Ready to leave behind your cubicle, demanding boss, 9-to-5 hours, difficult co-workers, exhausting commute, mind-numbing/ stressful/ dissatisfying work? Dreaming instead of happy dogs, grateful clients, fresh air, daily exercise, flexible hours, and looking forward to your workday? Sounds like dog walking might be for you.
If you’re serious about being a professional dog walker, you’ll need to set yourself up to make a living at it. Here are the three steps you need to take to become a dog walker:
Step 1: Go to dog walking school
Dog walking is an unregulated industry; unlike true professional fields like medicine, law, accounting, etc., there is no official body determining whether you can be a dog trainer. But if you’re serious about a career in dog walking, and you care deeply about dogs, you owe it to yourself and them to pursue the best possible education in dog walking and behavior.
You probably wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t love dogs. A lot. And most likely you’ve had the pleasure of growing up with them. But loving and living with dogs doesn’t make a dog professional, any more than loving and living with people makes us psychologists or teachers.
You’ll get much more enjoyment from your work and have a far greater impact on the lives of dogs when your love of them is backed by a scientific understanding of how dogs learn, and professional walk management skills to keep dogs safe.
When you’re ready to go to dog walking school, choosing the right one is paramount. An unregulated industry also means that professional programs are unregulated. The Dog Walking Academy is the first, most comprehensive, and most widely-respected program for professional dog walkers, covering canine learning theory, body language, aggression, walk management, basic training, canine 1st aid & CPR, emergency planning, and ethical business practices.
Step 2: Get a Dog Training Business Education
If you wish to move beyond working as a dog walking employee, you’ll also need a business education.
If you’re like most dog walkers, it’s a love of dogs that’s brought you here, rather than a burning entrepreneurial spirit. So if the idea of starting and running a dog walking business has you drawing a blank (or, even worse, breaking out in a cold sweat), business learning is your next step.
You’ll need to know how to design your walking services, what to charge for them, how to set and enforce policies that protect your income and keep dogs safe, how to market your services to get dogs to walk, and so forth. Don’t worry—you don’t have to be a sales, marketing, or business natural to succeed as a dog walker. But you do need to learn the basics.
In addition to the Dog Walking Academy, consider personalized Business Consulting for a more one-on-one handholding approach. Still just exploring? Read our book The Business of Dog Walking: How To Make a Living Doing What You Love.
Step 3: Create a Transition Plan
The idea of starting a dog walking business may be hard to fathom if you’re working full time for a living. It’s one thing to dream about becoming a dog walker. It’s another thing to get from here to there. How do you transition from your current job or career to walking dogs for a living? Is it even possible?
That last question is easy: Yes, it is. We’ve seen dog lovers from every conceivable background make the transition—from restaurant and retail workers, to teachers and tech folks, to medical doctors and marketing execs.
The how question is a bit more complex: You need a transition plan. To be more exact, you need a transition plan personalized to your unique situation. For example, your transition plan will look different depending on how much you need to make, whether you work a job with flexible or strict hours, whether or not you’ll be able to exit your current position gradually, what kinds of additional demands you have on your time, what your support network looks like, and so forth.
The power of a transition plan is that it lays out your exact steps to reaching your goal of becoming a dog walker, and exactly when it’s safe to take each step. Without a transition plan, most would-be dog walkers either never make it to full time, or jump too soon and find themselves in financial hot water.
If you’re serious about making your living as a dog walker, dogbiz University online course Transition Planning for Dog Walkers provides step-by-step instruction to build your personalized transition plan, or take advantage of our career consulting to have your plan created for you.
There you have it: The 3 steps to becoming a professional dog walker. Granted, it’s not a small amount of work. But the rewards of walking dogs for a living couldn’t be more worth it. We hope you agree—the dogs in your community are waiting for you!