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How much money does a professional dog walker make?

How much money do dog walkers make?

If you want to start a dog walking service or similar business, sooner or later someone will ask something like, “Oh, do you actually make money?”

I met a guy through a friend over the weekend, and he asked me what most normal people ask:

“What do you do?”

Usually my response to this question is something like, “I have a pet sitting business, and I take dogs walking and running.”

Woman and black lab sitting in a field in the North Dakota badlands

I’m not very good at promoting myself during these conversations, so I usually feel like my response is kind of lame. I’m painfully shy and awkward, so I try to avoid small talk. It’s why I write, instead.

What do I do?!

I have the best job in the world! I hang out with dogs all day, taking them on crazy outdoor adventures. I run up to 80 miles per week, and when I’m not running, I write about dog behavior on one of the world’s top dog blogs.

That’s what I do.

But that’s not exactly how I say it.

“Oh, I own a pet sitting business where I walk dogs.”

And usually, people look at me like they are really impressed by this, or they assume I have some other part-time job.

This guy I met on Friday said what most people probably think but don’t actually say:

“Is that a lucrative thing?”

I’ve had a handful of people actually ask this question over the years, and I find it extremely offensive because it implies I must be struggling or unsuccessful.

And I don’t have a good response.

“It’s awesome. I’ve been doing it for three years. People are crazy about their pets,” is what I said Friday.

I can think of a few other responses that may or may not have been appropriate.

And so, for dog walkers, pet sitters, dog trainers – heck, any kind of “small” business owner out there, how do you respond to these kinds of questions?

Sooner or later someone will ask, “So do you actually get paid to _________?”

The reason this question irritates me is the person sees nothing wrong with asking. People find it appropriate to ask how much money I make through dog walking and through blogging, maybe because they are afraid to admit they could turn their own hobbies into actual careers. It’s easier for them to believe they are better off at their current job.

I know it is not worth the energy to dwell on someone who can’t understand the value of what I offer. Most people just can’t understand. I should appreciate that they care enough to show some interest in what I do.

So I am making a point to focus my energy on what I can control and to focus on what I do best – write, create, care, exercise some pooches and make the best of each day.

Thank you to all who read my blog and to all who leave their animals in my care.

The photo of Ace and I is from a few years ago. It’s one of my favorites. We were backpacking in the North Dakota badlands. I love how dogs lead us on these types of adventures.

Cristella Medrano

Tuesday 29th of November 2011

On a not so busy year, $30,000 is a good estimate.

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 30th of November 2011

All kinds of factors come into play - the population of the area, how many hours the person wants to work, the quality of his or her service. Any determined dog walker who owns his or her own business can make at least that amount.

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 31st of October 2011

You are right. Part of the problem lies with me and my modesty. I am terrible at self promotion.

John Reh

Monday 31st of October 2011

Nice article. I find that most people just have no idea how big this "industry" is. When I recite even just a few basic facts, such as how many pets there are in the US, my credibility as someone who has a "real" job instantly skyrockets. I used to take a little offense when I first started and people would ask me questions like the one that person asked you. But I don't anymore because we have better jobs than them :)

Betty Hurtt-Nelson

Saturday 22nd of October 2011

Loved your picture of you and Ace. Unfortunately people will ask inappropriate questions your entire life. It never ends. Some people are just oblivious and don't know they are being offensive. Some people feel entitled to an answer. Some people will not be disuaded no matter what you say and just keep probing. The entitled are the people I've found I don't need in my life. Life is too short and full of wonderful people that I don't need to spend time with boors. My Mother told me this when I was a teenager, but I didn't listen very well. She was absolutely right! Betty

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 23rd of October 2011

Thank you, Betty! I am also trying not to waste my time with these types of boors. I agree. They are just not worth the energy when there are so many wonderful people out there.


Thursday 20th of October 2011

That was an excellent post. I'm also a pet-sitter and dog walker and contrary to what some people think, it takes some dog smarts and energy. The kid next door has energy, but often doesn't know what to do when those emergencies crop up and sometimes put themselves and the dogs at risk.

I also am a mini and toy Australian Shepherd breeder and always recommend to the buyers of my puppies that they enlist the help of an insured pet sitter if they have to work away from home.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 20th of October 2011

Your average 12-year-old pet sitter next door will be able to handle most dogs just fine. And if people are comfortable with that, they should go ahead and hire a kid or a teenager for their animal care. It's a good first job. I did a lot of that myself when I was in high school. If someone hires me through my business, they can trust that their dogs will be getting professional care, meaning they will be in the hands of an experienced trainer who will also make sure to exercise the dogs and keep them safe during emergencies. I carry insurance. I have years of experience. I have references. I take cute pictures of all my clients, and I try to remain available at all times for communication.