Here are the pros and cons of starting a dog walking and/or dog running business. Plus, these are necessary considerations if you're comparing dog walking to the pros and cons of pet sitting.
I'll just get right to it and say that you should do it if you can.
It's no secret that I think dog walking is the best business business model ever. In my opinion, this is the best service you can offer your clients because, among other things, it’s recurring revenue, easy to schedule/manage, and you build lots of customer loyalty.
First, what is dog walking all about?
As the name of the service implies, your main objective with this is to give dogs exercise via a walk and/or a run.
Unlike a quick "bathroom break" visit where you may be in and out in 10-15 minutes, most dog walking/running visits will require a longer stay since your human client probably wants a decent amount of exercise for their four-legged friend.
Whether you charge by time or service, you're probably going to end up staying for at least 20 minutes for a decent walk. In our business, we charge by time and find that the overwhelming choice of our clients among our time options of 15, 30, 45, and 60 minutes is the 30-minute duration.
Exactly how fast and far you go is up to your clients and what they want/need. Generally speaking, a runner should be able to travel 1.4 to 2.1 miles in a half-hour visit. A walker is likely to travel 0.8 to 1.3 miles in that same 30 -minute span.
Remember that about 24-26 minutes will be spent on the exercise activity directly. The other 4-6 minutes will be spent between getting the dog ready before going out and concluding the visit with getting the dog back settled into the house and writing a daily report card, if you leave one.
The main pros & cons of dog walking
- Recurring revenue: consistent and repeating charges add up to lots of revenue over the course of time while dramatically reducing your stress level of wondering where your business is going to come from
- Multiple clients per day all in a row is an effective use of time, especially when you can group them in a small geographic area
- Regularly scheduled visits makes for easy planning/scheduling
- Enhanced client loyalty because your customers routinely interact with you week after week after week
- Great work hours: Most of your visits are conveniently made Monday through Friday between 10:30am and 2:30pm
- With consistent exercise, you’ll be contributing to your clients’ pet health and happiness - doesn't that make you feel good inside? 🙂
- Low risk for crisis: if something slightly goes wrong, the pet owner will be back home later in the day to help take care of it (unlike pet sitting where you need to manage everything 100% because the pet owner is not going to be available)
- Generally, the only “con” to this service is that, if a team member is out sick or otherwise gone, you need a replacement person who is familiar with and has home access to ALL those clients that are visited on that day. With a great scheduling system, this issue can be minimized, but it is something that can definitely be a hassle.
Watch out for these traps
Especially when you first start out in your business, you may be tempted to fall into these dog walking traps:
- Accepting any job at any time without considering the long-term impact. Since dog walking and running services are typically repeat business, once you schedule it, you’re pretty much stuck. So, if it’s too far away or you’ve got an unruly dog, this client may not be worth your time
- Not creating boundaries with your clients. Again, since this is repeat business, don’t let your clients get in the habit of doing whatever they want whenever they want to do it. If you let them change/cancel/add appointments with zero notice and they get used to doing that, you’re not going to like this client. Learn how to say NO when you need to
- Not having a backup. Assuming you have a team, you need backups for each dog (besides yourself). At some point, all of your team members will go out of town or get sick or have to leave your company. Having a backup is important to be able to continue service. On a big enough scale, there will be a need for backups just about every week (if not every day). So, you probably don’t want to be the only dedicated backup yourself because that can eventually become a full-time job by itself. Plus, you can only be at one place at one time. If 3 clients need you to come at noon and you’re the only backup, that’s not going to work and you won’t be able to service them as they expect
Keep these things in mind
These tips will help your dog walking be a valuable, profitable, and safe service to offer your clients:
- Know the goal of the visit (exercise, bathroom break, etc)
- Understand what your time window to arrive/finish is
- Owners can unexpectedly be home when you arrive, so don’t get there late/early, be talking as you enter the house, etc.
- You’ll get to know the dog and client very well. Take time to know the dog breed and understand their specific needs and behaviors. You can subtly show off your knowledge (and, thus, be remarkable to the client)
- You should expect that the client will occasionally need to alter their appointments
- Mind the health of the pet. If a dog is too old/young or it’s too hot/cold outside, etc., take the appropriate actions
- Have an extra leash and collar available on every visit
- Know the proper time for treats and what kind (if allowed)
- For everyone’s safety, do not take a dog off leash. Ever
- Don’t walk/run in the street or in other dangerous areas
- Bring water on the walk/run, if needed
- Don’t let a dog eat items off the ground
- Evaluate if you want to take dogs to dog parks for exercise. We’d suggest only offering private walks/runs on leashes, not public, off-leash exercise where the dog can get away from you or otherwise be out of your control.
How about you?
What do you think of offering dog walking in your business? Is it something you may do? Let us know in the comments below.