How to Start a Dog Walking Business

Are you a passionate animal lover with an entrepreneurial itch? A dog walking business could be the perfect side hustle or small business for you.

Picture strolling leash in hand, surrounded by wagging tails and happy barks. Not only is it a tail-waggly fun business, but it also has the advantages of low startup costs and flexible hours on your own schedule.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, about 45% of all American households boast at least one dog. That’s more than 83 million canine companions and a serious need for dog walkers. Prospective small business owners, therefore, enjoy a vast potential market for dog walking services.

how to start a dog walking business

How to Start a Dog Walking Business Step-by-Step

This step-by-step guide will walk you through how to start a dog walking business. The following steps will launch your entrepreneurial endeavor on the right paw.

  1. Research the dog walking market
  2. Create a business plan for your dog walking business
  3. Name and brand your dog walking business
  4. Establish a business structure for your dog walking business
  5. Get licensed and obtain dog walking insurance
  6. Set up a business bank account and an accounting system
  7. Set aside space for your dog walking business
  8. Launch a website for your dog walking business
  9. Create a marketing plan for your dog walking business
  10. Establish a customer service plan
  11. Launch and start walking those dogs

Let’s dive deeper into each step, so that you gain a better understanding of what to do, costs, and the activities that are most important.

1. Research the dog walking market

First, conduct market research to identify needs of your local target market and tailor your offerings.

As part of your research, do a competitive analysis. This simply means looking at what local dog walkers are charging, their services, and what they do that makes clients happy or unhappy.

“Market research is the first and most important step,” says marketing expert Ivana Taylor. “Your goal is to uncover the ideal outcome your potential clients are expecting, map out all the different things they want, and then figure out what’s missing that would blow the roof off their experience and that you can offer. Here’s the best part. Market research is readily available and free.” Taylor suggests checking out the following:

  • Online pet lover forums and Facebook groups.
  • Facebook and Instagram accounts of other dog walkers.
  • Profiles of other dog walkers on sites like
  • Competitor reviews on Google and local review sites like Yelp.
  • Personal conversations with friends, neighbors, and relatives.

“Take notes. Jot down useful information to determine your offerings, what delights pet parents, what you should charge, and what the market needs in your local area,” she adds.

2. Create a business plan for your dog walking business

Using the results of your research, develop a simple business plan. A business plan acts like a roadmap to guide you as you start a dog walking business. A good business plan outlines:

how to start a dog walking business

  • Services: Are you planning to stick to basic walking or offer niche services? Niche examples are contained further down.
  • Prices: After doing research, you should have a good idea of what other dog walkers are charging. You don’t have to be the lowest priced, but keep prices aligned with local rates.
  • Marketing strategy: Give a brief overview of how you plan on attracting clients. Will you reach out to homeowners associations to let them know you are available? Will you sign up at online marketplaces offering walking services, such as
  • Startup costs: List your startup costs. A dog walking business that is home-based requires only a small startup investment. But you will still have some initial costs like organizing your business structure, launching a website, licensing, and necessary supplies like leashes and poop bags.
  • Startup funding: How do you plan to fund your initial costs? Here’s good news. Dog walking businesses are low overhead and can be launched with a small amount of savings, making outside funding unnecessary.
  • Financial projections: How much do you anticipate earning and spending monthly in your business?

Keep it simple — even a page or two with bullet points is enough to start. Update your business plan as you go along. Read more in: How to Create a Business Plan.

3. Name and brand your dog walking business

Your dog walking business name and branding are your first impressions. Choose a business name that’s catchy, memorable and reflects the spirit of your services.

A logo and color scheme help customers recognize your services and are useful if you want to put your brand on jackets or bags to help with marketing recognition as you are walking dogs. Expect to pay about $300 for a custom logo at a marketplace like 99 Designs. However, a logo is not strictly necessary at first.

4. Establish a business structure for your dog walking business

Selecting the right business structure – whether it’s sole proprietorship, limited liability corporation (LLC), etc. – impacts your liability, taxes and startup costs. Each category of business entity comes with its own requirements and advantages.

A sole proprietorship might be sufficient for starting a dog walking business. However, the LLC structure has become common today for small businesses because it offers more protection against personal liability. Filing for an LLC also legally registers your business name at the same time.

The cost of registering a business structure varies by state, but typical costs for an LLC are $500 – $1,000 at a registration service like For more information, read about business structure.

5. Get licensed and obtain dog walking insurance

Determine whether your dog-walking business requires a business license. Obtain necessary licenses and permits.

Requirements vary by jurisdiction. In a city like San Francisco, you need a commercial dog walker permit to walk four dogs or more. Along with the business license, you need necessary business insurance and training.

