Starting a pet care business can be tough—even when it involves spending all your time with adorable, Instagram-worthy puppies. There’s so much to consider, from time commitment to pet care business insurance to marketing. First and foremost, you need to know if you can make the type of money you want from this business idea.
Let’s take a look at how much you can earn as a dog walker, as well as other important business considerations to think about before you decide a dog walking or pet care business is right for you.
Dog walker salary: How much do dog walkers make?
As a professional dog walker, how much you can make depends on several factors. The national average dog walker hourly wage is $15. The national average salary is just under $30,000. However, location, full-time versus part-time, and business versus non-business all play a part in determining both hourly pay and annual salary.
Dog walker average hourly pay by city and state
The highest-paying cities for dog walking are:
- San Francisco, California: $18.50/hr
- New York, New York: $17.38/hr
- Seattle, Washington: $16.89/hr
- Los Angeles, California: $16.49/hr
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: $16.24/hr
- Austin, Texas: $15.77/hr
- Raleigh, North Carolina: $15.61/hr
- Scottsdale, Arizona: $14.93/hr
While these cities boast high hourly rates, dog walkers in some other areas of the country can expect a lower average base salary. States like South Carolina, Kentucky, Alaska, and New Hampshire report hourly rates up to 35% lower than the national average.
However, you should note that these states have a lower cost of living than a city like San Francisco, New York City, or Seattle. A lower hourly rate is not a discouraging factor—just something to consider as you determine if dog walking is the right choice for you.
Other salary and hourly rate considerations
Note that the hourly and salary estimates are not hard and fast rules. You may demand a higher pay rate if you already have several years of experience under your belt. You may also find that the pay rate fluctuates depending on whether you work weekdays or weekends, during prime or off-hours, and by the number of dogs you walk in any given hour.
Should I work full or part-time?
Dog walking can be a great side gig to bring in extra income. It can also serve as a solid full-time business if you market and sell your skills successfully. Only you can decide which route is best for you, but consider the following questions as you think about what’s right for your situation:
- Do I have the time to devote to building a full-time business?
- How much money do I intend to make from this business?
- What is my current work situation? Do I want to keep my current job or change to a new career?
- Do I have the experience, testimonials, or skills needed to market myself effectively as a full-time dog walker?
If you are ready to launch a full-time endeavor—go for it! However, if you need some time to build up a client base, learn which services you really want to offer, and want to have more financial stability while learning, consider dog walking as a side hustle to begin. You can always scale up later to make it your full-time business.
Is being a dog walker worth it?
Worth is about more than money. While financial considerations are important, think about the following as you consider if dog walking is the right venture for you:
- Do you like working with dogs?
- Are you willing to devote the time to building relationships with clients and their pets?
- Are you okay with a learning curve as you develop your specific way of running your business?
- Are you willing to carry the appropriate insurance for your business or side hustle?
- If you did not pursue dog walking, would you feel you missed an opportunity to do something you love?
Perhaps you know that you want to work with dogs, but you’re not sure if you want a dog walker job or another type of pet care job. You can always try part-time first. Seek out opportunities to provide your dog walking services to friends and family. See how you like it. If you find that it’s something you truly enjoy, think about going full-time with it.
Dog walking business structures
Work for yourself
Many dog walkers enjoy working for themselves. They build their own client relationships and pursue full or part-time work by being their own boss. They may create a website, use social media, or leverage word-of-mouth marketing to grow their business. This path requires initial effort to set up your website and other online marketing assets, but once you start gaining traction in the industry, you get to keep all the income you earn.
Dog walking apps
Creating your own business infrastructure from scratch is not the only way. Many dog walking apps, such as Wag or Rover, allow you to connect to a network of pet owners looking for dog walkers. The app will take a cut of your income but, in exchange, will supply you with continuous dog walking and pet care opportunities as well as streamlined systems to make your job easier. This is a great option for freelance dog walkers and newbies who want to gain more experience.
However, you will still need to exert some effort to make these apps work for you. Even dog walkers who regularly get clients from these apps must work hard to gain strong reviews and high ratings to secure their position as an in-demand dog walker.
Other ways to run your dog walking business
You can also consider a hybrid business structure in which you use apps and run your own business from a website. It all depends on your business goals, how much time you have to commit, and how fast you want your business to grow.
Dog walking pros and cons
Whether full or part-time, dog walking comes with its share of benefits and drawbacks. Let’s explore a few of each.
Dog walking pros
- Schedule flexibility: You set your own hours and can work full or part-time as needed
- Opportunity to work with dogs: A major bonus if you love these furry friends!
- No office politics: "Game of Thrones" is replaced by Game of Fetch
- Regular exercise: Who needs a gym membership when you’re walking for miles each day?
