Posts Tagged ‘your business’

Dog Sitters: How Many Dogs Should You Have at One Time?

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

dog walkers city mega

The dog sitting and walking business is currently booming particularly in metropolitan areas where owners spend long days at work or travel frequently. The process of hiring one of these professionals should be one that is well thought out and if possible, hired by word of mouth as there is a lot of valuable and reliable information a pet owner can get from referrals.

Although dog sitters made a decent living, committing to only one or two dogs is likely not going to pay the bills and this is why most have numerous clients at one time. It is common for sitters to also have to take care of several pooches all at once so that they can manage theirs and their client’s expectations as well as earn more money.

So how many dogs at one time are too much for the sitter? And as the pet owner, how many other dogs should you allow that sitter to supervise at the same time as yours? Here are some basic guidelines for both pet owners and sitters to follow so that the job remains through and manageable.

Laws of Dog Sitting

Though some regions such as the UK do have strict laws about how many dogs can be sat for or walked at one time, most US regions do not. The unwritten rule in the dog sitting community is that anyone, owner or sitter, can walk or sit for as many dogs as they can safely handle at one time.

Having said that, there will be differing definitions of ‘properly handling’ and the number of dogs in one’s care. It is a dog sitter’s responsibility to ensure that they are giving proper care and attention to each of their client’s pooches and just as with kids, at a certain point if that number is too great, something will be missed and the quality of care will naturally decrease.

Lots of things should be taken into consideration when deciding on how many dogs one should sit for at one time.

The Breed Matters

Just like people, dogs have their own quirks and personalities and not all of the different breeds will mesh well or get along. Some dogs are naturally more aggressive such as American Pit Bull Terriers and when put in the same areas as other breeds, it could be like mixing oil with water. Chances are if you are house sitting for several dogs at one time, the owners have already acclimated the different breeds to one another, but this may not always be case.

Sizing up the Situation

Regardless of how well the dogs in one given area get along, there are other factors that also need to be considered when accepting a dog sitting job. The first is the size and weight of all the dogs that you are expected to sit for.

Larger dogs that are weightier will be more difficult to handle and care for than if you are supervising a room full of poodles, whose average weight is about 5 to 9 pounds. The bigger canines will usually be more challenging unless they are aptly trained and this is especially the case when taking them out for walks.

running dogs

Each dog should have its own lease and take into consideration your own weight against that of the multiple dogs you are sitting for and walking. Even the best trained dogs can become startled or excitable and if they should decide to jet, if your weight isn’t enough to balance the weight of them trying for a fast getaway, you could easily lose control of one or all of them.

It is also important to acknowledge the size of the home in comparison to the number of dogs you will be sitting. Larger dogs should not be contained regularly in small spaces, while smaller, pint size dogs which don’t require as much roaming room or exercise may be perfectly content in an apartment.

Rambunctious dogs have the ability to hurt, even unknowingly, other smaller dogs as well as owners and dog sitters because of their sheer size and weight. If there are a mix of large and small dogs within one habitat they will need to be monitored closely and all should have enough space within the home to roam freely for at least part of the day.

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The Dog Walkers City Mega Membership is now available. Sign up today for a vast number of benefits ranging from premium members profiles to business guides and invoice templates. If you’re looking to be or you are a dog sitter, then this is the only membership you’ll ever need. Find out more here.

Pets on Tour – Bringing Your Furry Friend Along For the Ride

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Taking furry family members on holiday has become very popular in recent times, with many places accommodating to animal’s needs, it’s more appealing to take your pet with you than to leave them at home. Here’s a quick to do guide before venturing off on your holiday…

  • Location Considerations: Before you set off on your jolly’s you need to take into consideration your destination and how you are going to get there. Your destination should be pet friendly, so pick a location which is going to cater for your furry friend as well as having plenty of activities for both you and your pet, especially if you are taking your dog along.

 

  • Preliminary Health Checks: Make sure you visit the vet before you set off, a routine check is all that is needed, this just gives you piece of mind that everything is going to run smoothly on your holidays. Furthermore make sure your pet has an up to date microchip, this increases the safety of your companion if anything should happen, and additionally you should have a personalised collar made with a reachable contact number.

