A professional dog walker provides a much-needed service for busy pet owners who cannot always walk their dogs during the day. Dog walking is also a great way to get some exercise and fresh air, and it can be a fun and rewarding job for those who love spending time with dogs.
However, being a professional dog walker is not as simple as just grabbing a leash and heading out the door. There are a few things you should keep in mind if you want to be a successful dog walker.
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1. Understand What’s Required of a Dog Walker
The first step to becoming a professional dog walker is understanding what the job entails.
As a dog walker, you will be responsible for walking dogs of all shapes and sizes, including large breeds that require a lot of exercise. You will also need to be comfortable walking in all weather conditions, as dogs still need to be walked even when it’s raining or snowing outside.
In addition to walking dogs, you will also be responsible for feeding and watering them, as well as providing any other necessary care. This may include letting them out to use the restroom, cleaning up after them, and providing fresh water.
You will also need to be comfortable handling dogs of all temperaments, as not all dogs are friendly and well-behaved. You will need to know how to safely manage dogs who pull on their leash, jump up on people, or try to run off.
2. Education and Training
There is no formal education or training required to become a professional dog walker, but there are a few things that will help you be successful in the role. First, it is important to have a love for dogs and an understanding of dog behavior. This will help you be able to handle different kinds of dogs and know how to keep them safe and under control.
It is also a good idea to have some basic first-aid training in case of any accidents or injuries that may occur on your walks. Finally, it is helpful to be physically fit enough to handle long walks and keep up with energetic dogs.
One of the most important aspects of being a professional dog walker is safety. You will need to be aware of potential hazards on your walks, such as busy streets, other animals, and harmful plants. It is also important to know how to handle a dog if it becomes aggressive or starts to run away.
It is always a good idea to walk with another person for safety reasons, and you should also be sure to carry a cell phone in case of any emergencies. Finally, you should always have liability insurance in case of any accidents that may occur.
While there are no formal education or training requirements to become a professional dog walker, there are a few voluntary certifications that may help you in your career. The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers offers a Certified Professional Dog Walker certification.
To earn this certification, you must complete an online course and pass an exam. The course covers topics such as dog behavior, safety, business skills, and marketing. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters also offers a certification program for professional dog walkers.
To earn this certification, you must have at least one year of experience as a professional dog walker and pass an exam. This exam covers topics such as pet first aid, business management, and pet care.
5. Determine Your Business Model
Generally, there are three basic ways to start a career as a professional dog walker: join a dog walking website or app, work for a company, or start your own business. Below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Joining a dog walking website or app is the easiest way to get started as a professional dog walker. These platforms connect dog owners with dog walkers in their area, and they often provide additional services such as background checks and insurance. However, these platforms typically take a percentage of your earnings, so you will need to factor that into your pricing.
Working for a company is another option for starting your career as a professional dog walker. Companies typically provide their employees with training, supplies, and liability insurance. However, you may be required to work set hours and may not have as much freedom when it comes to setting your own schedule.
Starting your own business as a professional dog walker is the most challenging option, but it also offers the most autonomy. When starting your own business, you will be responsible for everything from marketing to liability insurance. However, you will also have complete control over your schedule and pricing.
6. Building Your Client Base
Once you have decided on your business model, it’s time to start marketing your services and building a client base. If you are working for a company or dog walking platform, they may provide you with some leads. However, you will still need to do some legwork to find clients on your own.
One of the best ways to find new clients is through word-of-mouth marketing. Tell your friends, family, and neighbors that you are a professional dog walker and ask them to spread the word. You can also pass out flyers in your neighborhood or post ads online.
Another great way to find new clients is by offering free dog walks. This will help you build a positive reputation and attract new business. Just be sure to set clear boundaries and expectations before you start walking any dogs.
7. Pricing Your Services
When pricing your services, you will need to consider the cost of your supplies, liability insurance, and business overhead. You will also need to decide whether you want to charge by the hour or by the walk.
Generally, dog owners are willing to pay more for a professional dog walker than they would for a casual dog walker. However, you don’t want to price yourself out of the market. A good rule of thumb is to charge $20-$30 per hour or $10-$15 per walk.
You may also want to offer discounts for multiple dogs or for repeat clients. Just be sure to clearly communicate your pricing to potential clients before you start walking their dogs.
8. Maintaining a Professional Image
As a professional dog walker, it’s important to maintain a positive and professional image. This means dressing in clean, comfortable clothes and being punctual for your walks.
You should also be sure to have all the supplies you need before you start walking a dog. This includes a leash, water, and treats. You may also want to invest in a dog backpack or other gear to make your walks more enjoyable for both you and the dog.
Finally, always be respectful of the dog owner’s property and follow their house rules. This will help you build a good rapport with the owner and ensure that you are welcome back in the future.
Becoming a professional dog walker is a great way to make some extra money while spending time with dogs. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind before starting your business.
It is important to have a love for dogs and an understanding of dog behavior. You also need to be physically fit and able to handle dogs of all sizes. Finally, you will have some certifications needed. If you can meet these requirements, then you are well on your way to becoming a professional dog walker.