In this article we will explore how to become a dog walker/pet sitter.
Are you a dog lover? If so, dog walking could be your ideal career. You’ll get to enjoy walks in the fresh air and meet new dogs all the time while getting paid for it.
This can definitely be a fun and rewarding job but there is a lot more to it than simply walking and playing with dogs. For one thing, you must be prepared to work outside in all kinds of weather. You’ll also have to be confident at walking several dogs of different breeds at the same time.
In the following information, you’ll find out exactly what a dog walker does, whether you have the necessary skills to become a successful dog walker, what experience and qualifications you need to enter this profession and how much you can expect to earn. Read on to discover whether your love of canines could lead you to a dog walking career.
What is a dog walker?
As the job title implies, this role involves walking dogs. You will take temporary care of owners’ dogs by walking them outdoors. Dog walking services are generally needed by owners who don’t have the time to walk their dogs every day, due to work or other commitments. You could work for a dog walking business that provides services for a large number of dog owners. Alternatively, you could set up your own dog walking business.
Working hours are very variable in this profession. You may need to work evenings and/or weekends. Also, there can be more work available at different times of the year. Dog walkers are in high demand in the summertime because owners need responsible people to look after their pets while they’re away on holiday.
What do dog walkers actually do?
The main role of a dog walker is to exercise dogs by taking them for brisk or long walks. Owners may need this service due to work commitments, being away on holiday or being temporarily unable to leave the house due to illness or injury.
In this position, you’ll be working with a variety of dogs that could range from pugs to Rottweilers. Any dog can be a handful, so you must be used to being around dogs and understand canine behaviour. It’s imperative to have the dogs’ best interests in mind at all times when looking after them. Furthermore, you may be expected to walk several dogs at the same time, which can be more demanding than you might think. In addition, dog walkers may provide other services besides walking dogs, such as:
- Pet sitting in clients’ homes, in which you would stay at a client’s home to look after their dogs or other pets.
- Pet boarding, which means you would temporarily take pets into your own home.
- Pet visits, which would involve checking in on pets in clients’ homes and feeding them.
- Pet taxis, in which you would transport a dog or other pet from one place to another,
- Dog grooming, which would involve hygienically cleaning dogs and improving their physical appearance.
The duties and responsibilities of a dog walker primarily include looking after dogs while they are in your care and exercising them via walking. Dog walking can of course also include playing ball or frisbee in a park and other activities.
You will usually need to have your own vehicle and a clean UK driving license. If you work for a dog walking company, you may need to have basic IT skills to use online scheduling systems and databases. Companies often require you to have a smart phone too.
When working as a dog walker, it’s best-practice to follow the National Association of Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers’ rules and regulations. These include:
- Walking no more than four dogs at any one time.
- Meeting owners before the first booking.
- Ensuring dogs in public areas are wearing collars.
- Cleaning up faeces.
- Protecting client’s personal information.
- Keeping records of all completed work.
Key Skills for a Dog Walker
To do this job well, you must have an affinity with dogs and experience of looking after different breeds. The role is physically demanding, so you must have a good level of fitness. Additionally, you must be prepared to work in all kinds of weather conditions.
The work will involve a lot of driving, so this job isn’t suitable if you don’t like driving or you get easily frustrated in heavy traffic. Organisation is a must-have key skill too. You’ll have to be practical and well-prepared to succeed as a dog walker. Furthermore, you need to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills to engage with dog owners, and employers and other members of staff if you work for a dog walking company.
This role comes with a high-level of responsibility, as owners are putting their trust in you to care for and look after their loved companions. You must be alert to notice any potential problems that could harm the dogs in your care. Knowing how much exercise to give dogs is also important. Smaller dogs are often happy with a short walk, whereas large dogs require longer walks and more strenuous exercise through activities like playing fetch the stick.
Useful Work Experience
To become a dog walker, it’s essential you have experience of being around dogs. If you have had dogs as an owner in the past, this is certainly helpful. However, it’s best to get some professional experience of looking after dogs before you begin a career as a dog walker.
Looking after a greyhound can be very different to looking after a chihuahua, as different breeds have different needs. It’s therefore best to do some work experience prior to looking for dog-walking work.
Any place that gives you the opportunity to work with a variety of dogs can give you the experience you need. You could volunteer at an animal shelter, kennels or a pet hospital.
Find out what organisations are in your local area and contact them directly to find out about doing a voluntary placement.
Average Salaries for a Dog Walker
The average salary for a dog walker depends on whether you work for an organisation or whether you become self-employed and find clients directly. Dog walking companies’ rates can vary. Self-employment earnings are determined by the rate you charge and the number of hours you work.
Dog walkers generally charge per dog per hour. If you therefore walk several dogs at one time, you can earn a higher salary. Typically, dog walker salaries range from minimum wage to £25 per hour.
Qualifications for a Dog Walker
If you decide to work for a dog walking company, the entry requirements will differ from one organisation to another. Some will not require you to have qualifications whereas others will.
You don’t necessarily need qualifications, having accreditation will certainly help you to build a client base if you’re setting up your own business.
The main qualifications you can earn to become an accredited dog walker are:
Animal First Aid.
It’s also worth mentioning that if you’re going to be holding dog owners’ keys and entering their houses, you’re required to have a Criminal Record Check.
If you work for a dog walking company, with experience you could leave and set up your own dog waking business. This will certainly allow you to earn a better salary. If you already work for yourself, you could consider expanding the business by setting up a franchise. You can also progress in your career by offering other pet services.
You could train to become a dog groomer, or you could set up a pet taxi service, a pet-sitting service or a pet-boarding service. Another option is to complete qualifications in order to teach dog-training and obedience courses.
If you love being around dogs, this job will probably appeal to you. What better way of spending a day than walking and playing with dogs in the open air? Although it may seem like the dream job for dog lovers, you need to understand how physically demanding the role can be. You will have to be fit and active. You’ll also need to be prepared to work outside come rain or shine.
Furthermore, you’ll need to be organised and a great communicator. You’ll be working with a variety of breeds, so you must be comfortable with all types of dogs. You must have the ability to walk several dogs at the same time as well.
Before you can become a professional dog walker, it’s essential you do some work experience. This gives you the opportunity of working with a variety of dogs. It is also usually a prerequisite for jobs with dog walking companies.
You could volunteer at kennels or an animal welfare centre. In addition, it can be helpful to get qualifications such as certificates in Animal First Aid.