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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi there, I'm so sorry, this will be a loooong post, lol. Now that I'm finishing up my summer course, I was thinking of dog walking for the rest of my summer, and hopefully continue through out the regular school year as well. It'll be nice to make a little bit of money for groceries or textbooks, and do something outdoors and physical with doggies :D I've never dog walked as a job before, so I'm not sure how to approach this. I've read some articles online, and really small excerpts in books, but they are not detailed enough for me. I'm hoping I can talk to dog walkers, and people who use dog walkers on this forum for some first hand experience and advice. I want to provide the best service I can, and make sure there are not any problems. If you guys can tell me any information, tips, or recommendations that you can, I would greatly appreciate it :D I do have some specific questions though:

-How do I manage my clients? I think one of the main things to this is that I'm not sure, if I do get customers, is how do provide my service. For example, if the owner wants me to walk the dog while they are at work or something, how do I do that? Do they usually hide a key, or am I to ask for a copy of a key, or would they leave their dog in a yard? It's a weird question, but I really am not sure how to approach it. I want to be as respectful as possible to the owner, their dog, and their property. Also, if someone were to ask me how should we arrange the dog walking, I want to be able to give them all the possibilities I can.

-I was hoping to do a free "meet up" to get to know the owner and the dog, and how they are. Maybe do a trial walk with the dog and see how it is with me. Is this a good idea?

-Is it normal for a dog walker to provide free services as a complimentary addition to dog walking? I was thinking about offering to fill water and food bowls, bringing in the mail or taking out the trash as like a "thank you".

-What kind of rates do you guys specifically charge/pay for? I've check a few around where I live, I'm just curious for other people, lol.

-Also what are good ways to advertise myself that you have found effective? Or how did you find your dog walker? I was thinking about posting an online ad, and posting some posters around my area, but I feel like this won't be enough. I'm not sure what other ways to advertise myself. I don't have a vehicle, so I'm restricted to dog walk locally.

-Should I charge an extra fee for really difficult dogs? I've seen a small fee on other dog walking ads for dogs that are hard to handle. Is this a good idea, or would it be a put off for potential clients? I would add maybe $2 to my base amount if I do, but should I?

-Here one of my bigger questions... How do I accept payment? Do I ask for payment before the service or after the service? Is it better to ask for payment at the end of a week or two, or after so many walks? How do you guys ask for payment/ or pay your dog walker? I feel so awkward about this part, almost guilty, I think it's just a thing with me and accepting anything from another person, but that's a different story, LOL.

I would love to gain more experience with dogs, and hopefully do some dog training in addition to walking. However, I feel like I shouldn't try to dog train until I've handled more dogs. Though, every dog I have handled and trained (of friends and family), I've found that I am very effective in doing so (up to the point the dog is given back to the owner and all my work goes undone, so sad :( nobody seems to listen to me, LOL). Anyways..... thank you so much for any responses and suggestion. I really want to get out there and work with dogs, but I just don't know how to do it.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Also, I do plan on looking for volunteer work as well. I hoping there is a shelter within walking distance. But it would be nice to make a little money though. Being a student, I'm always broke >.< LOL
 

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I used to do a lot of pet sitting when I worked at a vet. Now I've hired a dog walker, who I would use more if she didn't cost so much. I found her via sittercity.com. Usually I just count on friends/family.

-How do I manage my clients? I think one of the main things to this is that I'm not sure, if I do get customers, is how do provide my service. For example, if the owner wants me to walk the dog while they are at work or something, how do I do that? Do they usually hide a key, or am I to ask for a copy of a key, or would they leave their dog in a yard? It's a weird question, but I really am not sure how to approach it. I want to be as respectful as possible to the owner, their dog, and their property. Also, if someone were to ask me how should we arrange the dog walking, I want to be able to give them all the possibilities I can.
I had clients whose keys I had copies of, and clients who would have a key hidden, and clients who had garage door codes and I'd just go in through the garage. You could ask them how they would prefer arranging access to their house. I prefer for my dog walker to have the key so if it's an emergency and we can't get home to the dog, she can still get in the house (that is, I don't have to pre-emptively hide a key).

-I was hoping to do a free "meet up" to get to know the owner and the dog, and how they are. Maybe do a trial walk with the dog and see how it is with me. Is this a good idea?
I wouldn't pay someone to come meet my pets and me. Consider it like a job interview. You don't get paid for a job interview.

-Is it normal for a dog walker to provide free services as a complimentary addition to dog walking? I was thinking about offering to fill water and food bowls, bringing in the mail or taking out the trash as like a "thank you".
I expect that if my pet's water bowl is empty, it will be refilled. I also expect poop to be picked up, and my dog to be wiped down quickly if he decides to go for a roll in the mud during the dog walker's visit. If I was doing long-term pet sitting, I would always take in the mail, water plants, switch lights on and off, etc... as needed. I appreciate a note saying how my pets were when the sitter came by.

-What kind of rates do you guys specifically charge/pay for? I've check a few around where I live, I'm just curious for other people, lol.
My dog walker charges $15/visit. At this rate it's easier for us to just come home for lunch and walk the dog. If someone was coming to our home daily, I'd rather negotiate a weekly rate.

-Also what are good ways to advertise myself that you have found effective? Or how did you find your dog walker? I was thinking about posting an online ad, and posting some posters around my area, but I feel like this won't be enough. I'm not sure what other ways to advertise myself. I don't have a vehicle, so I'm restricted to dog walk locally.
Sittercity, craigslist, the local vets office. If you don't have a vehicle, you're severely limiting your ability to take on clients. I would not want a pet sitter who was unable to quickly take my pets to the vet in case of illness or emergency.

