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How to Start a Dog Walking Business in 5 Easy Steps

two dog walkers petting the dogs
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Maybe the best part of your day is spending some time patrolling the neighborhood with your pooch. Maybe you need a little more motivation to get your daily steps in and Fido is better than any personal trainer you know. Or maybe the only way to stop your four-legged friend from wrecking the apartment is to keep him occupied with his daily walk.

Whatever the reason, dog walkers spend a decent part of their week with a leash and poop bags on hand—so why not get paid for it? Here’s how to start a dog walking business in five steps: 

  • Research local dog walking businesses
  • Decide what services to offer and how to price them
  • Account for startup costs
  • Make it official: set up your business entity, register your business, and get dog walker insurance
  • Promote your new dog walking business
dog walker with dog in a field

Why Start a Dog Walking Business?

Dog walking is an increasingly popular business model that caters to the influx of pets adopted by Americans during the pandemic. As many workers have returned to the office in the years since, there’s been an uptick in services catering to their pups—and pet parents are paying big.

The New York Times ran an article in 2023 about some dog walkers in New York earning over $100,000 per year, some through a combination of services including pet sitting, grooming, and more. And while that can be an enticing figure, it’s far from the norm.

Still, a full-time dog walker in the United States can expect to pull down anywhere from $21,000 to $49,000 with an average salary of $33,466—not bad for a business with puppy play time at its core! If you’re considering starting up a dog walking business, though, it’s important to have a plan in place.

Keep reading to find out how to start a dog walking business, including what you’ll need to make it official and promote your services.

Conduct Market Research

A business is only as successful as the market in which it operates. For dog walkers, that usually means a geographical area—either the one in which you live or in which you have a critical mass of clients that you’re willing to commute to meet.

Conducting market research in this sense essentially means looking around to see if the area in which you are planning to operate already has plenty of dog walkers, how much they charge, and if there is a viable client base left unserviced.

A simple google search is the best first step here. Look for dog walkers or services in your area and gauge the amount of results you find. You can also use Rover.com, which is a nationwide service that connects dog walkers and sitters with potential clients, to see how much competition is in your area.

You might also try visiting a local dog park and politely inquiring with dog owners about any dog walking services they already use, or, crucially, any services they wish were available. Offering things like house sitting, grooming, poop scooping, or similar services can give you an edge on the competition and allow you to charge a premium.

If you come to the conclusion that you do happen to live in a fairly saturated market, don’t worry! It doesn’t mean your doggy dreams are dashed, necessarily, but you might have to rethink your pricing strategy, which we’ll talk about below.

dog walker on city street with three dogs

Decide Which Services You’ll Provide

Part of how to start a dog walking business includes deciding what types of services you’ll offer. Dog walking can be the only service you choose to provide, but even then, there’s more than one category of dog walking. Your dog walking business plan might choose to offer:

  • Single walks: This is where you just walk one dog at a time, usually picking him/her up from a pre-approved destination like the owner’s home. You might drive your canine client to their favorite park for a run, or maybe you’ll take them for a stroll around the block before bringing them home. Either way, one dog gets all your attention. This can make it easy to plan out routes, get to know what the dog likes and doesn’t like, and handle any medical or other problems that arise. However, you’re also limited to one client for as long as you agree to look after them.

 

  • Group walks: Group walks mean you’re walking multiple dogs at the same time in one giant, multi-leashed, pooch patrol. These kinds of walks might be more appropriate for an experienced dog walker, since you are responsible for multiple people’s pets and the chance something could go wrong is greater when your attention is divided. However, you can also multiply your revenue by servicing more dogs at the same time, making it an economically efficient service for those with the ability and resources.

 

  • Supervised playtime: This kind of service means visiting a dog in their home and providing some sanctioned play time or a chance to use the restroom while their owner is away. It might look like a quick romp around the backyard or gently tossing a toy around the living room. These kinds of visits might be needed for puppies who don’t need a whole walk, older dogs with limited mobility, or smaller dogs who just need to stretch their legs. These kinds of visits incur less liability since you aren’t taking the dog from the owner’s home, but they require a deeper level of trust between your client and yourself since you’re responsible for their home while they’re away.

 

Providing any or all of these types of walks can be enough to make you invaluable to your clients, but you might also consider expanding your range of services to make additional income. With the right knowledge base, credentials, and resources, you can expand into offering:

 

Offering different pet services provides multiple revenue streams, and finding a niche (a service you offer that other competitors don’t) can drastically improve profits and potential for expansion. However, more specialized services might require a greater investment on your part such as pet first-aid classes, getting certified as a pet trainer, transportation needs for the animals in your care, special licensing or certifications, and so on.

