These boots were made for being a dog walker
Being a professional dog walker, that would be great fun wouldn’t it? Piece of cake! Well it’s not as much of a walk in the park (pun intended) as you think. We’ve had a chat with a couple of experienced dog walkers and here are some top tips to get you started – let us know how it goes.
Start dog walking or pet sitting for friends and neighbours. Besides some extra cash, dog walking is a great way to make new friends (canine and human). Ask people for good reviews and testimonials you can use in your own PR or advertising. Word of mouth is the best PR you can get; so treat your customers and their expectations well. Learn to negotiate all requests in a professional manner.
It’s all about the money. How much will it cost you to start up? Don’t forget advertising, travel and any extras needed to provide for the dogs. Find out how much you can charge that is fair for both you and your customers. Have a look at competitor’s prices and don’t be afraid to move your price around. Be sure not to undersell yourself, be confident about your value, if people don’t want to pay you they won’t. It’s all about supply and demand.
Have a plan. It’s time to put your business head on. Do you have an accountant or will you do the books yourself? Marketing and advertising will be needed so have a look at where you are going to advertise your services. Will you have a website, advertising and your own social media channels or will you rely on good references?
Learn your stuff. You’ll be working with all sorts of breeds of dogs so reading up on this is a must. Find out in advance what dogs you will be working with and make sure you’re aware of their behaviours. Every dog is different too so ask the owner a few questions on things such as allergies, fears and dislikes, and of course what to give them for a treat. You should also have good dog handling skills.
Don’t push yourself too hard. Are there certain dogs you find difficult to handle or make you a little nervous? Are you fit enough to keep up with all the dogs. Take time to figure out which dogs you are comfortable with and which ones you love being around – it’s always a bonus if you get to hang out with a dog you love and you could become an expert on certain breeds making you more valuable. On average a good dog walker with well behaved dogs, should be able to walk six large dogs at a time. Take your time to build relationships before introducing a new dog to the usual crew and be patient.
Health and Safety - thoroughly research insurance before you get started. At the time of writing a recommendation is to get minimum public liability but also cover for injury, loss, death etc of animals in your care. Costs will vary depending on your cover. Put together contracts for your customers to sign to protect them and you, including details of their vets, special dietary needs and ensure that the dogs are vaccinated. Ask clients to sign a veterinary release form for their pet, to ensure that if the dog was being hurt, they can be treated at their veterinary practice if their owners are not around. Get written permission that you can let the dogs off the lead but build a relationship with the dog before you do this.
Pick your hours. Think about when you are free to work, appreciate that people may want their dogs walking at unusual hours but also have your time boundaries too – you need to know when to switch off, but do expect early mornings.
Have fun. Plan your walks so you get to enjoy lovely parks and great scenery, ensuring you are safe. You’ve got the best job in the world (in our opinion) so enjoy yourself and make money while you do it.
There are some great sites for finding a dog walker, we like the-dogwalker.co.uk but there are lots out there. Have you started a dog walking business? We’d love to hear your tips on Twitter or Facebook.