If you are an animal lover then there can be few jobs as enjoyable as being a professional Dog Walker. Before you start out though there are some things to consider, like how to actually make it pay! But let’s start at the beginning....
A first basic requirement is transport:
- Unless the dogs you are walking are within easy reach then obviously you will need some way of getting there – this could be public transport but for many reasons it is better if you own your own car.
- It may be an issue, for instance, if there are no suitable places to walk the dog close by to where it lives.
- If you are going to use your car to transport the dogs, then you will need to speak to your car insurer to make sure that you are correctly covered.
You will have to advertise your services:
- This can be done fairly cheaply using shop notice boards and by word of mouth - always tell people what you do and if possible have a business card with your telephone number and other details, to give them as well.
- Don’t forget local vet surgeries, pet shops and kennels – these places will be pleased to pass on your leaflets and cards.
- It also pays when starting out to advertise in your local paper for two or three weeks so that you reach a wider audience – once people know you and realise that you give good service then you are on your way.
- Look out for opportunities to speak at meetings – as a dog walker you’ll be bound to have lots of amusing doggy tales to tell. The addition of some cute pictures will add a bit of extra interest too... you have to be prepared to give your time freely here but try to look upon it as free advertising.
- Clubs and groups such as ‘Young Wives’ are always on the lookout for entertainment as it were... I know someone who recently won a rather lucrative decorating contract after speaking at a W.I. meeting!
- And don’t forget to put an eye catching sticker in your car too so as you travel about you are automatically spreading the word.
The importance of research
This cannot be stressed enough. In order to be competitive you need to know what the going rate is and set your rates accordingly. Find out who is operating in your area and what they offer.
Some dog walkers offer for instance that the dog is returned happy and clean. Think about it – if you don’t have the time to walk your dog then chances are you don’t want to have to wash its paws when it comes back either
A little more about pricing
If you walk a dog alone then it stands to reason you will earn less than if you walk two together. Take this into account when giving a price to your prospective client.
The ideal situation is to have two or three dogs within the same area that you can walk together.
This issue can be discussed with the client – it may be that they are happy to pay extra for a one to one service but if not then you have to be sure the dog is not aggressive with other dogs. (A word of warning – don’t take your clients word for it that their dog is fine. Make it your business to know the dog beforehand and make your own personal assessment.)
Always take into account your travelling time and your travelling expenses when charging. It’s no use charging £10 per hour only to find that you spend £5 in petrol and it takes up a good hour and half to get there and back.
Tips and tricks
- Carry water at all times in case the dogs need to drink – especially summertime.
- Keep a spare lead with you for emergencies.
- Keep a doggie first aid kit with you at all times.
- Don’t forget the essential doggie bags either.
- Treat make life easier – if you let a dog off the lead for a run then you need to know it’s going to come back – if you reward it for good behaviour then you shouldn’t have a problem.
- Make sure you have the owner’s contact details.
Last but most certainly not least is insurance
You will need a special pet insurance to cover you for accidents and emergencies and more importantly perhaps you will also need public liability. So make sure you contact a reputable insurer to discuss your needs. It really isn’t worth taking the risk of being caught out. If something untoward were to happen it would prove costly in more ways than one because for a dog walker, a good insurance is the pivotal spring upon which their business stands or falls.
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