You’ve seen the same guy walk down the sidewalk past your building with at least six different dogs from day to day. You’re not sure what the deal is but he always looks like he’s having a great time, while you struggle with boredom in your office (hey, at least you have a window!). Chances are, he’s getting paid well too. You think to yourself, “How do I get in on this?”
If you love the idea of working with animals more and more each day, you’re not alone. Animal care employment is projected to grow faster than the average of all US employment, meaning new pet care providers are setting up shop every day. Whether you’re interested in picking up dog walking as a side gig to pay for grad school or looking for a life-long career, if you’re a newbie to the world of professional pet care you may want some advice on getting your hustle off the ground. Asking yourself some important qualifying questions is a good first step…
Can I Actually Make Money Doing This?
The short answer is: Yes. Will it be enough to pay your rent, utilities, and bar tabs? That answer depends on several factors including your geographic location, schedule flexibility, and living standards. Regardless, if you live in a large US city, you can expect to make anywhere from $10 to $30 per half hour walk. This earning potential already soars above the highest minimum wages among US cities, which range from $9 to $15 and hour. If you’re able to keep your travel cheap and efficient, you can earn nearly twice as much in a day as many hourly workers. In the case of Barkly’s rates, earnings go up when a person is flexible enough to complete last minute requests or longer walks. There’s just no arguing that there’s money to be made in scheduled and on-demand pet care. The real question is…
Is This a Good Fit for Me?
Do you shudder at the idea of going out in a rainstorm? Do you jump back when large dogs approach you? Do you enjoy a typical nine to five lifestyle? If you answered yes to any of these questions, dog walking may not be the best choice for you. Though it’s absolutely not essential for a person to have previous pet care experience to excel in the dog walking world, there are some prerequisites. Dogs have to use the bathroom rain or shine, snowstorm or heat wave. If being outside in inclement weather is something you avoid at absolutely all costs, you may want to stick to more indoor-oriented pet care professions, such as grooming or pet sitting.
Additionally, you should be somewhat flexible in your schedule. It’s hard to make money as a dog walker without working at least some strange hours or holidays every now in then. Your working hours may also balloon or shrink with certain seasons you work through and neighborhoods you live in. If this level of uncertainty would be unacceptable to you, dog walking may not be a great fit as a dominant job.
Once you’ve decided to pursue dog walking, there are some steps you can take to make it a reality.
If you have no professional experience in pet care, don’t expect to jump right into a full weekly dog walking schedule. Offer to walk friends’ or family members’ dogs to begin with. If they pay you, that’s an added bonus. The important thing is to get some real-world experience working with animals under your belt. If you truly have no experience with dogs, learning some of the basics of canine behavior is also a must. Understanding how dogs communicate and act is not only important for professionalism, but for having the confidence to approach and work with dogs you don’t know.
If you don’t have any friends with animals, or would just like to use your time in a more charitable fashion, consider volunteering for an animal rescue. Not all large city shelters want or allow volunteers to walk dogs, but many smaller rescues are in constant need of dog transporters and handlers. This is a great way to get a lot of experience very quickly, with many different dogs. It’s also just a fantastic use of your time if you care about animals!
Figure Out Your Workable Area
Don’t wait until your first booked-solid Monday to explore your city. Depending on where you live and your chosen modes of transportation, there may be some neighborhoods you’d like to focus on or avoid. Having a clear understanding of how you’re going to get from one place to another without incurring parking tickets, traversing sketchy areas, or being late is essential. No mode of transportation works for everyone, so deciding which you want to use comes with planning and real-world testing. Just because you like to ride a hoverboard doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient way to get across downtown.
Get Out There
Looking for actual dog walking gigs can take many different forms. Some individuals will set out on their own to self-promote on apartment community bulletin boards or Craigslist. Others will seek an established local service. Whichever you choose, it’s important to realize this part is essential. No matter how much of a dog whisperer you are, clients will not just magically come to you. For some however, taking this step is as simple as applying to be a Barkly dog walker!
Be Realistic and Optimistic
We dog walkers have to be realistic. Believing the rain’s going to hold off is a bad decision when is causes you not to pack your rain jacket. Not every day as a dog walker is going to be a flawless sunny day full of wagging tails and happy customers. It will rain. You will lose clients. Some dogs will not like you. You will run out of poop bags. Dog walking is not always the most glamorous or reliable of careers. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t see the rewarding and positive aspects of your job. Believing in your ability to befriend dogs and please customers will take you far in the dog walking world!