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Side Hustle Series: I’m a Dog Walker

by J. Money on Friday, September 30, 2011

dog walking
(Guest post by Jen Fromal, as part of our Side Hustle Series)

I’m big on the idea of a side hustle. For me, it’s how I afford an extra trip a year, a comfy new reading chair or a big night out with my friends. Having a side gig gives me the extra income boost that I reserve for fun (and perhaps unnecessary things).

My side hustle is dog walking.

For most of the day, I’m stuck in front of my computer making my living as a freelance writer. I also spend a lot of time on my computer writing for my blog, perusing the Internet and social media sites, and talking to my friends. After a few months of being a slave to my computer, I realized that I also needed to make NON-computer time a priority in my day. I started going for walks, taking longer to grocery shop and reading more books and magazines. This was fine for a little while, but I’m the type of person that HAS to work, that LIKES to work, so I started dreaming up an ideal part-time job for myself. When browsing Craigslist for odd job ideas, I came across an ad for dog walking and knew that this was my side hustle calling.

Dog walking is a great side hustle because the clients are adorable, you get exercise, you’re helping out a caring pet owner (having a dog of my own, I know what it’s like to want the best for your pup), the hours are short and you can make around $16-$24/hour depending on your rates. You also get to be the person who walks in the door and is greeted by an excited dog who can’t wait to go for a walk a couple times a day. Instant happiness booster.

How To Get Started

You can either set out on your own by posting ads and flyers in highly trafficked areas like pet stores or joining a service like Sittercity.com. You can also find an already established pet sitting business in your town to work for. Trust is a huge deal in dog walking because a pet owner is essentially giving you a key to their home and trusting you with their pet, so having a completed background check and doing an in-person meet and greet with an owner is almost a must.

You basically need no supplies to get started, unless you want to spruce things up a bit by offering to supply your own doggy bags for walks, getting an organizer for any paperwork, a carabiner to keep keys on or a notepad to write daily “status reports” for owners to come home to. Dog and cat owners LOVE to see what you and their pet did that day, where you walked, and if Fido did a #2 or just a #1.

Even if you are setting out on your own and finding dogs to walk without joining up with an existing pet sitting company, you’ll still probably want to research the competition in your area to figure out things like your rate (typical in my area of Philadelphia is somewhere around $12-$15 for a 30-minute walk and $20-$25 for a 60-minute walk) and your service area. When picking up clients, a word to the wise is to keep your service area limited so that you aren’t wasting time driving more than a few miles between clients. More walking equals more money.

What Kind of People Make Ideal Dog Walkers?

The best dog walkers are people who, of course, love dogs and don’t mind walking them when it’s hot, cold or anything in between. You also can’t be squeamish about picking up their poop, it’s just a part of the job. An ideal dog walker is someone who can handle all types of dogs, and also knows their limits. For example, I weigh about 115 lbs. and know that if an extremely rambunctious 125 lb. German Shepherd came about as a prospective client, I might need to decline the job in order to avoid being pulled all over the neighborhood.

Another important aspect of dog walking is the ability to have a flexible schedule. Most owners want their dogs walked between the hours of 11am-2pm because this is “mid day” for dogs who have owners that work a 9-5. While this schedule works perfectly for me and my freelancing lifestyle, it may not be an option for many. If you aren’t able to do lunch hour walks, you can still get into dog walking by either finding clients with different schedules (i.e. a nurse with a nighttime shift), or offering pet sitting and dog walking services on the weekends or while owners are on vacation. After all, if you are walking a dog outside of “normal walking hours,” you can charge more!

How Much Money You’ll Make

Depending on how much you (or the company you start working with) charges for 30-minute walks, 60-minute walks and pet sitting (overnight), you can expect to make around $16-$24 an hour. I currently walk 3 dogs on most days at $20/hour, making my daily earnings about $30 on average (on Fridays I normally only walk two dogs). If you multiply that out, I can make an average of $600 a month by walking 2 or 3 dogs a day for about an hour and a half total each day.

As a dog lover and freelancer who needs some time away from the house each day, dog walking as a side hustle could not be a more perfect pairing.

