11.27.2007

Dog Walker Hell Week - Dog Walking Company - The Dog Walker's Handbook

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It's over. I had ten extra walks per day for the last week and a half. It has been a few decades since I have been bone-tired in a literal sense. Dog walking is manual labor. It may seem like unfettered fun to you cubicle-ites, but there's a lot to worry about.

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First, every single dog owner has a specific set of instructions that applies to their dog alone. You need to remember all of it. Then, the dog doesn't always WANT to go outside if it's raining or snowing. My dog Amber is like that. She just looks at me like I'm insane and pulls a sit-down strike.

Of course there's the fat, old, lazy dog that suddenly gets a burst of youth and makes a run for it. Always keep a firm grip on the leash.

Logistics is everything in dog walking. The clock rules your day. You need to be at certain places at certain times and have to map out your strategy for getting there.

( And yes, YouTube managed to freeze my face in a bizarre expression. But listen to it anyway. )



Of course as your business grows, you hire people. Then it really gets tough. Like the guy who sat in someone's house and ate a bucket of chicken and left some of the bones and biscuits lying around. The client was a vegetarian, by the way.

There was another guy who thought of himself as a kind of roaming Dick Cavett and would get to houses as the people were getting home from work - big no no - and then have in-depth conversations about country music or the economy. And I'll bet they were great conversations. But you need not to lose your focus: caring for the dog. No matter how much they smile and laugh, they will get angry and fire you if you fail to do this.

That brings up another issue. Your clients think of themselves as better than you. As a dog walker, you are in the servant class. No matter how jovial they are, or how they discuss books with you, they think of you as the maid. And neighbors delight in watching you and telling the client if you have done something like not pick up the poop.

The colder weather isn't so bad if you prepare by dressing appropriately. You warm up really quickly if you move.

You are always marketing as a dog walker. The barrier to entry in this business is virtually zero. So anyone could call themselves a dog walker and try to poach your customers. Advertising on Craigslist is great, as are line item mentions in the local paper. Put signs up in dog parks, or better yet, go to them in the mornings. That's a great place to get customers.

Remember, your clients are the humans, not the dogs. It's hard to remember this fact. You will often like the dog more than you like the owners.

But the upside is that you get into really good shape and the dogs are always so glad to see you. It really lifts the spirits. They are such sweet little beings and the weather in DC is very mild most of the time, making a nice walk with a dog such a pleasure. I would walk along Rock Creek and think of all the times when I was working inside how much I would love just a few minutes of walking around in that weather. And I did it every day. It was glorious.

7 comments:

jenna butterfly said...

Hi christine - i'm a dogwalker and an old buddy of yours [from 1994& 1995] and bill w...i would love to catch up with you. email me at jennaluche@msn.com - i hope to hear from you! we have a lot in common going on! - jenna from the state dept basement

The Frank Family said...

Sounds like a fun job, for the most part anyway. Good luck and good weather to you!

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janice said...

Hey econo girl. you totally love pets? right? or in particular dogs? if that's the case, im totally your fan. I love reading your articles. Keep it up! :D

summer camps in maine said...

A good way to spend time with pets and at the same time get rid of some of the extra pounds. =)

Pet Sitting and Dog Walking said...

It is really a nice post, its always great reading such posts, this post is good in regards of both knowledge as well as information. Thanks for the post.

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wewalkdogs said...

Walking your dog in the city requires a special level of attention and awareness. If you're a first time dog owner in the city, it's worth reading a few words advice regarding what kind of things to look out for. If you're a seasoned dog owner moving to the city for the first time, it's a good idea to think about the ways in which city dog walking differs in nature from suburban or rural dog walking.

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