How to Price Your Services

Establishing price points for dog walking and any other services is a balancing act that should take several things into consideration, such as:

  • How many dog walkers charge a similar price
  • Which services you offer that may or may not be available through other businesses
  • Basic expenses like transportation costs, insurance premiums, marketing materials, and so on – more on all of that later
  • Time you spend providing your services

 

If your area contains plenty of existing dog walking businesses, you might have to lower your prices to stay competitive. However, the trick is to not lower your prices so much that the time you spend on your business can’t cover your basic expenses.

Start by comparing your hourly rate to the national average, or searching for the average dog walker salary by state to get a “ruff” (get it?) estimate of what you could be making. There are also numerous free market research tools available for dog walkers to help them establish a competitive price.

Finally, decide on how you’d like to be paid. Perhaps it makes more sense to charge per half hour with a discount for multi-hour walking sessions, or maybe you charge by the mile.

Whatever works for you, make sure your prices are communicated to your clients clearly ahead of time so you both know how much you’re expecting to make for a specific job. With your price established, it’s much easier to crunch the numbers of how many dogs, which types of services, and how long you’ll have to spend to make your business profitable.

dog waker on street with 5 poodles on leashes

Account for Startup Costs

Dog walking is a relatively inexpensive business to start funding. Heck, with a few bucks for a leash, some poop bags, and a quality pair of running shoes, you’ve covered most of your essentials! Unfortunately, however, establishing a real, legal business isn’t quite so simple.

In order to come up with a solid dog-walking business plan, it’s important to be prepared for the costs you might incur when starting your business. These include things like:

  • Federal tax number (Employer Identification Number, or EIN)
    Any required state and local business licenses
  • Dog walkers insurance
  • Website and marketing materials like business cards, postcards, or door hangers
  • Supplies like pooper scooper tools and supplies you’ll need on walks
  • Membership fees for professional organizations
  • Gas and insurance for transportation
  • Bank account and payment processing fees

 

Your startup costs will vary depending on your ultimate goals, legal business structure, number of employees, etc. By establishing a clear idea of what you’d like your business to be as early as possible—whether it’s a part-time cash grab or the foundation of your canine-centric business empire—you can better understand the kinds of costs you might incur and plan for them accordingly.

Pro tip: It’s a safe bet to put aside at least $500 to $1,000 to cover your startup costs and have a few resources on hand while you find your footing.

Make It Official, Legal, and Credible

For most people, professional dog walking can be a simple exchange: Your pup’s owner hands you a fistful of cash, you grab the leash and you’re jamming out to your preferred Spotify playlist on your way to the park. 

But you aren’t most people—you’re a dedicated professional! The truth is this kind of business organization is great for making a quick buck under the table, but it opens you up to potential liability (and its associated costs) and limits your chances to expand your operation. 

Decide on a Business Entity 

In order to build a clientele that trusts you, and to protect yourself from the legal peril of a cash-only business, you might want to look into the various kinds of legal structures your business can take. The two most common ones are:

  • Sole proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is the simplest form of legal business entity, and is essentially just an unincorporated business owned and operated by yourself, under your own name. If you want to change the name of your business but retain your classification as a sole proprietorship, you’ll need to file for a DBA (Doing Business As). Sole proprietorships don’t require as extensive accounting initiatives as LLCs and are generally more simple to operate, but your personal assets are threatened if you incur any liability. 
  • LLC (Limited Liability Corporation): LLCs are companies legally incorporated at the state level and exist separately from their owners. There’s more to it, but essentially, incorporating your business as an LLC means that, while your business is owned by, you are not personally responsible for the debts and liabilities your business might incur. 

 

It’s worth it to research the specific of LLCs or Sole Proprietorships to better understand which entity best serves your vision for your company. Once you decide, there are also certifications which can make your company more trustworthy to the public or allow you to provide new services. 

Set Up a Business Bank Account 

Even if you opt to set up your business as a sole proprietor, you’ll need a separate bank account when you start your dog walking business. It’s important to keep personal and business finances separate as you’ll have to file state (and sometimes city) taxes. 

Separating personal and business funds also makes it easier to know if your business is profitable and sustainable. Plus, it’s a must if you plan to grow and expand your business, hire employees, and so on.

Become Pet First Aid Certified

To become certified in pet first aid, look for reputable organizations or companies that offer pet first aid certification courses. These courses provide comprehensive training on how to respond to common pet emergencies and administer basic first aid. You can often find them through local veterinary clinics, animal shelters, or by searching online. 

Once you’ve found a course that suits your needs, sign up and complete the required training. The duration of the course can vary, but they typically cover topics like CPR, wound care, choking, and assessing vital signs in pets. 

