Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
Dog walking is a great way to make money on the side and get fit at the same time. Particularly in cities, there’s a lot of demand for dog walking services, and it’s well paid too. More people than ever got a puppy in the first lockdown – but now have to go back to work and haven’t the time to walk their new pooch.
Some people have even given up their day job to set up a full-time dog-walking business!
Dog walking is becoming a very popular way to make money on the side in the UK and it’s not surprising.
People are willing to pay £10-15 per dog, per hour or part of an hour. So if you walk four at a time you could make £60 an hour! Even at the moment, when most of us are home more than normal, many people still want a dog walker. Of course, there are other aspects to this work, so you need to know what the potential costs and downsides are before you dive in to the dog walking business.
Here’s how you can make easy money as a dog walker.
Dog walking really is as simple as it sounds. You arrange to pick up the animals, take them for a walk and then return them home. Each dog may need two walks a day for a minimum of half an hour – ideally an hour.
Dog walkers charge per dog, per hour. Rates range from about £10-15 per dog, per hour (or half hour in some cases). If you’re able to take several dogs at once that means you can earn significant amounts per day.
However, to start off with you need to be careful not to take on too many dogs for one walking slot. If you have not done this type of work before it might be best to start off with just one dog but you should be able to cope with about three or four dogs depending on their size, speed and levels of obedience early on.
Then, as you get to know their characters, you can organise them into groups that will get on well together. There are no current legal limits on how many dogs you can take out at once, but local councils say the worst problems they have are with dog walkers who take out more animals than they can cope with at any one time.
The main problems are:
National guidelines suggest that six is the maximum number of dogs that walkers should be able to cope with at one time. However, some local councils have introduced their own rules and in North Lincolnshire, for example, the maximum is four dogs at once.
Make sure you’re aware of, and always follow, the rules in your area or you could face a fine. Your local council can answer any queries you may have so give them a call before you get started.
It’s also important to realise that this job isn’t always a ‘walk in the park’! The charity Dogs Trust has a handy online guide detailing everything you should consider as a dog walker.
Common issues include being given dogs to walk who are really too unwell to go out. This can lead to emergency runs to the vet and difficult conversations with owners.
You may also have to deal with owners who don’t come home when they should, or who neglect their dogs and leave it to you to feed them and deal with any ailments they may have. If you have a lot of dogs to walk each day, you may spend extra hours having to deal with the problem ones as well.
Firstly, you’ll have to decide whether you want to work for an agency or yourself. Both have their advantages. You’re more likely to get initial work through an agency, but they may charge for taking you on their books and take a cut of your earnings.
Try searching ‘dog walking jobs’ to see what’s on offer, or you could register with the national agency Animal Aunts. Individuals sometimes look for dog walkers on job boards like Gumtree, too.
A good reputation is often key to getting work. If you want to be professionally vetted, sign up with the National Association of Registered Pet Sitters. But, beware – membership isn’t cheap, so it might not be necessary if you’re just looking for the odd job.
If you choose to be self-employed, you’ll need to think about how you can promote your dog walking business. Also remember – you’ll need to register as self-employed with HMRC and pay your taxes.
Putting an advert in a pet shop, vet surgery or on Gumtree is a great first step, or why not do some trial sessions for friends and ask them to spread the word? If you’re feeling confident, speak to people walking their dogs in the park – while keeping your distance! If you walk your own dog, they will trust you more.
Thousands of dog owners a month come to websites looking for help walking their dogs. Once you’re live, you’re able to provide quotes to hundreds of dog owners a week with your own prices.
You could also post about your business on social media, particularly local Facebook groups.
A typical daily walk can help you earn £200 per month per dog, and it’s a great way to keep fit while earning money. Do your research and then dive in!
Running this sort of business shouldn’t involve too much in the way of set-up or running costs.
Consider Pet Business Insurance as they offer a total package; public liability – if the dog runs out into the road and causes a pile up, or bites someone. Care, custody and control cover – looks after the pet itself, if it gets injured while under your care; and key replacement cover – if you lose your employers’ keys they’ll pay to change the locks.
The market rate for insurance starts at about £70 a year, although this price will be for the most basic cover. Assess your needs and shop around for the best deal for you.
The best thing about dog walking in the current situation is that it’s outside. This means you should be able to run your dog walking business safely, without falling foul of any Covid-19 restrictions.
