How to Become a Dog Walker (Including Skills and FAQs)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published August 22, 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Dog walkers provide an essential service for busy pet owners. They serve as trusted guardians for pets and partners for their clients. If you're considering becoming a professional dog walker, you can benefit from learning more about the role and the steps you can take to become one. In this article, we discuss what a dog walker is, explain how to become a dog walker, highlight some essential skills, and answer some frequently asked questions.
What is a dog walker?
A dog walker is a paid animal care and service professional who takes 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. The duration of each walk depends on the dog's breed and the client's instructions. Owners often explain their expectations for their dog's care and walking process. A dog walker's primary duties may include:
Going to a client's house and picking up that person's dog
Ensuring the dogs are wearing collars with the proper identification tags
Taking dogs on designated walking routes
Making sure that the dogs are well-fed and hydrated
Giving dogs treats to maintain their focus
Cleaning up after dogs
Being aware of city ordinances and provincial laws regarding animal care
Recording dog license numbers and vaccination history for insurance
Filling out paperwork
Setting up appointments
How to become a dog walker
You can follow these steps to learn how to become a dog walker:
1. Earn a high school diploma
Although dog walkers have no formal education requirements, some employers might require you to have a high school diploma. Some high schools may offer animal science and business courses for students interested in the role. You might also pursue extracurricular activities that relate to taking care of dogs, such as volunteering at a local dog shelter.
2. Take animal care courses
You can find educational programs sponsored by independent organizations. Alternatively, you may enrol in college or university courses related to animal care and dog walking. Coursework may include topics like animal behaviour, animal body language, animal first aid, animal nutrition, dog obedience, disease prevention, leash training, and pet grooming. Having a basic education in animal first aid and CPR can be beneficial. You can learn these skills through local programs or by asking veterinarians, who may charge fees.
3. Become a certified dog walker
Pursuing certifications is typically optional, but it's a step that may impress clientele and allow you to earn a higher salary. If you want to pursue certification, some colleges, universities, and independent organizations offer certificate programs, including online and on-site training. Here are some examples:
Dog Walker Certificate: The International Association of Professional Dog Walkers offers a four to 12-week online course complete with access to an educator and a downloadable certificate.
Certificate of Dog Walking: Dogbiz has the Dog Walking Academy, which offers online courses, and an in-person class in Calgary, Alberta.
CPPS-Certified Professional Pet Sitter: Pet Sitters International offers this credential, as professionals categorize dog walking as pet-sitting.
4. Receive some on-the-job training
Next, you can receive professional training by working for a dog walking organization or volunteering at nonprofit organizations. As part of your training, a supervisor may teach you how to feed animals, transport them safely, operate equipment, and clean up after them. If you plan to open a dog walking organization, you may benefit from observing how the CEO manages the organization. During this process, you may also learn how to schedule dog walker shifts, talk to clients, run promotional campaigns, and control finances.
5. Take related business courses
If you want to open a dog walking company, you might benefit from taking college or university business courses. Business students may learn about creating business plans, obtaining insurance, operating and promoting an organization, and setting fees. These skills can help you own and manage a dog walking organization.
6. Obtain the necessary licensing and insurance
Depending on the province and organization that employs dog walkers, they may require you to obtain specific licenses. For example, many employers require dog walkers to have a driver's licence to transport dogs. When working for an agency, you may earn the following licences:
Business licence: If you own an organization, you may require a business licence, which allows you to conduct business legally.
Driver's licence: If you transport dogs by vehicle, it's crucial you have a valid driver's licence.
Liability insurance: If you're a business owner, it's vital you get liability insurance to protect your organization if an accident happens to dog walkers, the dogs themselves, or the dogs' owners.
Regional licences or permits: Certain cities may require regional licenses or permits before you can bring dogs to municipal parks or other properties.
Essential dog walker skills
You can benefit from developing the following skills:
Attention to detail: You may make special notes of information like the breeds of dogs you're caring for, client's instructions, provincial and municipal ordinances, and any special needs the dogs may have. This skill can ensure you provide the best care possible and avoid incidents.
Communication: It's important that you can communicate effectively with clients to take instructions, make appointments, and inform clients. This skill can also help you communicate with dogs by giving commands and nonverbal cues.
Interpersonal skills: Besides observing and empathizing with dogs, you can benefit from developing your interpersonal skills. By learning to empathize with clients, you can gain their trust more quickly.
Organization, record-keeping, and scheduling: It's important for you to keep excellent records for your clientele. This skill includes making notes of special needs or requests and ensuring someone is always available to take care of the dog.
Problem solving: Depending on the situation, you might benefit from understanding how to calm your clients' dogs and how to avoid conflicts with other dogs or animals entirely. You can learn this skill from your experiences and educate yourself about animal behaviour.
Technical knowledge: It's important that you have a basic understanding of the use of animal restraints and animal cages, animal control, nutrition, and first aid treatments. This knowledge can ensure you know how to take care of the dogs properly.
Frequently asked questions about becoming a dog walker
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about becoming and working as a dog walker:
How can I advertise my services as an independent dog walker?
Dog walkers may rely on referrals from their clientele. If you choose this career path, you can benefit from advertising your services. You might achieve this by printing flyers and posting them in highly visible locations. You can also start a website where you offer advice to dog lovers and advertise your services. There are also online dog walker job boards, which you can pay the host organization to advertise your services. These organizations might take a percentage of your earnings, but they can help you find new clients and get additional work quickly.
How do I set prices for my services?
If you're starting a dog walking organization, you might determine prices for your services. It's essential to research before setting prices to uncover information such as if other organizations in your area offer similar services and what prices they charge. You can also ask other independent dog walkers in your area what they charge their clients. Typically, prices fluctuate depending on various factors, such as location, experience, and certification.
What do I need to take with me for dog walks?
It's crucial that dog walkers bring all the necessary items to complete tasks effectively and safely. For example, it's essential always to have extra water for the dog in case it overheats. Here are some additional items you might consider:
A bowl to pour water in for the dogs to drink
Treats for the dog
A raincoat or coat for cold weather
Bags for dog waste
A backpack to store the supplies
What is the work environment for a dog walker?
Typically, dog walkers work in outdoor environments, often walking on sidewalks and in parks. Some clients may prefer their dogs remain indoors, in which case you can play with the dog to ensure it gets exercise and clean up after it. Dog walking organizations may have a small office where professionals complete administrative tasks, such as scheduling and contacting clients.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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