Pets on tour

  • Pet-Friendly Transport: Before you travel, it’s advised to get your pet used to the transport that you have chosen this will result in a smooth journey. When travelling by car, make sure you pack the car up before loading your pet. No matter what transportation you have chosen, the last 3 stages are crucial; make sure your pet has had plenty of exercise, enough food for a few hours of travel and that he/she has gone to the bathroom. After these preparations you are ready to go…

 

  • Panic Prevention: Revise the stresses that your beloved pet may encounter on your travels and try to avoid them. These stresses will vary depending on your pet, for dogs they feel most comfortable when with their owners as it gives them a sense of security. Cats however are very different; they are very territorial animals and feel most comfortable in familiar surroundings. Smaller animals have less stresses, and as long as they are comfortable and their habitat (i.e. enclosure or tank) is consistent, they rarely acknowledge a change in location.

 

  • Creature Comforts: Make sure you carry familiar toys and snacks with you, having items which carry the smell of home will comfort pets and will help them settle. When travelling you have the option to cage your pet or allow them to be loose. For small animals and cats it’s a must to keep them caged, this is for both yours and the animal’s safety.

Furthermore if the vehicle has to come to a sudden stop, then anything not secure whether it is a passenger or pet will become a moving risk. For dogs, it’s your choice if you want to secure them or if they are free to move around the backseat or your boot. They do demand more space than other animals and will be more comfortable when given the opportunity to move around.

 

  • Comfortable Conditions: Additionally you also have to consider the different conditions in your car. Windows should be left open when leaving a pet alone in the car. Cars standing in the sun can get very hot very fast and can cause serious problems for animals left inside. Windows should also be kept open when driving giving a continuous air flow; however be careful not to cause a draft.

 

Keeping temperature at a constant is advised.  Make sure you schedule regular stops to stretch out yours and your pet’s legs, allowing for toilet and food breaks too.

There’s nothing quite like sharing your favourite holiday experiences with your pet, so plan ahead and make your next holiday one to remember. It’s vitally important to consider their stress levels and health throughout the journey, and also to check on them at regular intervals to ensure they’re happy.

This article was written on behalf of Pet Health Info. Pet Health Info is a free online resource providing advice for pet owners regarding pet health care.

Photo Credit: Catskills Grrl

The Dog Walkers City Mega Membership is now available. Sign up today for a vast number of benefits ranging from premium members profiles to business guides and invoice templates. If you’re looking to be or you are a dog sitter, then this is the only membership you’ll ever need. Find out more here.

Musings on Professionalism in Dog Walking

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

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
walkers alike!

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
behavioural issues.

3. Resources

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
go smoothly.

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
business!)

• 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!

The Dog Walkers City Mega Membership is now available. Sign up today for a vast number of benefits ranging from premium members profiles to business guides and invoice templates. If you’re looking to be or you are a dog sitter, then this is the only membership you’ll ever need. Find out more here.

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.

Promoting Your Dog Walking Business (Offline)

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

This weeks blog post is a follow from last weeks online advertising guide (If you missed it you can read it here). Today we’ll look at some more traditional forms of advertising and promotion. In last weeks blog post we discussed mainly free techniques, which is what the internet is perfect for. But in the real world advertising for free becomes a bit more challenging. That being said you can still get the word out effectively on a relatively low budget.

I think one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard is utilizing the free advertising already at your disposal – YOU! As a Dog walker I assume you’ll be out in public places walking Dogs a couple of times a day. This is the perfect time and place to advertise, what better place than where other people walk their dogs? Ok so I’ll get to the point here. Go down to your local t-shirt printing shop (or order online) and get a t-shirt made up with your company name and phone number on – in large text, so that people will see it easily. It’s obviously a good idea to make sure the phrase ‘Dog walker’ is on there somewhere but you get the idea! The t-shirt shouldn’t cost more than £10/$15 and after that – free advertising!