After successfully completing the course, you’ll receive a certificate that demonstrates your proficiency in pet first aid. This certification can be valuable for dog walkers and pet sitters as you can demonstrate to potential clients that you’re equipped to care for their pets in emergency situations while they’re with you.

Get Dog Walker Insurance

All dog walking businesses need to get dog walker insurance due to the potential risks and liabilities involved. While walking dogs may seem like a straightforward job, accidents can happen at any time. For instance, a dog could get loose and cause damage to property or injure someone. In such cases, insurance can provide financial protection and cover the costs of any legal claims or medical expenses that may arise. 

Additionally, accidents involving dogs themselves can occur, such as bites or injuries during walks. Having insurance can help cover veterinary costs, ensuring that both you and the dog are protected. 

Some clients may even require proof of insurance before entrusting their pets to a dog walker, as it provides peace of mind and shows a level of professionalism. Obtaining an insurance policy is an essential step for professional dog walkers to safeguard their business, protect themselves and their clients, and maintain credibility within the industry.

Join Professional Societies

Joining associations related to pet care is a great way to connect with fellow professionals in the industry and stay updated on the latest trends and practices. Research organizations that align with your interests and goals, looking for ones that cater specifically to pet care professionals. Good examples include:

  1. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS)
  2. The Professional United Pet Sitters (PUPS)
  3. The International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP)

 

Keep in mind that some associations will require you to complete an application form and provide relevant credentials (like a copy of your business license) or proof of experience in the field. Once accepted as a member, you can start enjoying the benefits such as networking opportunities, access to educational resources, industry events, and even discounts on products or services. 

dog with other dog on leash on city street

Market Your New Dog Walking Business

Once you’ve done all your research, filled out the appropriate forms, and paid all your start-up costs, it’s time to let everyone know that you’re officially in the dog walking business! Marketing your company is a crucial part of attracting clients and expanding your business, and in the modern age, there are plenty of things you can do on your own to tell your story and attract clients.

Publish a Website

Having your own website, allows you to showcase your services, experience, and any special qualifications you have. It allows you to provide detailed information about your rates, availability, and the areas you serve. 

No-code website builders like Wix even allow you to take customer payments online.  A website also offers a platform for testimonials and reviews from satisfied clients, which can build trust and credibility. 

Having a website makes it easier for dog owners to find and contact you, as they can simply search online and access all the necessary information in one place. In today’s digital age, having a professional website is crucial for any business, including professional dog walkers, as it helps them stand out from the competition and reach a wider audience.

Get on Social Media

Social media provides an opportunity for you to build a strong online presence and establish yourself as a trusted professional. By regularly sharing informative content about pet care, training tips, or interesting stories from your walks, you can position yourself as a knowledgeable and reliable expert in the industry. This helps to instill confidence in potential clients and encourages them to choose your services over others.

Social media also enables you to engage directly with your audience by responding to comments, messages, and inquiries promptly. This personalized interaction helps in building trust and forming connections with potential clients. 

Lastly, social media provides a cost-effective marketing solution for professional dog walkers by allowing you to advertise your services without spending large amounts of money on traditional advertising methods. By utilizing targeted ads and promoting posts within specific geographical areas or interest groups related to pets or dogs, you can reach your desired audience effectively.

Leverage Word-of-Mouth

When your clients share positive experiences with their friends, family, and neighbors, it generates trust and credibility for your business. Potential clients are more likely to trust the recommendations of people they know and respect, making word-of-mouth referrals a powerful marketing tool. 

Additionally, word-of-mouth recommendations often come with personal anecdotes and stories, which can create an emotional connection with potential clients. These personal endorsements differentiate you from your competitors and showcase your unique qualities and expertise. Word-of-mouth referrals also tend to attract clients who align with your target market and values, leading to loyal, long-term client relationships.

Check out five great ideas to attract your first dog walking clients here! 

Starting your own dog walking business can be a fun and profitable enterprise with perks like minimal startup costs, the ability to set your own schedule, and all the wet-nosed kisses you can ask for. With some careful planning and dedication to providing great service, your business will be up and running in no time—and Pet Care Insurance (PCI) will be here to support you when it is!

PCI’s dog walker insurance provides your business with $2 million in general liability coverage per year, dedicated customer support, and the option to cancel anytime, all for as little as $13.33 per month. Protect your budding business and your four-legged clientele with PCI! 

 

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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Comparing Employee Dishonesty Coverage & Bonding

PCI’s employee dishonesty coverage is similar to a bond, but there may be some key differences to consider.

Employee dishonesty coverage:

  • Can be purchased in the same transaction
  • Doesn’t run credit checks
  • Provides $10,000 per occurrence and $25,000 aggregate coverage

Bonds may differ from our dishonesty coverage by:

  • Checking your credit during the application process
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