to you? Did we miss any other dog walking apps? Sound out in the comments!