How much money can you make as a dog walker?
So, you want to be a dog walker? You want a job working with dogs? You want a job that is high in demand and has a lower entry barrier? A job where you can make money and get you paid immediately? What about a job that is great for your fitness and mental health? A job where you get to play with your furry friends? But also a job where you get wet and cold! May loose a dog! A dog may get injured! You may get injured. There are many positives about the job, but do not forget, as with all jobs, there are negatives before you quit your job to follow your dreams.
Dog walking is generally needed mid-day, making it perfect for parents with school age kids or pensioners who would like to keep fit or earn an extra income.
There are companies that will employ you to work for them.
There are dog walking and pet sitting companies where you can advertise yourself on their site and get customers, such as Bark or Rover, and these are the ideal kind of self-start-up business for a lot of people, or you could jump in and go self-employed.
Dog walking and dog boarding services are extremely popular with busy professionals, who want the pleasure of having a dog, but do not have free time to take them for the exercise that they need or people who have a dog and get an illness, making them unable to walk the dog.
Around 45% of households in the UK own a pet so the odds are great that someone you know may have a pet at home and could use the service.
Dog walking provides an especially important service. It provides owners with a peace of mind that their dog is getting the exercise they require and ability to relieve themselves while they otherwise might not. In return, you get the pleasure of their company, improved mental and physical health while earning above the minimum wage.
Pricing Rates of Services
These are rough general guide as location, dogs and experience differ.
Dog Walking Prices: £6 to £14 for a 30-minute dog walk
Dog In-Home Checking: This is when a trusted sitter come during the day to let your dog out and exercise them. Like dog walking rates except with more responsibility and trust.
Dog Day-care Prices: £16 to £50 per day for a regular workday. Some choose to increase to double over holiday times.
Home from Home Boarding: An alternative to kennels, where the dog says with a sitter in their home as if their own. £16 to £60 per dog per night. Many companies choose to charge per day, not per night as their licence will limit how many dogs are in the house at one time, so a one-night board may take up two full days.
As a self employed dog walker, if you are walking 6 dogs for an hour, you can easily get £60 for that hours walk, but do not forget, you will have to pick up and drop off, at drop off, you will need to clean them all down, change their water and put them safely back, this can mean a one hour walk can turn into three hours work. You will generally find you can only fit two or three walks into a day, days will vary, some you will be full and some will have hardly any dogs, demand varies and so does will your income. You must also pay for your insurance and any expenses that may come your way and sort your own accounts at the end of the year.
If you are employed by someone else, you will probably be on minimum wage, but you should have the support of other dog walkers, cover if you are off sick or need a holiday and should be paid through PAYE, so no accounts to worry about or insurance to pay.
The prices that can be demanded for dog walking and home boarding depend on the location. In England, there are laws as to how many dogs you can walk at one time in most areas. These are between 4 and 6 dogs. Home boarding or day care in a house requires a council licence, these are not regulated and the price for the licence varies from council to council, they also have different rules as to home many dogs can be in a home. Day care in big cities such as London is high in demand, there are more clients available, however, competition is also fierce, so the prices are not actually much higher than the rest of England.
What do you need?
There are things you MUST pay for, such as insurance and a council licence if you choose to do day-care or board dogs, things you could pay for, such as good training and petsitter software to help your day, and things you should NOT pay for, such as a company that promises to certify you, they are not worth the money they demand, unless you want to use their software they include in the package or an online training course from a discount company. I found over the years, having a “certification” from a company meant nothing to clients, and was not worth the paper it was written on, they give the certification to anyone who pays!
“Wow, I would love your job!”
Before the millennium, pet sitting was not a common “career” choice. If you wanted someone to come to your house, take your dog out, etc. people would think that was strange. Kennels were the place that people sent their dogs if their friends or family could not have them and they would have to go home to let them out.
That is not the situation today. Dog walking and home boarding is common. People no longer want their dog to be in a kennel with no walks for the duration of their holiday, and if they work all day long, they want to be able to get their dog walked by a dog walker. Many companies have grown to fill this demand.
Good home boarding professionals will be fully booked up, often a year in advance.
Dog walking is not a seasonal job, but seasons do matter. During holiday seasons, home boarding will increase, and dog walking will drop. In summer, you will have to be incredibly careful that your dogs do not overheat, as you will be walking at the hottest part of the day. In winter, you will get wet and cold. During holiday season, it is not unusual for home boarding prices to double, and even triple over bank holidays. Remember, you cannot have a holiday at these times, so it needs to be worth your while.
How much you make depends on the range of services, your experience and training. Are you able to have dogs to board, do dog training, perform dog CPR, or administer injections?
Do you do house drop-ins? People only hire the most professional and trusted sitters. That means treating everything with the utmost respect as common courtesy.
For dog walkers, are you healthy enough to walk and run with dogs? If there are no health issues stopping you, your physical health will quickly improve while you are out walking dogs. Are they quick under emergency response if a dog is harmed or lost? Quick thinking and preplanning is very important. Do you have a backup if you are off ill?
Do you have experience with large sized dogs or aggressive dogs? Even if you are not planning on taking those on yourself, what would you do if a giant aggressive dog ran over and attacked the Chihuahua you were walking?
Years of Experience
There are three main ways to get started and that totally depends on the goals you have in mind.
If the goal is to make extra money, then join an already established agency or local dog walking company. These should cover the jobs you may not want to like invoicing, payment processing, assistance if you have a problem, insurance, dog vetting etc. You should be able to easily book time off for holidays or sickness. If you are employed by them, they should pay your tax, NI, holiday pay and pension if you are entitled.
The second option is as a self-employed dog walker, working with someone who already has set up a business that’s professional insured and trained and has a ready client base. If you are self-employed, you are responsible for your own taxes, NI and possibly insurance (check if their insurance covers you) and you should do your own training and should not wear any company branded clothes. You will probably not get any holiday pay, but you should be able to easily book time off.
The third option is to start out on your own. You are responsible for everything from insurance to taxes to branding but establishing one means your income potential is higher, you are the top dog, the book stops here. Any problems and you deal with them, you can hire dog walkers to help you if you get busy enough. However, getting a holiday will be difficult and covering if you are off is virtually impossible.
The fourth option is to buy a franchise from a reputable dog walking company. This is similar to above, but you have a head start on all the documentation and company reputation.
Low cost, high impact marketing is what you should focus on. Good marketing means better rates because dog walking and dog sitting are so relevant to people with pets.
People that want a dog walker generally see their dog as a family member, so they require a reliable dog walker with a good reputation. Nothing works better than word of mouth. Business cards, car signs, car stickers, flyers, logoed tops, bulletin boards, social media, friends, and family can all be used for good marketing.
Building rapport and establishing clientele takes longer but the payout is amazing.
The most important thing to be a dog walker is that you are responsible, trustworthy and honest. You must have a great love of animals and enjoy walking in any weather. When clients can see how much you care, you will build up a good reputation. Training is especially important, if you do not yet have any, get on a course. You cannot do it online; it has to be practical. You can know everything about dogs in theory, but nothing beats experience.
In England, there is no regulation or training needed for dog walking or home boarding.
But it does not mean they don’t exist and having certifications do help get client trust faster. The testing becomes a quality assurance to make sure a minimum level of standard is set. However, you can find out most of the information for free on the internet, do ensure if you have training that it is quality information that you cannot just find yourself.
It helps dog owners feel better about hiring a dog walker to walk their dogs, care for their dogs and homes long-term.