Flyers and business cards are the next items you should be getting printed. Even on a budget, these can be printed relatively cheaply and are easy to distribute. If you have a decent printer and know how to use Photoshop or similar software than you can even do this yourself for free (or ask a friend who you think might know what they’re doing). If you have Microsoft office you could use their flyer templates, found here: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/CT010104295.aspx

 

If you don’t have the know-how, there are websites that you can use to enter your details, choose from a number of templates, and get your flyers/business cards sent to you. Vista Print (http://www.vistaprint.com) is probably the most well known of these sites but there are hundreds of them, or you could use your local printers.

Distributing your flyers and business cards is a matter of being bold and asking anywhere and everywhere you think will be effective. Vets are normally willing to accept flyers, as are pet shops. Ask to put flyers in your local shop windows and on park boards if that’s allowed in your area. Always carry business cards when your out and give one to anyone that’s interested.

Local papers and magazines can sometimes have low cost advertising opportunities. Going down this route will always be a bit of a gamble, and it will be a judgement call on your behalf whether you go for it or not. Personally, I think the smaller the place you live the more effective this will be. Putting an ad in a city paper will probably not be as effective as a cheaper ad in a small town local paper. That being said there will be advertising space and classifieds in almost all papers and magazines so they’re at the least worth having a look at. Business listings in publications like the yellow pages are also worth looking into as they’re sometimes free.

The promotion of any business can be done in a whole range of ways. I think the best thing you can do is be creative and always look out for new opportunities. Word of mouth will probably always be the most effective tool at your disposal so make sure you’re always trying to spread the word about your business.

We hope you’ve found this two parter on promotion useful. Do you have any other advertising techniques that you’ve found effective? What do you think about the ones talked about here? Let us know in the comments…

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The Dog Walkers City Mega Membership is now available. Sign up today for a vast number of benefits ranging from premium members profiles to business guides and invoice templates. If you’re looking to be or you are a dog sitter, then this is the only membership you’ll ever need. Find out more here.

Advertising Your Dog Walking Business Online

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

dog walkers city mega

This weeks post is part of a two part series on advertising your business on a budget…

If you want to expand your dog walking business, there’s really only one way to go about it – get the word out. Depending on where you live, this can mean a few different things. In a village, this is as simple as spreading the word on the grapevine. In a large city you have room to be a little bit more creative – the potential clients are figuratively endless.

Wherever you live, advertising doesn’t have to mean spending money, and even if you do have to you can promote your business very effectively on a relatively small budget. With that in mind, I’m going to talk about a few advertising methods that are effective in this industry. These methods will suit those on a small budget, or no budget at all.

First of all, lets get the shameless plug out of the way – you can advertise your service on this very website for free! And if you haven’t done so yet you can by signing up here. We are continually promoting and expanding Dog Walkers City so we hope you’ll join us!

The internet is an invaluable tool for any small business owner. In the modern age, the web should be the starting point for any advertising campaign. In fact (although I’m a little biased) I’d almost go as far as saying that you can get all of the customers you need online. With that said, we’ll start off with the (2nd) biggest of the Internet’s websites – Facebook.

Facebook is the perfect tool for a Dog walker, as most customers come from friends of friends and of course, it’s free. I’m going to assume you have a Facebook account at this point, as you’ll need an active account to utilize it as a promotional tool. The first thing you’ll want to do is set up a ‘Facebook Page’. To do this, go to https://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php and follow the instructions.

Facebook grab

You can add details of your service and images, links, maps etc. Once you’ve set this up you can invite all your friends to ‘like’ your page and when they do, their friends will see that they’ve liked it and so on – viral advertising. You can also ask questions, post updates and post photos, which I recommend you do regularly as they appear on the news feed of whoever has liked your page.

Your next visit online should be to Google Places. This is another great free tool for free exposure. With Google Places, you can mark where your service is based on Google Maps and anyone searching Google in that area can see your listing. To get started head to http://www.google.com/places/ and follow the instructions.

