What are the top tips for professional dog walkers
If you have made the decision to turn your available time into the money-generating business of professional dog walking, we suggest that you should keep in mind the essential what, why, when, how, and where questions that will make the experience better both for you and for the pets entrusted to you by your customer.
Make the dogs like your own
Even though the dogs don’t belong to you, you need to think of them as “my pets” for the time that they are in your care. That way, you can be sure that every action you take and every choice you make is automatically taking the dog’s best interests into account – just as if you were the owner and the dog was your favorite pet.
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If any situation crops up, your actions will then be driven not by the business instinct of “is this going to cost me some money?” but instead of “Is this the right thing to do for the dog?”
Remember to self-promote your services.
Sell yourself to your customers for what you can do. You can tell them that you are not just relieving them of the duty of taking the dog for her walk, but instead, you are doing a bunch of things that will make both the dog’s and their own lives happier and more fulfilling. There’s a whole list of benefits that dogs get from being walked by a professional, such as:
- Unless the customer has the privilege of living with their own private garden space and the dog has safe access through perpetually open doors or through a hatch, then walking the dog is as essential as feeding him and they need to be able to answer nature’s calls outside.
- Obesity is a growing problem for both people and canines. The regular advice is to eat less, but there’s the alternative: to burn more calories each day with gentle exercise. Vets tell us that dogs burn about two calories per pound of weight every half hour of walking. They also estimate that dogs should eat around 28 calories each day per pound of body mass. So they can help the dog to shed the equivalent of 15% to 20% of excess food intake not by buying expensive weight-reduction foods but just by engaging your services.
- Dogs are naturally active animals when they are young, and this keeps their muscle tone tight. As they get older, especially if they aren’t getting regular exercise, the muscles may begin wasting or losing muscle tissue. Vets diagnose this as muscular atrophy, usually starting in the hind legs. Regular and proper walking prevents this and also can relieve discomfort in older animals.
- Especially in older dogs and in colder climates, joints can start to “freeze up.” Some dogs can begin to show symptoms of this as early as seven or eight years of age. And lack of regular exercise can bring on mobility issues earlier and make them harder to correct. With the typical bursts of running around to greet friends and passers-by, a short walk will ensure that shoulders and hips stay flexible as long as possible.
- A regular routine outdoors prevents constipation and helps avoid bladder infections as well.
- By nature, dogs are curious and intelligent animals that like to investigate what’s going on around them. Boredom can result in destructiveness, like munching on their shoes. Walking provides a level of stimulation that a dog can’t get in the home environment. It also gives their pet the chance to behave more naturally with the added benefit of bonding with you one-on-one.
Behave like a businessman
When you start to offer your services as a professional dog walker, you are in business and need to behave that way.
This is important not only for yourself but also for getting you more opportunities because your potential customers will be more assured that their precious pet is in good hands. Some of the most critical business activities are:
- Keep proper timetables so that you always show up on time to collect the dogs, with special events marked in your calendar when the dog has to be brought home early, or late, or the walk rescheduled, etc. There are many excellent apps that you can have on your mobile device that will keep you ahead on this.
- Have a good simple accounting package so that you can issue invoices, receipts, and any other paperwork. You should be able, at the very least, to keep track of payments. There’s the only thing more embarrassing than having to ask your customer for payment, and that’s chasing for a payment that you’ve already received. Maybe think about opening a separate bank account that only handles business-related income and expenses. That simplifies everything for you when it comes to handling your taxes.
- Unexpected things happen all the time. You need to cover all your business activities with proper insurance. Read more about the risks of not having proper insurance here. At the very minimum, you should be taking out these policies:
- General Liability cover to protect you in case some third-party action for injury or property damage is filed. These can come from accidents that happen while you are walking the dogs, such as someone tripping over a bag that you left in the walkway while chasing after one of your dogs in the park.
- Professional Liability (also called Error & Omissions) cover, which protects you if one of your customers sues you for injury or damage to a dog, alleging misconduct.
- Equipment insurance to cover all of your leads, bags, electronic equipment, mobile phones while you are out and about walking the dogs from loss, theft, fire damage, etc.
- Commercial vehicle insurance if you use your own car or van to transport dogs, or even if just to travel to and from work. Most private vehicle policies exclude any work-related cover, and so you need either to explicitly extend your existing insurance to cover you or take out a second policy. If you have a dedicated work vehicle, then that too needs to have proper commercial insurance.
