If you’re looking for a job that will let you hang out with dogs all day while you earn some cash, you may want to become a dog walker. Dog walking can be a lot of fun, and it will give you plenty of exercise and opportunities to enjoy being outside in nature.
There are also some drawbacks, like picking up poop and being outside when nature is not cooperating. However, if you’ve weighed the pros and cons and think a career as a dog walker is for you, then you’ll need to be prepared.
These days, there are plenty of ways to go about getting a dog walking gig. You can start your own business from the ground up, use a website or app, or go through a company that books clients and handles the business end for you. When I was a dog walker, I worked for a company called Windy City Paws, and I loved it.
Whatever way you choose to start your dog walking career, you’ll have to meet a few requirements. Here are a few tips for becoming a dog walker.
Get Some Experience
Almost every company, app, and client will ask what kind of experience you have with dogs. For some, being a lifelong dog owner is enough, but for others, you may need a little more proof that you can handle canines.
If you find yourself lacking dog walking experience, start asking friends and family who have dogs if you can walk their pups for a bit and if they’d be willing to be a reference for you. You have to start somewhere.
Keep in mind that just because you have a dog or have had one in the past doesn’t mean you have all the experience you need. Dogs have individual personalities, and some are more difficult to walk than others. You’ll be walking a variety of pooches on the job, so you need to know what you’re doing.
Find A Reputable Company Or App
No matter how you choose to start dog walking, you should do some homework.
If you want to work for a dog walking company, do a quick search for companies in your area and check Yelp and online reviews to make sure the company you pick has a good reputation before you apply.
If you choose to go with an app, look at both the client and walker reviews and pick one that will be convenient for you and easy for your clients to understand.
Even if you plan to start your own company, you’ll probably need to use some kind of app or site to connect with clients. Not all companies and apps are the same. Going with a reputable choice will help you get more work and meet your clients’ needs.
Have A Smart Phone
We live in a time where smart phones are practically a necessity. Most dog walking services require you to have a phone to connect with clients.
As a dog walker, I used an app that let me tell my clients when I arrived and left, how many times their dog pooped or peed, and let me leave notes. Some apps will let you take pictures of your dogs as you walk, and some clients even ask for pictures of their dogs’ poop–gross, I know–so they can tell that their dog is healthy.
You’ll have to use a smart phone for most of these apps, and you’ll have to at least be technologically capable enough to understand the apps.
The good news is that you may be able to write off part of the expenses of your data plan on your taxes because you’re using it for work.
Interview, Background Check, And Shadowing
Dog walking companies will interview you before you start to make sure you are a good fit and have appropriate experience. Apps may have you give personal information about yourself, post pictures of your home, and ask about your experience with dogs.
Keep in mind that these are interviews that you should take seriously, just like for any other job. Almost all companies and apps will require you to get a background check, usually at your own expense, and they will provide you with information about how to get one.
Some companies and apps will have you shadow an experienced dog walker for a day so you can learn the ropes. You should consider that to be part of the interview, as your performance is evaluated.
When I was a more experienced walker at the company I worked for, new walkers would shadow me. I had to turn down several who left early, wouldn’t put down their phones, or didn’t have the experience needed to safely handle dogs. Take the shadowing seriously.
Meet With Clients
Many clients will want to meet with you before they trust you with their precious pooches. They’ll want to introduce you to their pups and make sure you are a good fit.
This is also an opportunity for them to show you where everything is in their home, like leashes, poop bags, treats, and supplies.
Even if you are working for a company, clients can turn you down for another walker, which means less work for you.
Show up, be friendly and outgoing, and be ready to answer a lot of questions. It’s your chance to show clients that they’ll be leaving their fur family in good hands.
Be On Time, Be Responsible, And Pay Attention
Like almost every other job, punctuality is important. This is not a job where you can sleep through your alarm clock or show up hungover.
You can’t walk dogs with your headphones in or play mobile games. If you are distracted or not fully aware of your surroundings, you or your dogs can get hurt.
If you don’t show up on time, your clients will lose faith in you and hire someone who can do what they are supposed to do. From the interview, to the meetings, to the job, clients and employers expect you to be responsible, safe, and on time.
If you are, clients will stick with you and maybe even give you some bonus tips for a job well done.
Are you planning to get a dog walking job? What do you think someone who wants to be a dog walker should know before they start? Let us know in the comments below!