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5 hurdles to starting a dog walking business – and what you can do

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Hurdles to starting a dog walking business and how to overcome them

I owned a dog walking business in North Dakota for five years, and I recently started a dog walking business in California. Having done this twice, I am aware of the challenges new dog walkers face.

The following are a few hurdles you might run into if you’re starting a dog walking business, as well as how to overcome them.

Hurdle #1 – Your town is too small to support a dog walking business

This may be true. Some areas may not have enough potential customers, and you may have to consider walking dogs on only a part-time basis. I’m personally getting my business established in a town of 13,000 people, so I can relate.

If you’re in a rural area, you may face even more difficulty because people there may not even think to hire a “dog walker.” On the other hand, you only need about 20 clients or so to make it work. If your town only has 5,000 people, you should still be able to find 20 who could use a dog walker. You’ll just have to work a lot harder to find them.

What you can do:

  • Accept customers in nearby towns. You can always narrow your service area in the future.
  • Offer more services such as a pet taxi service, dog training, dog boarding in your home, pet sitting at clients’ homes, house sitting for people who travel in the winter, etc.
  • Ask your friends to hang one of your fliers in their breakrooms at work and to hand out your business cards to their co-workers. Schools and hospitals are great places for fliers.
  • Consider expanding your services to rural areas, but charge an extra fee for gas and travel time.
  • Get to know local business owners such as veterinarians, groomers and trainers.
  • Put a classified ad in your local newspaper and any other local publications.

How to overcome hurdles to starting a dog walking company

Hurdle #2 – Your area is saturated with dog walkers

I went from an area where I was the only dog walker to an area where there are several, so I hear ya.

What you can do:

  • Offer something unique to your area such as dog running, dog fieldtrips, off-leash runs, a pet taxi service or loose-leash training. Are all these services offered already? Then get more creative, and come up with something different.
  • Focus your marketing on whatever it is that makes your business unique.
  • Invest in higher-quality business cards so yours stand out among the others. Hire a designer to help you – it’s worth it.
  • Hire the designer to create you some simple brochures, which you can ask local veterinarians and other businesses to display. You could also hand these out at local events.
  • Get your butt out there every day meeting other business owners and handing out your information at community events such as humane society fundraisers, street fairs and so on.
  • Make sure you have a presence in search engines (see below).
  • Network with established dog walkers and pet sitters.
  • Make sure you have dog walking insurance set up and your dog walking business forms ready to go so you’re not scrambling to do this when you get your first client.

Hurdle #3 – Your dog walking business is not ranking in Google

When you’re wondering how to start a dog walking service, one of the best ways to gain customers is to rank in online searches for terms involving your town or area’s name. For example, “Solana Beach dog walking” or “dog walkers Fargo.” But this can be tough if there’s a lot of competition in your area, especially if you have a new web site.

What you can do:

  • Set up a Yelp profile for your business, and fill out all the info on there as well. Ask your friends and clients to leave reviews.
  • Do the same with a Facebook fan page, making sure to include the services you offer as well as the areas you serve.
  • Consider advertising your business using Google Adwords for a few months. These are the ads that appear at the top of listings and on the side of search results.

Hurdle #4 – You’re worried you won’t make enough money

It does take time to build up some solid clients.

What you can do:

  • Keep your job for now, but start advertising your dog walking business a good three months before you consider leaving your other job.
  • Create a waiting list now so you can contact these potential clients once you quit your job.
  • Start walking dogs on your days off.
  • Consider working part-time at your current job while you transition.
  • See if you can arrange your schedule at your current job so you work four days instead of five.

Hurdle #5 – Your friends think starting a dog walking business is crazy

I ran into this quite a bit the first time I started a dog walking business. People thought I was nuts to quite my “secure” job. Excuse me? I was working at a newspaper!

What you can do:

  • Ignore the downers. Spend time with positive, supportive people.
  • If your spouse or partner is the one concerned, try to listen to his concerns, but let him know how serious you are about the idea.
  • Know that dog walking can definitely be a serious career if you are passionate and smart about it. Sometimes it helps to hear from someone who’s been there. Read my post: how can I start a dog walking business?

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My ebook is a step-by-step guide designed to help you start or grow your dog walking business as quickly as possible. Learn from someone who’s been there.

Ebook by Lindsay Stordahl


Sunday 10th of November 2013

I owe almost all of my dog walking business' success to a good website that ranks well on Google in my area. Before I made it, I looked up some basic SEO techniques and they seem to have worked. I also have a corresponding Facebook page. My customers love seeing their dogs featured there and I get the added benefit of my company name getting out there. Having a good Internet presence is crucial these days!

Word of mouth has been really important for me, too. I make it a point to be extremely reliable, flexible and professional. When a person is putting something as important as their companion animal in your care, they need to be able to trust you 100%. Once they do, they are likely to recommend you to family and friends because they know you do a good job.

Money was tricky for me in the beginning but it took me under 6 months before I was earning the same (and some months MORE) than I was at my old office job. Having a safety net like savings or another part-time job helps during start up.

Good luck to anyone else starting a dog walking business! After two years in business, I can safely say it is worth ALL of the initial hurdles to be able to do something that makes you truly happy.

Jacklyne Tesoro

Saturday 18th of April 2015

Karen, I am so happy to hear about your positive outcome. I just started recently and am eager to get some clients. I know I have to be patient and keep at it. I hope to be a success story like you in a couple of years! -Jacklyne from Los Angeles

Renchan Li

Friday 8th of November 2013

Thanks for sharing this experience so that I can be more considerate.


Wednesday 6th of November 2013

This would be my dream job.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 7th of November 2013