————–
Jen Fromal is a writer and traveler who blogs at The Smashed Planet about traveling, working, relationships and puppies. She appreciates sarcasm and is an excellent foosball player.

**Have a side hustle you’d like to share?  Let us know :)

(Photo by Kristine Paulus)


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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carolee a.ka. Blogging Biz Mom September 30, 2011 at 6:36 am

My daughter has thought about starting a dog walking business at camp next year. We are usually the ONLY one’s who walk their dogs!

We wondered how much to charge- thanks for the guideline.

Have an awesome weekend!

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2 Jen Fromal September 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Great idea Carolee! If you don’t have to drive to walk the dogs (if your clients are within walking distance at camp), you could probably charge a little bit less to make it more enticing to the dog owners.. something like $8 for a 30 minute walk would be a good starting point! Have a great weekend :)

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3 Charleen Larson September 30, 2011 at 1:17 pm

I like dogs a lot but have never had one. We have rescue cats and usually the combination of adult-cat-not-raised-around-dogs and dog isn’t a winning one. I’ve considered doing dogwalking just to get in some “dog time”! So how do you get street cred if you’ve never owned a dog?

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4 Mary H September 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Thanks for an informative article. This is a side hustle I have been giving some thought to and it’s nice to read about it from someone who does it.

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5 Jen Fromal September 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Charleen,

You can get some street cred by first volunteering as a dog walker at your local Humane Society for a few weekends before taking your dog walking to a more professional level. You’ll do an orientation before being able to walk dogs, which gives you information on dog behavior, etc that you can apply to your dog walking side hustle. Owners will appreciate that you’ve gone through an orientation course with an organization that everyone knows about!

You can also start small and ask neighbors or friends if you can pet sit their pet next time they are out of town in their home (stopping by a few times a day for feedings and walks), and then ask them to be your references/give you a review on a pet sitting or dog walking site that you sign up for.

Hope this helps!

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6 Justin Wright September 30, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Being a dog walker sounds like a fun side hustling gig. My girlfriend always talks about starting up a dog walking business and seeing others do it is inspiring. Might have to talk her into giving it a go!

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7 brooklyn money September 30, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Do you have special liability insurance? And are you incorporated? I would want both of those things I think before doing this. .

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8 Jen Fromal September 30, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Justin,

It’s totally fun and can be really profitable if your schedule and lifestyle can accommodate the most needed walking times (11am-2pm)! Good luck :)

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9 Jen Fromal September 30, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Brooklyn Money,

I personally do not own a dog walking business, so I am not licensed or insured. I guess the best way to answer this is to say that there are different “levels” of dog walking. You can start your own actual dog walking business (which is to say you get incorporated and apply to be bonded and insured, etc), you can apply for a job with a dog walking/pet sitting company that is already licensed and insured and be an employee who gets the advantage of being with a company who has those credentials, or you can go at it on your own and get jobs that do not require you to be licensed and insured. Sites like Sittercity.com have background checks that show up on your profile to give you some credibility, and then you can meet with potential clients who will judge your trustworthiness, etc on their own and decide to hire you or not.

If hired by a client on your own, I’d suggest coming up with a Terms & Conditions form (I just made mine in a Word doc) that lists things like payment terms, what you are not responsible for, what you are responsible for, etc. Have both parties sign and retain a copy for yourself just in case anything does happen.

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10 Natalie @ Mango October 3, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Dog-walking sounds like my kind of side hustle… although my dog would get pretty jealous and he doesn’t really like to walk with stranger dogs. Alright, I’ll reconsider. Maybe counting worms is more up my alley :o) At Mango Money we have a post on side hustles as well, and dog walking was on our list! If you’re in search of a great side hustle, check out our post too and keep your options open. Thanks for the great post, J. Money! http://www.mangomoney.com/blog/how-to/earn-extra-income-with-a-side-hustle

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11 J. Money October 6, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Thanks again Jen!! And for responding to everyone’s comments/questions – that means a lot. I know everyone likes hearing back from us when we blog :) Hope to hear more of you and your money adventures going forward!! You’re awesome.

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