Tips for Starting a Dog Walking Business

Have you ever considered starting a dog walking business or a pet service, but were too scared to get started or did not know where to start? Did the idea of insurance and marketing overwhelm you? You are not alone. I was in the same boat for many years.

It was not until a neighbour showed me a great platform to use as a walker, that I seriously started considering this as a side business. Although I got side tracked for a few years when I opted to get my own dog, I quickly got back into dog walking and boarding as soon as Charley passed away.

I signed up for Rover, a platform connecting dog professionals with those needing their services. *I am not sponsored or affiliated in any way to Rover. I just love using their platform.

Dog walking through Rover allows you to get to know various breeds, dog sizes and learn about various dog behaviours while not having to commit to having a pet. It is a great way for pet lovers who are not ready to get their own pets to spend time with them while also earning some money.

The platform includes an app or the website both of which have a calendar, easy to use booking and payment system as well as insurance and a 24/7 help hotline. For this, they take a percentage of your profits.

Here are some of my tips for if you sign up with Rover to get started with your dog service: 

  1. Check out what others charge in your area. Each geographic location is nuanced and daily rates can go from $20/day to $150 or more. See what others are charging so you are not low-balling or charging way over everyone else. 
  1. Consider these skills and assets when setting your price: you have a house, expertise in giving medication, work in the veterinary or related field, live near a park, have a pool, have access to a vehicle and outings etc. These can easily justify a higher fee and many are willing to pay for such amenities and skills. Do not forget to put this in your bio!
  1. Update your calendar regularly, especially around the holidays to give people time to book with you before anyone else.
  1. Opt to have a meet and greet first, if you can. Whether meeting in your home or in a nearby park, the best is to always meet the dog and owners in order to discuss everything first. Ask important questions, even the hard ones! Do their dogs have issues with other dogs, can they go to an off-leash park, do they sleep in a crate, are they reactive, have they bitten before (you’d be surprised how many people fail to disclose this), just to name a few questions. Not all bookings turn into clients, and a meet and greet is a great way to assess if you are the right fit for each other.
  1. Rover takes a percentage and thus adjust your pricing accordingly. For example, if I want to get $20, I charge $24, so that with all the deductions I still make the desired amount. Also, you will need to set up a pay pal account to receive payment. It is very easy and convenient. There are apps for both Rover and Pay Pal so everything can be done through your phone.
  1. Engage with the owners regularly. Send photos. Let them know in the app how many pee/poos the doggie had, any issues, cute moments and an overall summary of the time together. The app works as follows: when you are ready to start your walk, you press start in your booking and it tracks your walking route. It allows you to click on Pee or Poo tracking how often the dog does its business. Isn't that great? It also allows you to add photos and comments. When the walk is over you press stop, and this ‘report card’ with all the details, the route you took, comments and photos goes to the owner. 
  1. Set the cancellation policy appropriate for you! I made this mistake. The stricter the policy the harder it is for the owner to cancel last minute, leave you in the lurch and lose money. A stricter cancellation policy ensures that you get at least a portion of the pre-payed amount. I lost weeks’ worth of payment at a last-minute cancellation without receiving anything, while also having missed potential clients. It is up to you how strict you want to be, but know that there are options!
  1. Get reviews on your account as soon as you start. Have you ever dog-sat for a friend or a family member? Even if it was for a short time or it was a long time ago, having some reviews at the start helps others gain confidence in your services.

That’s it! It honestly is a simple and convenient way to get started making some money but most importantly hanging out with some doggos! Once you have built some regular clientele you can expand and take this job full time and even venture off on your own. Good luck and you can do it!

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