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What is a dog walker?

Dog walker with a bunch of dogs on their leads advice

A dog walker is a person who walks dogs.

© Shutterstock

Dogs need to exercise to be healthy and happy.  But sometimes, dog owners don't have the time in the day to provide enough exercise time to their pets. An interesting option to fix this problem is to use the services of a dog walker. Let's find out more about dog walking services.

By Pippa Ischt

Published on the 13/08/2020, 14:00

Our furry friends love walking in their local park, running around, chasing squirrels or even visiting a new place and experiencing all the exciting sights and smells. However, sometimes a dog may not receive the exercise and walks they need. This might be due to a busy lifestyle or even a change in circumstances, but, not to worry, this is where a dog walker can come in handy!

What does a dog walker do?

A dog walker is a person who walks with a dog. They would normally collect the dog from the owner’s home, taking them for a walk, then returning them back to their home once they’re done. Other responsibilities may include checking the water bowl, feeding them or spending a bit of time with them.

A dog owner will pay a dog walker to walk their dog for them - they can work for themselves or be part of a larger business. Walks are normally offered in half hour increments (30 minutes walk, 1 hour walk, 1 hour and a half, etc) but this can be discussed with the walker themselves. Depending on the dog walker you can expect multiple dogs to be walked at once but 1 on 1 walks can also be arranged.

What does a pet sitter do?

A pet sitter is different to a dog walker as their role involves caring for a dog, normally in their owner’s home, while the owner is away. Their responsibilities also include keeping the owner’s home safe and secure. Pet sitters normally look after a dog for a longer duration of time, for example when the owner goes on holiday. Pet sitters normally care for a dog one-on-one and will provide walks, feed and groom them and also keep the dog company in their own home.

What is the difference between dog walking and dog sitting?

Here are a few difference between dog walking and dog sitting:

  • Responsibilities - a dog walker’s only responsibility is to take the dog for a walk, while a dog sitter will need to walk the dog and also be in charge of other aspects of their care, like feeding them and keeping the dog company at home.
  • Time - a dog walker will spend only up to a few hours with the dog, while a pet sitter will spend the whole day or even longer with a dog while their owner is away.
  • Number of dogs - A dog sitter will only look after one dog (or multiple dogs if there is more than one dog in the household) at a time. Dog walkers may take a number of dogs for a walk at one time. Of course this can be discussed with both a walker and sitter.
  • Cost - A dog sitter will usually cost more than a dog walking as they are spending more time with the dog than a walker would.

How to become a dog walker in the UK?

Becoming a dog walker isn’t as hard as you think. No prior education is strictly necessary, but it is beneficial to know basic dog first aid and dog handling techniques, which can be studied online or at a course.

Dominic Hodgson is a dog walker and trainer from Sunderland. He is the author of 'Worry Free Walks', a book that shares tips about training your pet.

The most important thing is experience. Most dog owners will expect a dog walker to be calm, collected and knowledgeable around their dog. Recommendations are also essential, so make sure to ask your clients to share your services with their friends and family too.

If you haven’t owned dogs and not sure where to start why not ask a neighbour or friend if you can take their dog for a walk, or consider a dog sharing website, like BorrowMyDoggy, to get to know a local dog and gain some experience in caring for one on a mutual basis rather than for a profit.

The more time you spend with dogs the more experience you’ll gain, offer your services to friends, family and neighbors to begin with and you’ll soon find that word of mouth is a powerful tool and you’ll be able to share your dog walking services with more people.

Are there dog walker insurances?

Yes, dog walkers can be covered by insurance. Some insurance companies will offer ‘Dog Walking Insurance’ which usually includes public liability insurance - that covers accidents your dog causes to someone or something else, for example chewing a sofa or biting someone - and also financial loss, legal expenses and employer’s liability.

Dog walkers in the UK aren’t required to have insurance, but it is good practice that they do. This covers not only themselves, but a dog (and their owner) in an unlikely event of an incident.

How to start a dog walking business?

Starting a dog walking business is a dream for many of us - walking dogs and getting to spend some time outdoors, what could be more perfect? But before you start dog walking professionally here are a few things to consider:

  • Registering - the National Association of Pet Sitter and Dog Walkers (NARPS) is an authoritative organisation sharing guidelines, regulations and advice to its members. Joining the association also provides owners with peace of mind - memberships start from £25 a month.
  • Safety checks & insurance - Responsible dog walkers will be covered by insurance. You may also consider a DBS check (Disclosure and Barring Service). This is a background check and it shows clients you have a clean record. 
  • Marketing - Word of mouth is a great thing for dog walkers, particularly and dog’s create a tight knit community. Consider creating business cards, leaflets, flyers or social media pages to share with potential clients.
  • Brand and pricing - before you start make sure you have a clear and unique business name, make sure to check your new name isn’t already trademarked. Once you have your business name the next thing to consider is pricing. Check out local competitors for their prices for a guideline. Try offering discounts to help your business get going.
  • Working hours and contracts - Decide your terms of service, how many hours will you work each day, what days of the week will you work? If you’re considering employing other dog walkers you will need to draft contracts or ‘terms of service’

Finding dog walking services near me

There are a large number of dog care options if your pup needs more walks and attention. The first is to look for a local dog walker - an internet search is a great place to start and depending on your location you may have quite a few options available. You can also try asking in local group pages on Facebook or Nextdoor for recommendations for reliable dog walking services nearby.

Dog walker apps

Dog walking apps are popular for people with busy lives, just download, find a local walker, request, pay and go! Most dog walking companies or dog walkers will also have insurance, but it’s good to double check what type of cover they provide like Public Liability insurance and Care, Custody and Control.

How much does a dog walker cost?

The price of a dog walk can really vary depending on location, a walker’s experience and how long and often the dog is going to be walked. For example a dog walker in London will be expected to earn more than a dog walker in the Isle of Man. A survey conducted by the website Job Prices was quoted over £22 per hour in London, but prices usually average at around £12-£15 for an hour.

Whether you’re looking for a dog walker or considering becoming one yourself because you are a dog lover, remember to always be patient and prioritise a dog’s care and what’s best for them.