Have you ever thought about starting a career in the dog walking or pet sitting industry, for example as a professional dog walker?
That’s exactly how I paid my bills from 2012-2020, as a professional dog walker and pet sitter! I worked for pet sitting businesses from 2012-2014 and ran my own business from 2015-2020.
It was an awesome way to make a living in this growing niche in the pet service industry. While it does sound easy enough, there’s actually a lot more going on than meets the eye.
I can tell you from my 9 years of experience that it involves a little more than clipping a leash to a dog’s collar and going for a leisurely stroll around their neighborhood.
Let’s take a look at the top 5 tools of a professional dog walker – here’s what else you’ll learn:
- What equipment do you need as a dog walker?
- Which type of dog collar to use as an emergency back up collar
- A valuable tip for client keys
- A weekly pet sitting report card template
5 Tools Of A Professional Dog Walker
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- 5 Tools Of A Professional Dog Walker
- 1. My Car – More Than A Simple Means Of Transportation
- 2. My Phone – Providing Peace Of Mind For My Clients
- 3. Dog Walker Diaper Bags, Poop Bags, Dog Collars & Leashes
- 4. Client Keys, Professional Pet Sitting Liability Insurance, Storm Whistle, Pepper Spray
- 5. Virtual & Hard Copy Scheduling Tools, Weekly Report Cards
- Tools Of A Professional Dog Walker: Bottom Line
- Related Reading:
1. My Car – More Than A Simple Means Of Transportation
Since I didn’t live and work in a huge city like NYC where I could have walked to my clients’ homes, I heavily relied on my car for getting around between clients.
It took me anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes to get from client A to client B, and with an average of 7 daily visits you get the picture.
I also kept the following in my car:
- Pet first aid kit for emergencies
- Sleeping bag to help transport/move injured larger dogs
- Cheap towels for rainy days and muddy paws
- Travel umbrella for rainy walks
- Stun gun flashlight for increased safety/visibility on early morning and late night walks
- Tons of dog poop bags (also work great to clean kitty litter boxes)
- Extra collars and leashes
- My calendar planner to see my schedule
Coffee and water were always along for the ride as well!
The same applied to snacks and my lunch or dinner, depending on the time of day I was out and about. I also brought an insulated cooler bag on those really hot summer days.
Side note: I tracked my daily miles in a mileage log. All of those miles are tax deductible. If you track your miles, you don’t need to keep your gas receipts.
2. My Phone – Providing Peace Of Mind For My Clients
Providing peace of mind is a major part of any dog walker’s/pet sitter’s job description.
Clients want to know that their beloved fur babies are well taken care of while they’re not home. Without my smart phone, I wouldn’t have been able to provide this peace of mind in a timely manner.
I used my phone to snap pictures and videos of the pets in my care which I then sent to my clients via text or email.
It let them know that we:
- Went for a walk
- Administered medications as necessary
- Handed out treats
- Brought in a package or
- Had a play session
3. Dog Walker Diaper Bags, Poop Bags, Dog Collars & Leashes
When you’re out and about all day long walking dogs, you’ll need a smart solution that holds all your dog walking necessities. Aka dog walker diaper bag, ha – this is what it needs to hold:
- Client keys
- Poop bags
- Pepper spray
- Your extra collar (read on to learn more about that one)
- Whatever else you may need (eye drops, lick balm, pen etc)
I switched it up between crossbody bags and fanny packs.
I always liked to be prepared for poop emergencies because we all know that poop happens, right?! As mentioned above, that’s why I always had extra rolls of poop bags in my car.
Most clients provided their own poop bags, but sometimes they ran out or we just happened to use the last one when Fido decided to poop again!
I personally really liked the poop bag brand Earth Rated.
Tip: Use This Type of Dog Collar as an Emergency back Up Collar
I also carried a LARGE size slip dog collar along in my cross body bag.
Sling collars are also known as choke collars. I recommend you use a large size slip collar because it fits around all size necks, from a Beagle to a German Shepherd.
I started carrying one on me at all times ever since the flat collar of one of my dog walking clients’ broke mid-walk.
And guess what – I didn’t have an extra collar on me. Yikes.
Thankfully that dog wasn’t a runner and didn’t stray very far. I was able to turn the leash I was walking her on into a makeshift sling leash, and that’s how we made it safely back to her home.
Ever since that day, I made it a point to have an extra sling collar on me (size large!), and have had to use it several times, mainly to regain control over a dog who was simply pulling too much.
Used correctly, it’s a great tool to encourage polite leash walking.
4. Client Keys, Professional Pet Sitting Liability Insurance, Storm Whistle, Pepper Spray
Having all the necessary client keys on me was kind of a no-brainer, so I won’t go into a lot of detail here.
Let me just share one tip that comes to mind as far as keys are concerned – never leave your client keys in your car. I learned that one from Erica as well.
