A Step-By-Step Guide on How To Become a Dog Walker
Updated 27 April 2023
There are a few different ways to find a career as a dog walker. One option is joining a company that provides pet sitting or dog walking services. Another option is to establish yourself as a freelance dog walker by setting up your own local company. Dog walking can provide an enjoyable, flexible way to make money for anyone who loves animals. In this article, we look at what qualifications you require, provide salary information and give you tips on how to become a dog walker.
How to become a dog walker
Below you can find some simple steps on how to become a dog walker that may help you establish yourself and build up your client base in your local area:
1. Build up necessary skills to make yourself a qualified candidate
If you're wondering what you need to become a dog walker, it might be reassuring to know that there are no set dog walker qualifications. However, it can be beneficial to choose subjects at school or college that can help set your career off in the right direction. Many colleges offer courses in animal husbandry that can make you stand out from the crowd when you become a dog walker.
Look for courses that teach you about animal behaviour and animal nutrition. If you're walking dogs or providing any residential care for them, having even basic training that allows you to spot health issues could be extremely valuable. An understanding of animal behaviour can be beneficial if you're dealing with stressed, shy or anxious dogs, too.
2. Gain work experience by applying to an established company
In some parts of the country, well-established companies exist to provide pet sitting and dog walking services. Many of these companies offer short-term or part-time job opportunities, which can be a great way to build your experience.
It's also advantageous to have this kind of experience on your CV if you later chose to set up your own company to be a dog walker. By registering with an established company, you can take off some of the pressure to identify your own clients. Over time, you can build up your knowledge and expertise to do more freelance dog walking in your local area.
3. If you freelance, learn about marketing your business and reaching clients
Setting up your own business might be challenging, but ultimately, it can help you find a rewarding and long-term job as a dog walker. Research competitors in the area to help establish a pricing structure. This can help you learn how best to market yourself through advertising in the local area. You could also consider what other kinds of services you may be able to provide to set yourself apart. For example, you may want to expand your client base if you also offer pet sitting or grooming services.
4. Understand other dog walking requirements to help your employability
People love their pets and want to ensure they are handing them over to someone trustworthy. In some cases, your clients might give you access to their homes or gardens, unsupervised. Whilst a clear affinity for animals helps, you can take other practical steps to show that you're someone they can trust to access their home and look after their pet.
One of the most obvious things you can do is show a completed Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. You can get this through the government website. You provide basic details like your address for the last five years and your national insurance number. You also need to supply copies of identification documents, but once complete, the DBS certificate shows you don't have a criminal record.
What qualifications do you need to be a dog walker?
You may be wondering what qualifications you need to become a dog walker. Although there are no formal qualifications required to be a dog walker, there are certain training courses you can take which enhance your employability by demonstrating additional, relevant skills. This could include courses in pet first aid or animal behaviour, for example.
Colleges and universities offer these courses and night schools or distance learning options if you want to study in your spare time. It's possible to set up your own pet care business, or you could choose to join an established dog walking company to build up your experience before branching out on your own. If you join a company, they may have some entry requirements, but personal attributes are likely to be just as important.
What personal qualities do I need to become a dog walker?
Although qualifications and expertise in animal care are useful, some personal qualities can help you to establish yourself as a successful dog walker. Here are some of them:
An affinity for animals. This includes difficult and shy dogs who may not like new people.
Good personal organisation. Arrive promptly for appointments and plan your schedule to maximise the number of clients you can see in a day.
Close attention to detail. Your clients might require you to remember precise instructions. You may also pick up on small signs that show a dog in your care is unwell or injured.
Relevant technical knowledge. This includes the use of specialist leads, harnesses and cages. It's beneficial to understand canine nutrition and be able to identify signs of injury or lameness.
Good communication skills and a willingness to meet new people. A lot of your business is likely to come from word-of-mouth referrals from happy customers, so making a great impression, listening carefully and communicating well are all key skills to make it as a dog walker.
High energy levels and a willingness to be outdoors in all weathers. If you want to establish a steady job as a dog walker, commit to being out with your clients' dogs, whatever the weather. This means an investment in wet weather gear is likely once autumn comes around.
Other dog walker requirements
Having a driving licence and access to your own vehicle is advantageous as you can travel further to reach clients. You can also use your car to travel to dog-friendly parks or other areas for walks, particularly if your clients live in areas without easy access to safe, open areas. Some bodies offer specialist canine care qualifications and certifications in first aid and breeding management for dogs.
These are not essential but may be beneficial depending on whether you're hoping to expand your dog walking business. If you work with dogs in a freelance capacity, including dog walkers, you can consider getting specialised insurance. This protects you if you face any unforeseen problems with your customers or a dog in your care and can also be a unique selling point when attracting new clients.
Salary and career progression
The average salary for a dog walker is £9.84 per hour. As a self-employed dog walker, you have the freedom to set your own rates, although some of this is likely to depend on where you live, how much competition there is and how sought-after dog walking services are. Busy city professionals with disposable income but without a lot of time may be willing to pay more for dog walking, but you might be up against many competitors.
There may be fewer dog owners in need of walking services in a quieter area, but you can still create a niche if you're the best and most reliable dog walker in the area. Beyond this, you can consider enhancing your services to earn more money and reach a wider range of clients. Popular options for dog walkers who have built up the experience and a strong client base include dog grooming, dog training and dog sitting, either taking dogs into your own home or providing residential care in theirs whilst their owners are away.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
Explore more articles
- A and R in music – definition, tasks and entry requirements
- The role of an electrical design engineer: duties and skills
- The differences between contract vs permanent work
- What is the head of customer services? (Duties and skills)
- How To Become a SENCO
- Asset management vs. investment banking: definition and jobs
- How to become an exam marker: a step-by-step guide
- Why is plumbing a good career path? (With 11 reasons)
- A guide on how to become a CNA (with skills and duties)
- How to become a computer engineer (with steps and tips)
- How to become a landscaper (with a step-by-step guide)
- Mechanic apprentice job profile: complete guide