You may need a license in other places simply because you operate a home-based business. Contact your local city hall or county government for applicable small business license requirements. License fees range from $50 to a few hundred dollars initially. Most have to be renewed periodically.

Appropriate dog walking insurance policies safeguard against potential risks and cover you if you are found personally responsible for damages. This type of business insurance includes general liability and professional liability and covers both you and the pets you handle. For example, it protects you in the event a dog you are walking bites someone. Dog walking insurance is available on pet insurance portals such as Pet Care Insurance. The typical cost is under $150 per year (about $15 per month).

6. Set up a business bank account and an accounting system

Set up a separate bank account under your company’s name. Run all financial transactions and startup costs for the business through the business account. This step helps you meticulously track earnings and expenses, and claim legitimate small business tax deductions. Never co-mingle business and personal funds in the same account — it’s a recipe for confusion and makes tax preparation much harder.

As you acquire clients, add accounting software specifically designed for small businesses. Such software offers features like budgeting, receipt scanning, and invoice tracking. You’ll gain a clearer picture of your cash flow and profitability, get paid faster, and make tax time easier. Based on our hands-on testing, accounting software appropriate for small startups includes FreshBooks, QuickBooks Simple Start, and Zoho Books. See more small business accounting software choices.

7. Set aside space for your dog walking business

Most people start a dog walking business from home. But even a home-based business needs dedicated space to operate professionally. Separating work and personal spaces also helps maintain work-life balance. At a minimum, you will need the following for your small business:

  • Clutter-Free Work Area: Set aside a spare bedroom, corner of the living room, or even a large closet for your dog walking business. Keep it organized and clutter-free.
  • Comfort and Ergonomics: Ensure good lighting. Comfortable furniture (desk and chair) is a must for when you have to handle paperwork, invoice clients, or work on marketing materials.
  • Storage: Use bins or baskets to store and keep track of leashes, treats, and other supplies.
  • Digital Organization: Organize your digital files. You will be doing certain tasks online or on a mobile device. Set up essential apps and software as soon as possible. Also set up a system to organize digital photos you will be taking of the friendly pets you walk.

Have fun with it, too. Create a Wagging Hall of Fame — a wall with space for framed pictures of your paw-some furry friends to keep you motivated! Remember, an organized home office contributes to your success in starting a dog walking business.

8. Launch a website for your dog walking business

A professional website serves as the central hub for your business presence online and shows you are serious about your business. Today, getting a website is fast, inexpensive, and easy.

Website builder choices for dog walkers

Many dog walkers create a DIY website at first. Using the right tools, these look professional. You do not need a developer or technical skills if you use a drag-and-drop website builder such as:

  • Wix: Wix has a gorgeous dog-walker template that you can customize. It offers online booking and a contact form. Based on our hands-on experience, Wix is the easiest to use.
  • GoDaddy Websites: This is another fine alternative. Based on our timed tests here at Small Business Trends, GoDaddy Websites take slightly more time to set up than Wix. But the templates look great, and so can your website.
  • Squarespace and Weebly: These are two other solid options with many attractive templates.

Website cost and time

You can have a small-business website for $250 – $350 per year ($20 – $30 per month), if you do it yourself. In our testing, we’ve found that it takes about 3 to 5 hours to set up a simple website yourself when you consider the time to create an account, pick a template, explore the builder’s features, type in your information, choose a few images, proofread and hit the “publish” button. That’s fast!

If you choose to hire a web designer, the cost increases. It can cost $500 to hire a web designer to help you on a simple Wix or GoDaddy site. A designer to create a custom site costs considerably more, typically $1,500 and up.

Essential website information

Your website should include enchanting doggy images, your service offerings, neighborhoods you serve, a contact form and contact details, and possibly a booking page allowing pet owners to schedule a walk for their furry companions. Also, add links to any social media profiles you will use for business, such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and Pinterest.

Dedicated URL

Obtain a dedicated domain URL to match your company name. This is a permanent address for your digital real estate. Your own domain name also enables you to have a professional-looking email address (susie@susiedogwalking .com) instead of a Gmail or Outlook address.

9. Create a marketing plan for your dog walking business

A marketing plan outlines how you will attract clients and retain them. The plan should cover different strategies like reaching out to veterinary clinics, signing up for dog walking portals, local advertising and flyers, and special promotions.

Leave marketing materials like flyers and business cards at local pet shops and vet clinics (with their permission) to increase visibility. Have a sheet with your contact information, offerings and prices.

Unsure which marketing and promotional strategies you’ll employ for your dog walking business? Check out our articles about the types of marketing strategies and local business marketing.