-Should I charge an extra fee for really difficult dogs? I've seen a small fee on other dog walking ads for dogs that are hard to handle. Is this a good idea, or would it be a put off for potential clients? I would add maybe $2 to my base amount if I do, but should I?
As a new dog walker, I wouldn't handle really difficult dogs. You'd probably want to be bonded and insured before you did something like that.

-Here one of my bigger questions... How do I accept payment? Do I ask for payment before the service or after the service? Is it better to ask for payment at the end of a week or two, or after so many walks? How do you guys ask for payment/ or pay your dog walker? I feel so awkward about this part, almost guilty, I think it's just a thing with me and accepting anything from another person, but that's a different story, LOL.
I just leave cash with a note on the counter. I don't pay in advance. When I pet sat a lot (when I say a lot, I mean I wouldn't live in my own home for weeks because I was staying with other peoples' pets in their homes), I would only ever get paid at the end of an extended visit. If I was doing single walks, the payment was usually left at the time of the walk. If I was doing multiple visits (daily walks for a week), I'd usually just get paid once a week. I had one client whose wife was out of town caring for a sick parent off and on for several months, and he worked as a doctor and had irregular hours, and he would call me on the fly to go over and take care of the pets. We'd just tally up how many visits every week or two and he'd leave me a check.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank you so much for all this information! This is what I've been looking for for quite sometimes. You don't know how grateful I am lol xD . Oh and I realized I forgot to put free for the "meet up" I would never charge someone to get to know them and their dog, lol. I will try to work on getting vehicle, I'm new to driving and need to practice on that, lol.
 

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Why don't you check craigslist or something similar to find an established company that is hiring dog walkers? It's a massive liability to try this on your own without being insured.
 

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I was a dog walker and it kind of started by accident. I dog sat a lot for a few close family friends for long periods of time. Then I was spread through word of mouth and started watching their friends dogs, etc. Then I decided to randomly answer a woman needing a dogsitter on care.com who lived very close to me. So I interviewed with her, she had an elderly dog who did not require much care. Then I answered another ad on care.com for a Rottweiler puppy, then a woman in her neighborhood saw me walking the dog and asked and I began walking for her, lol... it literally just spread through a lot of word of mouth and randomness.

For a while, I was visiting 4 dogs per day 5 days a week, in different locations, so I definitely needed my vehicle. I was also lucky enough that all owners were cool with me bringing Jackson and all dogs got along, so he got to come along with me for the exercise and socialization.

In general, I probably wasn't as professional as I should have been, but most of my clients became my friends so it was more of a friendly thing.

For one house, I got in with a code on their front door. And the others all gave me spare keys. They all left me cash at the end of each week, and one woman put me on her automatic payment thing so I'd get a check to my house every week.

I charged $12 per day for a 30 minute walk. I loved all those dogs like my own and actually still keep in touch with them all, but one, who I only text occasionally to check in. I probably could have been getting more money but I felt like since I wasn't insured, or a company, etc, I had a good deal.

I always filled water bowls, and even took dog park trips for one dog who I became close with the owner. I'd also leave the dogs with either a frozen Kong the owner left me in the freezer or a bone or whatnot.

I'm not going to lie, it was sometimes stressful. There would be times where they'd call on a whim and last minute ask me to do an extra visit, or another person who wasn't my typical weekly client would call and ask if I could let their dogs out - and it would be like 25 minutes away from my typical area. And there was a few times where I would watch someones dogs overnight and then be in someone elses house the next night. And it's tough with my OWN dog because I don't have anyone to watch him, so he'd have to come....

But honestly? I loved it, and I miss it. I miss the money, I miss the dogs, I miss the schedule.
 

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When I hired a professional dog walker (for a puppy that couldn't last all day crated), she came over for an interview and jotted down all the things I wanted her to know about my dog-she asked a lot of questions too, to learn more about my dog's needs. She was given a key to my house - she was bonded and insured, btw (she worked for an agency). She did not pick up poo in my yard. Her stay was for about 20 minutes (either playing with the dog in my fenced in yard after he went potty, or taking him for a short walk; my choice). I paid a week in advance. She texted me every Sunday evening to check the next week's schedule. She was flexible, so I paid her by the day ($17/day). If I only needed her 4 days the next week, I only paid for 4 days. She would also water plants if I wanted her to (say, if I were on vacation). Difficult dogs were part of her job, I think. She would also use whatever training method you wanted (I was working on potty training with my puppy and was using clicker/treat training).

She also brought in my trash can from the street on trash day, and my recycle bins on recycling day. She would have also brought in the mail, had it been there when she came.
 

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She texted me every Sunday evening to check the next week's schedule. She was flexible, so I paid her by the day ($17/day). If I only needed her 4 days the next week, I only paid for 4 days. She would also water plants if I wanted her to (say, if I were on vacation). Difficult dogs were part of her job, I think. She would also use whatever training method you wanted (I was working on potty training with my puppy and was using clicker/treat training).

She also brought in my trash can from the street on trash day, and my recycle bins on recycling day. She would have also brought in the mail, had it been there when she came.
Wow....I think im in love with the dog walker..
 

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Wow....I think im in love with the dog walker..
She was great - a genuinely nice person! I hated it when I didn't need her anymore - but my pocketbook was so thankful!
 
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