In this era of austerity brought on by that pesky economic crisis, small businesses
everywhere are suffering the effects of tightened purse strings. As consumers pinch their
pennies, there is less money put towards those products and services which are deemed
to be inessential, and customers are being rightfully deliberate and conscientious about
those services they do engage. Unlike most specialist service providers trying to forge a
path in this variable climate, professional dog walkers are in the unique position of being
threatened by amateurs on their own turf. After all, with dog walking rates spanning
between £12 and £16 per walk, why wouldnʼt Mrs Wilson just toss a ﬁver to little Billy next
door in exchange for taking Monty to the park for an hour on Sunday afternoon so she can
have tea with the ladies? This is a question worth pondering for pet owners and dog
In general terms, someone with the occasional commitment in their calendar that distracts
them from their dog walking duties isnʼt likely to need the services of a professional. We
“pros” provide a service which is geared toward those responsible pet owners who realize
their obligation to their petʼs health (and understand the signiﬁcance of a daily long walk in
maintaining that health!) but who have demanding work schedules and daily commitments
that prohibit them from fulﬁlling that obligation. For such people, engaging the services of a
professional has numerous beneﬁts: by spreading their responsibility, they can provide
their pooches with the vital exercise and stimulation they need – in a structured and
monitored fashion – while freeing up their schedules in order to meet their other
commitments. A professional dog walkerʼs clients are not simply trading a sum of money
for an hour-long stroll in the park, but are investing in the dogʼs health, their own personal
and professional time, and their peace of mind!
So what speciﬁcally can a client expect to gain from the services of a dog walker? It makes
sense to list some of the valued characteristics of professional dog walkers so that
potential clients can refer to them when investigating our services. And it canʼt hurt for us
“pros” to examine the beneﬁts of the services we offer in order to improve on them.
Letʼs take a closer look at professionalism in dog walking by splitting the essential criteria
into distinct categories:
1. Knowledge and experience
• Familiarity with the characteristics and personalities of different breeds of dogs, and their
requirements for exercise, socialisation and mental stimulation (the latter being provided
through outdoor exploration, social interaction and games).
• Experience with leading a pack assertively. Dogs require a conﬁdent leader to follow and
this conﬁdence in leadership only comes with practice!
• Knowledge of local neighbourhoods, the green spaces and dog-friendly areas. In other
words, dog walkers need to know a variety of places to go in order to provide their pack
with a safe, open space in which to exercise and play.
2. Organisation and preparation
• Professionals must be fully insured to cover any accidents that may happen on a walk,
and should be CRB checked to reassure the client whose home they have access to.
• Contracts are also a necessary requirement. This way the client understands the terms
and conditions of the dog walkerʼs services and fees. Even more importantly, the dog
owner ofﬁcially gives written consent for the dog walker to access his property and for
the dog walker to take responsibility in case of an emergency.
• Pet information form – this is something I and other dog walkers I know enjoy using
during our initial consultation with a new client; itʼs essentially a questionnaire to gather
as much speciﬁc information about a pet as possible, from veterinary details to dietary
requirements, favourite toys and preferred hiding spots (in case we canʼt ﬁnd Monty
when we come to pick him up!). Importantly, I also ask for the dogʼs medical history and
get written permission for walking off-lead.
• Dog diary – a daily diary used to facilitate communication between a walker and a client.
This can be a great asset to communicate everything from schedule changes to dog
I feel that many clients overlook this aspect of the dog walkerʼs cache; resources are very
important for the dog walk and involve regular expense to purchase and maintain (thus
contributing to the cost of the walk). The most important and expensive of the dog walkerʼs
resources is going to be the van!
• Dog-friendly van, to transport the pack from home to the nearest local green space.
Often these will have custom in-built kenneling for the comfort of the dogs, and air
conditioning for hot summer months.
• Toys, leads, poop bags (preferably biodegradable!) and healthy snacks to make the walk
4. Responsibility and reliability
Dog walkers have an ingrained awareness that they are taking responsibility for the health,
well-being and happiness of their clientʼs beloved, four-legged family member. Not only
does the health of the dog come down to us, but in most cases the smooth functioning of
the clientʼs daily schedule does, too. To maintain both of these aspects, the most important
characteristic is consistency (which is why there are no “sickies” in the dog walking
• Never miss a day – good dog walkers always have a back-up plan for any contingency! If
a walker is unable to make a walk on a particular day, advance notice is required for the
client and a back-up walker should be arranged for them.
• Reliability in times of crisis – for example, pet illness or injury (and the knowledge,
experience and resources to be able to handle it).
• Flexibility – a very important characteristic, allowing the walker to be able to
accommodate the whims of a clientʼs busy schedule.
While there are doubtless further criteria to be considered (and if you have a suggestion, I
encourage you to leave a comment!), I hope the points raised above will provide a good
general overview of professional dog walking for potential new clients, while inspiring
those of us who walk dogs for a living.
In closing, Iʼd like to include one further important characteristic to bear in mind, which
applies to any successful business owner: the desire to improve! We dog walkers have a
duty of care towards our clientsʼ animals, and we should be striving to give the best service
and experience possible at all times.
Happy walking! Like this article? Please Share and let us know your thoughts in the comments!
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Tim Adams runs Big City Dog Walkers operating in London, UK. Click here for a Dog Walker and Pet Sitter in Stoke Newington and Hackney.