What do you think of when you hear the term “dog walker”?
Many people envision the stereotype you see in movies: an overstressed dog walker with a dozen yapping dogs attached to their belt, leashes all tangled up, being dragged in a dozen different directions at once.
But is that what dog walkers really do? According to the career experts at Indeed:
“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.”
Becoming a dog walker doesn’t mean you’ll be drowning in Dalmatians or chasing a pack of Pomeranians. As a professional dog walker, you can set your own schedule and choose which dogs you do or don’t walk.
In fact, being a dog walker can be a fun, active, rewarding way to earn some extra cash — or even have a full-time career surrounded by the dogs you love!
How to Become a Dog Walker
There are two main ways to become a dog walker.
One is to use a marketplace app that connects dog walkers seeking jobs with people seeking dog walkers. The top two apps like this are Rover and Wag!. This option is the easiest and most convenient, and is an excellent way to get started or keep your dog walking as a fun side hustle. However, be aware these apps do take a cut of your earnings in exchange for the convenience of using their service.
The other option is to go independent and run your own one-person dog walking business. This option takes more investment and effort initially to find clients and get off the ground, but once you have a client base established, it will pay more in the long run than relying on apps. Being your own boss also allows you to grow your personal business into a full-time job, if you so choose.
Of course, you don’t have to choose right away. You can always start out on Rover or Wag! to see if you’ll like it, and then go independent or full-time later.
Either way, there are certain “tools of the trade” that you’re going to need right away before embarking on your journey as a dog walker! Your top dog walking supplies should include:
Dog Walking Supplies You’ll Need:
Spare Leashes and/or Harnesses
Your clients will most likely supply the leash and/or harness their dog is used to, but it’s always good to have extras. You never know when a buckle will snap or a leash will break, and suddenly you have a free dog to contain! Slip leads that don’t require a collar are especially handy in emergencies.
Your clients will likely supply these as well, but you never know when the roll will drop out of your pocket or become damaged and unusable. You definitely don’t want to find yourself without a poop bag when you need one!
Reflective Clothing or Lights
If you’re going to be out dog walking in the late afternoon or evening, bringing reflective clothing or a flashlight is a sensible safety precaution. Light up collar attachments are also available that are inexpensive and easy to move from collar to collar.
Dog First Aid Kit
Don’t underestimate the importance of even a basic mini-first aid kit. There’s always the chance the dog you’re walking will step on a piece of glass — or have an unfortunate run-in with a stray cat! Even a bit of disinfectant and Band-Aids will be appreciated in such a scenario. If you’re certified in pet first aid and are able to bring a fully-stocked kit, all the better!
If you’re able to get a hold of a set of adjustable dog booties, they may be lifesavers on hot summer days. If the pavement is too hot for you to comfortably hold your palm against it, it’s too hot for a dog to walk on.
Most dogs aren’t thrilled about dog booties at first, but if the pavement becomes scorching during your walk and you can’t walk in the grass instead — and the dog is too big to carry! — a set of booties can keep Fido’s feet safe and protected long enough to get him home. (Ideally, you wouldn’t take a dog out on a day that hot anyway — but we know stuff happens!).
It’s important to keep your furry charges hydrated, especially on hot days or long walks. Always bring a water bottle and a collapsible bowl, or a dog bottle/bowl combo. (Oh, and a bottle for yourself!).
High Value Dog Treats
Last but not least, every dog walker needs to have a hands-free treat pouch stuffed with healthy, delicious high-value treats!
Your clients may provide some of Fido’s usual treats, but it’s always nice to give your pups extra-special high value treats they may not normally get at home. Plus, they’re not just for spoiling purposes: a treat that’s tasty enough can be the one thing that gets your client’s dog’s attention in a critical moment.
Of course, you should never feed a dog anything that isn’t okayed by their parents first, as some dogs do have food allergies or medical requirements. Limited ingredient or single ingredient treats are going to be your safest bet, containing the fewest number of potential allergens.
Once you’re stocked up, you’ll also need a convenient way to carry your supplies. You could bring a backpack to carry your water, spare leashes and other supplies — or, you could pick out a trendy dog-themed fanny pack!
Once you have all these supplies on-hand, you’ll be well-equipped to become the friendly neighborhood dog walker.
