How to Start a Dog Walking Business: A Complete Guide

How to Start a Dog Walking Business: A Complete Guide

With dog ownership on the rise, you’ve likely already considered how to start a dog walking business. But as with any business, there are things to consider to ensure you set things up the right way, get dog walking clients, provide a good service and learn how to earn a good wage.

In this guide, we cover everything from what you need to do upfront to start your dog walking business right up to how to easily promote and pull in extra clients and profits.

But before you jump ahead and start planning out your new dog walking business, you need to understand if it is profitable, practical, and an attainable goal.

But, if you just want to get straight into it click to jump to the beginning of the starting your dog walking business section.

Is a Dog Walking Business Profitable?

Dog walking as a career/business idea is as profitable as ever due to the side-effect of the Coronavirus pandemic causing an uptick in the number of people buying new dogs. A sad side-effect is that many of these new owners, now they’re moving back to normal working do not have the time to walk their dogs. But, this is where you step in!

How much you earn will depend on your country or even location within that country but dog walkers in the UK for example earn around £10-£15 per hour, and in the USA between $10 and $20 per hour.

Local Competition Affects Profitability

So we know that setting up your own dog walking business is profitable, generally speaking, but there are other factors at play. The big one is how many competitors you have in your local area. If there are dozens of dog walkers nearby, this will impact the profitability of your dog walking business.

Don’t worry though, even if there is a lot of competition close by, you can simply set your sights further afield.

The best way to get a good lay of the land in terms of existing dog walking businesses near you is to use our simple tool below that will plot all dog walking businesses in your area on a handy Google Maps interface.

Dog Walking Business Competition Finder

Just drop your postcode, city name, etc. below, hit “Find Now”, and all dog walking businesses nearby will be plotted on a Google Maps page. We don’t store any information but if you’re uncomfortable, just leave the box blank and click Find Now. Google will use your approximate location to find local dog walking businesses.

With knowledge of where your future competitors in the dog walking business are, you can start to understand the profitability and also begin to plan your “territory”. We’ll get into this more in the planning phases later on. Before that though we need to research.

Required Research For Your Dog Walking Business

So above we’ve made a start on this. We’ve looked at local competition briefly but there is so much more we can do to ensure that our dog walking business is successful. This research will help us create a cast iron business plan that takes a lot of the pain and uncertainty out of starting a new business.

Research dog walking business

Dog Walking Business Competition Research

1. Identify Your Competitors

Using our tool above you should have an idea who your local competitors are and where they are. You can also add to this information by checking local classifieds in newspapers and posts on local Facebook Groups, or on the Nextdoor App. 

From these resources, you should have a comprehensive list of who your local competitors are in the dog walking business. Now, you can use this information to do a little more research about them.

2. Evaluate Your Competitors

You have a list of dog walking businesses and names but you need to do a deeper dive to make the most out of this information. First, if they have a website, check it out. Create a simple spreadsheet with a row for each competitor (or use our premade one below).

Collect information on:

  • Business name.
  • Contact details.
  • Website address.
  • Areas of operation.
  • Prices.
  • Unique selling points (more on this later).
  • Services offered.

Next, search for the name of the business on Google and look for reviews. Be brief here but grab key points from their positive reviews and note them as “things to copy”. Look at negative reviews and note them as “things to improve”. When you start your business you can make sure that you incorporate these points into your work ethic, services, etc.

Finally, give them a call. It’s simple but pose as a potential customer and grill them about what services they offer, pricing, what certification or licensing they hold, etc. Get as much info as you can.

To make things even easier for you, we’ve created a competitor analysis template. Download it below, absolutely free!

Download Our Free Competitor Analysis Spreadsheet

We've created a handy competitor analysis spreadsheet for you to record your competitor evaluation information. Just click the link and fill in the details!

Competitor Analysis Template Screenshot

Download Excel TemplateCopy in Google Sheets

3. Identify Opportunities

Research your dog walking business competitors’ reputation by checking out online reviews and mentions on social media. You should have already added such information to your competitor analysis spreadsheet but now you need to expand this out.

