Start a dog walking business:
3 steps to success

To start a dog walking business, you will need many dog walking jobs, because without customers there is no income. This article has the best information and resources you will need to become a prosperous canine walker.  It all boils down to 3 main tasks: acquiring the right knowledge, implementing an effective and simple marketing strategy and taking care of a few legal details, like finding dog walking insurance.

If it all sounds overwhelming right now, relax…there are many resources out there to help you embark on your new enterprise sooner than what you think. Lets get started.

Start a dog walking business STEP #1:
Become a dog walking expert

Most people think that walking dogs does not require any special skills or knowledge. This is a huge misconceptions, because any person working with animals, including dog walkers, should have at least some basic knowledge of animal behavior and psychology. It will come in handy when you need to manage a pack of dogs or prevent/break a canine fight.

dogs barking at the dog park

To start a dog walking business, the first thing to so is to learn the best methods to communicate with dogs, what is the most effective, safe and positive way to deal with aggression, some basic training techniques and doggy first aid. You can learn all of these by yourself through websites, books and videos, or you can follow a certification program. Even if it is not required for you to be certified as a dog walker, following a certification program will guide you through the important things you need to know. 

The following information can help you decide whether you prefer to learn by yourself, get certified, or both.

Free resources to learn animal behavior and training by yourself:

There are many free informational websites out there, the first thing you need to do is decide if you trust the writer/blogger. As a general rule avoid any dog websites that use punishment training methods. You do not want to start your dog walking business based on outdated and inhumane training principles. For example, you do not need to harm your dog physically or emotionally to show your pet you are “the alpha”. The use of electronic collars should be discouraged as well as the use of leash jerking or water spray bottles (time-outs or mildly loud noises should be the worst punishments acceptable). Instead, look for articles that suggest you understand the psychology or biology of a behavior problem and then guide you through the implementation of a solution that uses positive methods.

  • List of articles by dog training excellence to start a dog walking business: This is a page I put together with links to the important articles any person wanting to become dog walker should read or know about. The articles are organized in the order in which they should be read to get a clear understanding of the topic. These are all free articles with lots of information on animal psychology, dog behavior and training. 
  • The American Veterinary Medical association has great articles on pet first aid that you should definitely check out.

Paid resources

When it comes to paying for your education, you also need to make sure that the reputation of the certification program is good and that they only encourage the use of positive methods.

  • DOG*TEC: This is a great dog walking certification program that will provide you with everything you need to get started. It can be a little expensive, but it only takes a few days to complete and it truly covers everything you need from dog behavior and training to first aid to marketing.
  • Professional pet associations: These usually offer certifications that will provide you with the pet knowledge you need. They also have online or live courses you can take paid and some of them even free! Good associations include Association of Profesional Dog Trainers (APDT), Pet Sitters International (PSI) and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS).
  • For Pet first aid training you can try the Red Cross or Vet Tech, both offer good and affordable course.
  • You can also learn by reading the following excellent canine training books, they are really a MUST read for any dog professional: Don’t shoot the dog, The culture clash, Click for Joy, Bones would rain from the sky and The business of dog walking.

If you decide to start learning on your own, I highly recommend you take your own dog (or a friend’s dog) through a dog training class. The hands-on experience guided by a professional trainer will be invaluable.

Start a dog walking business STEP #2:
Market yourself in a simple and effective way

I am going to describe here two of the best networking strategies to help you get dog walking jobs. The first one is successful mouth-to-mouth and referral networking and the second is by making your own successful website. As in the previous step you can do both for even better results.

Off-line networking

When you start a dog walking business, you should connect with people working in the pet industry in your area and give them something in return for their referrals to you. I suggest you connect with them personally but e-mail or Facebook will work for some too. When you approach them don’t try to sell them your business or ask them plainly to give you referrals. Instead, ask them about THEIR business and then find ways to HELP THEM. Do this in a sincere manner and you will see that they will refer their clients to you willingly, because they know you and trust you. You will also be referring people to them once your business grows and they know this too. Here is the list of professionals to contact:

  • Dog trainers
  • Veterinarians
  • Vet techs
  • Pet sitters
  • Pet specialty stores (dog treat store, dog food store, dog equipment, etc.)
  • Any administrative staff in the business above

How can you help them? Here are some ideas.

  • Send them via e-mail or Facebook articles of interest to them. They don’t necessarily have to be pet articles but anything relevant that could help their business or simply start a friendly conversation.
  • Participate in their Facebook fan pages, like and comment on their posts.
  • Write and print a helpful Dog Walking Tips article and give it to them to give to their clients. This print should have your information as well as theirs (so you will need to change it for each particular professional). You should also have personal business cards with all your information.
  • Give them a discount on your services (that way they can see how good YOU are).
  • Be creative and come up with new strategies as opportunities arise!

Online marketing: have your own dog walking website!

dog walker with 3 dogs

Start a dog walking business the right way and get an effective website that is found by lots of potential customers. Most people think this is really hard or really expensive. Well, as a website owner myself I can tell you it is not, if you do it the smart way. When I first started my dog training business I made a free website myself, it was beautiful….but nobody found it!

As I was looking around I found a lot of good options.  However, they were very expensive and kind of complicated too. After much research, I found SBI! which is my web host, marketing coach, and inspirational friend…well, the company itself is not my friend, but their members are awesome, helpful and friendly.

This system let me build a successful website (you found it, right? and hundreds of people do every day) without having any programming or marketing knowledge. I am very happy with them, so I do recommend that at least you check them out. SBI! will take care of everything you need to know to make your website a valuable tool to your dog walking business.

By having your own website you will become a voice in the dog walking world and many customers will find you and get to know you (through your articles) before they even meet you. The advantage is that you can create a great first impression. 

SiteSell Hosting

Start a dog walking business STEP #3:
Dog walking insurance and other legal things

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to get insurance when you start a dog walking business is to join a pet professional association and take advantage of their members discount insurance packet. Becoming a member will also have added benefits such as being listed in their directory, being able to contact other dog walkers for advice exchange and access to educational materials. The following associations have insurance packets and you can compare what they offer as well as pricing to find the one that fits your dog walking business best.

Most states will not require you to have a dog walking license or permit. However, you will need to register your business and get a tax registration license. At the U.S small business administration website you will find the requirements for your particular City and State.

Finally, you must check if your city has any specific regulations about dog walking such as, maximum number of dogs allowed to be walked, off-leash  and on-leash parks, parks that do not allow dogs, etc.

All the best starting your dog walking business! And don’t forget to share with us your tips and advice too, you can do it in the comments box below.


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