It’s time to have some fun! After your schedule has filled up, you’ll become keenly aware of the fact that you’ve never walked so much in your entire life. Dog walker’s who’ve been at it for more than six months know exactly what I’m talking about. Besides investing in a very good pair of walking shoes (for urban environments) or boots (for the trail) you might want to pick up something that’s just plain fun.
Sportline 360 Total Fitness Pedometer
I think you’ll be shocked when you see how many miles you log each week. The following Pedometers are fairly inexpensive and accurate: This model records distance, strides, and calories, Hj-113 Pocket Pedometer or this inexpensive one which comes in a lots of different colors but only counts mileage DMC-03 Multi-Function Pedometer (color: BLACK) or for the truly hard-core, check this one out Sportline 360 Total Fitness Pedometer.
An added benefit of taking a pedometer around with you is that you can calculate how many miles each of your client’s pets log per week. It’s just another bit of information their owners will appreciate knowing. At the end of the year send them a card with a note thanking them for their business and then tell them how many miles you logged with their pup for that year! You can bet they’ll be talking about it to their friends and family, and you know what happens when people are talking about your business. It GROWS!
They make great stocking suffers too. You don’t really have to wear it all the time. If you have a fairly consistent schedule then wear it for one week then multiply that mileage by 4 for a monthly estimate or by the weeks you will work in a year. I think you’ll be surprised how many calories you’re burning (or are going to burn) in your new profession!
Dog training is a natural evolution for dog walker’s. You are informally training the dogs you walk every day. They are learning the routine: the time you arrive, the greeting ritual, the leash hook-up ritual, and of course acceptable behavior on the walk. It’s the last item which is most likely to convert into a paid training opportunity.
Training dogs whose leash manners are less than stellar has many benefits.
Once my business had a good client base, I became a little more picky about the dogs I took on. Not because they weren’t great and loving animals, but because the owners had spent no time training them how to behave on a leash. I introduced “leash-manners” as an add-on to my dog walking service and generally it was mandatory for dogs who pulled like bulls.
I presented it to new clients as a huge value (it was). They could have their dog walked and trained for only a few dollars more than the per walk fee. It was good for them because their dog became much more enjoyable to walk, I didn’t have to endure the yank and pull anymore, and I was paid for my service.
It truly is a win-win, and when presented that way, your clients will happily pay the add-on fee for a few weeks of training. Once the dog is under control the owners will be VERY thankful and you likely will get hired to do more training for them, their friends, and neighbors.
Practice the training technique for leash-manners I demonstrate in The Dog Walker’s Companion DVD until it become second nature. Soon you’ll be confidently training your client’s dogs to be wonderful leash companions, earning more money, and well on your way to becoming a successful trainer.
Remember, be observant and learn from your dogs as well. Dogs look for reliable indicators or cues as to what is expected of them, or as an indicator of the arrival of good or bad things (picking up the leash for example indicates they will be going for a walk). Stay tuned in. Becoming a good trainer involves two-way communication. The better you understand your furry companions, the more effective you’ll be in communicating what you want from their end of the bargain. Observation is the key in determining what might be getting in the way of a given training technique. Sending mixed signals or cues is a common problem for novice trainers.
Many pet sitters will offer dog walking as part of their pet sitting services. However, unlike dog walking, a pet sitter’s focus is not solely on dog-care, but on the care of many different types of animals. This takes the focus away from unique and interesting dog-related activities and adventures that could be planned by someone whose focus is solely on running a dog walking business. Thus taking emphasis away from your single largest demographic, that being dog owners.
Having a pet sitting business requires a much greater time investment and overall responsibility than dog walking and unfortunately for the same or even less money! If you’re like most business owners you want to maximize your income while lowering your overhead. Whether that overhead is time, money, or both. Dog walking fits the bill!
“But I like the idea of working with many different animals, I think it would be fun.”
This is a lifestyle choice. Working with animals is fun and rewarding. I was very into the idea of pet sitting when I started out. I thought the variety of animals, clients, and schedule would be great but it turned out to be very difficult, and I soon found that I was working 7 days a week and couldn’t take a vacation of my own! Pet sitting offers a huge variety of work which is both it’s blessing and it’s curse.
“What would be better: a pet sitting business or dog walking if I eventually want to become a dog trainer?”
Most of the players in the dog training world these days started out in a related dog-care field, many of them having been dog walkers!
“I became a dog walker,” [Cesar Millan] says. “I’d take out 30 dogs, all walking behind me, and people would stop and stare as I’d go through Beverly Hills with rottweilers and pit bulls. I’d take them for four-hour walks and charge $10, and their owners were amazed when I’d bring back calm, contented dogs.” –Telegraph, UK (Mar 2008)
If you eventually want to become a professional dog trainer what better way to learn about dog behavior and gain professional dog handling experience than walking dogs? Dog walking beats pet sitting in this area hands down! The experience you’ll gain handling dogs in public will give you the hands-on knowledge, observation skills, and confidence you’ll need to become a great trainer!
Along the theme of winter related gear and equipment, something you may not have considered is tire chains. Yes, they are a pain in the rear to put on, particularly in the snow. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re going to have to go out and walk dogs, even in storms.
If you don’t own an all wheel drive or 4-wheel drive, chains will be your best friend. For the first 5 years of my business I owned a Honda Civic. Great car, decent in the snow, but if I had to climb a snowy hill, forget it. I got stuck numerous times and wound up having to shovel a client’s driveway just to get out. Do yourself a favor and buy a set of chains for the winter, trust me, you’ll be glad you did.