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To want to change career to start dog walking businesses

(39 Posts)
startingtolooklikemother Tue 14-Feb-17 14:48:52

Hi all, for some time now my job has slightly bored me and I have always had the feeling that I want to do something completely different. Maybe it's a mid life crisis!!! I have no qualifications and have managed to work my way up in a company and now earn a good salary at around £50k. My husbands money pays the mortgage and all of our bills and my salary is for holidays day to day living etc
Recently I have been looking at getting out little dogs into home boarding for when we next go away and have been surprised at the cost (usually my mum has them)
Has anyone changed careers and has started a dog walking business with Home boarding I know I wouldn't earn anywhere close to what I'm earning now but I would love to hear about the pros and cons and how much you charge for dog walking and if you can actually make a living from it? I'm sure it's one of these things it has lots of downsides like any job

startingtolooklikemother Tue 14-Feb-17 15:03:10

Sorry about spelling and grammar on phone!!

RachelRagged Tue 14-Feb-17 15:03:51

Place marking as something I'd be interested to know about too .. Though mine would only be walking a dog or two.

Sugarlumps333 Tue 14-Feb-17 15:07:23

Also going to be watching this thread - secretly my dream job

MatildaTheCat Tue 14-Feb-17 15:25:38

My own dogwalker did just this. It's hard work in all weathers and requires the patience of Job trying to meet everyone's needs. She spends as much time, if not more, sitting in traffic doing the pick ups and drops as much as the walks themselves. She does boarding at £30/ day with walks etc and it's the kind of boarding whereby Precious Boy gets to sleep on her sofa on top of her dh all evening and generally treated like a prince. Suffice to say,mshe is dog mad.

This means that her own breaks have to be planned months and months ahead. If she's sick she doesn't earn but also lets down clients so she needs a network of dog walker support to help one another out.

I'd say,mw hen it's a lovely day with six well behaved dogs it's great. Sometimes not so much. smile

anotherBadAvatar Tue 14-Feb-17 15:26:36

Im not a dog walker, but use one regularly!

Ours charges £10 per half hour or £12 for full hour of dog walking, and does 2 "runs" a day in her van around the area. Walks 5/6 dogs each time. I know out of this though she pays for van, petrol, insurance, simple marketing (website, leaflets etc), someone to cover her on holidays and illness.

Maybe enquire with a few dog walkers local to you to see what the going rate is at the moment? (Obviously under the guise of someone wanting to be a client - not a potential rival!)

MaybeAFool Tue 14-Feb-17 15:28:40

This is from a friend who did that very thing a few months ago (not on mumsnet but I showed her the thread)

Hi. this has been my absolute bible for setting myself up. My key advice is patience. it is slow getting going. Have savings and have support at home (hopefully with an income to keep things going) www.bdws.co.uk/2011/06/01/how-to-become-a-dog-walker/

Godstopper Tue 14-Feb-17 15:52:06

I've thought about this, and there is a demand round here. Anyway,

I use a dog walker who charges £15 for both of mine for 1hr.

Now. One of mine is fear aggressive, and I kept encountering so-called walkers who hadn't a clue how to deal with this common issue. You can distinguish yourself by knowing something about dogs, and by not only walking 'perfect' ones. There are too many around here who bundle 5 + dogs in a van and then let them loose in a field. That's not socialization: it's actually an uncontrolled rabble which can be very stressful for many dogs.

Of course one has to make a living, and group walks can be good, but there is a tipping point, and all but one walker around here has got it wrong. I'd pay more for solo/small group walks with well-matched dogs.

I'm not sure dog walking is something one should do purely because one "likes dogs". Obviously, that's a necessary requirement, but also worth knowing e.g. positive training methods and what to do when problems do occur. Sounds obvious, but apparently it isn't!

Kitsandkids Tue 14-Feb-17 16:14:50

I use a dog sitter some days as I'm pregnant and just find him difficult to manage when my husband is at work. The sitter charges £20 for a full day. I think that's really reasonable. My dog absolutely adores her and gets so excited when the doorbell goes, which makes me feel better about basically palming him off to someone!

mummymeister Tue 14-Feb-17 16:22:41

i am self employed. I think that you are going to find it a huge shock to go from £50K a year down to what you are realistically going to be able to earn doing this job.

first step is to do a properly set out and costed 3 year business plan. be realistic about the number of dogs per day/week/year and look at benchmarking your charges with other similar businesses locally.

then work out your usp. why would someone come to you and not a.n. other dog walker nearby? this might highlight the need for some qualifications in relation to say obedience or dog grooming or whatever else you decide to offer as your usp.

my experience of people who set up their own businesses is that they vastly overestimate how much money they will make in the first 3 years and vastly under estimate what they spend their current (good) salaries on.

don't let this put you off but do be a lot more organised in your planning. setting up from scratch is bloody hard and needs a lot of time and promotional input as well as making sure you stand out from the rest. because believe me, when you launch your business, the me toos in your area will be looking at how they can undercut you. good luck.