Google screen grab

Another good place to advertise online are classified websites. These are country specific but in the UK – Gumtree is the industry leader (http://www.gumtree.com) and in the US – Craigslist (http://www.craigslist.org). Both of these sites are free to post to and are searched on a lot. Simply browse to your local area and follow the instructions to place an advert. The older your advert gets the further down the list it will fall so I recommend posting regularly. You can also go super local by searching Google for terms like ‘my town+classifieds’. A real life search would be ‘New York Classifieds’. There will almost definitely be a local classified site for your area.

gumtree screen grab

If you have a bit of extra cash to spend on advertising, we highly recommend joining us as a premium member here at Dog Walkers City. For less than the price of a couple of cups of coffee you can upgrade your membership and reap the benefits of being a premium member. These benefits include being shot to the top of our results page, having your own profile page that can be found in Google and having a wealth of extras at your disposal: Contract templates, appointment software, advertising guides and more. If you get just one extra regular client as a result of the premium membership you’ll be making your money back.

To find out more log into the members are and click the ‘Upgrade’ tab. Next week we’ll talk a bit more about advertising on a budget and concentrate on more offline methods.

Do you have any advice for people looking to advertise cheaply? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? Let us know in the comments…

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The Dog Walkers City Mega Membership is now available. Sign up today for a vast number of benefits ranging from premium members profiles to business guides and invoice templates. If you’re looking to be or you are a dog sitter, then this is the only membership you’ll ever need. Find out more here.

Catchy Dog Walking Business Name Ideas

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

dog walkers city mega
Having a catchy name
for your Dog walking business is a must if you want to stand out from the crowd when advertising. Of course in the long run it doesn’t make a difference to the quality of service that you offer, but remember; a catchy name will stick in potential customers head a lot more than a dull one. And if a name’s stuck in someone’s head they’re a lot more likely to think of you and your service in the future.

Running a dog walking directory we’ve seen a few funky and memorably names come through our digital doors. Let’s have a look at some that have stuck out the most…

  • Wiggles & Sniffs
  • Pawsitive Attention Pet Services
  • Unleashed
  • Pet Sit Pros
  • Pet Au Pair
  • Pampered Pets Co.
  • Pampered Pooches
  • The Urban Dog
  • Happy At Home Pet Sitting
  • Purrs & Woofs Pet Sitting
  • Critter Sitters
  • Pooch ‘n Pals
  • Purrrfect Pet Sitting
  • Lucky Paws Pet Care
  • Waggers Daycare
  • Fur-ever Friends
  • Creature Comforts
  • Furry Fella’s Pet Care
  • Paws ‘n Go
  • Happy Bones Pet Sitting
  • Paws On Palm Beach
  • Roll Over Rover

And the list goes on! I hope this gives you some inspiration to come up with something witty and imaginative. If you’re still stuck for ideas you could have a look through our directory at our members names.

You may of noticed that your full name rather than your business name appears on your Dog Walkers City listing at the moment. We’re in the process of amending this at the moment so soon you’ll have the option to choose between your name and your business name.

Got your own ideas or seen some others you want to add to the list? Let us know in the comments…

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The Dog Walkers City Mega Membership is now available. Sign up today for a vast number of benefits ranging from premium members profiles to business guides and invoice templates. If you’re looking to be or you are a dog sitter, then this is the only membership you’ll ever need. Find out more here.

Dealing With Aggressive Dogs

Friday, March 30th, 2012

We’ve all encountered it, and some of us will have been unlucky enough to have to deal with the problem directly with one of our own Dogs. I’m talking about Dog to Dog aggression, especially while out on walks. This can be a particularly emphatic problem for Dog walkers, as the responsibility of looking after Dogs other than our own makes the situation even more nerve racking. This subject was suggested by one of our members at Dog Walkers City and it’s one we thought was well worth covering.

Dealing with aggressive Dogs when out walking can be extremely tricky. Combine that with not knowing the Dog(s) you’re walking as well as you would your own and you have a particularly worrying situation. There is no one answer to this question but I think it’s important to pre-empt the problem from day one. This means talking openly to the owner when you first start walking their Dog (I’m talking about the client here – not the owner of an aggressive Dog) and asking them if they’ve had any experience in this area and if so, how their Dog tends to react to aggression.

It’s important to explain that you’re only asking this in case a problem arises and that you like to be as well prepared as possible if something were to happen. This should alleviate the owners concerns instead of worrying them. Once you know how a Dog reacts to aggression, you’ll be better served to deal with a situation if it occurs. The owner may also already have a trick or method that tends to work for them and their Dog. Either way, its good to discuss this subject and similar ones before you take on a new client.