For the strengths, determine what they are and specifically how you will mimic them in the dog walking business that you’re about to start. For weaknesses, determine how you can avoid or otherwise improve on the negative aspects mentioned in their reviews.

The history of other dog walking businesses in the area is stored in their reviews. Use this information to take steps ahead of them before you even start your dog walking company. Preparation is everything.

Dog Walking Services Research

As part of the competitor analysis above, you should now have a good idea of what dog walkers in your area offer in terms of business services. However, if your competitors are not business savvy they may not have tapped into all of the potential that a dog walking business can offer. When you start your dog walking business you want to make sure that you’ve considered all options.

Your research now should be broad and not limited to the local area. A good dog walking business service will be relevant in the USA, the UK, Germany, and anywhere in between. Look broadly online to see what dog walking businesses offer. Then bring that knowledge of services into your own dog walking business.

But as always, we’re here to help so we’ve already collated a big list of dog walking services that you could offer as part of your new dog walking business venture:

Potential Dog Walking Services or Models for Your Business

When you start your new dog walking business, you likely won’t want to offer all of these services as it may be overwhelming. So choose your core offerings carefully and build them up over time.

However, without further ado, here is our mega list of services you can offer when starting your new dog walking business/company:

  1. Individual Dog Walks: Great for dogs that don’t get along with others. Or for owners that want their dogs to have one on one attention.
  2. Group Dog Walks: Walking multiple dogs and allowing them to “socialize”. The dogs should be of a mild temperament and likely need to be similar in size.
  3. Off-Leash Adventures: Designated off-leash areas, dog parks, etc.
  4. Puppy Walks: Specifically for puppies, away from larger dogs, may include minor training and great for energy release.
  5. Senior Dog Walks: Gentle and slow walks for older dogs. Takes into account lower energy, possible mobility issues, etc.
  6. Exercise Sessions: Running, jogging, or biking alongside more energetic dogs.
  7. Nature Walks: On nature trails or scenic routes. Especially popular for dog owners whose dogs live in busy cities.
  8. Beach Walks: Walks along beaches or coastal areas.
  9. Neighborhood Strolls: Leisurely walks close to the dog’s home. Let them get familiar with their surroundings.
  10. Training Walks: If you’re qualified you can offer to Combine walking with basic training. This can include simple leash manners and listening to instructions.
  11. Express Walks: Shorter, time-efficient walks for busy pet owners,
  12. Vacation/Travel Walks: Walk dogs when owners are away on holiday or traveling. This can also include feeding the dog or just sitting with the dog in the owner’s house.
  13. Rainy Day Walks: Many dog walkers will cancel on a rainy day. You can set yourself ahead by offering to walk in the rain. Perhaps even with protective coats for the dogs if needed.
  14. Evening/Night Walks: Evening and night walks for owners who are not able to hand their dogs over during the daytime.
  15. Weekend Adventure Outings: Organizing longer outings on weekends.
  16. Fitness Tracking Walks: Use wearables like smart watches, or your mobile phone to give the owner some doggy walking info when you return!
  17. In-House Pickups: Owners give you a copy of their house key and you pick up the dog from their home.

There really are a vast amount of options and services that you can offer. Starting your dog walking business with a good set of services is vital in order to succeed.

Dog Owner Demographic Research

Next, you want to know your demographics. Of course people who own dogs… but which demographics are more likely to own dogs?

This kind of information is useful to determine whether it is worth you advertising in certain areas or using certain types of media. For example, if you want to target older generations, social media might not be a great idea. If you want to target young people, you won’t post flyers in retirement homes or places with a large percentage of elderly homeowners.

There’s tons of info out there already that can help you more accurately target your demographics:

Generally speaking, Millenials are the most likely to own a dog, accounting for around 1/3rd of all dog owners. Of course, you still need to consider Gen X, Gen Z, and Baby Boomers but these stats can help you split your time and effort better into the correct demographics.

How Much Should I Charge For Dog Walking?

The big question – how much to charge for dog walking once you’ve started up your own business?

This will heavily depend on your location, your competition, and the services you offer but generally speaking the average cost per hour for dog walking is:

  • USA: $20-$30 for a 30-minute walk.
  • UK: £10-£20 for a 30-minute walk.

