I was a full-time dog walker and loved it! But it can be hard for those who aren't experienced with dogs. Here's what you need to know.
If you haven't heard, dog walking is the new hip profession. Getting paid to get exercise around beautiful cities and hang out with dogs? Um, yes! Sign me up. I already did—which is why I'm here.
For four months, I worked with dogs full time, and the things I learned were invaluable to me. Upon realizing how easy it was becoming for just anyone to get a job walking dogs, I became a bit worried about those that are uneducated in proper pup ways taking to the streets.
If you're considering giving it a go (either working for an existing service or trying it out yourself), I strongly encourage you to make sure you are familiarized with the following information.
4 Things All Dog-Walkers Need to Know
- How to greet a new dog.
- Dog aggression signs.
- Leashes and proper holding.
- The golden rule.
1. How to Greet a New Dog
- On His Terms: Be still and let the dog approach you—let him interact with you on his terms.
- Kneel and Turn: Don't bend over the dog—kneel down and turn your body slightly to the side. This shows the dog respect that he will appreciate and he will likely warm up to you much more quickly.
- No Reaching: Do not reach your hand out for him to smell. He has an amazing nose and can smell you just fine from where you are kneeling. Only offer your hand for licking if his comfortableness with you is clear—otherwise, it may look to him like you're reaching for his face.
- Treat Him! If you have access to owner-approved treats, give him one to make him more friendly towards you. It needs to be owner approved first because many dogs have allergies.
- The Under-Chin Scratch: If he gives you clear signals that he's comfortable with you, feel free to scratch under his chin—dogs largely prefer this over the top of the head, which can feel threatening to them.
2. Dog Aggression Signs
- Raised hackles (erectile hairs along the back of the dog—they rise when it is angry or alarmed)
- Stiffening of the body
- Maintaining eye contact
- Bearing teeth
If any of these signs occur, back off immediately. Remember that dog aggression is born from anxiety and fear. We may mean to be friendly, but when a person enters the room (especially someone large or male-bodied), makes direct eye contact with the dog, and pats it on the head, it can come off as a clear sign of dominance—or even aggression—to the dog.
Let the dog become cool with you on its own terms and remember that it is a living breathing being with feelings and anxieties of its own.
3. Leashes and Proper Holding
There's a big difference between walking two dogs and walking ten. These leash-handling tips and tricks will help keep both you and your pups safe.
Avoid Retractable Leashes
While they do shout "convenience," countless animals and humans have gotten severely injured and have even died from these popular contraptions. The retraction is so strong and the wire is so thin that it can slice fingers, hands, and doggie limbs right off. Many states are trying to ban them—in the meantime, it is best to bring your own standard-issue leash.
No Wrist Action
Many people think that standard leashes were made to wrap around your wrist. This is incorrect, and unfortunately, can severely inhibit your range of motion and ability to quickly respond to situations. Standard loop leashes were made to insert the thumb through the loop, and hold the remainder of the leash material gripped in your palm—lengthening the loop to shorten the leash if necessary.
Keep It at Your Core
This tip is especially important if you're walking more than one dog at a time—keeping the loop of the leash at your core will give you the strength of all of your body weight against the dog(s) instead of just your limited arm strength. Not even a pack of dogs can yank you around if the dogs are controlled by your core.
How to Properly Hold a Dog's Leash
4. The Golden Rule
Or should I say the brown rule? Always pick up their poop!
If that means bringing your own extra doggie baggies to make sure that you'll have something to clean it up with, so be it. It's part of the job description to deal with their messes. Don't be one of those walkers who ignores the dog poop and leaves it for a public service worker or a homeowner to deal with—it's just not fair!
If you remember these things, you will be well on your way to start your dog-walking journey.
It's a lovely one to emBARK upon.
Are you ready to dog-walk?
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- How should you greet a new dog?
- Approach him and pat his head.
- Kneel down and turn slightly to the side.
- Put your hand by his nose.
- Which is a sign of dog aggression?
- Stiffening of the body.
- Wagging his tail.
- Licking you.
- What is the golden rule?
- Always pick up their poop.
- Make sure you run on the "walk" sometimes.
- Take their picture for their owner.
- Kneel down and turn slightly to the side.
- Stiffening of the body.
- Always pick up their poop.
© 2016 Ellyn Beale
geri on September 28, 2018:
i really enjoyed this blog post. it's so simple and i learned a lot. thank you!
Ellyn Beale (author) from Oakland, CA on July 26, 2016:
Marina from San Francisco, CA on July 14, 2016:
Fantastic Hub, Ellyn! Love the puppy photos in particular. Your list of tips will surely be useful to beginner and expert dog walkers alike!
