The most important thing I can tell you is that you have to be a dog lover, not just in it for the money, you need to have an empathy with dogs, a certain understanding on how they tick and what makes them react in different situations. Dog walking is not as easy as you would think, it is not just a case of picking a up a few dogs bundling them into your vehicle, then following them around a field for an hour. You will need to be of good fitness, have plenty of stamina, a calm, placid, patient nature and be prepared for all weathers. I love being a dog walker and can honestly say it’s the most satisfying job I have ever done, the look of excitement on their little faces when I arrive to take them walkies is priceless. The beginning:
A good knowledge of dogs is essential, learn as much as you can before you start, everyday you will learn something new, guaranteed. You will need to know about dog’s behavior, how they could react in different situations, their body language and most importantly some first aid tips. Your clients are bound to ask your advice on certain things, you can always explain you are not an expert but what you would do in their situation. You can search most dog issues on the internet to help you along the way and most local vets are happy to help with advice.
A good insurance policy is paramount against liability, there are loads on the market, make sure you read all the small print and know exactly what you are and are not covered for. It is very important to explain to your clients what your insurance does and doesn’t cover.
A van is ideal, especially one with back and side doors. If transporting dogs from different homes ideally they will need to be separated. Cage partitions are ideal, this way the dog won’t feel too enclosed, have it’s own compartment but still be able to see the other dogs on board. Make sure you tell your insurance company that you are running a walking service and transporting dogs in your vehicle.
Choose a good professional Company name to trade under. Register your telephone number with online directories, so when people search for dog walkers in your area, your name will come up. Website adverting works very well, you can purchase your own domain name and create a website or use the skills of a web designer. You do not need to have a website to advertise your services on line, www.thegooddogguide.com is the UK’s dog friendly listing directory, you can include your companies basic details on this website for free or there are options to have your own interactive page, outlining your services with pictures and information about you. If you decide to use leaflet adverting make them stand out by using a bright colorful design, don’t cram your leaflets with too much text, include your Company logo if you have one, bullet points about your business, prices and contact details.
Hand your leaflets out to dog owners walking their dogs in your area also put them in your local shops and on the windows of cars that are parked in notorious dog walking spots as well as through letter boxes. If your budget allows then placing an advert in your local magazine is a good idea, especially if you have a parish magazine in your area. Company branding on clothing works well and will give you a professional look but don’t go too overboard. A polo shirt, hoodie or jacket with your company logo and the words Walking Service printed on the back will be sure to get you noticed. You could also have your vehicle branded, if you do be especially courteous to other drivers on the roads, remember you are now in a branded vehicle adverting your Company. A speeding dog walkers vehicle with the driver smoking a fag and on a mobile phone is not a good advert, even if you haven’t got dogs in the back. Prices:
Set the prices for your services and offer the same to all clients, (people talk, if Rover’s mum finds out from Ben’s dad that she is paying £2.00 more than him for your services, she will not be happy and this could tarnish your reputation). Be realistic and don’t over charge, anything from £7.00 to £9.00 per hours walk is reasonable, depending on the area. If you already have other dog walkers in your area then find out what they are charging, it would not be good to start a price war. If you walk two or more dogs from the same home offering a discount is a good idea. New clients:
When someone calls & enquirers about your service, offer to go to their home to introduce yourself properly and meet them face to face, this will give them time to see how you interact with their dog. Outline your services & what they can expect, the walking times, how many dogs you walk in one round, the type of transport you use and the details of your liability insurance. Remember the person you are sitting in front of could be about to entrust you with a key to their home and more importantly their beloved dog, a friendly professional approach is always best.
Ask for as much information as possible about their dog, you will need to know:
How well they get on with other dogs and humans, especially children.
If they are good on recall and have any behaviorally problems, ask if they are happy for them to be off the lead.
Find out about up to date vaccinations, worming & flea treatments, as their dog will be mixing closely with others while out with you.
Ask about neutering and spaying, chipping and if their dog has an I.D tag also which vets practice they use in case of an emergency and you are unable to get hold of the owner. Always ask for the owners emergency telephone number as well..
Set times for walking their dog and stick to them, if these people are at work & rely on you to let their dog out for toilet breaks and walks don’t be late, you will not only be letting your client down but far more importantly the dog!
The first time you take a dog out, you will be strangers to each other, it will take a couple of walks to get to know and trust one another. It is always advisable to keep them on the lead at first until you know how good their recall is, a 5 meter reflex lead is ideal. At first it will be a bit daunting for them, jumping into a strange vehicle, with other dogs, so take your time make them feel as safe as possible, be calm and patient, it won’t take them long to associate you with fun time walkies and soon you will be the best of friends.
Building up your business:
When building up your rounds don’t turn a dog away because they are the only one you have to walk at that time of day, more will soon follow, you’ll see. Be as flexible as possible on times and days, remember your client is paying you for your services so be as accommodating as you can.
Set out your payment terms and how you wish to be paid with each client, keep a set of books for income and out goings with all your business receipts. Common sense:
Try to always use your own leads, it would be terrible to loose a client’s one. Remember when you park up for a walk your dogs will be eager to get out the vehicle and very excited at the prospect of walkies so be calm and collected, keep them on leads until you are well away from any other cars.
Always carry on your walks plenty of poo bags and pick up your poo, water in hotter weather, spare lead & collar and your mobile phone with your clients telephone numbers.
Have dog towels, wipes and fresh water waiting in your vehicle after a walk, even in cold weather your dogs will be thirsty and if it has been raining they will be in need of a good toweling down. Always aim to return your dogs to their homes in the same clean state you collected them in, this does mean if you are unlucky enough to have had one roll in something smelly it is your responsibility to clean them up.
Don’t walk too many dogs in one round, safety first, if one of your group has an accident you will need to get them safely back to the vehicle as well as the other dogs that are with you.
Always keep a close eye on all of them, especially if you have a new comer, dogs make a pack when walked in a group so tend to stick together, but always have your wits about you at all times. Beware of other people walking their dogs, be courteous, a smile and a greeting goes a long way, the person you just smiled at could well be your next new client. Please don’t get dog walkers a bad name!!!
If you would like to add your own dog walking business for free on www.thegooddogguide.com website and would like to see how click on the video link below.