Welcome to Part 3 of our How to Borrow a Dog Series. In case you missed our the first two installments, check them out: Become a Pet Sitter and Take a Shelter Dog on a Field Trip. In Part Three, we are going to return to discussing a way to not only spend time with dogs but earn some money while doing so by becoming a professional dog walker.
Dog walkers are different from pet sitters in that they don’t spend a full day with the dogs and don’t host them in their own homes. Pet owners use dog walkers to walk and feed their dogs throughout the day while they are at work or away from the house.
First things first: start small. Find a few pet owners that will trust you with both their dogs and the keys to their homes. Your first few customers will typically be friends or family that you have already built trust with. Once you are ready to expand, word-of-mouth from your first few customers will be key.
Make sure that you are properly licensed and insured according to your locality’s regulations. Take the time to research all state and local laws the pertain to dog walking businesses. The small amount of time you take to do things right will prevent any large headaches in the future.
Determine How Many Clients to Take On
You need to be realistic about the number of dogs you can handle at a time and in a single day. Some dog walkers walk comfortably down the sidewalk with 10 dogs in tow. However, this can cause issues especially when trying to take the dogs to a dog park the limits the number of dogs you can bring in. Furthermore, many owners may not be keen to have their dog walked in bulk. For best results, try a rotating schedule where you can walk 2-3 dogs at a time in order to give them the personal attention they need while providing them with social time with other dogs.
Learn the Area
For every client you take on, you should know where to walk the dogs in the area. Research all the dog parks within walking distance and know their rules. Some parks may have restrictions on professional dog walkers using the park. In this case, consider talking to the parties responsible for maintaining the park and try to come to an agreement to use it. Remember, when you are at the park, you are a steward for your own business. Everyone at the park is a potential client for the future. Be the best behaved one there, follow all rules, and pick up after the dogs you are watching.
Provide Outstanding Service
As with any business, the rate that you can charge will be affected by the level of service you provide. Agree to spend a lot of personal time with the dogs and take them to the dog park to help them exercise. Send pictures of them to their owners throughout the day Take pictures of them and email them or post them to social media so the owners can see them enjoying their day. You can also offer add-on services like bathing the dogs once a week or agreeing to do light house chores like bringing in the mail or watering house plants.
Advertising and Growing your Business
While word-of-mouth may work great for you, you should also consider advertising to help grow your business. Creating a social media account and posting photos of your dog walking adventures is a great way to expand your reach. Pet owners will often share your Facebook posts or retweet your posts with their dog in them. This social sharing aspect gives you instant credibility with all of their friends and followers.
Online advertising is also a cheap and effective way to target clients in your area. CityLeash.com offers local, targeted advertising opportunities alongside property listings for a low monthly rate. This will give you great exposure to rental seekers that are looking to move into your area. New residents are the most likely to be looking for new pet services.