When I first took a job walking dogs, I had an idea of what to expect. And my expectations weren’t wrong. They just grossly underestimated the complexity of a job that seemed so simple.
- Each morning I walk 2.5 miles to my first client’s house.
- From there I walk 7 miles or more, looping around the neighborhood, collecting my clients’ pups and stretching their legs.
- I take notes of behavior on our walks, bathroom breaks and walking partners so I can send a little update to my clients after we finish.
- I pick up more poop than I care to mention, get slobbered on and get odd looks as I carry on conversations with my puppy pals.
But it’s an amazing job. And it’s so much more than just going for a little walk with a happy dog.
It’s Not Just About Walking Dogs
There’s more to the job than the name implies. Dog walking, particularly as a full-time job, requires a considerable amount of planning and organization. That’s why I spend my mornings preparing for the day (and sometimes the week) ahead.
My morning agenda consists of:
- Corresponding with clients and coworkers via email
- Accepting walk requests or rerouting them to coworkers
- Double-checking and updating my daily calendar
- Mapping my walking route
- Packing my travel bag with necessities, including all the keys I need for the day
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Being Efficient Means Walking in Pairs (Or Trios)
There is undoubtedly a sense of emotional reward and physical exhaustion from spending a solid 6 hours walking dogs, but for the job to be financially worthwhile, you have to be efficient.
That means getting the most out of each walk may require you to pair up compatible walking companions. To do so, you’ll want to map out an effective route.
When creating my map, I consider the time it takes to get from one pup’s home to the next and how feasible it is to create walking companions.
Taking Precautions and Being Responsible
When I walk my own dog, I take certain calculated risks that I wouldn’t take when walking my clients’ pets. I do this because I know Babe, and I know how she’s going to react to most circumstances. I also know that she trusts and is comfortable with me.
When I walk my clients’ furry family members, on the other hand, I’m much more cautious:
- I rarely approach other dogs on our walks unless my clients specifically ask me to socialize their pups.
- I keep their leashes taut so I can quickly pull them away from other pets, garbage on the sidewalk, skateboarders, etc.
- I never let them off their leash (except in rare, specifically requested circumstances).
It’s important to be responsible about the pet that you’re caring for. That’s why I always carry extra baggies (in case they like to spread out their bathroom breaks), and I keep a little cache of high-value treats to grab their attention for a moment of calm during our walks.
This video shows Coralee Lynn Rose, a dogwalker, take her clients’ dogs through the streets of New York City effortlessly:
Create Your Report Card
My clients like to know how their pups did every day. They expect and appreciate an update from me. So at the end of every walk, I take a minute or two to send a picture and text message highlighting where we went, who we met and any notes about potty breaks.
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Hustle to Make Time Frames Work
Whether you’re going to drive to your dogs’ doorsteps, bike or walk, you need to keep moving to fit in all your pups. That means you should have reliable transportation (even if it’s your own two feet) and be physically fit.
Dog walking can be really hard work. In a full day, I can walk up to 16 miles in a single 7-hour shift and walk 11 to 13 dogs. At the end of the day, my muscles are shot, my feet are screaming and I’m a gritty, sweaty mess. But I welcome the challenge and finish my shift feeling accomplished.
A day in the life of a dog walker is a long one, full of walking, tugging, slobber and poop. It’s a job that is split between scheduling, administration, correspondence, exercise, training and playing.
By the end of the day, I’m covered in sweat and 15 different types of fur. But the rewards of being greeted by one wagging tail after another as part of the job makes it worth every second.