Dog Walking 101
In this Article
In this Article
In this Article
Taking your dog on walks is a great way for both of you to get daily exercise. Not only does your dog get a potty break and exercise, they also get mental stimulation and an awareness for the neighborhood. However, if your dog is difficult to walk, it may make your daily strolls impossible. Luckily, there are methods you can use to train your dog and ensure a positive experience for everyone.
Dog walking license and regulation information: what you need to know
Startups takes a look at dog walking laws and dog walking qualifications in the UK
Although there are relatively few regulations specifically targeted at dog walkers, businesses providing a service must get public liability insurance.
In fact, according to a recent report from insurance company Insurantz.com, many professional dog walkers are putting themselves at risk by not being adequately covered.
“We are doing everything we can to raise standards within the industry,” says Lewis from NarpsUK. “We currently sit on government committees to create Model License Conditions and Best Practice Guides. Our members sign up to our terms and conditions and code of practice and we insist they have insurance, criminal record checks for holding keys and local authority licences where required. They also receive support and guidance from us.”
NarpsUK members can utilise service agreements drawn up by the organisation's legal team and it offers a discount with one of the UK's leading pet sitting and dog walking insurance companies.
Other precautions NarpsUK suggests taking before embarking on starting a dog walking or pet sitting business include:
- Meeting owners prior to the first booking
- Restricting the number of dogs walked to no more than four at a time
- Keeping records of all work undertaken
- Protecting clients' personal information
If this is the start-up business idea for you, be aware you may have to deal with dogs injuring other dogs or people while in your charge. It's vital to have the right insurance cover to deal with legal claims, should they arise.
The Kennel Club's dog law site also lists a number of rules and regulations people working with dogs must abide by, including:
- The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 You could be fined up to £1,000 if you: fail to pick up faeces, fail to keep a dog on a lead or put it on the lead when directed to do so, or allow a dog to enter land from which dogs are excluded.
- The Control of Dogs Order 1992 All dogs in a public place must wear a collar with the owner's name and address on.
- The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 It is against the law for a dog to be ‘dangerously out of control' in a public place. The Kennel Club says something as simple as the dog chasing, barking at or jumping up at a person or child could lead to complaints, so make sure it is under control at all times.
- The Road Traffic Act 1988 Dogs must be on a lead at all times on roads. If the dog you are walking is injured in a car accident, it is up to the driver to stop and give their details to you.
- Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 It's against the law to allow a dog to worry livestock on farmland. If a farmer catches a dog worrying his livestock, he has the right to stop the dog – even if that means shooting it.
- Dogs Act 1871 It's an offence if a dog is dangerous and not kept under proper control, which is usually regarded as not on a lead or not muzzled. The law applies wherever an incident happens.
What Are the Essential Dog Walking Supplies for Professionals?
As with any profession, dog walkers need to have the right tools in order to do their job. While these aren’t going to be the same things you’d need to work in an office, stocking up on these essentials is going to make things much easier, and help you prepare for any situation Fluffy or Fido throws at you. The same advice goes for pet groomers and pet sitters.
Here are seven professional dog walker supplies that can make all the difference:
1. Good Leashes: A leash is something you need for every dog walk. Even if your client’s pup is fine off the leash, you’ll still want to bring one along just in case. Usually clients will provide you with a leash to walk their dog. But not everyone has a high-quality leash. Especially when you’re walking someone else’s dog, you need to ensure the leash won’t slip out of your hand or have any kind of malfunction—like a loose clip. Bringing your own leash eliminates these variables.
2. Biodegradable Waste Bags: Disposable bags for picking up after dogs are another item you need to have as a dog walker. Again, some owners will provide you with these. But this isn’t always going to be the case. You need to bring your own on every walk to cover any surprises that occur. Some cities and towns will even fine people who are found not picking up after their dog, which would be a big blow to your earnings. Opting for biodegradable bags is also a much better choice for the environment.
3. Dog Walking Bag: As a dog walker, you’ll need to carry a lot of supplies along with you. Treats, poop bags, water, a water dish, a dog whistle, lights, a first aid kit, and potentially other items as well. You need to get a dedicated carrying device in order to keep all these things handy. Some people choose to use a backpack, but this isn’t always convenient. A large fanny pack, which is more easily accessible on the fly, can be extremely helpful to the professional dog walker. You can even attach leashes to your pack for safety if you’re walking many dogs at once.
4. Water and Dish: Just like us humans, dogs need water. This is especially true on hot summer days when dogs can overheat out in the sun. Certain breeds are more susceptible to this, which makes it even more important to carry water and a dish with you. You can get a collapsible container that folds up, making it easy to stow away in your bag.
5. Lights and Reflective Clothing: In an ideal world, all dog walks would be done on a beautiful, sunny day. This, unfortunately, isn’t the case. Part of being a dog walker means you need to work in all kinds of weather, and sometimes at night as well. Depending on your location, this can create hazardous situations for you and the dog. Getting lights and reflective clothing can help drivers, bikers, and runners see you while walking dogs in rain, snow, or in the dark.
