How do you start dog walking? Simple and Effective Tips

Is it hard to start a dog walking business?

Truth be told, starting any small business is hard. It requires jumping through a ton of hoops and being responsible for your livelihood.

But if you’re a dog lover who is determined to succeed as an entrepreneur and are interested in starting a dog walking business, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option.

What qualifications do you need to be a dog walker?

Unlike other careers, you don’t need a degree of any kind to be a dog walker. If there’s a bona fide qualification for this career, it would probably be something like this: must love dogs.

That said, if you’re planning on starting your own dog walking business, it won’t hurt to get a degree in business administration or marketing. You’d also be wise to get some formal training in first aid for animals so you’d know what to do in the event of an emergency.

According to IBISWorld, the U.S. dog walking services industry is expected to haul in $1.1 billion in 2021. Suffice it to say that well-run dog walking businesses can be quite lucrative.

While you might have to fork over some additional expenses compared to a run-of-the-mill white-collar business—like pet walking insurance and a pet first aid class—the bulk of the expenses will be the same as if you started any business. For example, you’ll have to pay for a business license and a website, and you’ll have to pay to establish your LLC.

How to start a dog walking business: A step-by-step guide

It might sound silly to wonder how to start a dog walking business, but it’s not as simple as lacing up some sneakers and hitting the road. As with all other kinds of entrepreneurial endeavors, there’s a lot to consider before diving in.

You’ll have to make the same financial considerations as you would with any other small business venture, and will most certainly have to juggle administrative tasks alongside your daily walk schedule. Let’s dive into what you need to know before starting your dog walking business.

How To Start A Dog Walking Business – In 5 Minutes Or Less

When I envisioned my dog-walking service, I saw myself dressed in a cute white sweater and 501 red-tag Levis, walking along the Pacific shoreline with six attentive, well-behaved Golden Retrievers and Labradors. Being my own boss, making my own hours, and being around dogs all day. What could be better?

Reality hit on my second day of professional dog-walking when I twisted my ankle and fell face-first into the sand after chasing a ball-obsessed, overweight yellow Labrador named Willard and a Sheepdog named Bear who behaved like she was on an acid trip. Sand was everywhere—it was an exceptionally bad start to my new career in dog walking.

So, what did I do? I brushed myself off, took a shower, and continued building my new business, which in time evolved into a client list of 80 dogs, eight employees, and a fleet of five dog-appropriate vehicles. I love dogs, and my passion outweighed the hazards of the job. Perhaps you secretly harbor the same dream. If so, here are some tips to help you get started starting your own professional pet walking service.

Investigate dog-walking services in your area. When I first started, an off-leash adventure service—one that allowed time for a Labrador Retriever to swim, play chase and destroy picnics—didn’t exist. (Just joking about picnics.) Once you figure out the type of service your area needs, you can begin developing your business.

How many dogs can you safely take in a group? How many shifts a day? How long for each walk? How much will you charge? What areas of town will you service? Don’t spread yourself too thin. Choose an area near where you live or, better yet, as my Wall Street financial-analyst father told me, “Choose a recession-proof area; if they lose a million in the market, it won’t matter and they’ll keep you employed so you can pay the rent.”Related article

On the prowl for a new career path? A director at the Humane Society has some pro tips.

Most dog-walking services are set up as either a sole proprietorship or an LLC. A sole proprietorship means that the owner’s personal and business assets are in the same pot, so to speak, and they are responsible for all debts. An LLC separates the personal and business assets. Incorporation is also an option; in that structure, the owner is not personally liable for the company debts. At first, I had a sole proprietorship but changed to an LLC when I hired employees and then married a fiscally responsible guy who worried about protecting our assets and home.

Check out your competition’s rates and services. In 1995 when I started, the average San Francisco dog walking rate was $8 per walk. I charged $5 to build up a clientele but, in retrospect, realized that I had devalued my services, which included longer walks and more time out of the house than the others were providing. These days, the average per walk rate ranges from $10 to $35, depending on the area. If you have the skill set, you may also want to offer obedience training and pet-sitting for an additional fee.

Have clients sign a contract that covers at least the basics: information about the dog, any training or behavioral problems, who to contact in an emergency, and contact info for the family vet. Also include a release from liability as well as permission to seek vet care if needed (and to be reimbursed for that care, if it comes to that).