Looking Dog

Of course it’s one thing discussing this with owners but it’s another when it actually happens out on a walk. Here’s the scene; Your walking two clients Dogs when you see another Dog running towards them from the other side of the field. The situation could turn aggressive, it could not. What do you do?

First, Dogs tend to be less aggressive when owners are around so call the Dogs you’re walking to your heel. If they’re not on leads already try and get their leads on them as soon as possible. Hopefully the aggressive Dogs owner should have called his Dog back to him or be trying to deal with the situation himself, if he hasn’t noticed what’s going on try calling him over.

There are varying degrees of response to aggression and how to respond ultimately depends on you and what you feel is necessary. An extreme response is pepper spray. In my research I’ve found that a lot of people carry pepper spray when walking their Dogs in case something happens. I’m sure this is an effective response to aggression, but I’m in no way advocating it. Like I said, ultimately it’s down to you. A less extreme alternative to pepper spray is simply a small spray bottle of water. This can sometimes be enough to resolve the situation and I have read of some people adding lemon to the water.

An alternative to spraying is noise. Loud noises are sometimes enough to scare a Dog away, or at least snap them out of certain behaviour. I’d recommend carrying a tin can with coins in. Shaking this when a situation arises can be very effective.

Nine out of Ten times an aggressive Dog will be dealt with by their owner straight away. But occasionally you’ll come across an owner that either isn’t responsible or just doesn’t care. If it’s one isolated encounter with this sort of Dog and owner then there’s not much you can do about it. Use the tactics above and then walk away in the opposite direction. But what do you do when you encounter the same problem and the same person over and over again.

Here you have two options. The first is to change where you walk. While not ideal, this solution may appeal to you if you don’t want to confront the owner and get drawn into a situation you could avoid. The second option is to confront the owner and, if that doesn’t work eventually report him/her. If the problem occurs over and over again then I wouldn’t hesitate to take this route. Especially if a Dogs safety is at risk.

As I said, this is a tricky subject and one I hope you won’t have to deal with very often, if at all. Do you agree or disagree with any of these tactics? Or do you have your own advice on how to deal with aggression. Let us know in the comments…

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An Interview With A Dog Walker

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Sleeping DogClarissa Dent is a professional dog walker and dog sitter based in South London. With a number of years experience, she has a wealth of knowledge about the industry, and tells us how she made the transition from a part-time dog walker, to a fully functioning, profitable business owner in the space of 12 months. 

Clarissa’s goal is to provide your pets with loving and attentive care and she strives everyday to succeed in providing her human and pet clients with the best quality, stress-free service possible. Clarissa believes in systems and routines to make sure the dogs are safe and secure in their surroundings, her pet care expertise will ensure that your loved ones receive the best care possible while you are away!

……………….……………….……………….……………….……………….……………….

What prompted you to start a dog walking and dog sitting business?

My brother in law runs a veterinary practice in Kensington, and from visiting from time to time with my own dog, I became aware of the huge demand for professional dog walkers and dog sitters. I was amazed at how many people require someone to look after their pet, for whatever reason it be, and saw the potential in turning a hobby, into something I could make a living from. As an avid dog lover, I have always been fond of dogs and have a dog myself, an Affenpinscher called Archie, who I walk everyday. So the transition into looking after somebody else’s dog seemed to come naturally, as I already had experience. I thought ‘how hard can it be’? From here, I started looking after friend’s dogs from time to time, and then later started to get recommendations from my brother in law, when people would ask him if he knew anyone to look after their dog. It naturally progressed to the point where I started to build up a client base and gain more and more confidence, and it occurred to me that this wasn’t just something I could do part time, if I focussed all of my attention to this, I could make serious money from doing something I love! And now, I couldn’t be happier, it has changed my life considerably.

What do you enjoy most about dog walking / sitting?

Well, what is there not to love about walking dogs through a grassy field on a summers day, with smiling faces looking up at you?! I enjoy the freedom it gives me, the outdoor lifestyle, but most importantly, the array of characters and personalities I get to deal with on a daily basis. Every dog is unique, every dog has it’s own quirks and nuances, and to be honest, I have a lot of fun, and I hope the dogs do too!

