How to Become a Dog Walker

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 22, 2021 | Published February 4, 2020

Updated February 22, 2021

Published February 4, 2020

Dog walkers provide an important service for busy pet owners. They serve as trusted guardians for pets, but also as partners for their clients. In this article, we discuss what a dog walker does, how you can become one and answers to common questions about this position.

What does a dog walker do?

Professional dog walkers are paid animal care and service workers who take other people's dogs on outings for a defined period. Dog walkers may be independent or work for a dedicated business. Some dog walkers take one dog out at a time for walks, and others may take multiple dogs on each outing. The duration of each walk depends on the breed of the dog and the instructions from the client. Dog walkers must be transparent with owners and discuss the owner's desires for dog care and the dog walking process.

A dog walker's basic duties may include:

  • Going to a client's house and picking up that person's dog(s)

  • Making sure the dogs are wearing collars with the proper identification tags

  • Taking dogs on designated walking routes

  • Making sure that the dogs are well-fed and hydrated

  • Giving dogs treats to maintain their focus

  • Cleaning up after dogs

  • Being aware of city ordinances and state laws regarding animal care

  • Recording dog license numbers and vaccination history for insurance purposes

  • Filling out paperwork

  • Taking calls

  • Setting up appointments

  • Configuring schedules

Related: 18 Popular Jobs That Involve Working With Animals

Average salary for a dog walker

Dog walking can be a lucrative business based on a few factors, such as experience, reputation, active hours and an animal care specialist's affiliation with a company. Dog walkers can also earn more money with certification. The average salary for a dog walker in the United States is $15.20 per hour, and some salaries range from $7.25 to $34.80 per hour.

Related: 20 Side Jobs to Generate Additional Income

Dog walker requirements

Dog walkers need to be self-motivated and maintain a high level of fitness, because this job can be mentally and physically demanding. They also need to have empathy and a love for dogs, because they are taking care of other people's beloved companions. Besides having these characteristics, dog walkers also may need to meet qualifications in the following areas:

  • Education

  • Training

  • Certifications

  • Skills

Education

Dog walkers may only need to have a high school diploma, a GED or an equivalent to work for some companies. However, dog walkers may want to earn a degree in business administration if they want to start their own businesses.

Beyond regular schooling, it helps to have basic education in animal first aid. Dog walkers should know how to do CPR and administer first aid. They can learn this through local programs offered by organizations or by asking veterinarians, who may charge fees.

Training

Dog walkers generally receive on-the-job training. Aspiring animal care specialists may find training as employees of dog walking companies or as part of animal care nonprofits.

As part of their training, these animal care specialists may be supervised while they learn how to feed animals, how to safely transport animals, how to operate equipment and how to clean up after animals. Also, dog walkers who would like to own their own businesses in the future should pay attention to how organizations are run. Among the things dog walkers can learn is how to schedule dog walker shifts, how to talk to clients, how to run promotional campaigns and how to control finances.

Certifications

When working for an agency, a dog walker may be required to earn certain licenses, including:

  • A state driver's license: This is required if the animal care specialist is transporting dogs by vehicle.

  • Regional licenses or permits: These may be required in certain cities before dog walkers can bring dogs to municipal parks or other properties.

  • A business license: This is required if the dog walker owns a dog walking business.

Also, if dog walkers want to have certification, some colleges and independent organizations offer certificate programs in this area. The programs may include online and/or on-site training. For example:

  • Dog Walker Certificate: The International Association of Professional Dog Walkers, which is part of the International Association of Professions, offers a four to 12-week online course complete with access to an educator and a downloadable certificate.

  • Certificate of Dog Walking: Dogbiz has the Dog Walking Academy, which offers online and in-person courses. Graduates of the program can earn this certificate.

  • CPPS-Certified Professional Pet Sitter: Pet Sitters International offers this credential. Dog walkers can earn this certification because their profession falls under pet sitting.

Of course, dog walkers may need to pass an exam before receiving their certification. Also, certified dog walkers must renew their certification after a certain period and the process may include paying fees, taking exams and continuing their education in animal care.

Skills

A dog walker needs to have various skills, including:

  • Attention to detail: Dog walkers must make special note of things like the breeds of dogs they are caring for, client's instructions, state and municipal ordinances and any special needs dogs have.

