People get into dog walking for all sorts of reasons. But more and more, it's becoming a legitimate career choice.
And however you end up in the industry, just like any profession, you'll need a specific skill set to make it work.
So, whether you're considering dog walking as a new career or looking to expand your current brand, we've got the top tips for achieving success.
Calm in a crisis
Dog walkers need to communicate appropriately with both people and dogs. You may be required to interact with vets and trainers, for instance, or other dog walkers. This is an excellent opportunity for you to be part of a community where you can share advice and ask for help.
Some dogs are unpredictable, or it can seem that way until you get to know them better. Staying calm in any dog-related situation is crucial. Inexperienced and impatient dog walkers may make a situation worse.
Owners need to know that their fur-baby is in good hands:
- In unfamiliar situations
- When something unexpected happens
- If the dog becomes stressed
- If the dog becomes ill
Excellent communication is the foundation of your dog walking business. Clients are busy, and they need to know that you'll be on time and give them details of the day's walk.
Depending on the client and the dog walking platform you work with, a photograph and a summary of the dog's activities are a minimum requirement.
When it comes to the dogs, understand what they are happy doing. For instance, some don't like busy parks, so they have less over-stimulating options.
Having a good rapport with customers will help your business:
- Listen and understand their needs
- Show leadership skills
- Be a team player
An understanding of dog handling
While you're not expected to have the training and skills of a veterinarian, it helps to have a general understanding of everything canine. And sometimes, this just means being another pair of eyes for the client or bringing a concern to their attention.
And while you don't need any official qualifications to be a dog walker, you should be very comfortable with the different breeds and their particular challenges.
Some of the skills that may come in handy:
- Knowledge of basic commands
- A comprehension of positive reinforcement
- Consistency in training
- The ability to recognise aggression or fear
- A grasp of dog body language
- Careful attention to detail
- A nurturing nature
Energy and a sense of adventure
Let's face it, as a dog walker. You need lots of energy. Otherwise, you'll be letting down both client and pet. Don't commit to a high energy pup that requires a 1-hour trek every day unless you can manage it consistently.
To be a great walker, you have to enjoy spending tons of time around dogs. And you have to love being outdoors. Dogs can get bored quickly, so be creative; always look for new walking tracks or beaches to adventure on.
- You need the imagination and the ability to keep the activities fun and fresh
- Knowledge of the best dog walking areas in the city is crucial
Organised but flexible
To get regular, consistent customers, you'll need to be organised and flexible. Don't overbook yourself because the same level of care and energy is expected, regardless of your other dog walking commitments.
Get to know the dogs you're responsible for: their specific needs. That way, you can plan your schedule accordingly. If you overstretch yourself, giving the necessary individual care and attention will be impossible.
The more organised you are, the more productive you'll be, and the happier the dog, its owner and you. The more prepared you seem, the more efficient and trustworthy people will assume you to be.
Understand that different owners have different goals for their dogs and reasons for hiring a walker. And you'll need to understand this when taking on new clients.
Goals might include:
- Weight loss for their dog
- Reduce boredom if their pup is often home alone
- Socialise for healthy doggy development
The bottom line
Dog industry professionals need the skills to handle many different types of dogs. They need to be able to positively interact with them, recognise behavioural issues and have some knowledge of basic canine healthcare needs.
Successfully working with other people's pooches requires certain personality traits, and patience and reliability are among them. But most important of all is an absolute love of all dogs.
Clients trust that you'll stay up-to-date on industry knowledge and standards and healthcare advances.
To sustain a successful dog walking business, you'll need to be professional when meeting clients. And you'll need to give excellent customer service to ensure repeat business. So, build your brand, network and get your profile out there.
Even if you're not experienced yet, there are plenty of skills you can show off. Because while clients need someone to walk their dog, what people want is somebody who'll love and care for their fur-baby as much as they do.