wikiHow to Become a Dog Walker

Four Parts:Learning About DogsWalking DogsStarting a BusinessExpanding Your Business

Dog walking is a good way to make a very lucrative career while hanging out with man’s best friend. It is also a good entrance to a wide market for pet care. To get started, however, you will need to learn a lot about dogs and business.

Part 1
Learning About Dogs

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    Start working for an agency. A good place to learn the ins and outs of the dog walking business is under someone who is already in it. Look for a large, local dog walking agency and contact the people there to ask if they need any help. This can be a way to both learn about the business and animal safety.[1]
    • In the long run, this is often the best path to your own business. You probably do not want to invest a lot of time and money into a business until you understand things like how to write a contract, how to find customers, and how to be licensed to operate a business. This is a good way to learn all of those things.
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    Get certified. Programs like dogTEC’s Dog Walking Academy will teach you about a variety of dog safety and training subjects. Though they cost money, you can earn the money back. Clients will be reassured by the fact that you have professional certification. You can parlay this into higher rates or more clients.[2]
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    Do independent research. Go to a library to check out dog books or subscribe to dog magazines. You want to know enough about dog breeds to determine which dogs you should be careful around. You should be able to understand dog body language, how to implement dog training strategies, and understand pack behavior.[3]

Part 2
Walking Dogs

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    Get to know the dog. When you visit the house to meet the owner, try to establish a relationship with the dog. Play with it and pet it. It will be more likely to warm to you if it knows that the owner endorses your presence in the home.
    • You should also be sure that when you meet the owner you bring a note pad and take notes. The owner will likely tell you some important details about diet and behavior that are worth keeping track of.[4]
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    Bring relevant supplies. You should make sure that you have a more than adequate supply of leashes. Bring a bag to dispose of poop. Keep a water bottle with you as well as a variety of dog treats.
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    Find a quiet place to walk. You want to take the dog to a place where they are not likely to encounter an aggressive dog. Avoid dog parks. Find a walking path that does not have much traffic.[5]
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    Take the dog on the walk. Talk to the dog. Familiarize yourself with the dog's walking speed and try to keep pace.
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    Allow the dog to use the restroom. When the dog pees, give it time to do its business without bothering it. When it poops, remember to pick it up with a scooper and place it in the bag. Give the dog a treat if it behaves well.
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    Be careful in case of conflict. If there is another dog or a stranger in the area and one of the dogs gets aggressive, try to calm it down and walk away. Carry a canister of citronella with you, in case of emergency. The spray will deter dogs from approaching you, but will not cause any physical harm to them.[6]
    • Good signs that a dog is aggressive are ears that are tilted back, close to the head; eyes that are narrow and starring intensely; lips open to display teeth; tense body position; tail pointed straight up and puffed out; and growling.[7]
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    Refrain from walking too many dogs at once until you have experience. A professional dog walker can often handle as many as six large dogs at the same time. However, you should always familiarize yourself with a new dog before you attempt to introduce it to other dogs. Be especially cautious about walking an aggressive breed in the company of other dogs.[8]
    • You can refuse to work with certain breeds of dogs if, for whatever reason, you find that you have difficulty building a relationship with them.

Part 3
Starting a Business

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    Research local regulations. Some cities require that as a business operator, or a dog walker in particular, you obtain a specialized license. Oftentimes you will also be required to have insurance. Even if you aren’t required to get insurance, you probably should to cover liability if a dog is hurt or damage is caused to someone’s property while you are in charge of the dog.[9]
    • Consider searching the local municipality’s website or going to city hall to get information about local laws.
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    Get some background in business. To run a business you need to know something about accounting and advertising. You need to know how to write a contract for your clients. Consider taking some courses at a local community college, or checking out some business books at the library.
    • It is especially important that you can write a contract that covers you for any liabilities and ensures that clients are obligated to pay you appropriately. Consider reviewing the contracts used by other dog walkers in the area.[10]
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    Get referrals. When advertising a business, it is important to have people who can testify to the fact that you know what you are doing. It might be best to start working with people who you already know well. You can even consider charging below market rate to the first customers to get started.[11]
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    Research rates. Research what other dog walkers in the area are charging and charge accordingly. Consider how much income you want to make and calculate how many customers you would need to meet that goal.[12]
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    Advertise. To get customers, you need to get your name out there as many ways as possible. You should have your own website and you should post information about your services on as many other sites as possible. Try specialized websites like Bring flyers to pet shops, veterinary clinics, and dog owner organizations.[13] See if there is a professional organization for dog walkers in the area that you join for networking opportunities.[14]
    • Be sure to keep a business card with you at all times, in case, after striking up a conversation with someone you meet, you find a potential client. You want to make sure that you can capitalize on this by giving her a way to reach you.

Part 4
Expanding Your Business

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    Begin pet sitting. Once you have dog walking clients, it often makes sense to parlay them into extra business pet sitting. You will need to check in regularly to make sure that water and food bowls are full, play with the dog, and take the dog for walks. This will involve spending more time unattended in the person’s house, so you should be especially mindful to respect their space; do not search around or consume anything in the house.
    • Before choosing this route, make sure that it is cost effective. Would you be making more money walking dogs than pet sitting? Is pet sitting getting in the way of your more lucrative dog walking jobs?
    • When pet sitting, be sure to communicate with the owners every couple of days to reassure them that their dog is doing well. You can even text a picture!
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    Try dog grooming. Cutting nails and hair involves a different skill set than dog walking. However, if you have a good professional relationship with a lot of dog owners and a friendly relationship with the dogs, you can consider grooming. Alternatively, you can hire a groomer to work with you.[15]
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    Franchise. Once you have a successful business with more customers than you can manage, consider bringing in some more people. Search for people who are experienced, reliable, and trustworthy. Vet all candidates thoroughly.[16]
    • When franchising, you should have franchise contracts that are well constructed by a professional. You should also have guidebooks that subordinates study to establish a uniform standard of care for your furry friends.

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Categories: Dogs