I am a full-time graduate student, so I do not have time for the typical 9-5 routine. As a result, I often need to find ways to make some extra money. After making a pit stop at Starbucks on my way home from school, I stumbled upon an opportunity that’s right up my alley — dog walking.
The way in which this business operates is perfect for someone like me because it’s flexible and requires very little start-up or day-to-day operational costs. If you also fit into this category, keep reading, because you really can make money walking dogs.
Make Money Walking Dogs: Getting Started
Luckily for those looking to take on this new side business, there are multiple websites and Facebook pages dedicated to helping you find work by posting ads to find homes with dogs that need walking. All you have to do is create an account with one of these websites and start posting ads.
Most websites will allow you to post multiple ads for free, so if there is a dog walking job in your area that pays $20/hour, then it wouldn’t cost you anything extra to post five or six more ads (each stating the same rate) with different times available. That way, you can cover all the time slots when most people are probably looking for someone to walk their dogs.
The next step would be to respond to emails from interested individuals who have read your ad. While responding to emails may seem like the most logical thing to do initially, I recommend staying away from this method as much as possible. It’s an excellent way to start, but you should plan to move on from this method quickly.
Thumbtack is free and one of the most important resources that I have used when starting as a dog walker because it allows you to post your rates and availability without the hassle of responding to emails from interested individuals who are not ready to commit yet.
This saves a lot of time because you can keep track of all the people who view your ad and then follow up with them once they are ready for you to meet their dog(s) and give them an estimate.
You can also request quotes from local businesses like hotels or salons to offer services such as dog walking, pet sitting, or running errands for potential clients in your area.
When it comes time to set up an actual meeting with your client(s), I recommend using Google Maps to find the most convenient place for you and your future client to meet. You can also use this map when starting out because it will help you familiarize yourself with the neighborhood so that you have a general idea of how long each walk should take.
This way, if someone asks if it would be okay for their dog to go down by the lake after their regular 3-mile walk one day, you’ll be able to tell them yes or no depending on whether or not there will still be enough time left in the day/how busy you are that day (you’ll definitely want to avoid busy traffic areas in the afternoon).
When you first start to make money walking dogs, you should only schedule appointments within walking distance of your house because this will allow you to get the most experience with a dog and make sure it’s a good fit for you. However, it is essential not to take on more than 10-15 dogs as walkers at one time because it can be hard to manage large groups of dogs without prior experience practicing/experimenting on just one or two dogs.
Walking the Dogs
Once you have built up a solid clientele and know how much time each regular walk takes so that you can budget accordingly, then I recommend trying out new routes each week, which may take longer (especially if your clients want to go to a park, lake, or another area that involves crossing busy streets).
As with anything new, you may encounter some difficulties along the way when trying to negotiate prices and schedules, so I recommend being as flexible as possible when first start to make money walking dogs. The more professional and polite you are with your clients, then the better of an overall experience they will have.
In turn, this will help earn their trust, which will lead to repeat business if things continue to run smoothly between both parties. Don’t be afraid to charge higher rates at first, either. Eventually, you will establish a reputation for yourself in your community which can help keep your rates high despite offering lower quotes initially.
Of course, it’s important not to become too greedy or price yourself out of the market because clients may look elsewhere if they cannot afford your services.
Once you’ve made enough money to cover the cost of walking an additional dog per week, I recommend contacting local shelters/humane societies and asking them if they need dogs walked that would be suitable for your operation (some breed rescues will let you know what their adoption restrictions are as well).
You should always check in with these organizations first before taking on strays from people off the street. Even when walking dogs that aren’t a part of your daily operation, it is vital to remain professional at all times and watch for any behavior that may develop into a future problem. This is especially true when it comes to rescue dogs who have not been trained by a professional.
Although some of them may be perfectly fine and happy to walk with you, others may have issues that only worsen over time with the wrong type of socialization (especially if they are scared or have never been exposed to normal activity/barking, yelling dogs in an urban environment).
