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How to Become a Dog Walker: What You Need to Know

Dog walking has always been regarded as one of those quaint things kids with a love for animals can do to make an extra buck and buy some video games. 

In the 2020s, however, this perception is getting an overhaul. Dog walking has become a full-fledged career, with specialized walkers making over double that.

This is one of the many jobs that has seen unprecedented demand during the pandemic and has been soaring ever since. 

So how can new dog walkers make that much money? Let’s dive into how to become a dog walker in the US!

An Overview of Dog Walking: A Primer

Dog walkers take dogs, often in a group, for walks or bathroom breaks on behalf of their owners. While that central premise is still the same, the profession has evolved in the last few years, especially since the pandemic.

Dog walkers have started offering more specialized services in recent years since people are spending more and more on the wellness of their pets.

Some examples are exclusive walks, walks with a leash or reactivity training, and running or hiking with dogs. These special services help the walker charge for a premium service.

As a professional dog walker, some daily tasks will include marketing, scheduling walks along routes around the city, setting up dog transportation, and shopping for supplies.

How Much Do Dog Walkers Make?

An established dog walker in large cities makes $40k a year, averaging $20 per dog for a group dog walk that lasts anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour and a half.

With more specialized dog walking services, you can make a 6-figure annual income. These numbers are difficult to reach in areas with lower populations.

What You’ll Need to Become a Dog Walker [& Associated Costs]

vector graphic showing an illustration of how to become a dog walker

Becoming a dog walker might seem as easy as slipping on a leash on a pup, but reality is more complex.

The expenses necessary depend on your starting point and the county you’ll register your business.

  • Training: This will cost a few hundred dollars, depending on your location and how in-depth the curriculum is. You could also volunteer at a shelter or start with an existing dog walking business. As for Pet First-Aid and CPR, these are available online or offline and typically cost between $50 and $100.
  • Business License and Insurance: Licenses can range from $50 to several hundred dollars and are likely more expensive if you intend to do pet sitting. Liability insurance for dog walkers can be around $200 per year.
  • Equipment: Many dog walkers prefer using their own gear over their clients’ since they can select reliable materials. Basic items like poop bags, dog walking belts, dog treats, and portable water dishes are incredibly handy. These essentials cost around $100.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Dog Walker?

To start a dog walking business without all the bells and whistles, you probably won’t need more than $500.

However, if you intend to create a solid business, investing in extra leashes and harnesses, transportation, a good website, and certifications, you’ll be looking at $1,500-2,000.

Is it Hard to Become a Dog Walker?

You might not be babysitting kids, but pups are still important members of your clients’ families. Knowing how to take care of them is crucial.

You don’t need any specific education to become a dog walker, and it’s not hard to learn. However, it’s physically demanding (ever tried to walk a stubborn St. Bernard?). It can wear you down if you’re not being diligent with self-care.

It’s also important to know that dog walkers work through rain or sunshine and often even when they’re sick.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Dog Walker?

If you’re comfortable handling dogs and have experience with different sizes and temperaments, your dog walking business can be up and running within the week.

However, if you’re starting from scratch, it’ll take several months to gain enough training and experience before you can take responsibility for clients’ dogs.

How to Become a Dog Walker in Six Simple Steps

vector graphic showing an illustration of how to become a dog walker

If getting paid to run around with dogs all day sounds like your dream job, it might be time to take some fundamental steps to become a dog walker:

Step 1: Get Experience With Dogs

This isn’t about just liking dogs. Dog walkers handle dogs of all sizes, temperaments and, oftentimes, entire packs of them. This requires a solid level of knowledge that isn’t likely to come from just having owned a couple of dogs.

That’s why it’s crucial to have experience walking dogs before considering doing it for money.

There are three ways to get that experience:

  • Walking dogs for shelters, friends, family, or neighbors
  • Getting dog walking training
  • Working for another dog walking business

A dog training certification is the optimal scenario, especially since it makes you extra marketable as a dog walker for potential clients.

Step 2: Take a Pet First Aid and CPR Course

Although it’s not mandated, knowing what to do in an emergency is a must. A lot can go wrong in a dog walk, from eating something poisoned off the street to getting a heat stroke or even choking on a treat.

Knowing pet first-aid can save a life and prevent a lawsuit. Luckily, these courses are often short, and they don’t cost much.

