It’s no wonder why professional dog walking is one of the most popular jobs and side gigs in the country — the freedom of a flexible schedule and the opportunity to be paid to care for and hangout with dogs, it’s a dream job for any pet enthusiast.
There’s no doubt that being a dog walker is fun, but an important question many potential dog walkers must consider before getting started is whether it is financially fruitful.
Which brings us to our topic of discussion: What’s the average salary of a dog walker? And how do you decide if you should walk for an app based platform, or independently? We’ll be diving into these questions and more in this article.
Key Factors That Impact Your Income as a Dog Walker
As with any contracted service, the price structure of your dog walking business will be determined by the following main considerations:
- Location: What’s the average price dog walkers in your city charge?
- Experience: What special skills and qualities can you offer?
- Duration of services: How long will your visits be? Will you work part-time, or full time?
- What will your costs be? Will you have to pay commission fees?
- Platform of service: Will you work independently, with a local service, or with an app based company?
Location: What’s the Average Price Dog Walkers in Your City Charge?
The real estate experts say it best, it’s all about location, location, location. If you’re a dog walker in New York City, you’ll naturally charge more than dog walkers in Boise, Idaho, because the price structure will reflect that of the local economy.
To find out how much dog walkers in your area are making, research the competition. You can check Craigslist, Nextdoor, or even call local companies as a potential customer to ask about their prices.
Experience: What Special Skills and Qualities Can You Offer?
No matter the field of work, your experience directly correlates to the amount of income you can expect to earn.
It’s important to keep in mind that most dogs are considered to be a very loved member of the family, so owners will want to ensure their safety, love, and care. Taking certified dog training courses is a great way to ensure a premium price for your dog walking services.
By obtaining certain skills and expertise, you’ll be able to offer special services at a higher price. For instance, if you have received a certification in how to train dogs to walk without pulling on the leash, you could charge a premium price to work on that specific behavior with dogs while on their walks.
Market All Your Dog-Related Services
Another simple way to earn extra cash on your walks is advertising all special services, such as:
- Trail Running
- Beach Walks
- Single Dog Walks
- Group Dog Walks
- Grooming + Walk
Running certainly requires a lot more work, so you can charge extra for this service, while also staying in great shape.
There are also companies who advertise special services. For example, Polly’s Adventure Walks in Portland, Oregon offers 2.5-hour off-leash adventures in the wilderness for $40.
Be creative in thinking about what bonus options you can offer owners for an upcharge, such as incorporating a comb or wash into your walk for an added fee (especially if you have experience as a professional groomer.
How long will your visits be? Will you work part-time, or full time?
Since most dog walkers are independent contractors, they don’t earn regular hourly wages and are paid solely for the time they walk dogs with most walks ranging between 30 and 60 minutes.
Time is money, and money is time.
Having a regular customer base with recurring walks is the best way to secure reliable income. The more regular clients you have, the less time you’ll need to spend recruiting new customers.
Establishing regular customers is not only efficient in providing a steady paycheck, but you’ll also create a special bond with customers and their dogs by being their consistent walker.
Regular customers can also become your biggest cheerleaders, referring other owners by word-of-mouth. Be sure to also gather testimonials from your top clients to showcase on your website or in promotional material.
Is Dog Walking Right for You?
When deciding if dog walking is the right choice to make for your career, it’s important to weigh the costs and benefits of the job before jumping in.
There are certainly many advantages of being a dog walker such as getting to love and care for dogs, maintaining fitness and exercise, and creating a flexible schedule. However, there are also a few obstacles to consider, such as:
- Variety of Dog Clients: You may end up working with dogs that are smaller or larger than what you’re used to. Some dogs may have issues pulling on the leash, being reactive with other dogs, etc. Consider how confident you are in your dog-handling skills!
- On Your Feet: This one is a bit obvious, but working as a dog walker means you’ll be on your feet all day. Make sure you’re really up for such an active career, especially if you’re used to working a desk job.
- Being an Independent Contractor: As a freelance dog walker, you’ll now be working as an independent contractor rather than a company employee. This comes with its own set of hassles, which we’ll detail below.