- Entrepreneurial opportunity: Be your own boss and grow your business to reach your own goals
Dog walking cons
- Potentially problematic clients: Doggie parents take their pets seriously, which can sometimes lead to conflict
- Income can be unstable: You may want to work full time, but month-to-month, your hours may fluctuate up and down, which means your paycheck will as well
- Dogs may cause trouble: They may break free of their leash, start a fight with another dog, or get into other mischief (which is why it’s important to be properly insured!)
- It can be messy: Rain or shine, picking up doggy poo is part of the job
How do I find dog walking clients?
As mentioned before, dog-walking apps can be a great place to connect with dog owners and grow your client roster. You can also try these other ways to gain clients:
- Leave your business card and/or flyers at local businesses
- Launch a website with strong SEO to get found on Google
- Leverage social media with fun dog-walking content showing off your skills
- Check around with local shelters and breeders to see if they need any help with their pets
Am I qualified to start my own dog walking business?
There are no requirements you must have to start a dog walking business, aside from standard business licenses, registration, and insurance. As long as you can perform quality services, no further certification or education is legally necessary.
However, to excel as a dog walker, you should have or develop the following skills:
- Animal behavioral knowledge: Can you tell when a dog is getting ready to attack or if they are showing signs of physical illness and distress?
- Customer service and communication: You will be working with many different personality types. Can you be flexible and amenable to providing quality service for various kinds of people?
- Patience: For both dogs and doggie owners
- Physical endurance: You will be walking. A lot. Do you have or can you develop the physical capacity to manage the amount of exercise you will receive?
- Organization: You will have to manage multiple locations, timelines, and dog breeds. Think about how you can create systems for yourself to be successful with this
- Compassion: Can you be sensitive to the needs of each animal?
Should I start my own pet care business?
You may wonder if another form of pet care is right for you. Perhaps you don’t want to walk dogs at all, or you only want to offer dog walking as one item on your service list. Luckily, there are several related jobs you can choose from instead of, or in addition to, dog walking:
- Pet sitting or doggy daycare: Take dogs into your home or stay at theirs while their dog parents are on vacation or at work. Pet sitters can work long or short-term gigs lasting from hours to weeks at a time
- Dog trainer: Teach puppies how to sit and stay or teach an old dog new tricks
- Dog groomer: Make that pooch look pretty!
- Dog boarding: Take in dogs for long periods while their owners are away. You can also look for job openings as a kennel assistant if you’re not ready to open a full-time business in this field
- Dog breeding: Want to learn the process of breeding? Find a breeder in your area and help them care for their dogs and puppies. Just be careful: It’s easy to adopt one or five of your own!
- Pet-finding: If you consider yourself a bit of a sleuth, you can make a side hustle out of searching for lost pets
If you know you want to work with dogs or pets, there’s a business out there for you. It’s just a matter of finding the right fit for your situation and goals. If you haven’t fully decided on dog walking yet, research the possibilities of these and other pet-focused businesses until you find the one that really interests you.
The most important insurance coverage for dog walkers
There are multiple types of insurance to consider when opening a dog walking or pet care business. These include:
- General liability insurance
- Commercial property insurance
- Commercial auto insurance
- Business Owner’s Policy
However, the most important insurance to consider for dog walkers and pet care business owners is workers’ compensation insurance.
Workers’ compensation insurance for dog walkers and pet care professionals
Any pet care business owner with one or more employees must procure workers’ compensation insurance to remain compliant with state laws and to protect their business.
Without this insurance, pet care business owners are liable for any worker injury and may receive fines from the state as well. Your business is better protected against legal action and financial liabilities resulting from worker injury with workers' comp.
Workers’ comp: Part-time vs. full-time employees
Even if you only have part-time employees on staff, you will need workers’ comp in place. The difference between full and part-time workers is the premium rate. You may pay lower premiums for part-time employees than full-time employees.
Do I need workers’ comp if I have no employees?
If you have zero employees, you may not need workers’ compensation. However, you will need other forms of pet care insurance, such as general liability insurance. This is true whether you are a dog walker or another type of pet care business owner.
While you may not need workers’ comp now, you will still want to consider it in your business plans. If you intend to scale to include even a single employee, you will likely need workers' compensation in place on their first day on the job. Get a free workers’ comp estimate to see how much you are likely to pay in premiums for workers’ compensation and other important business insurance policies.
Get your pet care business covered today
Whether you want to start dog walking or are excited about another pet care business idea, Huckleberry is here to help you get you covered with the insurance you need to run the business you want. If you’re ready to get going on your pet care business, snag a fast and free workers’ comp quote from us today!