- Some insurance companies issue specialized packages for professional dog walkers like yourself. If your business is growing, there are many other areas that need proper cover and a complete package like pet sitting insurance may be better for you than the individual policies.
- Advertise, advertise, advertise! Use social media to get your services known, and don’t hesitate to ask your satisfied customers to chip in and comment on your posts with how happy they are. The dedicated website Rover offers an app for people to find professional pet care services and dog walkers.
- Be proactive – don’t always be waiting for customers to contact you with a question or a request for a particular service. For example, if you know there’s a special period coming up, when customers are likely to be going away more frequently, call them and offer to work with local pet hotels so that the dogs can have the same friendly face they know as their walker even though they are sheltered differently.
- Always respond quickly to calls, before a concerned pet-owner has the feeling that they need to hit the panic button. You need to have your phone(s) reachable, fully charged, and backed up so that calls never go unanswered.
- Remember that not all business is profitable. You need to evaluate each potential customer and work out that the time and effort you are expected and expecting to invest bring in enough money at the end of the day. In other words, “know when to say no.”
What is the best equipment for professional dog walking?
There’s been some argument for years about whether collar & leads of harnesses are better for controlling dogs – especially for bigger animals and ones that have more aggressive natures. The balance of evidence seems to come down on the side of front-clip harnesses because they don’t apply excess pressure on the dog’s neck or risk any danger of pinching the trachea.
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Harnesses are also generally safer because the dogs are better protected from accidents. When you’re busy trying to manage many dogs, one could more easily slip out of its collar and possibly enter a roadway or a private garden, so harnesses offer much greater security.
What should you take with you on a walk?
Apart from portable consumables like water, treats, and other renewables, you should take with you proof of identity of all the dogs, like recent photos and details of any electronic ID chips or collar IDs. This is essential in case a dog gets lost or abducted.
As well, each dog’s medical records in case you have to take her to a vet – especially records of vaccinations and medications.
You should also have proper personal ID if there is some dispute regarding your authority to control the dogs.
If you go walking in dim light, very early in the morning or around sunset, wear some reflective clothing front and back so that you are always visible. There are also cheap lights that you can clip onto the dogs’ collars so that you can always see where they have wondered if it’s dark.
How can I improve my dog’s walking?
Good walking is a learned skill. With your proper guidance, most dogs will become proper walkers very quickly.
Just be patient and caring and communicate with the dog. If you can, avoid retractable leads because they are difficult to manage if you have more than one dog under your control.
What makes a great dog walker?
The most important features of a great dog walker are empathy and communication. Dogs have terrific sensitivity to their handlers’ moods and can pick up instinctively whether you like them and are not looking to harm them in any way.
So a good walker’s first job is to quickly get to know and understand the dog and to radiate friendliness and safety. The other important skill is to communicate well , both verbally and with signs and gestures. Dogs will learn to respond correctly very quickly if a walker uses the proper tone of voice consistently.
What do you need to be a professional dog walker?
First, you must like dogs. If every walk is just a necessary task for you, then the dogs will pick up on your mood and make each walk difficult, unpleasant, and maybe even dangerous. Second, you must like walking.
Exercise outdoors is a side benefit of dog walking, and it’s something that office-bound workers would love to have. You need to have the right equipment so that you are the boss on the walk, able to properly control the dogs and not battling with old or inadequate leads just because the dog owner had them lying around.
Finally, you need to behave like a true businessman or woman, running a smart small business with good marketing and management.
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How do you fix bad dog walking?
There is no simple answer, and a lot of it depends on the dog’s own personality, age, and how ingrained the “bad” habits are. But here are a few ideas:
- Include some “free time” like a game of fetch the stick or a run around a park if you feel up to it.
- Get your pet used to a steady routine so that she’s ready when it is time to exercise.
- Keep a record of progress in a walking calendar, a mobile app, and if you can, use an electronic tracking device that records history.
- Let the dog feel she’s getting rewarded for good behavior and carry something with you for the dog to give her a positive boost.
How much does a professional dog walker make?
Demand for services from dog walking is high, which makes professional dog walking a viable business to consider if you’re keen on dogs. As well, there are relatively few costs involved in setting up the business, so it is highly profitable right from the start.
According to ZipRecruiter’s general jobs recruitment website, the US national average for professional dog walkers is around $2500 per month, but they don’t say for how many hours each month. It’s also very dependent on the region, with some parts of southern California paying nearly 50% more than average.
On an hourly basis, you can expect to earn between $15 and $17 in most areas and as much as $27-$30 in areas with high demand.