Dog walking is a great way to make money on the side and get fit at the same time.
Particularly in cities, there’s a lot of demand for dog walking services, and it’s well paid too.
Some people have even given up their day job to set up a full-time dog-walking business.
Here’s how you can make easy money as a dog walker.
- You make really good money (£10-15 per dog per hour or part of the hour)
- It’s fantastic exercise
- It’s pretty flexible
- and (I’m told) a great way to meet a new partner. Imagine – you make money and you meet the love of your life, all while getting fit!
In London and the South particularly people are willing to pay £10-15 per dog, per hour or part of an hour. So if you walk four at a time you could make £60 an hour! Of course, there are other aspects to this work, so you need to know what the potential costs and downsides are before you dive in to the dog walking business.
Dog walking really is as simple as it sounds. You arrange to pick up the animals, take them for a walk and then return them home. You might need to do it twice a day for each dog and a good walk means a minimum of half an hour – ideally an hour.
Dog walkers charge per dog, per hour. Rates range from about £10-15 per dog, per hour (or half hour in some cases). If you’re able to take several dogs at once that means you can earn significant amounts per day.
However, to start off with you need to be careful not to take on too many dogs for one walking slot. If you have not done this type of work before it might be best to start off with just one dog but you should be able to cope with about three or four dogs depending on their size, speed and levels of obedience early on.
Then, as you get to know their characters, you can organise them into groups that will get on well together. There are no current legal limits on how many dogs you can take out at once, but local councils say the worst problems they have are with dog walkers who take out more animals than they can cope with at any one time.
- Dogs running away and not coming back – dangerous and bad for business!
- Not being able to clean up after them all – illegal and a health hazard.
National guidelines suggest that six is the maximum number of dogs that walkers should be able to cope with at one time. However, some local councils have introduced their own rules and in North Lincolnshire, for example, the maximum is four dogs at once.
Make sure you’re aware of, and abide by, the rules in your area or you could face a fine. Your local council can answer any queries you may have so give them a call before you get started.
It’s also important to realise that this job isn’t always a ‘walk in the park’! You may be given dogs to walk who are really too unwell to go out, leading to emergency runs to the vet and difficult conversations with owners.
You may also have to deal with owners who don’t come home when they should, or who neglect their dogs and leave it to you to feed them and deal with ailments they may have. If you have a lot of dogs to walk each day, you may spend extra hours having to deal with the problem ones as well.
Firstly, you’ll have to decide whether you want to work for an agency or go at it alone. Both methods have their advantages. You’re more likely to get initial work if you’re registered with an agency, but they may charge for taking you on their books and take a cut of your earnings.
Try searching ‘dog walking jobs’ to see what’s on offer, or you could register with the national agency Animal Aunts. Individuals sometimes look for dog walkers on job boards like Gumtree, too.
A good reputation is often key to getting work, so if you want to be professionally vetted then sign up with the National Association of Registered Pet Sitters. Be warned, however, that membership doesn’t come cheap, so it might not be necessary if you’re just looking for the odd job.
If you choose to be self-employed, you’ll need to think about how you can promote your dog walking business. Also remember that you’ll need to register as self-employed with HMRC and pay your taxes each year.
If you’re feeling confident, speak to people walking their dogs in the park. Again, if you walk your own dog already they will trust you more.
Another good starting point for your dog walking venture is to get business cards printed. Log on to Vistaprint where they offer a set of 100 for about £10! You can then ask local cafés and other small businesses if you can leave them out for customers to see, or try posting them through letterboxes.
Thousands of dog owners a month come to websites looking for help walking their dogs – this could be for daily walks, one-off dog boarding or regular sitting. Once you’re live, you’re able to provide quotes to hundreds of dog owners a week with your own prices.
A typical daily walk can allow you to earn £200 per month per dog, and it’s a great way to keep fit while earning money looking after someone’s furry friend. Do your research and then dive in!
- It helps to have a car to reach people, so petrol could be a factor.
- Also, you should have a ready supply of pooper-scoopers and poops bags and perhaps extra collars or leashes in case the originals fray ( you could ask the owner whether they have a spare set before purchasing your own).
- You might also like to get gloves and/or antibacterial gel for keeping your hands hygienic.
- Apart from that, the biggest expense will probably be insurance. You should speak first to the dog owner to find out what insurance they already have.
Consider Pet Business Insurance as they offer a total package; public liability – if the dog runs out into the road and causes a pile up, or bites someone. Care, custody and control cover – looks after the pet itself, if it gets injured while under your care; and key replacement cover – if you lose your employers’ keys they’ll pay to change the locks.
The market rate for insurance starts at about £70 a year, although this price will be for the most basic cover. Assess your needs and shop around for the best deal for you.
In tough economic times like these, you might have to sweeten the deal for clients to fight off the competition. Offering both dog walking and pet minding services together will make you very useful, increasing your level of custom.
Additional services you might offer are pet feeding, washing pet clothes and bedding, and watering indoor and garden plants if your clients are away for a long weekend in the summer. Equally, vets are happy to see a patient who arrives with their pet sitter as long as payment is pre arranged with the owner. It’s also a good way of making extra money on top of your dog walking activities.
You could offer routine vet visits for annual vaccinations, plus flea and worming treatments, during the middle of the week. These times tend to be less busy and therefore less stressful for the pet concerned. It’s also a handy service to provide for busy customers working in the week!
You could also offer a pet B&B to take a dog or small pet, such as a hamster, home with you for a few days, offering full-time company to a pining pooch, or moving in for short periods of time, especially with cats. It’s best only to do this if you’re experienced at full time pet care. See how to set up a pet sitting operation in our article here.
Remember, selling yourself as a service that removes stress and bother for the client is key. Plenty of people have dogs but are too busy to do all the walking and caring themselves.
Be realistic, but market yourself as a time saving asset. Also remember to communicate your enthusiasm about the dogs themselves to build trust.
Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 and the Animals Act 1971, a dog must not cause distress to livestock on agricultural land. It is in fact legal for farmers to shoot a dog if they believe there’s substantial threat to their livestock. A dog causing livestock to flee can be damaging as sheep and cows can break their legs when trying to run away.
The person in charge of the dog at the time will be charged with the offence, not the owner. So be aware when walking on downs or farmland, especially in spring around lambing time.
When a dog does its business in a public place (eg. footpaths, parks, playgrounds, public beaches etc.) you have to clean it up by law and dispose of it properly. If you do not, you can be given a £50-£80 on the spot fine.
Your local council may well give away biodegradable poop bags for free, ask the environmental health department. Check the rules of your local park, these are usually posted at the entrance. It’s also useful to have the details of your nearest dog warden, so contact your local council for details.
For information on Dog Fouling Laws in the UK visit: www.gov.uk/control-dog-public/dog-fouling
You will also need the vet details for each of your customers in case of illness or accidents. You don’t need any training for this work but you could consider a canine first-aid course. Look up local ones online.
Find Extra Work recommends signing an agreement with any new customers in order to protect yourself from liabilities.
The best idea is a dog walking consent form, where you can include clauses such as who is responsible for the cost of emergency treatment when the dog is in your care.
Also include an agreement by the owner that the dog will have an annual vaccination and regular worming to stop the possible spread of disease to other dogs in your care.
You should speak to a solicitor for advice about drawing up a consent form and the conditions you should include.
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