After saving enough money from walking 10-15 regular clients per week, I recommend locating your facility as close to home as possible. If it’s within walking distance, then all the better because this way, all you will need is a car for transporting dogs back and forth from their owner’s homes where they cannot go on foot. I like folding dog crates because they can fit into cars easily and don’t look too out of place when driving in public. The one I use is pictured below:
There are also dog tents that work well because they are more aerodynamic; however, you will need to invest in a large car/SUV if you plan on transporting larger dogs or multiple large dogs at once.
Dog Walking Equipment
When it comes to your equipment needs (leashes, collars, food dishes, waste bags), you should purchase as much quality gear as possible since the first impression that someone gets when walking with their dog can be crucial in gaining future clients. And always thinking about future clients is a surefire way to make money walking dogs.
In addition, I recommend getting a reflective vest for yourself so that others can easily spot you during nighttime walks and make sure all of your gear is clean and colorful whenever appropriate. These factors can make all the difference when trying to stand out against your competition.
Importance of Dog Behavior
It is also imperative that all of your dogs are properly trained on how to work with you and respect basic commands before going out in public because if they act up while being walked, then you risk getting a negative reputation within your community which will make it much harder for you to attract new clients.
This isn’t to say that you can’t help dogs with a history of behavioral problems. Still, the fact is that you will need to dedicate more time and effort into working from home to get them ready before going out in public.
When I worked as a dog walker/sitter full time, I mostly stuck to walking happy, socialized “normal” dogs because most of my clients were looking for this type of animal experience. Walking problem/aggressive animals was never an option because it put me at risk and made it harder to attract new clients.
The exception to this rule was when I had a regular customer who wanted me to walk their dog from time to time while away on vacation. In these scenarios, I always made sure that I could reach the owner — just in case anything went wrong.
Final Dog Walking Tips
You should also develop a “welcome package” for your new clients when you start this new business so that you can provide them with necessary information regarding how you work, what is expected of them, and other important details. It will be easier for you to establish yourself as an authority figure if you create an organized document like this and make it available upon request.
In addition to walking pets around town (or taking them to local doggy parks), you can make money as a dog walker by providing pet transportation services. For example, if you live in an urban area and own a large SUV with space for passengers, then there may be times when your regular clients would like to go on vacation but have trouble finding someone willing to take their pets along for the ride.
If this sounds like something you’d like to pursue, then I recommend setting up at least one client out of town first before trying to reach anyone outside of your city. This will help ensure that it is viable and worth your time.
When establishing yourself as a dog walker/sitter, remember to keep yourself open-minded and flexible because you never know when a potential client might contact you. This is the best advice that I can give you on how to make money by walking dogs part-time.
Make Money Walking Dogs – Frequently Asked Questions
Can you really make money walking dogs?
The amount that you make can vary widely depending on your location, experience level, and the number of hours that you are actively working at any given time. When I worked full-time as a dog walker/sitter, I could charge $20 per hour for my services plus an additional $5 per dog. This allowed me to earn around $25-$30 during each 45-minute session which was usually enough to pay for most of my regular business expenses (including food, gas, and maintenance costs).
What kind of license do you need to start a dog walking service?
This depends on what state or region you live in, so I recommend doing some research online before making any significant investments. If you are starting out trying to figure things out, then I would also recommend that you walk a few dogs in your neighborhood before making any final decision on whether or not this is something you want to pursue.
What’s the best way to find clients?
In my experience when working as a dog walking business owner, most of your work will come from referrals and one-time clients (new people who contact you directly). I never spent any money on marketing or advertising, so this worked well for me, but it might be worth your time to try and develop a flyer/poster campaign if you need more steady sources of income/business.
Do you need a degree to walk dogs?
No, I never pursued any sort of higher education while I was working as a dog walking business owner. If you are interested in getting into this type of work, make sure that your local area allows people without degrees/certifications to work in the field. In my opinion, new pet owners should hire someone who has experience rather than an educated person with zero hands-on experience just because they have a piece of paper from school.
What kind of supplies do you need to make money walking dogs?
This depends on your personal preferences, and what works best for the animals you will be walking. When I started out, I purchased a small binder clip that I used to easily attach my business cards and flyers to be quickly accessed by anyone who needed information. As far as other supplies go, make sure you keep yourself well-stocked with poop bags (and whatever subtle ways you would like to advertise your services), treats, and water bottles for the dogs you walk to stay prepared at all times.