How to Become a Dog Walker on Rover or Wag!
The process of applying to work as a dog walker for either Rover or Wag! is fairly simple. Both apps require you to be over 18, to pass a background check, to watch a few training videos about dog safety, and to pass the related quizzes. They may also ask for recommendations from your friends and family.
However, there are a few key differences between the two dog walking apps.
Wag! has the advantage of more flexible scheduling. It also allows clients to tip you directly in the app; Rover doesn’t have this feature, although of course many dog parents offer cash tips regardless.
Wag! also requires more training for dog walkers, and asks dog parents to provide more extensive information on their dogs’ personalities and needs than Rover does. That means you’ll feel more prepared for the pooch you’re picking up.
Unfortunately, Wag! also takes a bigger chunk out of your change than Rover does. While Rover takes 20% of your earnings as commission to cover liability insurance and the running of the app, Wag! will take 40% of each payment (although thankfully, that doesn’t include your earnings from tips).
Speaking of payment: Wag! has chosen to standardize its rates, with all dog walkers earning $12 for a 30 minute walk or $18 for an hour-long walk. Rover allows you to set your own rate, so you can adjust as necessary if you gain certifications. If you gain enough experience and confidence in your skills to try a multi-dog walk, you’ll want to use Rover, since Wag! only allows you to walk one dog at a time.
Finally, Rover has a larger client base than Wag!. If you’re in an urban area it might not make a difference, but if you’re outside of a main city, you’ll be more likely to find Rover users than Wag! users.
Overall, Rover is probably the better option for dog walkers looking to maximize earnings. However, Wag! is a good option as well — and anyway, there’s nothing stopping you from signing up for both.
How to Become a Professional Dog Walker
If you’re going the independent dog walker route, you’ll need to think like an entrepreneur to a certain extent. That means having an online presence, marketing your services, and obtaining a business license or insurance if necessary (be sure to check the laws in your area).
Business insurer Thimble has some good advice for beginning dog walkers:
“First, create a contract outlining your terms of service, payment authorization, and cancellation policy. Other important information can include house rules if you’re dog sitting, and emergency protocols in case something goes wrong. Furthermore, request a full medical history of your clients’ dogs.
Also consider having your client sign a veterinary release form, which authorizes you to contact a vet in case of emergency. Despite your best efforts, accidents can happen even to the most careful dog walkers, so you should get general liability insurance.”
How to Become Certified as a Dog Walker
Whether you become a professional dog walker independently or through an app, it always helps to get certified! While certification is not required to work as a dog walker, there are several credentials that are useful for dog walkers to have:
- Dog Walker Certification from the International Organization of Professional Dog Walkers
- Certificate of Dog Walking from the Dog Walking Academy
- Certified Professional Pet Sitter from Pet Sitters International
- NAPPS Certification from the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters
- Cat & Dog First Aid Training from the American Red Cross
- Pet CPR Course from the CPR Training School
Most of these certifications do require an investment of time and money, but if you’re serious about becoming a professional dog walker, they’re worth it.
If you do obtain any of these certifications, advertise it! It will reassure pet parents that their precious fur-babies are in good hands — and it’ll also allow you to reasonably increase the rates you charge.
How Much Does a Dog Walker Make?
The infuriating answer to “how much do dog walkers make” is, of course, “it depends.” On the Wag! app you’ll make $18 an hour. Outside of apps, however, most dog walkers earn anywhere from $15 – $30 an hour.
It’s a competitive market, but there are ways to increase your rate. If you exclusively do solo walks instead of group walks, you can charge a little higher per dog. If you rack up glowing testimonials, key certifications and a few years of experience, you’ll be able to charge at the upper end of that scale — or even more!
If you’re an active, patient person who loves dogs and loves the great outdoors, dog walking may just be the right job for you! Dog walking is also a great option for those considering other jobs in the pet care industry, such as grooming, boarding or daycare. Becoming a dog walker gives you a low-stress way to see if you’d really enjoy being slobbered on every day.
There’s a few different routes you can take in pursuing dog walking as a side hustle or full-time job. But as long as you have the right supplies and the right understanding of dog behavior, that’s all you need to get started.
As a dog walker, you’re getting paid, getting exercise and hanging out with adorable pups. Now that’s what we call a win-win-win!