How To Get Dog Walking Business Experience


Pamella Neely

Even if you walk your own dog every day, you might not be a great dog walker for other people’s dogs. Why not? Because you know your dog, and your dog knows you. You probably go to the same spots most days, and you’ve probably trained your dog fairly well. Forget all that with other people’s dogs.

As a professional dog walker you’ll have to deal with older dogs, injured dogs, dogs that are aggressive, or timid, and dogs that may have never learned any kind of manners at all. What’s more, you’ll be legally liable for their behavior while you’re out on a walk. You have to keep your client’s dog safe, no manner how horribly behaved and crazy the dog is.

To be a good dog walker – the kind that can make a real business for themselves – you’ll need both knowledge and experience that goes beyond what you know from walking your own dog. So while its tempting to just jump in and launch a dog walking business, you and your business – and your clients – will benefit by you getting some more walks under your belt. Here are four excellent ways to get a lot of experience and make some great contacts that will get you clients later.

Animal Shelters


Volunteering to walk dogs at an animal shelter is an excellent way to get a lot of experience. This pro bono dog walking will show you how to handle puppies, aggressive dogs, timid dogs and injured dogs. You’ll also meet many of the dog people in your community as well, and some of those people may offer dog walking services or pet sitting services. Dog lovers are a definite community, as anyone who regularly goes to the dog park knows. The people at shelters are the really devoted ones, and usually the professionals of your area. You’ll learn as much from the other volunteers as you will from the dogs.

Free Dog Walking

Volunteer to walk dogs for your friends, your neighbors, co-workers and anyone else who needs help. Elderly people or someone who’s recovering from surgery or an accident are excellent choices. Busy moms who have sick kids and a dog that’s wild from lack of exercise are excellent targets, too.

Tell your free walks that you’re in training to start a dog walking business. Many of these people will become paid clients later. They also make excellent referrals – don’t hesitate to ask if you can use them for references later.

Be a Dog Trainer’s Helper

Find dog training classes in your area and call the trainers or the facilities and offer your help. Let them know you want to start a dog walking business, what your experience with dogs is, and if you want to be paid or not. It may take a few calls, but odds are that you’ll get in somewhere. If you do get a “no”, don’t stop there – ask if they can recommend anywhere or anyone who could give you experience with dog training and dog walking. You might pick up your first paid clients by just asking, especially if you’re willing to do some driving to pick up dogs.

There are a lot of books and websites and videos and dog trainer’s classes. Start reading up on your subject. Not only will it make you a much better dog walker, but you’ll get ideas for additional services you could provide.

Get a Dog Walking Job

Seems like an obvious choice, right? If you’re in a large enough area that there are dog walking companies that are actually hiring people, this is a great choice. You’ll learn so much about the dogs, their owners and how the business is run.

The only problem is that there’s going to be a lot of conflict of interests when you announce you’re starting your own dog walking business. All the dog owners you know will be in a bind – even if they like you, as a solo walker you may not be able to offer everything a larger company can. And your boss and fellow dog walking employees may be hesitant to give you referrals or references.

The only way around that situation is to get truly lucky and find a business owner who will support you in starting your own business. Or, get ready to commute: if you start a dog walking business that’s out of the territory of the place you’ve been working at, hopefully the person you learned the business from won’t feel there’s a competition.

Pam Neely writes about how to start a

dog walking business

and how to grow an existing dog walking business.

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