Break out the leashes and the poop bags! There’s never been a better time to be a dog walker.
Who says so? Well, The New York Times says so. It just ran an article about professional dog walkers in Manhattan who are making more than $100,000 a year.
And, sure, most of us don’t live in Manhattan, and most dog walkers don’t really earn six-figure salaries. But this is still a lucrative time to walk dogs for a living, either full time or as a side gig. And it’s all because of the pandemic puppies.
Pandemic pups? Yup. During the quarantine conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we as a collective nation were all stuck at home, more than 23 million American households acquired a dog or a cat, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
That’s nearly 1 in 5 households! That’s tens of millions of new pets that need tending to, every single day. “With many Americans back in the office, somebody has to walk all those pandemic puppies,” the Times pointed out.
How to Get Started as a Dog Walker
Sounds great, right? Lots of fresh air and exercise and dogs, what could be better? But how can you set yourself up for success?
You could get started the old-fashioned way: Tell all your friends and neighbors, then put up some handmade leaflets in strategic spots around your town. Post it on Craigslist and announce it on all your social media profiles, too.
These days, though, most beginning dog walkers are finding work on apps.
The rise in dog walking as a job or side gig can be partly attributed to the rise of dog-walking and pet-sitting apps that have hit the market in recent years, modernizing this whole process. The most popular ones are Rover and Wag, which were founded in 2011 and 2015, respectively.
Here’s our article comparing the two, plus a few similar apps.
These apps are sort of like Uber for dog walking in that you take requests in your area. Depending on where you live, you can accept dog walks that are ASAP, meaning you need to arrive for the walk within a certain period of time, or you can accept a walk that’s scheduled for a later time.
You also post your availability for dog walking gigs in your area. Dog owners near you can look at your profile, your prices and your availability, then book a walk with you through the app. So you’ll want to make sure your profile looks inviting and features photos of you interacting with pets.
If you hit it off with a pup and its owner, you can schedule ongoing walks with the same client.
You have to be 18. Both apps do a basic criminal background check.
And if you’re finding dog walking appointments hard to come by, you might branch out into pet sitting or even pet boarding. Both apps offer that.
How Much Does a Dog Walker Make?
There’s not a simple answer to this question. Pay rates are all over the map, and your total earnings will depend on how aggressive you are about seeking out work and what kind of services you offer.
According to Rover, here are the average prices for each service:
- Dog walking: $20 a walk
- Drop-in visits: $20 a day
- Doggy day care: $35 a visit
- Overnight boarding or sitting: $40 a night
A search on Rover in our city found dog walkers charging $15 to $25 per walk.
“Many sitters on Rover use the platform as a traditional side gig, taking care of pets for extra income,” Rover trends expert Kate Jaffe told The Penny Hoarder. “We make it easy to manage their business, whether they work full time and want to dog sit on the side, or they’re a student looking for flexible work, or a retiree who wants to stay active and avoid dipping into their retirement savings.”
Not sure how much to charge? Look at what other people in your area are charging. If you’re just starting out, set your rates on the low end while you work to build up your clientele.
For example, Wag allows you to set rates for 20-, 30- and 60-minute walks, and it shows you a range of what the average walker in your area is charging.
Once you set your rates, your clients pay your rate plus a 20% fee to Rover or a 40% fee to Wag.
Pet sitting and pet boarding gigs typically pay more than dog walking because they require more than a brief commitment of your time.
“Given the duration of most overnight care (boarding and sitting) requests, these tend to be the most lucrative,” said Kaitie Edel, senior marketing manager for Wag. “Becoming a pet parent’s preferred caregiver or accepting a recurring request can also be very lucrative, given the long-term relationship it creates.”
In short, you’re probably not going to earn more than $100,000 a year like a professional Manhattan dog walker who caters exclusively to the rich elite.
But all those pandemic puppies need to be walked, and someone has to walk them.
If you’re looking for extra cash, it could be you.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.