Dog Walker Job Description
Dog walkers visit the homes of their clients to take dogs out for daily exercise.
Dog walkers are responsible for providing exercise for their client’s dogs each day. Walks usually run in half hour or one hour increments. Dog walkers often are also responsible for checking the dog’s food and water supply to make sure basic needs are met after their exercise. Some dog walkers also offer pet sitting services for occasions when their clients need to travel.
Dog walkers also must notify owners and pursue veterinary attention for any dog that becomes sick or injured while under their supervision. Dog walkers should have their clients complete a document listing their contact information, their vet’s contact information, and other important information about the dog (age, breed, weight, medical conditions, current medications, etc).
When starting a dog walking business, some individuals choose to offer additional services (pet sitting, grooming, etc). Dog walkers may choose to operate their business either on a full-time or part-time basis.
Some dog walkers work alone, while others hire additional walkers to work as a part of their business. This allows the dog walking business to serve a greater number of clients, and potentially expand their service area.
Education & Training
No formal education or certification is required to be a dog walker, though experience working with dogs is necessary.
A dog walker must be very familiar with canine behavior, basic care, and first aid. Most dog walkers are long-time dog owners themselves.
It is also a big plus if a dog walker can reference prior work in an animal health field, such as prior employment as a veterinary technician or veterinary assistant.
Owners are often more comfortable leaving their animals in the care of those with some sort of veterinary background.
There are several national and international groups dedicated to dog walking. The International Association of Canine Professionals was founded in 1999 and has members involved in a variety of canine careers such as dog walking, dog training, grooming, and pet sitting. The National Association of Dog Walkers (NADW) is another group that serves members across the U.S.
There are also many local and state dog walking associations that serve dog walkers in their specific communities. Examples include the San Francisco Professional Dogwalkers Association (PRO DOG) or the Michigan Pet Sitters & Dog Walkers Association.
The amount of money a dog walker earns will vary depending on the number of clients serviced each day, the number of dogs walked at each location, the length of the walk desired by the client and the standard pay rate in that specific area. Most dog walkers charge a fee that ranges from $10 to $20 per walk. Private walks are usually priced closer to the top end of that range; group walks with multiple dogs from the same apartment building may be priced more affordably at a group rate.
According to Indeed.com, an established full-time dog walker can expect to earn a salary in the range of $25,000 to $30,000 per year. It is possible to earn a much greater salary in some locations, especially in cities where a dog walker can service multiple dogs from multiple homes during one walking excursion. For instance (in 2012), Indeed.com cited an average annual salary of $43,000 for dog walkers in New York, $43,000 for dog walkers in San Francisco, and $36,000 for dog walkers in Chicago.
Some dog walkers hire additional staff so that they can enlarge their service area or to increase the number of clients they can accommodate per week. It is also possible to earn additional revenue by creating a franchise business and licensing additional dog walking service providers under a recognized corporate name.
Becoming insured and bonded can be an additional expense, but it makes the business more attractive to prospective customers.
Since the cost of dog walking services is often equal to (or less than) the cost of doggie day care or boarding services, and the pet can be cared for at home without needing to be transported to and from an outside facility, the demand for dog walkers is expected remain strong for the foreseeable future. Cities will tend to be the strongest market for dog walking services since the dog population is especially concentrated in these areas.
Dog walking businesses have a relatively low start up cost, so this should continue to be one of the most popular options for those wishing to enter the animal industry.