Walking the dog as a career

Calling all dog lovers! If you fancy hanging out with man’s best friend, and getting paid to do it, then read on...

Dog-walking and pet-minding are great ways to make some quick cash. Not only could you earn up to £60 an hour, but you could even turn it into a full-time business. It’s also very flexible—and a fun way to get some exercise. Here are a few tips:

1. What’s required?

As with any job, you need to know what you’re getting into. As well as walking the dogs, you have to pick them up and return them home. They’re your responsibility while in your care, so you need to be prepared for whatever they get up to. You might need to walk a dog twice a day for a minimum of half an hour, although an hour is ideal. It helps to have a car to reach people and you might need a supply of pooper-scoopers, collars and leashes. If you’re going to set it up as a business, pet business insurance could a good idea.

2. How do I get started?

There are two ways: by going it alone or by working for an agency. You’re more likely to get work if you sign up to an agency—and you can easily find your local ones by looking in a search engine. The national agency Animal Aunts could help find work for you in your area. The only downside is that an agency may charge for taking you onto their books, and deduct a percentage of your earnings. Going it alone requires a good reputation. It could well be worth signing up with the National Association of Registered Petsitters, so that you’re professionally vetted. Membership can be expensive, though—so alternatively you could put up an advert in a pet shop, or vet surgery, or on gumtree.com.

3. What are the rates?

Typically from £10 to £15 per dog per hour, so if you take out a few it could be a nice little earner in one walking session.

4. How many dogs should I take?

At first you might not want to take on too many. If you’re inexperienced, you’re unlikely to know how to handle more than one or two dogs at a time—especially if they’re unfamiliar with each other as well as with you. The size, speed, age and level of obedience of the dogs will also influence the walk.

5. What’s the legal situation?

Certain councils restrict the number of dogs a walker can take (usually to a maximum of four), so check with yours first. More importantly, under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, if you lose control of a dog in your care it’s your legal responsibility—not that of the owner. If you’re serious about doing this, you should look into taking out public liability insurance.