How to Start a Dog Walking Business: The Dog Lover’s Guide
People will do just about anything to make their fur babies happy. Believe it or not, dogs have been a source of joy for people since prehistoric times!
In the past year alone, dog adoption has soared as people spent most of their time at home. But, with the work-from-home epoch ending, dog parents will need help keeping their dogs happy and active.
This presents an opportunity for folks looking to earn a little cash on the side or start a business. If you love dogs and the great outdoors, we’ve created this guide on how to start a dog walking business so you can get started in no time!
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Do your research
- Name your dog walking business
- Brand your dog walking business
- Map out your target market
- Price your dog walking service
- Market your dog walking service
- Pre-vet your clients
- Risks of starting a dog walking business
1. Do your research
Building trust is the foundation of starting a dog walking business. Your clients need to feel comfortable leaving their dogs in your hands. The dog needs to trust you, and you need to feel comfortable with the dog!
To get your small business started you’ll have to research dog training, insurance, and safety. Fortunately, we’ve ironed out the answers for you below.
What qualifications do you need to be a dog walker?
You don’t need formal education, but experience with walking dogs of various sizes is paramount.
It’s important to consider different dog breeds and personalities when thinking about your dog walking services. Some breeds are wary of strangers, and others tend to lunge or bark when they’re in uncomfortable situations.
To better understand dog behavior, there are pet sitting certificates you can earn to get started. Consider this a great investment in potentially expanding and starting a dog sitting business as well!
Here are a few resources to help you learn how to become a dog walker:
All dogs have different needs and personalities, we’ll cover more on how to vet your (furry) clients in step 7!
Do you need dog walking insurance?
Yes! Insurance gives you and your clients peace of mind and coverage if anything happens. It will increase your startup costs significantly, but consider it an essential cost of getting started. Having insurance makes it easier for potential clients to consider you for dog walking services.
Ask your local insurance provider about animal bailee coverage and general liability coverage. These two protect you, the dogs in your care, and others who may interact with the dogs.
As a dog walker, you can expect to charge from $11 to $20 an hour per dog. Prices also vary based on group walks or individual walks, we’ll cover more pricing strategies in step 4!
2. Name your dog walking business
Naming any business can be the greatest hurdle to getting started. Take your time with this step and choose an original, lovable, and creative business name that makes it easy to build a brand.
Try using Looka’s free business name generator to brainstorm some ideas. We’ve gone ahead and added some suggestions to get you started, all hand-picked from the business name generator!:
3. Brand your dog walking business
Branding is a way of differentiating yourself from the competition. To create a brand identity you’ll need a logo and a website to communicate your value as a small business.
Identify your niche
Dogs, just like people, sometimes have special needs and quirks. Although they require extra work and more training, it opens up a whole new world of opportunity for you!
Build your brand around all the special services you can offer. Honing in on a niche can help you differentiate yourself and expand your potential client pool!
If you’re comfortable with the extra effort, considering the following niches:
- Bigger dogs
- Senior dogs
- Dogs with behavior problems
- Dogs with special needs
Most will involve an initial grace period but it will be worth it to see those tails wagging!
Make a logo
Your logo will be the face of your business. It should communicate your services and appeal to the right audience at a glance. The cost of getting a designer to create a logo can increase your investment significantly and delay the start of your business.
Try using Looka’s logo maker and use your vision and creativity to build the perfect dog walking business brand. Check out some Looka generated logos below!
Build a website
Your website is your storefront, so make sure it’s appealing and informative. Don’t be afraid to gush over your love for dogs and experience with dog walking. The more personal you make it the better!
Be transparent and include the neighborhoods you service along with your pricing and walking packages. Add in visual and video content from your walks to build authenticity and legitimacy. Everyone loves seeing dogs have fun!
Lastly, make sure to include testimonials from your clients. Most consumers trust reviews almost as much as recommendations from friends and family!
4. Map out your target market
A critical part of starting your dog walking business is choosing the right target market and geographical area to service. This gives you the flexibility to walk many dogs at the same time and easily move from one client to the next!
Since you earn hourly, your greatest priority is to limit travel time from client to client and complete as many walks as possible. You might accept clients in various areas as you start, and eventually, focus on an area where you can do group dog walks.
5. Price your dog walking service competitively
You can price your services based on your location and level of experience. Use this pet walking calculator, or conduct a quick google search to get an idea of what your competition is charging.
You can charge hourly from $11 to $20 an hour per dog and offer weekly packages to keep your income steady. Check out dog walking platforms like Rover or Wag to see what your local competition is charging.
For competitive pricing, create weekly walk packages and group walk discounts to secure clients within the same area. For example, reduce the dog walking cost by 25% for group walks of 2 to 4 dogs.
Offering discounts on long-term agreements will give you more financial stability in the long run!
6. Market your dog walking service
With your website up and running, you’re ready to build a solid base of clients with the marketing activities below.
Set up a google business for your area
Set up a physical location on Google My Business with your city or region in the name. This makes it easier for local dog owners to find you when they search for “dog walkers in my area”.
Ask your clients to leave Google reviews so that you can start ranking and grow your online presence.
Set up your social media accounts
If you’ve ever gushed over adorable dog content on Instagram, then you understand the power of pet content. Having a dog walking business is the perfect way to win over customers with heartwarming and hilarious content on social media.
Tag your #location and relevant #dog hashtags to boost your presence. Interact with dog accounts and work with local dog influencers to get the word out about your dog walking business!
Lastly, post flattering dog portraits and add stories of dogs playing to give dog parents a direct way of seeing their fur babies having fun.
Take a look at the example below, a mix of portraits, testimonials, and relatable content can go a long way.
Lastly, open up a Facebook page and connect it to your Instagram account to seamlessly post on both. A Facebook page is another way to collect reviews, build trust, and advertise your dog walking business to locals.
Connect with your community
Build your local presence by creating a branded poster and putting it up in the following high traffic dog areas:
- Dog parks
- Bus shelters
- Office parking lots
- Bulletin boards
- Coffee shops
- Dog groomers
Make sure to include your rates, contact information, and your social media handle so people can check you out.
7. Pre-vet your clients
Before accepting a client, make sure you meet them and their dog for a “briefing” to ensure you can handle the dog’s size, behavior, and needs.
Some dogs aren’t as well trained and need more work. This could result in a “grace period” where you spend some time with the dog until they trust you to walk them.
Ask the owners questions about their history, their behavior with other dogs and people, as well as anything else to look out for. These dogs will be more challenging, but once you’ve won over their trust, you’ll have secured a long-term client and made a dog very happy.
8. Risks of starting a dog walking business
As you brace yourself for your first clients, keep in mind that some dogs are unpredictable and can cause problems for you and your business. Take heed of the following risks when you accept a new client.
- Dogs running away
- Sickness or injury
- Incompatibility amongst dogs
- Damage liability
Having insurance and pre-vetting your clients is a great way to mitigate all of these risks. Being aware is the first step to making sure they don’t happen. Include them in your customer vetting process!
Ready to start walking?
Starting a dog walking business is a great way to service your community and spend time with furry friends you can’t help but love.
Get your logo and branding done in no time with Looka’s logo maker, and have full freedom and flexibility to make your vision come to life.