But, this doesn’t mean it should be business as usual. You should take precautions to ensure both yours and you clients’ safety.
A good first step is to either have your own selection of leads to use or ask clients to provide one just for you, to avoid contamination.
Self-isolating individuals could be very grateful of your services. But, you should be extra careful with them. If a client is self-isolating, consider the safest way to pick the dog up for its walk. Do they have a garden you could pick up the dog from and drop him back there after? Or perhaps a porch where a contact-free handover could take place?
It’s also a good idea to always have a facemask on you (unless you’re exempt). That way, you can minimise your Covid-19 risk if you have to enter someone’s house or make an emergency trip to the vets or even pop to the shop to pick up extra poop bags!
Hand sanitiser is also a must. This is a good idea whenever walking dogs – Covid or no Covid – as they’re not the cleanest of creatures. However, it’s even more important, particularly if your route involves going through gates or stiles.
You should also use hand sanitiser after touching a dog’s collar or harness, especially if they wear the same one when out with their owners.
Carrying some wipes and other cleaning supplies may also be a good idea to clean down any equipment you use between clients.
You may also consider having less dogs in your control at any one time. While everyone is doing their best to keep 2 metres apart, having 5 or 6 dogs in your control might make it tricky for you to do this and may upset the other people.
Another option is to choose a quieter route? If you’re lucky enough to live near open fields, these may be quieter than your local park. Wherever you choose to walk, you should be mindful of other people and always keep your distance from them.
In tough economic times like these, you might have to sweeten the deal for clients to fight off the competition. Offering both dog walking and pet minding services together will make you very useful, increasing your level of custom.
Additional services you might offer are pet feeding, washing pet clothes and bedding, and watering indoor and garden plants. But be careful when entering other people’s homes at the moment and make sure you’re fully adhering to the government’s Covid-19 guidance.
Equally, vets are happy to see a patient who arrives with their pet sitter as long as payment is pre arranged with the owner. It’s also a good way of making extra money on top of your dog walking activities.
You could offer routine vet visits for annual vaccinations, plus flea and worming treatments, during the middle of the week. These times tend to be less busy and therefore less stressful for the pet. It’s also a handy service to provide for busy customers working in the week!
You could also offer a pet B&B to take a dog or small pet, such as a hamster, home with you for a few days, offering full-time company to a pining pooch, or moving in for short periods of time, especially with cats. It’s best only to do this if you’re experienced at full time pet care. See how to set up a pet sitting operation in our article here.
Remember, offering a service that removes stress and bother for the client is key. Plenty of people have dogs but are too busy to do all the walking and caring themselves.
Be realistic, but market yourself as a time saving asset. Also remember to show your enthusiasm about the dogs themselves to build trust.
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, if you lose control of a dog in your care it is your legal responsibility, not the owner’s.
Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 and the Animals Act 1971, a dog must not cause distress to livestock on agricultural land. It is actually legal for farmers to shoot a dog if they believe there’s substantial threat to their livestock.
The person in charge of the dog at the time will be charged with the offence, not the owner. So beware when walking on downs or farmland.
When a dog does its business in any public place, you have to clean it up by law and dispose of it properly. If you don’t, you can be given a £50-£80 spot fine.
Your local council may give away biodegradable poop bags for free, ask the environmental health department. Check the rules of your local park, these are usually posted at the entrance. It’s also useful to have the details of your nearest dog warden, so contact your local council for details.
Find more information on Dog Fouling Laws in the UK here
You will also need the vet details for each customer in case of emergencies. You don’t need any training for this work but you could consider a canine first-aid course.
Find Extra Work recommends signing an agreement with any new customers in order to protect yourself from liabilities.
The best idea is a dog walking consent form. You can include clauses like who is responsible for the cost of emergency treatment when the dog is in your care.
Also include an agreement by the owner that the dog will have an annual vaccination and regular worming to stop the possible spread of disease to other dogs in your care.
You could also include a clause for Covid-19 protocol. This could include having a lead that only you use, providing hand sanitiser if you have to enter their home and minimising contact.
You should speak to a solicitor for advice about drawing up a consent form and what conditions to include.
If you want more ways to make money, take a look at these!
If you’re looking for work as a dog walker, or want someone to walk your lovely pooch, tell everyone about it by commenting below! We already have loads of really helpful comments there so take a look at what other MoneyMagpies have to say.