You can estimate for your own country by converting currencies.

However, you can use our competition checker above for the most accurate profitable pricing. Find who your competition is and see what their prices are!

The benefit here is that you can understand the pricing on a much more granular level. For example, you can gauge rates for individual dog walks, group dog walks, seaside walks, nature hikes, and more.

Starting Your Dog Walking Business

Phew, we’ve been through a lot but we’re now at the point where we can finally look at starting our dog walking business. The research and the planning may seem excessive but many businesses fail simply because they don’t have a plan or vision. Taking the steps above puts you ahead of the vast majority of small business ventures.

We have our plan in place and understand our market so now we can officially kick off and start our dog walking business. But what first?

1. Choosing a Name For Your Dog Walking Business

It may seem trivial or even unimportant but choosing the name for your dog walking business is actually a critical step. It needs to capture the “feel” of the business, i.e. whether you want it to come across as very professional, or small and friendly. You also need to make sure that your dog walking business name is catchy, so it is remembered. And you need to make sure that the domain name for your to-be website is available.

So how do you choose the perfect dog walking business name? It is a surprisingly in-depth process and coming up with a name for your dog walking business is not easy. So, we’ve created a free dog walking business name generator, with thousands of possibilities.

2. The Business Plan

Just because setting up a dog walking business doesn’t appear to be overly complex, don’t be complacent. A solid business plan will help hugely when starting up your own dog walking company.

The research we’ve done so far will help us massively towards getting everything planned and down on paper. Let’s step through, piece by piece in terms of getting your dog walking business, business plan set up!

A business plan may seem daunting but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve created a full in-depth business plan guide along with examples, samples, and explanations.

3. Get the Right Equipment

Starting a dog walking business is of course dependant on being able to get the right equipment for the job. This can be equipment for you, for the dog, or both. Try to consider as many possibilities and scenarios as you can. It can be helpful to build a simple list of use cases like we have below. From this you should then be able to determine what equipment you need:

  • I need to get to and from my clients’ locations: Transport, good shoes, etc.
  • I need to ensure that I and the dogs are visible at night: Hi-vis clothing, lights, etc.
  • I need to make sure the dogs stay hydrated on hot days: water container, water, water bowls, etc.

And the list can go on of course. Below we’ve highlighted the major equipment that you should make sure you have in place for your dog walking business.

A. Transport

Transport is the big one, and depending on your plans may or may not be necessary. Ask yourself, how will you get to the owner’s home, how will you transport the dogs, how many dogs will you transport at a time and will they need to be separately caged?

dog walking business transport car
You may be ok using your personal car for dog walking-related transport but really consider the logistics.

Depending on your planning you may need a car, or a small pickup truck/van or you may not need transport at all if you are working in a very small local area. You may need cages to keep certain animals separated from each other or just to keep them safe in transit.

You then need to look at the features of your transport to make sure that there is adequate space, temperature control, ventilation, and comfortable seating/arrangements for your doggy customers.

B. Cleaning & Hygeine

This also relates to your transport. As a dog walking business, you will be transporting many dogs between their home and where you are going to walk them. This means that likely they will tread mud, dirt, or worse into your car/van. Of course, this means that the next dog that is transported will also get dirty.

Your best bet is to invest in some seat covers or other protective sheeting. That way they can easily be washed or even hosed down. In addition, make sure that you have the supplies to clean anything that the protection doesn’t cover.

For cleaning products, of course, ensure that they’re pet friendly, and consider looking into enzymatic cleaners for tougher biological messes and stains.

Finally, ensure that you have a heavy-duty pet vacuum (both standard and handheld/portable) as this will be invaluable in keeping your transport clean and fresh. Check out our recommendation below:

Recommended

  • Buy Bissell, save pets; Bissell will donate 5 dollars for each purchase.
  • Remove more embedded dirt and pet hair with a motorized brush tool.
  • 14V lithium ion battery.
  • Large, easy to empty dirt bin.
  • Set of specialized pet tools included.

