Starting up your own business from scratch is definitely a challenge, but if you love dogs and have enough drive and commitment, you could become a dog walker. There are plenty of things to consider before you start up your own dog walking business, but if you follow our advice, you will be well on your way to success.
Here are 9 top tips for how to become a dog walker:
1. Do your research and set goals
Like any big life decision, choosing to start your own dog walking business requires preparation, so make sure you’ve done some background research. Determine your expenses and how much income you’d like to make in one year. Then take a look at what other professional dog walkers are charging. This will help you develop a reasonable goal and the steps necessary to achieve it.
2. Make a business plan
A basic working knowledge of business is a necessity if you want to become a dog walker . Make sure you have knowledge of accounting and marketing, along with a functional ability to read and write a contract. It’s not wise to jump without establishing goals such as revenue projections, marketing strategies and hours. Many community colleges offer courses for non-degree seeking students. You can also read through some business books.
3. Brush up on your knowledge of dogs
If you want to know how to become a dog walker, the most obvious step is, of course, learning about dogs. You’ll need a general knowledge of the most popular breeds and their specific behavioural tendencies to become a dog walker. You should have good dog handling skills and a thorough understanding of dog socialisation techniques. You should also know how to read canine body posture.
4. Establish which breeds you can handle
Just as some dogs are more comfortable around certain types of people, certain people are better with certain types of dogs. Before going out and soliciting everyone with a dog for business, take some time to figure out if there are any breeds you are less comfortable around. Some breeds tend to be territorial and some are predatory, while others are adventurous or independent. Some breeds get over-stimulated more easily. Some breeds tend to be more fearful.
5. Promote your services – Advertise!
People can’t buy your product if they don’t know about it. To market any new business or service, promote through your website — or create a website if you don’t already have one, . Joining a professional organisation will also help promote a new business because you’ll be able to gain more insight into the profession while networking with others in the industry and exchanging ideas and business tips.
Create a profile on Care.com and start applying to dog walking jobs.
6. Think about safety measures
Think twice about taking your charges to the dog park as these are prime spaces for aggressive behaviour. By knowing breeds, you’ll be aware of the best places to take them on their walk.
Be prepared for aggressive dogs or wild animals. We highly recommend carrying a full canister of citronella spray at all times. It sprays 10 to 12 feet and will deter about 95 percent of approaching dogs or wild animals. It doesn’t cause pain like pepper spray does.
7. Learn to read bad situations
Every once in a while, you may run into a dog that’s got off of its lead or your dog may get scared and try to run away or it may bite someone. Make sure you are able to read dogs’ body language. Be aware of your surroundings and be watchful by constantly scanning the area throughout your walk. If there are other people out walking dogs, don’t walk beside them; simply adjust your path so the dogs aren’t passing each other side by side.
8. Consider other branches of your business
A way you could boost your business would be to expand to other dog related services, such as dog sitting, dog boarding and dog grooming. However, before branching out, make sure you have factored the additional time, expenses, resources and work load into your business plan. You don’t want to overload yourself or spread yourself too thinly. Once you have determined which services you will and won’t provide, make sure you clearly communicate this up front with your clients so that they don’t expect anything more from you.
9. Ease yourself in by starting small
You may be keen to fit the dog walker image straight away: going out on walks surrounded by lots well behaved dogs. However, you need to make sure you have realistic expectations. Managing multiple dogs at once takes a lot of experience; you’ll need an established repertoire which takes time to build. So be patient! When you’re first starting out or walking an unknown dog, take them out by themselves or in small groups. As you get more comfortable, with more experience, you will be able to walk up to six large dogs at a time.
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