Since most dog walkers are considered independent contractors, or freelancers, most are not provided with company benefits such as healthcare or paid sick leave. Additionally, there’s no real job security since dog walking is a service based industry.
Any career will have it’s pros and cons, it’s up to you to determine what makes sense for the success of your career and happiness.
Dog Walking Operation Platform: Which to Choose
Will you work independently with private clients, with a local dog walking service, or with an app based dog walking company?
Independent Dog Walkers with Private Clients
As an independent private dog walker, you’ll own all of your customers and business, and also keep 100% of your earnings. You’ll also have full authority and freedom in customizing your services.
Private pet care can also allow you to easily create strong relationships with your customers since you’ll be their sole dog walker.
However, you’ll also have to manage all of your business expenses and customers on your own, which can be a challenge and costly for just one person.
For instance, dog walker insurance is essential in protecting yourself and your customers in the case of an emergency. If you don’t already have bonded walker insurance, you’ll need to purchase that for your business.
Working Through Local Dog Walking Services
Working with a local dog walking company can be great if you’re the type of person who doesn’t necessarily have time or ability to manage the business side of dog walking. A local dog walking service will do all the marketing for you, which means you don’t have to spend any time looking for clients — the clients come straight to you!
Like most companies who use contracted workers, local dog walking services will charge a commission fee. Before applying anywhere, find out who has the best commission rates in your area and whether they offer any benefits.
Another downside to walking with local companies is that they are often much less flexible and don’t usually accept would-be walkers who are looking for part-time work.
Using App Based Platforms
Using an app based platform can prove to be beneficial in many ways. The most distinguished differentiator is the technology itself.
A good dog walking app will be designed to ensure quality of service and create a smooth process for both you and your customers.
Quality Assurance for Customers
By including walk reports that show written notes, pictures, and the GPS maps of each walk, apps have an advantage of giving pet parents that special experience and insight into their pet’s walks.
App Perks for Walkers
You won’t have to worry about managing any of the business logistics. Apps take care of sending walk requests to you and handling the payment from your customers so you can focus on providing the best care possible.
Drawbacks to Using an App as a Dog Walker
A few of the limitations you may face using an app based platform are high commission fees. With companies such as Wag and Rover, you’ll be faced with a 20-40% commission fee on every paycheck.
- Wag charges pet owners $20 per 30 minute walk, and as a walker you’ll earn $12 plus tips (if the dog owner tips you, which is not guaranteed).
- Rover has two types of dog walking models depending on your location. The model they are moving to is their Rover Now model which also charges dog owners $20 per walk. Walkers with Rover Now earn $16 per 30 minute walk.
You may also be restricted from offering customized services. Since you’ll be subject to the policies and services of the company you are operating under, the prices and services will be controlled by the company.
Are There Any Other Dog Walking Apps Besides Rover or Wag?
The pet tech industry has boomed over the last decade, and though Rover and Wag are well-known, there’s steady competition growth from newer companies with different approaches such as Barkly Pets.
Barkly Pets is an app designed for independent local dog walkers across the country to grow and customize their own businesses. They are also the only commission-free dog walking app, so as a Barkly Dog walker, you’ll keep 100% of your earnings and you can set your own walk rates to fit your experience.
Instead of taking commissions from your earnings, Barkly charges a flat rate of $8.50 to walkers who earn over $100 a month. If you earn less than $100 in a given month, the app is completely free.
The Barkly Pets app allows customers to book directly with the walker of their choice, which promotes that unique bond between a walker and the dogs they care for.
Wrapping It Up
When deciding whether becoming a dog walker is the right path for you, you’ll want to determine how much money you can expect to earn by considering the following elements:
- What services will you provide?
- Will you offer expertise or special services?
- What’s the cost of the local marketplace for the services you will provide?
- How often will you work: part-time or full-time?
- Will you have any other service costs such as commission fees?
These questions will help dog walkers navigate their potential income and understand the options they have in setting their business up for success. Do what you love and do it well!
Are you a professional dog walker? Do you work with an app or independently? Share your tips for the trade with us!
Got more questions about the dog walking business? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll do our best to provide helpful insight!