Are there any negatives of being a professional dog walker / sitter?

To be perfectly honest, I can’t say that there are many negatives at all! The only thing that I personally find is that I often get attached to other people’s dogs, and am sad to see them leave! Luckily for me, the majority of my clients are regular, so I get to see them all again!

Where are your favourite places to take dogs around the London area?

I generally tend to alternate between Battersea Park and Wandsworth common, both of which have large open spaces, but are also more than just a ‘patch of grass’ – the dogs can roam around and follow all of the natural smells and rummage around in the undergrowth, rather than just running around a field.

The pet sitting industry is growing immensely, do you think it will continue to grow and what will that growth mean to the industry?

I see and meet more and more people every day who are doing this for a living. I used to be one of the only ‘dog walkers’ on the common (apart from dog owners, of course!), but now there are many people who are profiting from this line of work. So, yes, I have seen the growth first hand, and it is a real boost to the economy, and a boost to general self esteem, as more and more people have the ‘get up and go’ to make money in a tough financial climate. This consequently results in more competition, but the industry itself is quite personal and friendly, not corporate and cut-throat, so I think people generally just get on with it. I never feel as though someone will ‘steal’ my clients, and it’s always a pleasure to stop and talk to other dog walkers and sitters and share experiences with them. 

How does a dog walker / sitter manage different dogs, all with different characters and temperaments?

I don’t think there’s a definite answer to this question, as no two dogs are alike. From my experience, structure is paramount, I believe routine and consistency when caring for any pet is really important, so the dogs familiarise themselves and feel comfortable from the start. I tend to ask the owners details about feeding times and walk times, and generally try to stick to what the dog is used to, therefore preventing the likelihood of any abnormal behaviour due to changing the dog’s routine. Remember, no two dogs are the same, so never presume you know how the dog will behave, try to get as much information from the owner as possible, as they know their dog better than anyone. 

What sets you apart from other dog walkers / sitters?

Well, I think my years of experience definitely work in my favour, as I have built strong working relationships with my clients, and trust is the most important thing in this industry. People feel safe leaving their dog with me, and I feel confident that I will take good care of them and return them safely and happily to their owners. Also, I feel the family connections with the Veterinary Practice give added security to my clients, as if anything did happen, I have a professional to turn to – thank god it has never come to that but it’s good to know!

What advice do you have for dog owners who are using a dog walker / sitter for the first time?

Ask, ask and ask again! Never feel embarrassed to ask as many questions about the person who is looking after your dog. Ask for references, whether they have insurance and speak to their previous clients in person, as this is the best way to find out about their experience. Don’t always go for the cheapest option, as this may not always be the best. Think about WHAT kind of person and environment you want your dog to be in…some sitters board many dogs at a time, others offer a more personal, private service where your dog may get more one-on-one time. This is up to you, so think about it and try to find the appropriate person for your dog.

What advice can you give to people thinking about starting their own dog walking / sitting business?

I would say go for it, you have nothing to loose! But remember, it’s a full time job that requires skill, patience and commitment. Not everybody can do it, you may think ‘looking after dogs is easy’, which to a certain extent, it can be, but there is a difference in walking someone’s dog as a one off, and running a professional business. There is no room for complacency, you have to be attentive and confident that people can rely on you. You have to give each and every dog the same amount of love and care, unconditionally. After all, the success of your business is down to your reputation, if you start to get slack, this will affect your ability to care for a dog and will show through. People will not feel comfortable leaving their beloved pet in your care. Lastly, enjoy it and have fun! Not everyone gets the opportunity to care for such amazing animals, so respect that and get the most out of it as you can. My philosophy is “I’m doing something I love, and the money comes second”, not the other way around.

Lastly, please can you share a story from your dog walking career?

There are so many to choose from! One story, however, seems to stick with me – I was looking after a small Jack Russell for a week, and took her out to the countryside with my own dog to visit family, who happen to have chickens. After a glorious walk, we returned back and the dog somehow found her way through the chicken fencing to the horror of my sister! Unfortunately, she made the most of this experience and killed one of the chickens! Lets just say my sister was not best pleased….not as pleased as the dog anyway! 

