With demand for expert dog care on the up, it’s no wonder so many budding entrepreneurs are wondering how to start a dog walking business.
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It could be the ideal next move for someone who loves dogs, so here’s our step-by-step guide. It covers everything from how to become a dog walker in the first place to marketing your dog walking business.
How to become a dog walker
You don’t need any formal training and qualifications to become a dog walker. But dogs can be quite a handful, so you should understand canine behaviour. Some dog walkers walk multiple dogs at once, meaning it’s important to know their needs and have their best interests at heart.
If you’d like to get more experience with dogs, you might consider volunteering at your local kennels or rescue centre.
You also need to have strong communication skills. This is useful when dealing with the dogs’ owners and growing your network. You should be physically fit, too, because the walks can be long and dogs can be stronger than you anticipate.
And if you’re someone who doesn’t like braving the outdoors when it’s cold, wet or muddy, be prepared. You’ll be outside come rain or shine, so you’ll need to decide whether bad weather is something you’re willing to brave.
Should I get training and qualifications?
You don’t need training or qualifications to become a dog walker, but having them can give you more credibility when building your client base. It can make your business appear more professional when you mention your qualifications in your marketing.
But most importantly, you’ll have the confidence that you’re offering a great service and that you can really look after the animals in your care.
Animal first aid, animal behaviour, and animal care are just some of the training and qualifications you can add to your CV.
These City and Guilds qualifications are offered in colleges and centres across the country:
Level 2 Certificate Of Technical Competence In Dog Walking
Level 2 Certificate of Technical Competence in Pet Sitting
Level 2 Certificate of Technical Competence in Animal Health, Husbandry and Handling
Level 3 Certificate of Technical Competence in Animal Nutrition
A chance to win £25,000 for your business
Few have been hit harder by Covid-19 than small business owners.
That’s why we’re giving away £25,000 to one entrepreneur as part of our #BusinessBoost campaign – to help start, grow, or revive their small business.
Entries close 17 September 2021. Terms and conditions apply.
How to start a dog walking business: step-by-step
Going self-employed and starting your own business gives you the freedom to be your own boss and choose the clients you work with, but the cliche is true – you have to put in the work to get the rewards. Here’s what you should do:
Write a dog walking business plan
Writing a business plan before you start out helps you identify the opportunity, your competitors, and how you’ll actually run your business. Doing this at the beginning of the process lets you answer all the necessary questions and tackle any potential problems early.
Read more about writing a business plan.
Get all the right checks
If you’re holding a dog owner’s keys and going into their house, you’ll need a Criminal Record Check. For jobs in England and Wales you can request a basic Disclosure and Barring Service check for £23.
There’s a different application process if your business is in Northern Ireland or Scotland. You’ll need to have lived at your current address for more than a year to apply online with Disclosure Scotland for a Basic Disclosure, which costs £25. While
for AccessNI, a basic check costs £18.
If you’ve lived at your address for under a year, you can apply for a Criminal Record Check through NarpsUK for £65.
Understand dog walking rules and regulations
NarpsUK has lots of information on how to start a dog walking business, and they’re especially helpful when it comes to understanding the key rules and regulations.
Some of these rules include:
meeting owners prior to the first booking
restricting the number of dogs walked to no more than four at a time
keeping records of all work undertaken
protecting clients’ personal information
making sure all dogs in public are wearing a collar with the owner’s name and address on it
cleaning up faeces (if you don’t do this, you could be fined up to £1,000)
You don’t have to, but joining NarpsUK gives you access to lots of help and advice on setting up a dog walking business. Telling your clients you’re a member can also give them peace of mind.
Think about business insurance
Dog owners put you in charge of their pets, which means they expect you to be careful and reliable.
Getting a tailored dog walking insurance policy policy can help you show clients that you’re serious about your work. We explain more about business insurance at the end of this guide.
Work out how much you’re going to charge
As a dog walker you can expect to earn around £8-15 per dog for walks that last between 30 minutes and an hour.
If you’re walking more than one dog at once, this means you could earn a significant amount. But these rates can fluctuate depending on your business overheads, the number of dogs you take per walk, and the number of hours you walk per day. Also be prepared to negotiate on price with your clients.
Rates can also vary by location, and the nature of the business means that there is no set rate you should be charging. Research here is key – find out what similar businesses are charging by calling them and setting your rates accordingly.
When you’re just starting out, you might consider offering introductory rates to drive new business.
Get the right transport
While you could use public transport to get you and the dogs around (for instance, if you live in a well-connected city), it’s much easier if you have your own vehicle – especially if you don’t live near spaces where you can take them for a walk.
Write a dog walking service agreement
Having a written agreement between you and your clients is a good idea as it can protect your business if there are any disagreements or disputes.
Your agreement should include a summary of the service and your responsibilities, including how much the client is paying you and when and how far the walks will be. You can also include details about the dog and whether it has any specific needs.
Keep on top of the day-to-day running of your business
Dog walking might not seem like a business in the traditional sense, but it’s still a business. You have to keep on top of running it, including:
How to market a dog walking business
flyering – this might seem old fashioned but it can be an effective way to target local clients. You can print flyers and put them up in shops and veterinary surgeries – anywhere you think a potential client might see one
social media – do you know your TikTok from your Instagram? Videos can be especially powerful for dog walkers, because you get to share cute stories from your walks. Having a social media presence across a few platforms can help you reach a large number of clients
set up a business website – it’s important to have an online presence – have a look at our best website builders guide to get started on creating your business website
collect testimonials – testimonials from existing clients give you an edge, wherever you choose to use them – you can add them on your website, social media account, and flyers. To collect testimonials, hand out comment cards, ask for comments online, or just gather them in person
ask for referrals – referrals are one of the most powerful ways to grow a business – a global Nielsen report from 2012 found 92 per cent of people trust recommendations from family or friends more than advertising
find a niche – a niche or gap in the market could help your business stand out from the crowd. Are there any similar businesses in your area, and why will yours be better? Could you focus on particular breeds? Do market research and consider offering other services, such as pet grooming, to help win business
focus on customer service – listen to the needs of your clients, give a highly personal service and deal with any issues promptly. Always keep in mind that your clients’ pets are treasured members of their family
Do I need dog walking insurance?
As mentioned above, you should think about dog walking insurance when setting up your dog walking business.
A comprehensive dog walking business insurance policy can protect you in case something goes wrong. With us you can combine the covers you need into one policy.
Some key covers to consider:
Are you looking to set up a dog walking business? Let us know how you get on in the comments.