Step 3: Research Local Regulations and Get a Business License

Most states will require a license to handle others’ animals for money. You may also need permits specific to dog walking. These are fairly simple to find out about since you only need to visit your city council or municipality.

Other regulations may not be easy to get to, such as dog park rules for dog walkers or transport and traffic regulations. Research your area’s regulations and consider seeking advice from local dog walkers.

Step 4: Purchase and Understand Liability Insurance

Liability insurance for dog walkers covers accidents, injuries, or damages during your dog walks.

These can protect you if anything happens to the dog and your client in case of things like aggression. It’s also important to know exactly what the insurance covers.

Step 5: Invest in Quality Equipment

Having the right collection of equipment can make or break your career. Having five different leashes in your hands could mean losing a dog in traffic.

Putting a harness on a big excitable dog might mean you’re yanked out of place anytime the pup gets excited and runs. Being strategic with the first few tools you buy can set the tone for your future as a dog walker.

Buy equipment that is very sturdy, comfortable to use, gives you freedom of motion without risking a dog escaping, and gives you all the tools you need on a walk.

Step 6: Expand Your Services

This job can be a great side hustle, but a lot of the time, the dog walking jobs you get aren’t enough to pay the bills. For new walkers who wish to do this full-time, other services such as pet sitting, leash training, or doggy daycare may be necessary.

The good news is that once dog owners get to know you and if their pets like you, they’ll start requesting these from you and offer to pay extra for them.

Reasons to Consider Becoming a Dog Walker

Beyond the joy of spending time with furry friends, becoming a dog walker can offer many benefits, particularly when considering it as a side hustle or part of the gig economy.

  • Solid Income Potential: Dog walkers can make a substantial income depending on the area and services offered. Specialized services like solo walks can come with higher rates.
  • Flexible Schedule: Dog walking can fit around other commitments. Whether you prefer mornings, afternoons, or evenings, you can schedule walks when it’s most convenient for you.
  • Low Startup Costs: Compared to many businesses, starting a dog walking service requires a minimal upfront investment, making it a great side hustle option.
  • High Demand: With the booming $100+ billion pet industry, more people are seeking the services of professional dog walkers. This demand isn’t likely to dwindle anytime soon.
  • Physical Exercise: Nothing beats getting your steps in than doing it with a curious fluffy dog or two.
  • Expandable Business: You can start by walking dogs and later expand into related services like pet sitting, grooming, or dog training.
  • Job Satisfaction: For animal lovers, few jobs can rival the satisfaction derived from working closely with dogs and contributing to their health and happiness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Being a Dog Walker Dangerous?

Getting bitten by a dog should not be a common occurrence for a dog walker. If it is, then it’s likely that you still need more dog-handling training.

That said, there are injuries related to the physical stress that comes with the job, including joint issues and heat strokes.

Is Dog Walking a Viable Full-Time Career?

Absolutely. With the rise of pet ownership, demand for professional dog walkers is high.

Making it the main source of income will require some dedication and investment, and it’s likely not possible in smaller towns where there isn’t enough demand.

What If a Dog Gets Injured on a Walk?

Accidents are bound to happen, and a good dog walker should always be prepared. As a professional, you should have pet first aid training and liability insurance to handle any injuries while on the job.

Similar Gigs to Check Out

  • How to Become a Dog Groomer: Walking dogs for a living needs an athlete’s body. If this sounds like too much for you, consider grooming dogs instead.
  • How to Become a DoorDasher: Going around the city can be fun, especially if you’re free to stop working the moment you decide to. That’s the kind of flexibility that DoorDashing offers.
  • How to Make Money on Your LaptopPerhaps getting out and about sounds like too much to do for your main income. In that case, you can start making money online with nothing more than your laptop and good internet.

Wrapping Up

Dog walking has become a lucrative career, and the demand for it isn’t expected to slow down any time soon. For dog lovers, that’s great news. This career is as fulfilling as it is profitable.

Of course, the physical nature of it can be one of the biggest challenges that a professional dog walker could face. Managing clients and the stress of handling other people’s dogs can also take their toll. But what job isn’t a little stressful?

Liked this guide? Feel free to let us know in your comments, and share the link with other pup-lovers who’d be interested in this great gig!

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