Related marketing matters

Set up your free Google Business Profile. This helps small businesses get online reviews and show up more prominently in searches. Many dog walkers find a Facebook page to be helpful to build a local community. Read our guide on how to create a Facebook business page.

It’s a good idea to order a box of business cards. That way, you can leave several cards with existing clients to share with neighbors who may need a dog walker. Expect to pay about $25 – $50 at places like Vistaprint or FedEx Office. See where to get business cards.

10. Establish a customer service plan

Exceptional customer service can set you apart from the competition. Your customer service plan outlines how you intend to onboard new clients, communicate with them, get paid, handle any issues that arise, and generally delight them!

Set up processes for scheduling, and payments (consider options like Venmo or PayPal) and managing client information securely.

Prioritize communication with pet owners, providing updates and feedback about their pets’ well-being. Consider offering added services like photo updates or GPS tracking for walks to enhance customer experience.

Before you embark on your first walk with a pet, meet their humans. Obtain house keys, if applicable, and ask about any behavioral quirks you should know. Design a process to organize these steps and all the information you retain.

As your business grows, add a service agreement. If possible, get potential clients to sign a simple one-page agreement so that expectations are clear on all sides. Service agreements for the dog walking industry cover costs, services you will provide, cancellation policy, emergency protocols, and responsibilities if the pet causes damage.

Check out our customer service tips for ideas on providing exceptional client satisfaction.

11. Launch and start walking those dogs!

Launch your dog walking business! This is the final and best step. Launch your business with a grand opening event or special promotion to generate interest and attract customers. We’ve put together a list of grand opening ideas you can use, or you might already have the perfect dog-walking grand opening idea in your mind.

Share your journey and successes through social media to engage the community and build your client base. Remember, every step you take brings you closer to turning your passion for pets into a thriving business.

how to start a dog walking business

For more on how to start your own business, read: How to Start a Business.

Tips for a successful dog walking business

A successful dog walking business requires more than just a love for pets; it demands careful planning, awareness of the market, and attention to detail. Here are four more tips for how to start a dog walking business that is successful.

Focus on a niche

In a saturated market, you must differentiate your business to create competitive advantage. One way to do that is to add niche offerings for your furry clients. Examples include:

  • Senior dog strolls: Cater to older dogs with slower paces and shorter walks. Emphasize personalized pet care for senior pups.
  • Trail hikes: Target outdoor enthusiasts and their active dogs. Lead hikes through scenic trails, forests, and nature reserves.
  • Puppy socialization walks: Specialize in socializing puppies during their critical development phase. Emphasize positive reinforcement and introduce them to other dogs and people.
  • Behavioral rehabilitation walks: Work with dogs exhibiting behavioral issues (anxiety, aggression, etc.). Implement behavior modification techniques during walks.
  • Pet fitness walks: Target well-being and fitness for dogs. Combine walking with light exercises (e.g., agility drills, stretching).
  • Special needs walks: Serve dogs with physical disabilities or medical conditions. Provide compassionate walks for blind dogs, dogs with arthritis, etc.
  • Adventure runs: Provide an energy outlet for active dogs. Offer vigorous runs, sprints, and playtime.
  • Pet concierge services: Be a one-stop solution for pet owners. Beyond walks, offer transportation to the vet or grooming appointments, shop for dog food and toys, etc.

When deciding whether to add one or more specialized services, make sure it’s something that you (a) will enjoy and (b) have the skillset to perform.

Offer promotions and discounts

Offer specials and discounts. To attract new potential clients create an “introductory offer”. To retain existing clients, consider a “loyalty discount” for increasing the number of weekly walks or renewing a contract.

Promotions also provide an excellent opportunity to reconnect with veterinarians and building managers you’ve contacted previously. Running a promotion gives you a reason to visit them again and encourages word-of-mouth marketing referrals.

Invest in good gear

As a dog walker, you’ll spend much time outdoors and on your feet. Invest in good gear such as:

  • Comfortable footwear: Footwear should have a good grip and support your feet well. Waterproof or water-resistant shoes help in rainy weather.
  • Layered, breathable clothing: Picture this: pockets galore for treats, poop bags, and secret squirrel missions. A jacket with room for doggy essentials? Check. And don’t forget the hat and sunscreen — because sunburned ears are no one’s idea of a good walk.
  • Safety gear: Get a flashlight and reflective clothing for evening walks.
  • Dog-walking bag: Hip bag or backpack — it’s your mobile command center holding supplies for great walks! Make sure it’s comfortable and easy to access.
  • Multi-dog walking belt: A belt like this helps if you plan on walking multiple dogs simultaneously. Depending on how many dogs you can control at once, group walks of multiple dogs might be right for you.

how to start a dog walking business

Monitor the competition’s offerings

Once your new dog walking business is up and running, do a periodic competitive analysis to inspire you to innovate and improve.