C. Hi-Vis Vests & Clothing

If there is even a small possibility that you will be taking dogs out for walks during low light or poor visibility conditions then you absolutely should have hi-vis clothing prepared. You can get cheap hi-vis vests for dogs, and hi-vis vests or jackets for yourself.

The main reason of course is safety, but it also works well as a marketing tool as it shows that you’re a caring, careful, and considerate dog walking business. Customers will appreciate this and it will help boost business as a nice side effect.

D. Dog Poop Bags

Of course an essential need for any dog walking business – dog poop bags. You will need bags in huge quantities so we recommend that you buy dog poop bags in bulk. You can grab 1,000 dog poop bags at $0.02 a bag so while not a huge expense anyway you can easily cut down on your costs.

E. Water Bowls & Water Equipment

An essential piece of equipment for any dog walking business is of course water bowls. You should be looking at water bowls at a minimum and depending on your climate or the number of dogs you’ll walk each day you could even look into small portable water dispensers.

On top of that, you also need the water! So a large container and perhaps several smaller top-up containers so that you can take the water with you on the walk.

Keep the dogs you walk hydrated to keep them happy and your dog walking business customers happy!

F. Dog Leads, Leashes and Harnesses

In most cases, your customers (the dog’s owners) will provide their own leashes or harnesses. But, when thinking about what you need to start a dog walking business, you also need to think of worst-case scenarios.

The leash that you’re given could snap or break in some way. So, it makes sense to have a couple of spares just in case. A lost dog is not a good look for a new dog walking business!

It also means that you can swap out an uncomfortable handle for something like the leash below. You’ll be holding that leash for hours every day so you should make sure that it is comfortable to hold.

Recommended

  • Heavy duty: Made with strongest 1/2 inch diameter rock climbing rope.
  • Comfortable padded handles: Protects your hand from rope burn.
  • Reflective for night safety: Highly reflective threads dog leash keeps you both safe.
  • 100% money back guarantee.

4. Understand the Rules & Regulations

These rules for dog walking businesses will differ from country to country, and sometimes even within countries. Checking out your local council or state website is a good starting point to understand what rules apply when you start a dog walking business. Additionally, many animal charities also provide good advice such as this amazing professional dog walker guidance PDF, and even business insurance websites have some good advice. But generally what you’ll need to keep in mind:

  • Clean up dog poo or face a fine.
  • Restrict the number of dogs walked at a time. There may not be strict laws about this but typically there are laws around being able to control your dogs. Too many dogs are impossible to control.
  • Only allow the dogs off the leash where it is safe to do so, but also only where you are allowed to do so.
  • Register as a self-employed, sole trader and pay your taxes.

Your country or region may have more or less strict rules so ensure that you check in with the relevant authorities in your region. Some countries may even require you to apply for a dog walking license although most do not.

5. Prepare for the Worst

Starting a dog walking business comes with risks and liabilities just like any other business. Remember that you are taking care of not just an animal but in many cases a member of someone’s family.

There are steps you can take to limit these risks and in the worst case, you can cover yourself from any liability if these risks actually materialize.

Dog Walking Insurance

An absolute must when starting a dog walking business is to get yourself covered with business insurance. You can go the generic route but we suggest that you go for specific dog walking insurance.

You want at a minimum to be covered against:

  • Any damages or injury caused by a dog under your control.
  • Accidents and injuries to the dog itself.
  • Loss of animal cover.

Ensuring that you’re covered gives you peace of mind and again can help your customers feel more confident handing their beloved pet over to you.

Mitigate or Plan for These Risks

As much as we would hope for the best, there is always the chance that something will go wrong when you have your dog walking business set up. Below we have some ways to proactively avoid them or simply to have planned for them happening ahead of time:

  • As previously mentioned, hi-vis clothing prevents any accidents.
  • Spare leashes in case one breaks and a dog takes off.
  • Water and water bowls to prevent dehydration.
  • Don’t take more dogs at one time than you can realistically manage/keep an eye on.
  • Take the customer’s emergency phone number so you can contact them in case of injuries, accidents, etc.
  • Request information from the customer on any medical issues the dog may have.