6. Dog Whistle: You don’t run your dog walking business in a vacuum. While out in the world, you’re going to encounter other dogs and people who will do unpredictable things. For example, an aggressive dog might charge at you. Or, the dog you’re walking might get aggressive if scared by something happening around you. Having a dog whistle or another kind of noise-emitting device for dogs can distract them and give you a chance to act.
7. Dog Walker Insurance: You don’t want to think about things going wrong when you’re out walking a dog. But it’s imperative that you’re prepared for all situations. Having dog walker insurance is a no-brainer for anyone working in this industry. Being covered will give you peace of mind, while also protecting you against a range of insured accidents. You’ll want to keep a Certificate of Insurance—either physical or digital—in a convenient place. Many people won’t even let you walk their dog unless you can provide proof of insurance. Make sure you keep your insurance current otherwise, you can be held liable for claims of bodily injury or property damage to third parties.
Many people begin a pet sitting or dog walking service because they love animals. Others go into the business because they see there is a need for the service and they think that they can make a lot of money providing a needed service. Neither of these is a good enough reason in itself and could end in disaster if you are not properly prepared before you start taking on clients. Evaluating your motivation and talents thoroughly before moving forward on a pet sitting or dog walking business can save you lots of headaches and great deal of time and money invested in what might not be the right business for you.
Do You Love Animals?
It sounds like a simple question. Most people love puppies and think that playing with dogs and cats would the ideal job situation, but it takes far more than simple enjoyment of the warm and fuzzy aspects of an animal to make you successful in a pet oriented business. Most people love animals to some extent, but many people do not "live and breathe" their love of animals. You have to be the kind of person who does not mind muddy paws on your clothing and can be just as loving and affectionate with a cat who is old, arthritic, and cranky as you are with an adorable kitten.
Patience and compassion need to be available in equal proportions. Part of pet sitting will deal with unpleasant surprises. For instance, accidents in the house, vomit, cleaning up messes, or confronting damage done by an animal while you were gone. No matter what a pet has done, you must never lose your temper and take it out on someone's beloved pet. Do you have the tolerance to face this kind of frustration?
It is not All a Walk in the Park
You must also be able to adjust to change and quickly adapt to the unexpected. Animals are unpredictable. You have to be able to "go with the flow" when the circumstances demand it. If you have a regular schedule that you need to stick to, that is fine, but you may need to adjust it occasionally to compensate for pet personality differences, health concerns, or simply stubbornness on the part of a particular animal.
There is also the chance that you will be faced with a pet emergency, and you will have to be able to think fast, act quickly, and be the voice of calm that saves the life of a beloved pet. Can you handle this kind of situation rationally and take control of the situation? Will you be able to overcome your emotions and not let fear take over? When clients trust their pets' lives to you, you must be able to handle stressful, dangerous situations with authority and intelligence.
Dependability is what will make or break your reputation as a pet sitter or dog walker. Clients will rely on you to show up on time and take care of their pets' needs as scheduled you cannot call it off when you feel like it. The holidays, evenings, and weekends will often be your busiest times and you will need to be reliable. Can you force yourself to show up no matter how bad the weather is and on late night visits, to make sure the animals you are responsible for get the care they need?
You do not have to be a marathon runner or weight lifter to be a pet sitter or dog walker, but you certainly have to be in relatively good health. After all, you do not know from week to week if you will be walking three Great Danes or pet sitting a parrot and a large snake. You should take care of yourself so that you are able to handle any animal you might be called upon. In addition, take care of them in the event they become ill or injured, and you might have to transport them to a veterinarian or animal hospital. You also need to be able to control more than one animal at a time if you are walking dogs in a group. Remember, you have to be able to assert your authority at all times.
Being in good health also goes back to reliability, if you are frequently sick, overworked, or too tired to function properly, you are not giving your clients or their pets the best possible care and it will show. The animals you care for regularly will look forward to seeing you and can sense when you are not fully participating in their walk, play time, or socialization.
A good businessperson has to have a variety of skills in order to keep a business running smoothly, make money, and keep clients satisfied. Organizational and marketing skills are essential as well as some understanding of the basics of bookkeeping, scheduling, and general business practices. If you are not yet familiar with some of the technical aspects of running a business, that is fine, you do not have to have the knowledge already in place. The key is to have the ability to learn it.
If you have a knack for grasping business concepts and the ability to follow the rules of business and stick to them, you may be able to run your own business successfully. However, if you hate doing paperwork and are always unorganized, you may find yourself six months down the line with unpaid bills, debts, and unhappy clients and you may wonder how you got to that point. You can always learn specific skills such as bookkeeping and marketing, but organizational skills and solid business acumen are traits that you will soon know whether you have or not. In addition, take an honest review yourself and determine where you rank with these skill sets: