What Does a Dog Walker Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
Dog walkers visit the homes of their clients to take dogs out for daily exercise. The job can be a good fit for those who want independent workdays, are self-starters, and love animals.
Dog Walker Duties & Responsibilities
The job generally requires the ability to perform the following duties:
- Provide exercise for clients' dogs (usually in half-hour or one-hour increments).
- Pick up and dispose of dog droppings during walks.
- Check dogs' food and water supply to make sure basic needs are met after walks.
- Notify owners and pursue veterinary attention for any dog that becomes sick or injured under their supervision.
Dog walkers are responsible for the safety of their clients' dogs during walks. Because of this they usually have their clients complete a document listing their contact information, their vet’s contact information, and other important information about the dog such as age, breed, weight, medical conditions, and current medications.
Some dog walkers work alone, while others hire additional walkers to work as a part of their business. This allows the dog walking business to serve a greater number of clients and potentially expand their service area. Some dog walkers also choose to offer additional services such as pet sitting and grooming.
Dog Walker Salary
The amount of money a dog walker earns will vary depending on the number of clients serviced each day, the number of dogs walked at each location, the length of the walk desired by the client, and the standard pay rate in that specific area.
Most dog walkers charge a fee that ranges from $10 to $20 per walk. Private walks are usually priced closer to the top end of that range; group walks with multiple dogs from the same apartment building may be priced more affordable at a group rate.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) offers earnings information for animal care and service workers, which includes dog walkers:
- Median Annual Salary: $29,290
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $55,760
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $20,270
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Self-employed individuals and small businesses will incur normal business expenses that may include advertising, business cards, office space, telephone, and computer equipment.
Education, Training, & Certification
Most dog walkers are long-time dog owners. It's also a big plus if a dog walker can reference prior work in an animal health field such as employment as a veterinary technician or veterinary assistant. Owners are more comfortable leaving their animals in the care of those with some sort of veterinary background.
- Education: No formal education or certification is required to be a dog walker.
- Experience: Experience working with dogs is necessary for this job. A dog walker must be very familiar with canine behavior, basic care, and first aid.
- Training and tests: Some dog-walking companies or services require their walkers to pass written and in-person tests to prove that candidates have the knowledge and skills to walk dogs and handle the different situations that arise. Others may require a short training period.
Dog Walker Skills & Competencies
To be successful in this role, you’ll generally need the following skills and qualities:
- Compassion: You must always treat the dogs you walk with care, kindness, and respect.
- Patience: This is key to working with animals—especially when you're first becoming familiar with each other.
- Customer-service skills: You must keep your clients satisfied if you want them to book you for recurring walks.
- Reliability: Clients must be able to count on you to show up on time for walks.
- Physical strength and stamina: You must be able to handle larger dogs if needed, and keep control of a leash if a dog pulls. You must also be able to be on your feet and walk for at least 30 minutes at a time.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in the field of animal care and service workers will grow 22% through 2026, which is much faster than the overall employment growth of 7% for all occupations in the country.
Dog walkers do most of their work outside and must be prepared to face any weather condition. They also spend most of their time working on their feet. Dog walkers must be willing to pick up and dispose of dog droppings during walks.
Dog walkers can usually choose to work either on a full-time or part-time basis. They may need to work during evenings, weekends, and holidays.
How to Get the Job
START ON YOUR OWN
If you want to work for yourself, learn how to start a professional dog walking business.
START WITH A SERVICE
If you worry about getting clients when first starting out, apply to work with a service such as Rover or Wag! that connects you with potential clients.
JOIN A PROFESSIONAL GROUP
Comparing Similar Jobs
People who are interested in becoming dog walkers may also consider other careers with these median salaries:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018