Love getting up every morning and bounding through the streets with your dog? Then maybe professional dog walking is for you. Being a professional dog walker can get you a regular income on the side, provided you have the right experience and training. Here are the basic set of skills you’ll need to have to start a dog walking business:
Understanding dog behaviour
As a professional dog walker, you’ll need to understand the nuances of canine behaviour completely — how to get friendly with a new dog, how much to exercise dogs of different sizes and breeds, how to know when a dog is distracted, tired or aggressive etc. Learning from professional courses in canine behaviour or working with experts can work as a bonus.
Knowing the right way to walk a dog
Follow the right method to walk dogs safely without causing injury. Get a firm grip on the leash of dog, allow minimal slack and walk at a brisk pace. It is important to perfect this for starting a dog walking business. You’ll also need to know how to deal with:
Yanking: If the dog is pulling at the leash, avoid jerking or yanking back yourself. Instead, stand still and refuse to move until the dog is calm.
Barking: When the dog barks at cars, people or other dogs, stand firm or attract the dogs attention with their favourite dog treats.
First timers: These dogs will need basic training and tons of patience.
Dealing with aggressive pets and strays
Learn how to avoid and diffuse conflict situations with strays and other pets is a must-know in a dog walking business. This will be different for various situations and can involve befriending the strays or simply avoiding certain routes altogether. A female dog in heat will attract a lot of attention, so make sure to understand the dog’s medical history.
Walking the right number of dogs
Know your limits as a professional dog walker. If you’re a beginner, stick to one dog a time. If you have enough experience to walk multiple dogs, know which ones to walk together to avoid fights and accidents.
Being responsible to clean up
Some cities in India have fines for not cleaning up after your pet. Moreover, its the responsible thing to do. Pick the right spots for your dogs to relieve themselves, preferably somewhere that neighbours don’t object. Use a poop scooper or doggie bag for disposal.
Being physically fit
Dog walking requires you to be physically fit and is a demanding job. If you want to start a dog walking business, you’ll need to be able to handle large, energetic dogs and show up consistently everyday.
How to start off your dog walking business:
Pick your time slots and areas of operation: Figure out how much time you can spare everyday and how far you can travel as a professional dog walker. People need walkers in the mornings and evenings, so work out your shifts accordingly.
Decide on your fees: Work out how much you need to charge for your dog walking service to break even. A typical dog walk lasts 20-30 min. If your clients are far from your home, factor in your travel expenses.
Build up your experience: Start off by walking your friends’ and neighbours’ dogs. Offer trial sessions free of cost. This is the easiest way to earn credibility and jump start as a professional dog walker.
Market your dog walking service: Put up flyers in your neighbourhood, join Facebook groups, attend dog-related events and use word of mouth for your dog walking service.
Get to know your clients: Develop a good rapport with your clients and their dogs. This way they’re more likely to refer you. Address your client’s questions and spend enough time getting to know their dogs.
Be quality conscious: Show up on time and focus on walking a few dogs right, rather than walking a large number of dogs. Eventually, you’re more likely to get steady gigs and long term clients. Not to mention regular income as a professional dog walker.