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Earning Potential for Dog Walkers: How Much Dog Walkers Make

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Is there anything better than leashing up your pup for a brisk walk around the block, a hike in the woods, or a trip to the dog park? Avid dog walkers might think the only thing better than making your dog’s day with a W-A-L-K is getting paid for it! If dog walking sounds like a line of work you could sink your teeth into, you’re not alone. But how much do dog walkers make anyway?  

Dog walking as a professional service is highly in demand at the moment—and the industry shows no signs of slowing down. IBISWorld reports that the dog walking industry is set to clear $1.3 billion this year alone, with a market growth of 1.6% over the past five years and an estimated 63,000 registered dog walkers operating in the U.S.

A confluence of factors is contributing to a boom in dog walking services, including high pet adoption rates in 2020 at the onset of the pandemic coupled with increased return-to-work policies enforced by many American companies in the years since. Since all those pandemic pups who are used to having a friend around need an outlet for their energy, dog walkers are filling the void en masse—and some are getting paid handsomely for their efforts.

But before you set up your own pooch patrol, it’s important to be realistic about how much dog walkers make (aka your earning potential) , the factors that influence dog walker pay, and the kinds of services you might consider offering your clients (the two-legged ones, that is).

How Much Do Dog Walkers Make?

The answer is: it depends. According to some estimates, the average pay that a dog walker can expect in the U.S. is around $14.85 per hour, with a median yearly salary of around $30,893. The same report estimates the low-end yearly compensation at around $22,000 while high earners can expect around $44,000.

However, the deeper you dig into dog walker salary, the more astounding outliers you might find. For example, the New York Times ran a story in early 2023 about several dog walkers in New York City making over $100,000 per year, even franchising their services by hiring more dog walkers and expanding their business into alternate services like training, grooming, and boarding. And while this is far from realistic for the majority of people just starting out in the dog walking or pet care industry, it illustrates how certain factors can dramatically increase revenue.

What Factors Affect a Dog Walker’s Salary?

When it comes to getting paid for your paw patrol (not the kids’ show) there are some important factors to keep in mind, including:

Location

The geographical location plays a significant role in determining the annual salary of professional dog walkers. The demand for dog walking services can vary greatly depending on the region, which directly impacts the potential earnings. Certain states tend to offer higher salaries for dog walkers due to various factors such as population density, cost of living, and pet ownership rates.

California, for instance, boasts a thriving market for pet services and consistently ranks among the top states where dog walkers earn the most. New York follows closely, with its dense urban areas and high concentration of pet owners. Zippia lists the 10 states where dog walkers earn the most in 2023 based on average salary, hourly rate, and reported job listings as:

  • Nevada
  • Washington
  • Connecticut
  • Oregon
  • West Virginia
  • New Hampshire
  • Maine
  • California
  • Rhode Island
  • Idaho

 

These locations provide ample opportunities for dog walkers to cater to a large clientele and command higher rates, ultimately influencing their annual earnings. However, demand for dog walkers is also highly localized, and pet owners in your community might be willing to pay more depending on their specific circumstances. So if you don’t live in one of these states, don’t give up on your dog walking dreams!

Reputation

Reputation and experience play a significant role in determining how much you’ll make as a dog walker. Dog walkers with a strong reputation and extensive experience are more likely to command higher salaries compared to those who are just starting out in the industry.

A good reputation is built on positive client feedback, recommendations, and testimonials. Think about it: if you were hiring someone to take your precious pup out of the safety of your house while you were away, wouldn’t you be more likely to hire someone with a proven track record of providing excellent service and care? This trust translates into higher demand for your services, allowing you to charge higher rates.

Experience also plays a crucial role in determining how much dog walkers make. Those who have been in the industry for a longer time have likely encountered various situations and challenges while working with different types of dogs. This experience equips them with the necessary skills and knowledge to handle any situation that may arise during their walks like:

  • territorial behavior
  • social anxiety
  • medical emergencies
  • dogs who escape their leashes

 

As a result, experienced dog walkers can justify charging higher rates due to their expertise and ability to provide top-notch care for dogs.

It’s important for aspiring dog walkers to understand that building a solid reputation takes time and effort. By consistently delivering exceptional service, building trust with new clients and their pets, and continuously improving your skills through opportunities like dog training courses, or even veterinary first aid, you can enhance your reputation in the industry and increase your earning potential.

If you are unwilling or unable to start your own service through word of mouth or advertising, you can enroll in services like Rover, which pairs clients with dog walkers through online profiles where you can specify your location, availability, and rate. Your profile also includes an overall rating and space for clients to leave reviews, helping you gain experience and build your reputation.

