I am always amazed lately at how many new Dog Walker vans I see appear and then quickly disappear after only a few months. I can only assume it’s because they are of the impression that it’s an easy way to make a lot of money. Often, they quickly discover that if you’re doing it properly and professionally, it really isn’t “easy money”.
If there’s one thing that is guaranteed to wind me up, it’s when a conversation starts like the above. It normally goes like this “so you’re a Dog Walker……….so how many dogs do you walk at a time?” I reply with 6. This is then followed by “how much do you charge per dog?” and I reply £10. You can then see the reaction on the face and then……”£60 an hour?.....you work for a couple of hours a day and earn more than £100?!!!”.
I then find myself explaining and for some reason justifying that actually this is not the case. Firstly, 6 is the maximum number of dogs per walk and my insurance states (yes you need insurance!) that the number of dogs includes your own dogs, so in my case that’s 3. So I only have 3 clients’ dogs so we’re now down to £30. Then out of the 3 dogs normally at least 2 are from the same household so they’re discounted down to £18. We’re now down to £28. Then it’s a 1 hour walk, so by the time I’ve collected the 3 dogs, walked them and dropped them back home it’s more like 2 hours per walk so we’re now down to £14 per hour. Then there’s the consumables such as poo bags, treats, tennis balls (that always get lost).
Extra costs such as if one of your lovely pooches decides to poo, wee or throw up in the van, so all the bedding comes out and goes to the launderette to be cleaned. Besides this, the bedding has to be laundered regularly anyway but soiling is an extra expense. Then of course there are day to day towels used to dry off and clean off the mud after a walk again, these need to be laundered. Maybe some little darlings decide to chew things up in the back of the van which might be cages, leads or anything else they can get their teeth into. Anything damaged will need to be replaced at the cost of the Dog Walker.
We haven’t even thought about the clothing, wellies etc. that all get put through the mill on a daily basis and need replacing often. Without the thought of wear and tear on the van. With the amount of mileage and stop/start journeys you’re doing on a daily basis, the probability of punctures (I’ve had to replace 4 tyres at a cost of £50 each in the last year!) and brake pad replacements is high added to this the cost of the fuel you’re using each week. On average I do around 250 miles per week so need to fill up the tank every 10 days to 2 weeks at a cost at the moment of around £65.
Then we need to take into account the actual costs of setting up and running a Dog Walking business. For a decent van you’re looking at something around £5000-£6000 plus VAT. Then to kit it out with bespoke safety cages it will be a minimum of £2000. Liability and professional insurance around £200 per year. Hosting a website, advertising, etc. etc.
So you can do the maths……………..I tried to work out once how much I was actually earning per hour………I stopped……..it depressed me. Yes I love my job but it is by no means going to make me a rich woman.
If you think setting up and running a Dog Walking business is easy and an easy source of income………….think again………………the proper professional ones are barely earning minimum wage on an hourly rate.
If you’re in a position where you need to find a Dog Walker, remember what I’ve said here. You should really be asking a lot of questions before placing your trust in just anyone with a van; I always liken it to finding a Child Minder or Babysitter; you wouldn’t let just anyone be in charge of your baby or child so surely it must be the same for your dog? If you’re like me and don’t have any children, your dogs are your children and I therefore treat potential Minders with the same vetting as I would a real child. Just because our dogs can’t talk to us and tell us what’s wrong, doesn’t mean to say they don’t have feelings or that they can’t be hurt or traumatized by a bad experience.
I will do a separate blog article later on questions you should be asking potential Dog Carers as an owner but in conclusion being a Dog Walker is thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding but it really isn’t easy.