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With demand for expert dog care on the up, it's no wonder so many budding entrepreneurs are wondering how to start a dog walking business.
It could be the ideal next move for someone who loves dogs, so here’s our step-by-step guide. It covers everything from how to become a dog walker in the first place to marketing your dog walking business.
You don’t need any formal training and qualifications to become a dog walker. But dogs can be quite a handful, so you should understand canine behaviour. Some dog walkers walk multiple dogs at once, meaning it’s important to know their needs and have their best interests at heart.
If you’d like to get more experience with dogs, you might consider volunteering at your local kennels or rescue centre.
You also need to have strong communication skills. This is useful when dealing with the dogs’ owners and growing your network. You should be physically fit, too, because the walks can be long and dogs can be stronger than you anticipate.
And if you’re someone who doesn’t like braving the outdoors when it’s cold, wet or muddy, be prepared. You’ll be outside come rain or shine, so you'll need to decide whether bad weather is something you're willing to brave.
You don’t need training or qualifications to become a dog walker, but having them can give you more credibility when building your client base. It can make your business appear more professional when you mention your qualifications in your marketing.
But most importantly, you’ll have the confidence that you’re offering a great service and that you can really look after the animals in your care.
Animal first aid, animal behaviour, and animal care are just some of the training and qualifications you can add to your CV.
These City and Guilds qualifications are offered in colleges and centres across the country:
Going self-employed and starting your own business gives you the freedom to be your own boss and choose the clients you work with, but the cliche is true – you have to put in the work to get the rewards. Here’s what you should do:
Writing a business plan before you start out helps you identify the opportunity, your competitors, and how you’ll actually run your business. Doing this at the beginning of the process lets you answer all the necessary questions and tackle any potential problems early.
If you’re holding a dog owner’s keys and going into their house, you'll need a Criminal Record Check. For jobs in England and Wales you can request a basic Disclosure and Barring Service check for £23.
There’s a different application process if your business is in Northern Ireland or Scotland. You'll need to have lived at your current address for more than a year to apply online with Disclosure Scotland for a Basic Disclosure, which costs £25. While for AccessNI, a basic check costs £18.
If you’ve lived at your address for under a year, you can apply for a Criminal Record Check through NarpsUK for £65.
NarpsUK has lots of information on how to start a dog walking business, and they're especially helpful when it comes to understanding the key rules and regulations.
Some of these rules include:
You don’t have to, but joining NarpsUK gives you access to lots of help and advice on setting up a dog walking business. Telling your clients you’re a member can also give them peace of mind.
Dog owners put you in charge of their pets, which means they expect you to be careful and reliable.
As a dog walker you can expect to earn around £8-15 per dog for walks that last between 30 minutes and an hour.
If you’re walking more than one dog at once, this means you could earn a significant amount. But these rates can fluctuate depending on your business overheads, the number of dogs you take per walk, and the number of hours you walk per day. Also be prepared to negotiate on price with your clients.
Rates can also vary by location, and the nature of the business means that there is no set rate you should be charging. Research here is key – find out what similar businesses are charging by calling them and setting your rates accordingly.
When you're just starting out, you might consider offering introductory rates to drive new business.
While you could use public transport to get you and the dogs around (for instance, if you live in a well-connected city), it’s much easier if you have your own vehicle – especially if you don’t live near spaces where you can take them for a walk.
Having a written agreement between you and your clients is a good idea as it can protect your business if there are any disagreements or disputes.
Your agreement should include a summary of the service and your responsibilities, including how much the client is paying you and when and how far the walks will be. You can also include details about the dog and whether it has any specific needs.
Dog walking might not seem like a business in the traditional sense, but it’s still a business. You have to keep on top of running it, including:
As mentioned above, you should think about dog walking insurance when setting up your dog walking business.
A comprehensive dog walking business insurance policy can protect you in case something goes wrong. With us you can combine the covers you need into one policy.
Some key covers to consider:
Are you looking to set up a dog walking business? Let us know how you get on in the comments.
Sam has more than 10 years of experience in writing for financial services. He specialises in illuminating complicated topics, from IR35 to ISAs, and identifying emerging trends that audiences want to know about. Sam spent five years at Simply Business, where he was Senior Copywriter.
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