We offer information about costs, how to start up a pet walking business, and what dog walking involves.
One of the main things you'll need to consider is specialist business insurance for dog walkers.
How to start a dog walking business
If you love dogs, then running your own pet walking business can be fun and rewarding – you get to meet new dogs all the time, enjoy walks in the fresh air, and get paid to spend time with animals.
Dog walkers can charge around £10 and £20 an hour, depending on location and demand.
According to research by The Telegraph in 2015 dog walkers can earn 20% more than the average UK salary, and more in London.
This article will explain the practicalities of setting up a dog walking company, with advice about costs, insurance, and making your business stand out from the crowd.
It's also possible to combine a dog walking business with other pet businesses, such as pet sitting and grooming.
Experience around dogs is really essential – if you’ve never worked with animals professionally, it’s a good idea to volunteer in an animal shelter where you can get experience with different types of dogs, and in engaging with many animals at once.
At the very least you should regularly walk your own pets and those of your friends and family. You’ll probably need to be quite fit too, as you’ll be spending a lot of time walking.
Be aware that different types of dogs have different walking requirements: smaller dogs might be happy with a shorter walk, whereas big dogs will need more strenuous exercise.
You'll also need a mode of transporting the dogs to be walked if there aren't any good routes really close by, so it helps if you have a car or van.
How much does setting up a dog walking business cost?
Setting up a dog walking business can cost anything between £100 to over £1,000 depending on how big you want your business to be. Here are some costs to bear in mind when setting up your business:
Becoming a member of the National Association of Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers (NARPS) - this is not compulsory but a good idea, as it will give your customers confidence that you're part of an official organisation, plus they offer advice and help with running a dog walking business. NARPS has three membership levels: Gold, Silver and Bronze. Gold costs £199 to join and comes with a monthly fee of £12. Silver's joining fee is £179 and the monthly payments are £10 each. Bronze doesn't have a joining fee but costs £25 a month.
CRB check - again, not absolutely necessary, but will reassure customers. Criminal record checks can be done online and cost around £30.
Advertising - it's a good idea to print flyers and business cards, which will cost you around £100, but shop around for deals.
Insurance - insurance is important for any dog walker. You will need to consider public liability insurance in case someone makes a claim if one of the dogs in your care injures someone or damages property. Liability claims can cost thousands of pounds.
Dog walking insurance
Pet business insurance is important for dog walkers, as you may need personal liability cover in case a dog you are looking after injures a passerby or causes an accident, for example by escaping into a field or farmland.
Claims against you by members of the public can cost thousands of pounds, so it's worth considering insurance.
It's also worth considering insurance for dogs in your care in case one of them gets lost or injured. You should also look at key cover in case you lose your client's keys, as well as employer's liability insurance, which is a legal requirement if you have employees working for your business.
Petplan Sanctuary offers £100,000 professional indemnity and £10,000 negligence cover as standard, with interest free monthly payments. Petplan is the UK's number 1 pet insurance company.
Petplan's business insurance will also cover dog grooming, catteries, pet sitters, and other pet businesses. Ideal if your dog walking business also provides other pet services.
The cost of dog walking insurance can depend on the turnover of your pet business, the number of employees you have, where in the UK your business is based, among other factors.
Are there any rules and regulations for dog walking businesses?
There aren’t many specific rules and regulations relating to dog walking businesses, however, NARPS advise that dog walkers should: always meet the owner before walking a dog for the first time, keep records of all dogs and payments, and always protect your customers' information.
You should also be aware of the legal requirements involved in walking dogs. It’s a legal requirement that all dogs wear a collar with their owners’ name and address; dogs should never be ‘dangerously out of control’ in public places and must be on the lead at all times on roads. For more information about dog laws, have a look at the Kennel Club website.
Regulations also differ depending on where you live: it's a good idea to contact your local council to find out more about how many dogs you can walk in your local area.
How to promote a dog walking business
How do you name your dog walking business and get yourself out there?
Because there are a lot of pet walking companies, choosing a quirky and memorable name is important. Think about what makes you and your company unique – maybe it’s the name of your own pet, its breed or your street. Flyers and dog walking business cards are a good way to get your name out in the local area, as well as advertising your business in the local paper.
It’s a good idea to look into your local competition: find out the names and niches of the companies in your local area to see what’s out there, and how you can make your business stand out.
It's also wise to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as making your own website, to advertise your dog walking business.
How many dogs can I walk?
Dog walkers typically walk around 13 dogs per day, but the National Association of Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers (NARPS) suggest walking a maximum of 4 dogs at a time.
It's a good idea to check with your local authority in case there are regulations on the number of dogs you can walk in your local area.
Petplan Sanctuary does not limit the number of pets you can walk under its pet business insurance.
How do I register my dog walking business in the UK?
Most dog walkers will likely need to register as sole traders, which means that you are responsible for your own finances and if the company makes a loss.
Sole traders need to register with HMRC, pay income tax on profits, and send a Self Assesment tax return every year. To find out more about registering as a sole trader, have a look at the Government's advice page here.
If you register as a limited company, then the business's finances are separate from your own, but you have more accounting and management responsibilities. To find out more, have a look at the Government's advice page here.
Toys and treats
Taking dog toys and treats on a walk can make your life much easier, but it's important to check with the owners which toys they are happy with you using and if their dog is allowed.
It's also a good idea to keep water and a first aid kit on you at all times in case one of the dogs in your care gets hurt.
How to find dog walking jobs
If starting your own business doesn't sound like it's for you, then it's possible to join a dog walking franchise.
Some franchises include Wacky Hounds, Doggies Day Out, Petpals, and Walk My Dog. A franchise with Doggies Day Out, for example, costs from around £5,995, and with PetPals prices start from £12,500.