There are of course more things you can do and a lot of them will be dependent on your own situation. Just sit down and consider the worst that could happen, how you could prevent it, or how you can reduce how bad it is if it does happen. Formalize it in a document, pass it by friends and family, and really bulletproof your dog walking business.

Dog Walking Business Marketing

In order to get clients for your dog walking business, you need to market yourself. Because it’s likely your business will be local, then offline marketing is best suited here but do not ignore the online component by any means.

How to Start a Dog Walking Business: A Complete Guide

Create Flyers & Sell Yourself

Creating a flyer is cheap and easy with services such as Vistaprint which will print your flyers and deliver them to your home. If you want an even cheaper option where you can print them from home check out Canva which has tons of dog walking business flyer templates available.

canva dog walking template
Canva hosts tons of dog walking flyer templates.

The really important step is deciding what you include and how you will set yourself apart from others.

Explain What You Offer

Generally of course you mention that you offer dog walking services, but be clear. Mention the times available, how long the walks will be, the cost, and any extras that your offer. But DO NOT overload the flyer with information. If it is too busy people simply won’t read it. Find the right balance.

Offer a Low-Cost Trial or Other Offers

Everybody loves a bargain, but don’t go too overboard. Make sure that your offers are still profitable to you. Some ideas or concepts to think about:

  • Entice customers with a cheap first walk.
  • Multi-dog discount.
  • Refer a friend discount.
  • Every 10th walk is free.

Make your savings and offers really stand out. Check what other dog walking businesses in the local area offer. Remember we have our competition checker at the top of this article – use that to find your competitors and then find their offers/discounts.

Make Sure You're Contactable

Give people choice. Let them contact you by phone, text, email, website contact form, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever other mediums make sense to you. There’s nothing worse than losing a customer because they’re not comfortable with a particular form of contact. These details should be clear on your flier in the form of a “call to action“. Don’t just list your details, actually instruct them to contact you.

You’ll also need to make sure that you keep an eye on any communication options you give. Set up notifications and alerts to make sure you don’t miss any business.

Set-up a Dog Walking Business Website

Just because your business is local, don’t ignore having an online presence in the form of a simple website. It will generally increase confidence in your business, you can ask your customers for feedback which can be added to the site and you can even add the link to your flyer and push people towards the site which contains more detailed info on your services.

You can even go further and add in a pre-made booking system, contact form and more.

Creating a website is easy and cheap.

A lot of people see creating a website as complex or costly but with a full coverage web host such as Ionos you can spin up a website in minutes, and it can cost you as little as £1/$1 a month:

We suggest going for the WordPress package which is basically a website and blog in a box.

In fact, Earnologist runs on WordPress and we use Ionos as our host, so take a look around at what is possible!

Social Media

Facebook is a great place to start. With many local groups already in place, you can gauge interest and promote your business (don’t spam!) to those in your immediate area.

You can connect with like-minded individuals, drum up interest in your business and even get friends and family to do a little bit of sneaky promotion and marketing on your behalf!

Remember the Financials

Part of understanding how to start a dog walking business is understanding the financials. This is both from the perspective of costs (to you), such as tax, equipment, etc. and also the profit vs time.

As we’ve mentioned it is critical that you sign up as self-employed and that you pay your taxes. And just as importantly you need to figure out what your taxes will be as you don’t want a surprise after-tax to find out that your business is not that profitable.

Figure out a good price for your services. Don’t go crazy but don’t undersell yourself. In the beginning, it helps to be a little flexible to get those first customers and their reviews & recommendations. But again, make sure it is still profitable and worth your time.

A simple spreadsheet to note down your expected outgoings (the cost of what we covered in the equipment section above), and expected earnings based on the number of dogs you will walk per day and how much you will charge. Remember to take taxes into account.

Once you’re happy that it is practical financially to start a dog walking business, then you’re good to go!

Conclusion

So by now, you should have a good idea of how to start a dog walking business, know what you need to consider and have some actionable tips to get you started.

While you’re waiting for your business to get off the ground, or even just to get some additional funds to help towards the planning, make sure to check out the other earning opportunities we have here on Earnologist.

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