How to Become a Professional Dog Walker

Three Parts:Getting Your Foot in the DoorStarting Your Own BusinessGoing the Extra Mile

Walking dogs for a living is more than just pulling on a leash and getting some exercise. You need to be a dog-lover who is in tune with the canine ways and ready to run a business. Yet, it can be a rewarding job for a dedicated person who is well-organized, professional and human and furry client-oriented. Here are some suggestions on how to start your professional dog walking career.

Part 1
Getting Your Foot in the Door

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    Start dog walking or pet sitting for friends and neighbors. Apart from it being a fantastic way to make some extra cash, you're resume building, too! Ask those in your neighborhood or family friends at even the slightest mention of a vacation or being too busy to walk the dog. And when you do it once successfully, you'll likely be asked to do it again.
    • Mention to your new network that you're considering making this a career, so if they could drop any of their other soon-to-be-departing or dog-owning friends of your interest, that'd be great! Right now is the time for shameless advertisement. In time, you won't have to do it at all.
    • This stage is all about building up a reputation. Whatever you do, don't risk damaging it by abusing your powers. Having the key to someone's home is a serious gesture of trust -- be as responsible to your new clients as you would yourself, your grandma, or the President. That means no throwing parties, no forgetting to feed the dog, and no raiding the refrigerator (unless they allow it, of course).
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    Consider joining an agency. Point blank, the easiest way to start making money walking dogs is to join an agency. Sure, they'll take a cut of the money that's charged, but you'll get experience and they'll handle the legal mumbo jumbo. Whether the agency is for pet sitting or walking, join. It's a simple Google search away.
    • The only downfall of this is that you're not your own boss. Relax -- that can come with time. But right now you're meeting people, networking, learning the ropes, and getting a feel for the dog walking market, not to mention beefing up your resume.
    • Joining an agency is not an absolute, 100% must-do. You can get around it by building up your dog-walking network yourself. However, it's a lot easier to get experience and clients (and meet other people with acumen in the dog-walking business) if you join an agency.
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    Consider licensure or certification. Obtaining a dog handling certification would build some serious credibility with clients. Some schools, such as the Canine Club Academy, offer full-tuition scholarships.[1] And the best agencies may even require you to obtain it, either before becoming a full-time employee or after hiring.
    • Certain academies, like DogTec, will help you in starting your own business too (if that interests you) in addition to dog handling and protocol. Their classes last 4 days and are in locations all across the US and British Columbia.[2]
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    Know the ins and outs of your city. First off, you've gotta know what your city's laws are when it comes to canines and their walkers. Some cities require dog walkers to be insured; if you're working with an agency, hopefully they took care of that for you. But if you're thinking about doing it on your own time, it's something not to be taken lightly.
    • Get to know your city's layout, too. The less you're driving around wasting money on gas, the better. Know the parks, the hidden hideaway spots, the dog parks, and back trails you can frolic with your new furry friend. You want to spend as little time commuting and as much time "working" as possible.
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    Get in good with your human clients. It may seem like dog walking is the perfect career for a surefire introvert, but the humans are where your bread and butter is. Make small chat with the doormen, the guy who works from home, and your coworkers and bosses. The better rep you have, the more professional contacts you'll have in the future.
    • In addition, realize that your human clients will have all sorts of expectations, based on their own beliefs in dog-care and often with a dose of guilt that they can't spare the time to do what you are doing for them. Be generous in your compassion for their concerns (after all, they know their own pooch best) and be tolerant of the more difficult requests. Gentle persuasion and negotiation will often win the human client over!
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    Love and understand your canine clients. You need to love dogs to have a successful career with dogs. It is as simple as that. Dogs sense non-dog people and it won't be smooth riding if you aren't truly comfortable around them. There are some important considerations to think about:
    • Do you know as much as possible about dogs? Know as much as you can, not just from your own experience with them but also from reading and speaking to the owners and to your local vet.
    • How many dogs will you walk at any one time? Some dog-walkers can walk as many as ten dogs at once, all shapes and sizes. Consider whether you think this is a good thing or even achievable for you!
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    • Do you know which breeds of dogs might not be compatible or will be compatible with one another? Know this before teaming them up for a walk.
    • Do you know what to do if a dog is in heat? It'll attract more than its fair share of attention and you'll need to be prepared.
    • Do you know how to handle a dog that suddenly turns aggressive on you? Or on passers-by around you?
    • Do you know how to poop-scoop? Do you know the local by-laws on walking dogs in certain areas etc? Read up! Your being well-informed will impress clients and will reassure them that you are not amateur and will help them to feel you are going to have their dog's best interests at heart.
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    Be able to withstand the not-so-glamourous side of dog walking. While it may sound like a dream come true (and it very well could be), not all dog walking is a glitzy, paid way to gallivant the sidewalks. You'll be dealing with poo in its very literal sense, in addition to ornery owners, ornery dogs, and ornery pedestrians. Are you ready?
    • You'll also need to consider your climate. If this is going to be your main source of income, can you dog walk in the winter months? How do you feel about rain? If you're ready to tackle the less than stellar climes, be prepared! Boots, rain jacket, snow gear -- and maybe some for the pooch, too.
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    Get in shape. Being relatively fit is obviously a necessity to dog walking for a living. If you find that you get tired after a dog or two, use your free time to get in shape. Adding cardio (swimming, walking, tennis) to your list of activities will make the hours spent trotting along with Fido much more enjoyable.
    • Get a good pair of shoes. When you're on the job, you'll probably be on your feet for hours on end. You don't have to go running triathlons to get accustomed to it, but it is a good idea to get a nice pair of shoes so you don't go home every night crawling on all fours like FrouFrou over here. A decent pair will make the new physical stressors much more manageable.