Types of Services Offered

You can also make more as a professional dog walker by expanding the range of services you offer to your clients. These services can vary depending on factors such as the duration of the walk, additional tasks requested by the owner, and the level of expertise required to provide the service.

  • Common services offered by professional dog walkers include regular walks, group walks, solo walks, puppy visits, and pet sitting.
  • Regular walks typically involve taking dogs out for a set period of time to provide exercise and mental stimulation. Some dog walkers will set their rates either per walk or per hour.
  • Group walks allow dogs to socialize with other dogs under supervision, while solo walks are tailored for dogs who prefer one-on-one attention or have specific needs. Group walks entail leashing multiple dogs together for one walk and require a higher degree of strength and control on the part of the dog walker.
  1. Puppy visits are designed for young puppies who require frequent potty breaks and playtime throughout the day. Since puppies often don’t have the stamina for long walks, dog walkers might simply play with a toy or even just keep them company for a set period of time.
  • Pet sitting is different from dog walking and involves caring for a dog in their own home while their owner is away, providing companionship and meeting their daily needs. Pet sitting carries a higher risk as you are responsible for someone else’s pet—and potentially even their home—for an extended period of time.

 

The cost of these services can vary depending on several factors. One significant factor is the experience and qualifications of the dog walker. Those with more experience or specialized training may charge higher rates due to their expertise in handling different breeds or behavioral issues.

Additionally, some services may require extra time or effort from the dog walker. For example, pet sitting may involve staying overnight at a client’s home or providing additional care such as administering medication or grooming.

It’s important to note that while some professional dog walkers may earn higher salaries due to offering specialized services or catering to high-end clientele, many factors contribute to determining a fair salary for this profession including overhead costs (such as dog walkers’ insurance), business expenses (such as transportation), and local demand for these services.

dog with other dog on leash on city street

How to Determine Your Rate as a Dog Walker

Determining how much to charge as a dog walker isn’t an exact science, but a little preparation can help you earn an amount that’s fair to you and your clients while giving you room to expand your business.

  1. Research rates in your area: Research is the most important factor in setting a competitive rate for your dog walking business. Start by looking up listings in your city for dog walkers and pay attention to their pricing model. Do they charge per walk? Per hour? The number of dogs at a time? Distance walked? All of these factors can help you get a sense of the industry standards in your area and what the local market can handle.
  2. Be realistic about your goals: When you’re just starting out, don’t be swayed by the eye-popping dog walker salaries you might see online where someone might be making six figures walking a movie star’s pomeranian to Starbucks and back. Outliers like this are always aspirational (the writer of this article wouldn’t mind a gig like that!) but they’re never indicative of what your time and skill are worth in a realistic market scenario.
  3. Account for your financial and time costs: Decide on the level of commitment you’re comfortable with: Are you looking to pick up some extra cash and get your daily steps in with a neighbor’s loveable pup? Or are you building a dog walking empire that necessitates a full-time commitment and effort?

    Hidden costs like gas and time spent driving to a client’s home, leashes and doggy bags, dog walker insurance, advertising and marketing, and other business costs can add up, and economies of scale can make certain jobs more lucrative than others. When determining your rates consider the level of time and monetary investment you’re able to supply and ensure that you’re being compensated for it.

  4. Find ways to make your services more valuable: Maybe you specialize in working with large breed dogs, or pups with special medical conditions, or maybe you own a vehicle large enough to transport multiple dogs at a time to a dog park. By looking for things that set your dog walking service apart, you can tap into underserved markets and charge a premium in your rate.

 

By building a reputation for yourself as a reliable professional with the tools and work ethic necessary to provide a valuable service for people and their precious pooches.

In an industry built on trust, one of the potentially most important steps you can take to build a dedicated client base is to invest in dog walker insurance from Pet Care Insurance. For as little as $13.33 per month, you can receive comprehensive insurance to protect your business in the event of an accident while walking or caring for dogs.

With a general liability limit of $2 million per year, you can demonstrate to your clients that you’re prepared in the case of a medical emergency, conflict with another dog or person, or other unforeseen event that might result in serious liability or medical expenses. Protect your business and your four legged friends with dog walkers insurance from PCI. Buy your policy today or contact us to learn more about coverage!

Author:

Matt Bieker is a marketing copywriter at Pet Care Insurance. He graduated from the University of Nevada Reno with a degree in Journalism and is the recipient of several Nevada Press Association recognitions for his writing. He is a lifelong animal lover and is writing these articles with his cat, Ted, sleeping next to his keyboard.

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