Be a Professional Dog Walker: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Explore the steps involved in becoming a professional dog walker. Find out how much education you'll need, where you can train and what licenses you'll need to operate your own business or transport animals. View article »

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  • 0:02 Professional Dog Walkers
  • 1:45 Step 1: Earn a High…
  • 2:12 Step 2: Take Courses
  • 2:52 Step 3: Start Training
  • 3:31 Step 4: Take Business Courses
  • 3:56 Step 5: Pursue Licensing

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Video Transcript

Professional Dog Walkers

Professional dog walkers are a type of pet sitter, since they take care of dogs while owners are away. They go to clients' houses, pick up dogs, take them on designated walking routes, and make sure the animals have food and water.

Animal care and service workers, including professional dog walkers, have few training and educational requirements. Becoming a professional dog walker might mean starting a dog walking business or working for an established dog walking company.

Career Information

Degree Level None; high school diploma or equivalent may be preferred
Licensure State driver's license (for transporting dogs by car); regional licenses or permits (for use of municipal parks or other properties, if required); business licenses (for business owners)
Key Skills Sympathetic to animals; attention to detail; people, problem-solving, scheduling, and communication skills; self-motivated; familiar with animal restraints and transportation cages; knowledge of animal control, nutrition, and first aid treatments; comfortable working in all weather conditions, walking for extended periods, and willing to dispose of animal droppings
Salary $12 an hour (2016 median)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Occupational Outlook Quarterly, and government websites, Payscale.com

Professional dog walkers should be comfortable working with and sympathetic to dogs, as well as their owners. They should be able to control animals of varying size and strength, capable of walking for extended periods, comfortable working in all weather conditions and willing to dispose of animal droppings. Professional dog owners should also be familiar with the use of animal transportation cages, knowledgeable about animal nutrition, skilled in animal first aid treatments and understand how to use animal leashes and other restraints. Self-motivation is key to working as a self-employed dog walker. Those employed by a company need to communicate clearly with fellow workers and stay on a schedule.

A high school diploma or GED may be required to work as a professional dog walker. Those who transport dogs by car will need a state driver's license. Other types of licenses may also apply. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide information specific to dog walkers, it does project an 11%, or faster-than-average, increase in employment for animal care and service workers, including pet sitters, from 2014-2024. According to Payscale.com, in 2016 dog walkers earned a median wage of $12 an hour.

Step 1: Earn High School Diploma

Although there are no formal education requirements for becoming a professional dog walker, according to the BLS many animal care organizations prefer applicants with a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. High school courses in animal science and business prepare students for this career field. Extracurricular activities that involve taking care of animals also help in developing a love for animals, an essential trait for animal care providers.

Step 2: Take Courses

There are several organizations that provide training programs for pet owners and aspiring animal caretakers. Some colleges offer certificate programs or coursework related to dog walking or animal care. Coursework may cover topics in animal behavior and nutrition, dog obedience, disease prevention and pet grooming.

Consider Becoming Certified

Some organizations offer certification programs for pet sitters and dog walkers that include coursework or on-site training in animal body language, first aid and welfare, dog behavior and leash training. Certification requirements may also include a passing score on an exam.

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Step 3: Start Training

Aspiring professional dog walkers can also receive on-the-job training through entry-level positions at established dog walking businesses or volunteer positions at animal welfare organizations. Under close supervision, they may learn how to feed animals and transport them safely, control leashed animals, and properly dispose of animal waste.

Pay Attention to Administrative Practices

People who want to start their own dog walking businesses can gain experience by working with established professionals. As a staff member, they can observe how managers schedule dog walker shifts, talk with clientele, run promotional campaigns, and control finances.

Step 4: Take Business Courses

Some professional dog walkers may want to go into business for themselves. Before starting out, they may want to explore business practices related to this field. Some universities and organizations offer business courses and certificate programs that teach skills specific to the animal care industry. Topics include creating a business plan, obtaining insurance, operating and promoting an animal care business and setting fees.

Step 5: Pursue Licensing

Professional dog walkers employed by a business need to be aware of laws and licensing requirements related to dogs and animal care. For example, some cities have limits on how many dogs a person can walk at one time. There are also policies regarding animal leash laws and animal transportation safety, dog waste disposal and lost animal reporting procedures.

Self-employed professional dog walkers usually have to file for business licenses with local government agencies or obtain permits for walking animals within city parks. They may also need liability insurance in case something happens to the dog walker, dog, or owner. Self-employed professional dog walkers may need to record dog license numbers and vaccination history.

Professional dog walkers, such as those who transport animals and business owners, must maintain their drivers' and business licenses in accordance with local laws. Certified pet sitters or dog walkers may also have to renew their certifications, which may include paying fees, retaking exams, or completing continuing education courses related to animal care.

Let's review: you'll need at least a high school diploma or GED and most likely some courses or training in animal care to become a professional dog walker and earn a median wage of $12 an hour. Dog walkers who transport animals by car and those who are self-employed will also need drivers' licenses and business licenses respectively.

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