Visit Clarissa’s profile on Dog Walkers City here, or visit her website at: www.dogsittingsouthwestlondon.com

Would you answer any of these questions differently? Or do you have anymore questions you’d like us to ask Clarissa? Let us know in the comments…

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The Dog Walkers City Mega Membership is now available. Sign up today for a vast number of benefits ranging from premium members profiles to business guides and invoice templates. If you’re looking to be or you are a dog sitter, then this is the only membership you’ll ever need. Find out more here.

Finding Dog Walkers – An Issue Of Trust?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

I’ve recently come across a few issues concerning the trust of dog walkers and sitters expressed in some of the dog forums I frequently visit. It’s an interesting issue and one that we talked about when Dog Walkers City first began development. In fact, we asked the members of these same forums whether they would use – and ‘trust’ – the internet when searching for someone to look after their beloved pet. The answer was resounding yes – with a few preconditions.

Those conditions included interviewing the dog walker before hiring them, seeing proof of insurance and joining in on a walk with the walker and some other dogs (including your own) for a first hand experience of how they work. In my opinion, all of these are a good idea – especially the latter – and caution should always be exercised when trusting a complete stranger with your dog.

The forum issues I’m talking about can be found here and although it is worrying that this sort of thing happens, it seems to be extremely rare considering the amount of Dog walkers there are around. Like any profession, sadly you will get people who don’t take their job and responsibilities seriously enough.

All that being said, I think once you’ve taken the above steps to ‘screen’ a potential Dog walker/sitter you will get a strong idea of whether they’re suitable or not. The main point is simply not to just let anyone look after your pet.

When we were first designing Dog Walkers City our first thoughts on the subject were to include a ratings system (which we have), in which people could rate their Dog walkers out of five. Admittedly, we have seen one major problem with this approach – anyone can rate. Which means that people seem to be down voting their competition and up voting themselves (although the system works so that from your computer you can only vote for each walker/sitter once).

Although we have racked our brains we can only come with one solution to this problem, which is this; in your members area you set up a unique password/code (separate to your members area password) that you give to your clients after they’ve used your service. Your clients can then come to Dog Walkers City and rate you but will need to enter your unique code to prove that they’ve used your service. This will stop anyone and everyone rating people unnecessarily.

This will hopefully solve the problem but we are slightly concerned that this is a long winded approach to something that people may not use.

We definitely need your input here on everything we have mentioned in this post, whether you’re a dog walker, a dog sitter or an existing or potential customer. Have you ever had any trust issues? Or how wary would you be when hiring someone to look after your pet? What do you think of the ratings system proposed above? Or do you have any other ideas that would help in this area? Get involved in the discussion using the comments below…

The Dog Walkers City Mega Membership is now available. Sign up today for a vast number of benefits ranging from premium members profiles to business guides and invoice templates. If you’re looking to be or you are a dog sitter, then this is the only membership you’ll ever need. Find out more here.

Dog Walkers City Premium Membership Offer

Monday, February 20th, 2012

If you’ve logged into the members area at Dog Walkers City recently you may have noticed that we will soon be launching our premium membership package. This package has a number of great features that are sure to further your Dog walking business. To see exactly what we’re offering, simply sign into your account and click the ‘Upgrade’ tab.

Before we launch this package, we need to test the premium membership to make sure everything is working properly and to do that we need your help! We’re going to be giving away a number of free lifetime memberships (usually worth £5/$8 per month) to anyone who lends us a hand. That means if you help us out you can become a free premium member for life!

To get your free lifetime membership all you have to do is link to us (http://www.DogWalkersCity.com) from your website. It’s as simple as that!

So if you want to be participate, simply link to our website from yours then send us a quick message (http://www.dogwalkerscity.com/contact.html) telling us your email address and the page you’ve linked to us from and we’ll upgrade your account.

Remember, the premium membership has a load of great features that are sure to get you more customers, and we have a lot more planned for the future! This offer won’t last long so if you’re interested please act quickly!