  • Communication: Dog walkers must be able to communicate with clients to take instruction, to make appointments and to inform clients. They can communicate with dogs by giving commands and through nonverbal cues.

  • Interpersonal skills: In addition to being able to observe and empathize with dogs, dog walkers must have people skills. They must be able to empathize with clients and gain those clients' trust.

  • Problem solving: Depending on the situation, dog walkers must understand how to calm their clients' dogs and how to avoid conflicts with other dogs or animals entirely.

  • Organization, record-keeping and scheduling: Dog walkers need to keep excellent records for their clientele, making note of any special needs or requests and to make sure they or one of their teammates are available.

  • Technical knowledge: Dog walkers must have basic knowledge concerning the use of animal restraints and animal cages, animal control, nutrition and first aid treatments.

How to become a dog walker

You can use these steps to become a professional dog walker:

  1. Take pertinent courses in high school, if available. Some high schools may offer animal science and business courses for students. High school students may also take part in extracurricular activities that bring them into contact with dogs.

  2. Earn a high school diploma or equivalent. Although there are no formal education requirements for dog walkers, some employees of animal care businesses might need to have a high school diploma to get hired.

  3. Take animal care courses. Aspiring dog walkers can find educational programs sponsored by independent organizations. Alternatively, dog walkers can take advantage of college courses that are related to animal care and dog walking. Coursework includes topics like animal behavior, animal body language, animal first aid, animal nutrition, dog obedience, disease prevention, leash training and pet grooming.

  4. Become a certified dog walker. This is optional, but independent dog walkers and business owners may impress their clientele and earn more money with certification.

  5. Receive some on-the-job training. Aspiring dog walkers can receive professional training by working for dog walking businesses or by taking volunteer positions at nonprofit organizations.

  6. Take related business courses. Dog walkers who want to start their own businesses may be able to find related college courses or business courses offered by organizations. Students will learn about creating business plans, obtaining insurance, operating and promoting a business and setting fees.

  7. Obtain the necessary licensing. Depending on the state and businesses that employ dog walkers, certain licensing is required. For example, dog walkers must have a state driver's license to transport dogs. In some states, dog walkers and businesses are required to have licenses to bring dogs to certain parks or other properties.

  8. Obtain liability insurance. Business owners should have liability insurance in case anything happens to dog walkers, the dogs themselves or the dogs' owners.

Frequently asked questions

How do I set prices for my services?

The first thing you should do before setting any prices for your services is some basic research. If the resources are available, look for general prices for dog walking services in your area. You may also be able to ask professional dog walkers in your area how much they charge for their services.

Remember that rates for dog walkers vary and factors like location, experience and certification can determine those rates. Settle on a rate you think is fair based on your experience, the time you have to devote to dog walking and the information available to you.

How can I advertise my services as an independent dog walker?

Independent dog walkers may have to rely heavily on advocacy by their clientele and close associates, but dog walkers must be proactive in advertising their services on their own.

One thing you can do if you are an aspiring dog walker is to print flyers and post them in highly visible locations. You can also start a website where you offer advice to dog lovers and advertise your services that way. Another way to gain attention from possible clients is to sign up with an online dog walker job board. Companies like these might take a percentage of your earnings, but they put you in contact with clients in your area. Ultimately, you may have the greatest reach on social media. You will need to have social media accounts to meet other animal lovers and especially if you plan on building your own business.

What do I need to take with me for dog walks?

Dog walkers may need to have the following when they are working:

  • Some extra water (for the dog walker and the dogs)

  • A bowl to pour water in for the dogs to drink

  • Extra leashes

  • Treats for the dog

  • Extra toys

  • A raincoat or coat for cold weather

  • Bags for dog waste

  • A backpack to store all these supplies

What is the work environment for a dog walker like?

Dog walkers generally work in outdoor environments, like sidewalks and parks, because that is where they generally take dogs. In some cases, they may be confined to indoor environments if that is what the client wants, or the dog walker is supporting the business by providing administrative duties.

Besides the setting, dog walking can be a fast-paced job with many variables that animal care specialists must account for, such as:

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