Part 2
Starting Your Own Business

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    Consider how large you want your dog walking career to be. Be realistic - you'll probably need to start small, and allow yourself time to grow. Do you want it to be a part time or a full-time career? How much time can you devote to dog-walking? If you are young and want to make money by dog walking, make flyers and offer around your neighborhood, or put up notices on notice boards or in shop windows. For example, consider these scenarios:
    • If you are a student who needs income during studies, you will have crunch times around exams and essay due dates but you will likely be fairly flexible during the rest of the time. Be honest with a potential client and explain your availability, including the possibility that there may be certain times when you will be very busy and may need to reschedule temporarily at such times. Always let them know you'll make up for it during vacation etc.
    • If you want to start a permanent business, consider whether it is something you want to work 9 - 5 (or extended hours) 5 - 7 days a week, or is it something that only interests you part-time, say 2 - 3 days a week of a few hours here and there? These are important considerations that will either expand or limit your options and availability. More hours means more clients and a likelihood of referrals. Less hours will mean more devotion to a small corps of clients and a need to make it clear to them that your availability is limited to them.
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    Learn how to start a small business. If you have no business past, it's more than just a good idea to take some classes and get your feet wet. Enlist the help of others that have a good grasp on the endeavor, can get you through the red tape, and form a solid business plan. If you want a large business, are you prepared to manage employees and cover a larger part of the city than you could do alone? Instead of just you, you'll be taking care of an entire team. You will need to:
    • Get insurance and become bonded.
    • Interview pet sitters, check them for reliability, train them and pay them.
    • Be able to trust them to do their dog-walking according to your instructions.
    • Keep good financial records, manage a payroll system, pay taxes on business income, and manage other worker's requirements.
    • Keep a tight leash (no pun intended) on the client arrangements. As owner of the business, you should make all arrangements for dog-walking directly with clients and then provide the instructions, keys etc. to your employees. That way, if things don't work out with your dog-walker employee, you keep the client and substitute with a new employee.
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    Set the amount you want to charge. How you price your services will depend on the quality of your service and the length of time you have been dog-walking professionally. It will be difficult to charge higher amounts until word-of-mouth begins to boost your business and you have solid references.
    • Research the field first. What are other dog-walkers charging in your area? Ask them if they are willing to divulge information to a potential competitor. Compete fairly with them - you could undercut slightly at first to get a toehold in the business. Don't undercut viciously; after all, you want to stay in this industry, not be cold-shouldered by your fellow dog-walkers. If there is no one competing, then use the internet to get some idea of the costs for your region.
    • Don't under-charge or over-charge. Undercharging will lead some to think you are an amateur, perhaps even the local school kids looking for odd jobs. Charge a fair amount in return for good, reliable and professional services.
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    Print some stylish business cards. Make sure that they present a professional image and provide your contact details. Include a few short, pithy lines or words about what you offer as part of the dog-walking service. For instance:
    • Say where the dogs will be walked - for example, to the parks, on green grass, in quieter areas of the city - whatever you think dog-owners would appreciate and trust.
    • Explain what you will do with the dogs to keep them entertained and well-exercised - for example, that you are prepared to run with the dogs for exercise, that you will play ball/tug rope/fetch with the dogs etc.
    • The ways in which you will pay attention to nutritional and medical requirements of your canine charges.
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    Advertise. Pass around flyers or business cards to let people know about your business. Stop residents walking their dogs as you walk around, introduce yourself and offer your business card to them. Begin to network with family and friends regarding your business. Start small and let your good business spread by word-of-mouth.
    • There is no harm in asking your first set of clients to refer you to their friends, colleagues, etc. If they are happy with your work, many will be happy to do this. If you've built up relationships with people from past clients (security guards, doormen, maids), they may be a potential hot bed of business, too.
    • Bid on keywords on Google's Adwords program, and purchase paid directory listings on dog walker directories and other websites. Hit up Craigslist, Facebook, and even veterinary bulletin boards.
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    Get a good website. The internet is increasingly becoming people's first port of call and aids them in their decision making. When choosing your domain name keep it simple by choosing a domain with relevant keywords (so your website appears on the first page of Google).
    • Consider the layout and design. First impressions count and if your website is a reflection upon your service it should depict your core values (such as friendliness and professionalism) and what you have to offer. Enhance it with images or even a video so people can get a real feel for you and your service.
    • Consider a website that allows users to book a time slot and services online. Some customers prefer to book online rather than over the phone.
      • If you don't know the first thing about making a website, odds are you know half a dozen people who do. So ask!