That seemingly small negligence makes up a big chunk of claims filed with professional pet sitting liability insurance providers. It can get very expensive if all the client locks need to be replaced.
Side note: DO have professional pet sitting liability insurance. It’s peace of mind for yourself should something happen. I was with Pet Sitters Associates and they’re quite affordable.
I can’t tell you enough how much I valued my storm whistle/tick twister combo and also my clip-on pepper spray.
While I never actively used the pepper spray (except for training purposes), it provided ginormous peace of mind that I would have been able to break up a dog fight if necessary.
However, I definitely used my storm whistle and tick twister countless times.
The whistle is super loud and acts as a great distraction. I used it regularly to stop loose dogs in their tracks (there’s many of them here in our rural area). It can also serve you well if you’re in need of help and trying to get people’s attention.
I mainly used the tick twister during spring, summer, and fall. It’s an easy-to-use tool and definitely handy to have on me while out on walks.
5. Virtual & Hard Copy Scheduling Tools, Weekly Report Cards
One of the best decisions I made in 2016 was to invest in a professional pet sitting software.
Pet Sitter Plus makes scheduling and invoicing a breeze and is affordable, which is obviously an important criterion, at least in my opinion.
What I really loved about it is the app-like phone interface. This feature set it apart from several other softwares I tested and ultimately made me go with it.
I used it to check off visits while out and about as well as to schedule and/or send invoices – all conveniently from my phone.
While I absolutely loved my pet sitting software, I still used a hard copy schedule as well.
It was a great way of double-checking my own planning/scheduling PLUS it always worked, regardless of whether or not the internet might be down.
Weekly Pet Sitting Report Cards for Clients
One habit I learned from my awesome former boss Erica, owner at Pick Of The Litter Pet Care (now Pick of the Litter Canine Massage), is to always leave notes.
For one, it’s proof that I actually showed up for the respective dog walking or pet sitting job. But it also provides a summary of my stay with the dog and/or cat AND is a cute keepsake – some of my clients have kept every single pet sitting report card sheet I have filled out in a binder!
Tools Of A Professional Dog Walker: Bottom Line
I hope you enjoyed the glimpse behind the professional dog walking scenes.
Who knows, you might just ditch your 9-5 gig and give this niche a shot. I recommend checking out PetSittersInternational and/or ProfessionalUnitedPetSitters for more information on how to start a profitable pet sitting and/or dog walking business.
The same goes for the book Pet Sitting For Profit.
Know that all the tools mentioned above are tax deductible, besides the cost of the smart phone.
You can, however, deduct a certain percentage of your monthly phone cost, and if you have a designated home office space, that can save you some cash come tax time as well.
Have you thought about starting a dog walking/pet sitting business, or do you know someone who owns one? As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section!
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Another great article, Barbara! Bummer you are not in our area. I am very impressed with all the work you do!
I’ve been walking my (one) dog daily over the last four years. We’ve gone through four trainers. Finally with the best star dog trainer (Brain) for the last two years.
You would probably really enjoy his book: http://altitudedogtraining.com/
I use e-collar, smart collar (a softer version of the chain above), carry a spray pepper and water spray…Also, I wear ice-breakers not to slide myself. With all that said, I still need to work on my energy. In my opinion, dog’s training is all about mastering our human energy.
I wish dog walking classes were required for all pet parents.
Oh, I couldn’t agree more with the dog walking classes, Anna!! Thank you for all your kind words. I’d love to go on a snowy walk with you & Rocky & my pups. Maybe I’ll make it out your way at some point in time 🙂 I hear Colorado is beautiful.
Cudos to you for being so active with Rocky and walking him every day, AND seeking out the advice of a professional trainer. The daily walk is so important, and such a wonderful bonding opportunity between the dog and his handler.
Thank you also for the link to Brian’s book. I will check out his training philosophy. You are spot on with the energy. I’m a huge believer in energy ever since the pups came into my life. They really do mirror the energy they’re surrounded by, so it always boggles my mind when people are surprised at dogs reacting to a crazy environment. Ugh. One of my pet peeves.
I’m all for using a variety of tools to make our lives easier – thank you, pet industry for coming up with all of them!!
I have used head collars (Gentle Leader & Halti), martingale collars, sling collars, prong collars, and regular flat collars on my own pups, and I also have one of each in my car, just in case. I never know when it might be helpful to have one of those to fall back on. No one collar works for all dogs, and some really need the e-collar or prong collar to be manageable, at least temporarily.
I know that some people have very strong opinions as far as the use of the e-collar and the prong collar are concerned, but in my honest opinion, they are very likely to never have had to handle a difficult dog. I learned how to correctly use a prong collar on both of my dogs in a basic obedience class I took, and it got rid of several problem behaviors. I currently don’t actively use them on my pups, but Buzz is walked on a head collar, and Missy on a sling collar. She still has a tendency to want to chase every squirrel and cat she sees, and I don’t think that she’ll ever fully kick that behavior to the curb.