For pet owners that work long hours, or have pets that need to be taken care of mid-day, dog walkers can be a saving grace. Dog walkers typically visit the homes of pet owners during the hours when an owner is away at work or away from the home for a variety of other reasons. Dog walkers can provide walking services, and also pet sitting services. If you love dogs and want to work a job with a flexible schedule that keeps you moving, starting a pet walking business could be a good career move for you.
As with any new business venture, you should be sure to fully research dog walking businesses in your area, know what you’ll need to start the business, and make sure it’s something you want to commit to long-term. There are a lot of great perks to owning a pet walking business, but there are equally as many challenges. Once you have decided that a dog walking business is truly something that you want to pursue, there are a few necessary steps that you’ll need to take.
First, decide how you’ll get experience and find your first client. If you can’t come up with a good, solid start, it will be hard to get the momentum for your business and become successful. You can get experience by volunteering at local pet shelters as a dog walker, or offering to walk neighbors or friends dogs if they will be a reference for you down the road.
Once you have your first client, you’ll need to determine your rates. Pet walks are mainly broken down into half-hour and one-hour time intervals. Check if there are any other dog walkers in your area to make your rates comparable, because no one will want to use your services if they are drastically overpriced. A good average rate for half-hour walks is $12-$18, a good average rate for one-hour walks is $20-25. Rates can fluctuate based on what you think is reasonable, or what the normal rate for dog walkers is in your area.
As you build your client base, also realize that you are building a brand. You should not only be a dog walker, but also a pet expert. If you’re not truly confident that you can work with any dog breed, walk any dog with confidence, and help owners with their pets, then owning a pet walking business might not be for you. On the other hand, if you are comfortable with all dogs, love being in the company of four-legged friends and possess the confidence of a pet expert, you will probably be a very successful pet walking business owner.
Part of building up your business and your brand will also involve advertising and spreading the word about your business. Collect references from your initial clients, and advertise using websites like Craigslist or posting flyers in local pet stores. You can also create a website for your business, displaying all of your services, rates, testimonials from clients and pictures. Business cards, logos, and follow-up cards are also great ideas.
Once you have built up a number of clients, you can start thinking about the more professional aspects of your business like how to handle taxes, getting bonded and insured, and looking into pet sitting insurance. You should also develop some sort of liability form to cover yourself from any extenuating services.