Part 3
Going the Extra Mile

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    Provide your (prospective) clients with informative resources. People looking for dog walkers have often just gotten a puppy and are looking for tips on training. New dog owners are also interested in learning about dog health, local parks, and pet organizations. If you can be a vital source of information (cue Lori Beth Denberg) for them, they'll likely keep you around.
    • Join a professional organization or two that can keep you on the up-and-up when it comes to doggy care. The International Association of Canine Professionals and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters are two good places to start.[3][4] When they ask where you learned that tidbit of info from, you just respond, "Oh, you know. I've been a member of IACP for a while now."
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    Consider value-adding with other services. It might be worthwhile adding other dog-services to your skill set. While these additional services will also add costs and some may even require business or home-office style space, if you are seriously considering making an entire career from dogs and their care, this may be the key to a lucrative career. Consider extra services such as:
    • Dog-bathing and dog-grooming
    • Dog-sitting (either on client's premises or at yours if you have space for boarding kennels)
    • Dog-training and/or dog-listening (if you are properly qualified only)
    • Spending extra time after the walk at client's home with a dog to simply be with it, play with it, feed it etc; and
    • Dog medical attention - some owners can't stay home from work to medicate their dogs; you could be the answer.
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    Learn some basic dog first-aid. Ask at a local veterinary clinic for some training in basic dog first-aid (expect to pay the vet for this advice). It will help you to fix some of the little problems that you may encounter. And while you're at this, do you know the first-aid for a dog bite?
    • Your local Humane Society may be another resource you can tap into. If a veterinarian seems a bit hard to get work in with, the staff here may be a useful alternative. And you could help out pups that need love.


  • Have extra leashes, collars, dog toys, dog treats, water, etc. Get a good backpack for storing extras as you walk; something that your dog clients can't reach.
  • Check with the owner about the dog's behaviour and acceptable forms of punishment (if it misbehaves).
  • Always make sure to get the client's advice on certain things you want to do in a walk.
  • Be sure to have a good grip on the leash.
  • Keep a raincoat handy at all times. It'll bother you more than the dogs if it starts to pour.
  • Get police checks/clearance papers to show potential clients that you are trustworthy and that you are taking a professional approach. This is an important consideration since you are entering their homes during their work hours to take Fluffy for a walk; you have access to their keys and everything else and they'll be very aware of it.
  • Insurance is a must; you never know what may happen. Dog walker's insurance is cheap.
  • Be sure to have a signed service agreement to be sure your business is covered against liabilities.
  • If you have had a dog before, or have one, make sure to include it in the flyers or face to face.
  • Make sure you have a backpack that has provisions for the dog as well as yourself. Bring enough water for both you and the dog(s), as well as a bowl to pour it in. Allow yourself a jacket for cold weather, and a rain coat for rain or snow. If the owners have them, bring along a rain coat or jacket for the dog. If they are a large dog or one with long hair, it will most likely not need any extra clothing.
  • Certain dogs are harder to walk than others. Consider having a criteria of certain breeds on your flyer.


  • Be certain that you have good physical fitness; dog-walking can be a strenuous activity, especially with medium to large dogs.
  • Always be cautious around the dogs that you are not familiar with.
  • Remember this is not your dog. Take care of it like it is.
  • Don't let the dog off the leash until you have really gotten to know them and they listen well to you. It may be useful to discuss this aspect with the owner, as well.
  • Know your limit with the amount of dogs you walk at any one time. This isn't just about you but about the dog's energy levels, personality mix and safety.

Things You'll Need

  • Dog supplies (e.g. leash, collar, treats, etc.)
  • Business cards/flyers/adverts
  • Gear for all weather
  • Poop bags

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