Dog Walking - How To Turn Your Hobby To A Business
Our latest Guest Blog is from Protectivity Insurance who provide advice on how to set up a dog walking business.
‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’. These pearls of wisdom from an ancient Chinese philosopher are poignant as we battle daily with the stress – or boredom - of 9-5 desk jobs and city careers.
A dog walking business, however, could be the perfect way for you to escape a stifling job that you don’t really enjoy. If you dread going to work every day, and would much rather be outdoors walking your dog, then know that you can transform your hobby into a job – and a well paid one at that! Though dog walking may be categorised as a ‘hobby’, a recent study found that professional dog walkers earn an average £26,500 per year.
You only have to read the glowing testimonials of those who have swapped their resented, mundane jobs for their ‘hobbies’ to learn the appeal of making a similar transition. BUT before you indulge your love for dogs and the outdoors, read the guidance below carefully, for if you do decide to become a professional dog walker it is business as usual and must be taken seriously.
Build your customer base
Start off dog walking for family, friends and neighbours – they may go on holiday or be cash-rich time-poor – and a helpful offer to walk their dog will be highly valued. Where pet care is concerned, word of mouth never goes amiss, and you’ll quickly find yourself walking dogs for friends of friends…of friends…
When you’ve established a name for yourself, think about producing some business cards and flyers, and placing an ad in the yellow pages. Having a website you can direct people too is also a great asset as more and more people live ‘online’. Business cards will promote your services, and can be put up in pet shops and vets – also be sure to have some cards on you at all times to hand out on your dog walks in case people ask.
Once dog walking is no longer a hobby but a business, official licensure or certification matters, though it is not essential. A certificate will legitimise your business, and demonstrate that you are trustworthy, reliable and serious about what you do. The British College of Canine Studies is one of several faculties that offer certification as an illustration of your knowledge, and you will learn everything from body language and communication, to dealing with aggression, to breed difference.
DogTec is also a useful touchstone for both dog walking and business set up, as they specialise in the dog pro industry.
Understand canine behaviour
When it comes to dog walking there is no better recommendation than a dog running up to you in your local park - this can only prove you’re in good favour amongst the canines! Dogs are smart, sensitive animals and pick up on human attitudes, so before you launch into a canine career, make sure you know as much as you can about these animals. Consider practical points like whether your canine clients are well behaved, or do some have aggressive tendencies? Will they run off if not on a lead? You could have your hands as full with one puppy as five ‘sensible’ dogs so bear this in mind…
When a dog-walking hobby becomes a professional business, you take on responsibility for more than just yourself and your own dog. Customers will entrust their beloved pet to your care, so it is important that you are protected from unforeseen problems that may occur. Common types of claims include dogs jumping out of vehicles and injuring themselves, dogs attacking cats and causing injury, and (believe it or not) members of public tripping over dog leads!
It therefore pays to protect yourself – and the finances of your business – from the risk of costly claims. It’s highly recommended that at the minimum, you take out at least Public Liability insurance to protect yourself in case one of the dogs in your care damages anyone’s property, or attacks another dog, person, or animal. You might also consider Liability to Animals insurance in case the dog is injured or lost due to your negligence. To find out more about pet business insurance click here.
Our extra five tips
- Commit to a realistic schedule. You may be trading in your job for your hobby but consider your other commitments – a family, your own pet? Don’t spread yourself too thin - your customers (both human and canine) will appreciate you being able to stick to a reliable schedule!
- Advertise. Joining an agency is highly recommended and websites like DogWalker.com could give you valuable exposure during the beginning stages of setting up your dog walking business. You’ll become part of the dog walking network and expand your client reach.
- Business is business. Be wary that you may have left your desk job to dog walk, but as a professional dog-walker you will still have to manage the finances, accounts and paperwork inherent to any business.
- Don’t equate more dogs with more money. Be smart when considering how many dogs to walk at once. Look at size, shapes, breeds, attitudes and know it would be a bad idea to find yourself in a situation where you had to walk 15 dogs at once!
- Know your local area! Some parks and towns have certain rules when it comes to dogs; some cities require dog-walkers to be insured. Make life easy for yourself and know your walking routes, the dog parks, and any ‘risky’ zones.
Life is short…
… and if you think it’s your time to take the leap of faith and make a living from your hobby, we’ll applaud you! So the question remains, are you ready to leave the city and the commutes in favour of your furry friends, and turn your hobby into a business?
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