In today’s world, you can be anything you want – from a successful business owner to a professional dog walker.
However, people always get the misconception that it’s pretty easy to be one.
Here’s a list of things that can help you out if you’re planning to be a professional dog walker.
1.) Success doesn’t happen overnight.
Kate Beckman thought it was pretty easy to start a professional dog walking business. She thought it was a good thing to start a dog walking business with her roommate instead of following their dreams to start a dog daycare as it was too expensive.
“It took us two years to form a strong stream of clientele.”
2.) Make your business stand out.
According to Beckman, the client gets a detailed report of the walk instantly after they have finished walking the dogs. She noticed that companies tend to just give brief summaries of the walk, so she thought that it’d be great for the owner to know what really happened during the walk instead.
“The reports are usually written in a storyline way, and is normally at the very start to give the client an idea of how things works around here. We connect with them that way on a daily basis as we only meet the owner once, which is during the greet and meet session.” Beckman adds.
3.) Meeting different kinds of clients who can be harder to handle than their dogs.
There are many types of dog owners – the low-maintenance owners that only care about their dog being walked, and those whom you hear a lot on a daily basis. Most people get into the dog walking industry because they prefer dogs over humans. “But, YOU have to feel happy even though your goal is to make the dog happy. To succeed in this business, you gotta learn how to be a people pleaser,” said Beckman.
4.) A business is still a business at the end of the day.
Beckman said she and her co-partner got their business insured quickly for safety reasons and to also protect both themselves and the business.
“You could be walking a dog with a poorly fitted harness, and the dog might be able to escape from the harness and get hit by a car. Or other worst things.”
Beckman said it was pretty crucial to know what your insurance covers.
“Your business insurance could cover everything that happens on leash but it may not cover anything that happens if the dog gets into a fight in a dog park.”
5.) Expect different types of requests from different clients.
And when Beckman says different, she really means it.
“Some of the clients treat their dogs like actual human children and accomodate to their wants and needs. There was this client who specifically requested that her dog eat meat and would get him steak, hamburger, or deli turkey and can only drink bottled water.”
Beckman said the same client requested for her dog to eat the steak after the walk.
But that’s not the worst.
She’s had clients requesting her to wipe the dogs’ paws after their walk because they didn’t want the dog’s paws leaving dirty stains on the floors.
“Dogs such as whippets and Italian greyhounds have really short coats, so clients tell us to dress their dogs according to the weather. Their outfits include a turtleneck, a windbreaker, and a thicker coat the dog wears during really cold weathers. A raincoat is adorned on during the rainy days,” she adds.
6.) Be prepared for worst things other than picking the poop up.
There are times when dogs will have an upset stomach, and it’s never fun to clean up after them. In fact, you might encounter a dog that eats anything and everything.
Beckman recalled the time she came across dogs who ate their own poop. “As soon as they’re starting, you gotta take out your poop bag and clean up the moment they’re done to make sure they don’t eat it.” She even recalls the time she found a sock in a dog’s poop. “I called the owners and told them they should get in touch with a vet.”
7.) Be as direct as possible with the owner.
There have been times when the dog walker’s pretty negligent with the clients’ dog.
“Strangers have called the clients’ phone number on the dog tag before due to the carelessness of the dog walker. And that’s not good for the company.”
Beckman stresses the importance of informing the client instantly if anything happens, even if it happened at home.
“The clients’ happiness and their trust is pretty important, and it’s paramount to maintain an upfront and honest review about anything and everything that happened.”
8.) Sweater weather, much?
The weather pretty much determines how the walk’s going to be like.
Beckman recalls the moments she had to go through with the weather.
“If it’s about 100 degrees outside, you gotta watch out for the dogs’ little pads to not get burnt if you’re walking on cement flooring. For super-cold days, the little ones hate being outdoors.”
The worst is during the snow season.
“Not only do their little paws get wet, their bodies, especially their bellies and paws, get mucky and dirty too. We have to rinse or wipe them dry properly.”
Beckman adds on,
“You really gotta get prepared for these elements. For me, I don’t use an umbrella as it’s pretty tough to hold a dog, an umbrella and a poop bag at the same time. I walk the dogs in a weatherproof coat and weatherproof pants, which keeps me pretty warm and dry during my walks even though I look like a trash bag.”
9.) The attachment issues can get pretty real sometimes.
Unfortunately, things come and go. This includes losing your favorite clients. It can get pretty bad when your favorite clients and dogs move. But the distance doesn’t feel real if the client keeps you updated on their pooch every now and then.
“Even though one of my favorite clients moved to Westchester, I’m still getting pictures of the dog taken with their 2-year-old.” says Beckman.
10.) The struggle of not crossing any lines.
It’s pretty hard to turn away from any signs of animal abuse or neglect, Beckman discovered.
Beckman tries to address the issue to the owners before getting involved in anything.
“We like to maintain a positive social media presence, as people can give you a negative review of your business through social media like Yelp. If there was a severely underweight dog, I’d just say that I noticed the dog’s ribs were sticking out while I was rubbing his belly, and suggest a higher calorie diet to help the dog put some weight on.”
Beckman frames it as “Let us know if we can help” if they notice anything that’s off with the dog.
11.) Expect to be treated like a dog whisperer by your friends and family.
Beckman remembers the time her mom got an English bulldog and kept asking her about the pooch’s behavior. “Even my friends ask for both walking and training advice.”
Beckman feels like she’s seen everything. “If clients and friends asked for advice on how to provide the best care for pups, it can get very overwhelming because it’s like getting a crash course for a newborn child. If we’re asked for training advice, we will usually try our best to refer actual certified trainers to our clients instead because we don’t want to make it look like that’s the trade of our business.”
12.) Keeping your nose out of people’s business.
There will come a time when you will have clients that are at home every time the dog is walked but refuse to walk the dog on their own.
“We have some clients that have plenty of money but only want the benefits of owning a dog without doing the actual job of having it. As a dog owner myself, I find myself asking them how come they don’t want to walk their dog when it’s a beautiful day outside. But, it’s no job of mine to pry, so I’ll just say that I’d walk your dog happily instead.”
13.) With passion, anything is possible.
Beckman said she remembers telling her dad that she was going to start a dog-walking business with her friend. Even though he was supportive, but he wasn’t too sure about it being a long-term business and thought that she could do something with her interior design degree instead.
“When we first started, our friends thought they’d see how things go and was surprised when things turned out for the better and we became one of the biggest dog-walking companies in the city.”
Beckman advised on setting yourself apart from the norm by being very detail-oriented, responsible with your clients and also being super persistent about things.