What the job involves
Dog walkers offer their services, helping owners to exercise their pets. Dogs are usually taken for walks during the day whilst their owners may be engaged with work commitments, or for short periods, when they are away. Further services can also be offered to clients, including pet sitting in the owner’s home, pet boarding, puppy and pet visits, pet taxis, and even dog grooming.
You will need strong interpersonal and communication skills, and be willing to work outdoors regardless of the weather. In addition to this, an affinity with, and understanding of dogs is essential.
It is important to be patient; it can take a while to build up a good client base. A positive reputation is often spread by word of mouth, following the delivery of a reliable service over time.
You are accountable for the safety of your client’s pet, and looking after another person’s pet carries a high level of responsibility. You must maintain focus and be alert for any potential problems, avoiding any harm or injury to the pet.
Organisation is key; you must be practical and well prepared in order to succeed.
This is both a very flexible and physically demanding job which can involve full or part-time work. Being physically fit is a must as the job involves long walks outside in all weather conditions.
You could join a professional organisation or become self-employed and start up your own business or directory.
Hours may vary, however you may find that you develop a regular client base and popular services, particularly in the summer when pet sitters and boarding facilities are in high demand.
Qualifications and training
Whist there are no specific qualifications required to become a dog walker/pet sitter, having qualifications in areas such as animal first aid, animal behaviour, or animal care, will enhance your professional standing.
If you work for a pet sitting organisation, you will receive on-the-job training, and many companies offer testing and service reviews, followed by a corresponding certification or accreditation for pet sitters.
What qualification do I need to start training as a dog walker/pet sitter?
If you choose to work for a dog walking/pet sitting organisation you will find that the entry requirements for different job vacancies vary.
Certain clients may expect particular accreditations from their chosen dog walker/pet sitter, and animal first aid is often a desired prerequisite.
Experience is important, and you will need to know about dogs and dog care before you become a walker. Work experience at a local dog shelter or rescue organisation can help you to learn about dog behaviour and interactions. You may also look at becoming a volunteer dog walker for The Cinnamon Trust.
Getting into the profession
As a dog walker/pet sitter you may need to have you own means of transport. Unless the dogs you are walking are within easy reach, you will need to be able to travel to your clients and you may wish to travel in order to access pet-friendly parks.
Before you start as a dog walker/pet sitter you should have specialist insurance in place and it is recommended that you have a DBS check, especially if clients give you access to their house in their absence.
If you wish to start you own dog walking/pet sitting business you should advertise locally and list your business on dog and pet websites. The National Association of Registered Pet Sitters (NARPS) lists pet sitters, dog walkers and pet boarding providers. It would also be a good idea to contact local dog agility and training classes to inform them of your service.
Alternatively, you may wish to consult the vacancy pages of companies such as Petpals and Care.com for any available opportunities in your local area.
Salary and benefits
Your salary will depend on the organisation you work for, however if you are self-employed, this will be determined by the amount of hours you work and the rates you charge.
The prices of dog walking can range between £5-£12+, but it is generally around £7-£10 per hour. Dog walkers usually charge per dog, per hour, and if you are able to take several dogs at once you have the potential to earn significant amounts per day. Your salary could range between approximately £9,000 and £19,000 per year.
Dog walking provides fantastic exercise and has the benefit of flexibility. Pet boarding enables you to work from your own home, offering clients additional services with even further flexibility for yourself. If you are self-employed, you are in charge and can choose your own hours, making appointments fit around your weekly activities.
You could choose to offer additional services to your clients. You could undertake a grooming course and offer dog bathing and grooming. Further to pet sitting, you could set up a pet taxi service, a pet day care, or a boarding service and open a boarding kennels. After gaining the necessary qualifications, you could also offer dog-training and obedience classes.
You may even find your experience as a dog walker/pet sitter leads you to set up a franchise or your own business, offering services to a larger number of clients.