  • Services: Monitor what others in your area are offering. These could include group walks, pet sitting, park play dates, and text updates.
  • Pricing: Track what your competition charges to ensure you remain competitive.
  • Marketing: Analyze how the competition markets. Do competing dog walkers distribute flyers, wear gear prominently branded with their name, or connect with homeowners associations?
  • Reviews: Regularly check the competition’s reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. You’ll find gold in what pet parents say they like and don’t like!

How to get customers when you start a dog walking business

Many start a dog walking business by offering their services on portals like Rover,,, WagWalking, and Fetch! Pet Care. This can bring in steady gigs.

Rely on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube to showcase your services through engaging content such as day-in-the-life videos, customer testimonials and fun contests that encourage user interaction and sharing.

Beyond digital marketing, fostering a sense of community and leveraging word-of-mouth are equally vital. Encourage your current clients to refer friends by offering discounts for any word-of-mouth referrals that result in new customers.

While you’re at it, actively engage in online pet lover forums and communities where you can share your expertise and services. This dual approach of online engagement and community involvement will help you tap into a network of pet care professionals and owners eager to find reliable and passionate service providers like you.

Read our 50 tips on how to get more customers.

Tools and supplies for your own dog walking business

Equip yourself with the right tools and supplies to ensure safety and enjoyment for both you and your canine friends, including:

  • Durable Leashes and Collars: Choose high-quality, adjustable leashes and collars to accommodate dogs of different sizes and breeds.
  • Harnesses: For dogs that pull or need extra control, harnesses can provide better management without choking.
  • Waste Bags: Essential for cleaning up after dogs during walks.
  • Treat Pouch: Use it to carry dog treats to reward good behavior during walks.
  • Water Bottles and Portable Bowls: Keep dogs hydrated on longer walks or hot days.
  • Dog Walking App: Apps like Wag or Rover can help manage scheduling, payments and customer communication efficiently. A good-quality mobile phone is also essential.
  • GPS Tracker: Keep track of wayward dogs, especially in off-leash areas or for client peace of mind.
  • Canine First Aid Kit: A pet first aid kit is a must. Include basic pet first aid supplies for minor injuries, such as antiseptic wipes, gauze, adhesive tape, and disposable gloves. Take a pet first aid class to learn how to use the kit. Include the phone number for a vet emergency clinic.

Don’t go crazy buying supplies. Set a budget and layer on additional items as your business grows. Motivate and reward yourself with new items when you meet a business goal, get a new client, etc.

FAQs on starting a dog walking business

What exactly does a dog walker do?

A professional dog walker provides pet parents with a reliable service to exercise and walk dogs. Dog walkers usually adhere to a set schedule and communicate with dog owners.

Dog walkers are responsible for keeping the dog leashed and remaining alert to hazards such as traffic or aggressive wildlife. They pick up and dispose of dog waste, provide necessary water during and after walks, and return the dog home safely.

Is a dog walking business profitable?

Dog walking businesses are very profitable, because they have low overhead and most of what you earn falls to the bottom line as profit. According to U.S. Census data, pet sitters and dog walkers average $236,000 per business annually!

How much you can earn depends on the number of dogs you walk and your prices. Dog walkers in urban areas make more than those in less populated areas because there are more dogs to walk.

How much should I get paid to walk a dog?

The rate for walking a dog can vary widely depending on your location, the length of the walk, and any additional services provided. According to TimetoPet, dog walkers charge between $20 and $30 for a 30-minute dog walking service. However, prices vary by local area — check out their zip-code dog-walking calculator.

Also, rates are higher for longer walks or for multiple dogs from the same household. Offering package deals or monthly plans also can affect your prices and overall income.

how to start a dog walking business

Are there other services a dog walking business can provide?

In addition to walking dogs, you can expand into other pet care offerings. These include pet sitting and doggy daycare. Pet sitters providing a dog daycare service allow dog owners to leave their pets in a supervised, interactive environment during work hours. Expansion into boarding or an overnight pet sitting business is a natural progression.

A very successful dog walker eventually may hire employees and add pet groomers to their pet care business staff. Some even expand into house sitting.

If you think these supplemental pet care services would be good additions to your dog walking business, check out our guide on how to start a doggy day care.

Image: Envato Elements

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Lisa Price Lisa Price is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 4 years. She has a B.A. in English with a minor in journalism from Shippensburg State College (Pennsylvania). She is also a freelance writer and previously worked as a newspaper circulation district manager and radio station commercial writer. In 2019, Lisa received the (Pennsylvania) Keystone Award.