SansComic Tue 14-Feb-17 16:24:57

I'm on my phone so can't search too easily but on a gov.uk website there's a free business plan builder. Make one, accurately. Do the research. Answer your own questions.

You may or may not enjoy it. The last thing you want to do is lose money on it though.

crazypenguinlady Tue 14-Feb-17 16:34:46

Watching with interest.

I actually started making steps to start this two years ago but unfortunately circumstances at the times hindered me from pursuing it. I'm considering revisiting the idea when my mat leave ends later this year and have OHs complete support but there are things we'd need to consider as a family.

chickensaresafehere Tue 14-Feb-17 16:58:16

I used to be a dog walker.I was elf employed but worked for an established local business.
It is bloody hard work,you have to be fit as it can mean walking up to 5 hours plus a day,in all weathers.
I loved it but was knackered & in bed most nights at 9pm.

chickensaresafehere Tue 14-Feb-17 16:59:00

ps I wasn't employed by elves!!!! self

mummymeister Tue 14-Feb-17 17:03:23

I just don't see that it is something you can make much money at if I am honest. Not when you add in all the insurances that you will need - not just Public liability, and the costs of collecting/dropping off etc. I would be really surprised if one person could make this anything more than a hobby type business on its own.

no one enjoys doing a business plan but it shows you if what you are planning is viable or not. other things to consider:

1. planning permission for change of use if you are running a business from home. not if you are just walking but would be needed if boarding dogs.
2. insurances.
3. Publicity and advertising costs

One business I do know that has been successful locally is an upmarket cat hotel for boarding cats. something similar for dogs might be a better idea but you would need land and space for this.

also what do you do if you are ill/not up to going for walks with dogs.

5 dogs all on a lead at say £15 an hour you could do this at most 4 times a day what with travelling and settling time. that's £120 a day max. realistically though its going to be a couple of dogs a day on a couple of days of the week.

you will need a house with plenty of space for these dogs too and somewhere for them to wait whilst being dropped off and collected.

lots to think about OP and certainly not going to earn anything like what you get now.

mummymeister Tue 14-Feb-17 17:04:37

Chickens - what did you earn per week/month when you did this?

as you were working for someone else I assume that they took all the hits on insurances, planning permission, PLI etc.

Kitsandkids Wed 15-Feb-17 09:04:01

Also, just to add, there seem to be a lot of these businesses in my area. I pass two vans with a dog walking business advertised on them every day on my way to get the kids from school. That's in addition to the business I use, plus there's a 'doggy day care' bigger business a couple of miles away. So make sure there is a market for what you offer.

The reason I chose the girl I did was mainly because she would take him from 3 months whereas another person I asked would only do so from 6 months. That sounds awful but he was a holy terror, I was pregnant and seriously worried about my stress levels! Also, she does take the dogs out for lots of walks whereas one of the vans I see is constantly in the same place all day and I hear dogs barking from a smallish garden so I don't think they go out much. I don't use the bigger business as they don't do pickups. You have to drop the dogs off there and collect them and I don't drive. I stick with 'my' dog sitter because she's flexible with times when I want him picked up and dropped off, and flexible with days, she's a really lovely person and mostly because my dog absolutely adores her! She's just picked him up and he pulled the lead out of my hand when I opened the door rushing to get to her!

chickensaresafehere Wed 15-Feb-17 10:27:37

I had to get my own public liability insurance (about £60 a year) & buy my own treats,dog poo bags & photocopy my own report sheets.
I worked when I wanted to work so did 3 days a week(but could have done more) & I earned between £50 & £80 a week,depending on how many walks a day I did.But I could have earned more,I just found it very tiring (as I am a carer for my dd who has a disability).
The others who worked for the same business were mostly students who did loads more walks a day than me,but they obviously didn't have the commitments that I did.
I occasionally fed cats,but the owner of the business did most of those as they were easier.

Damselindestress Wed 15-Feb-17 13:30:13

Sorry but I think you'd be looking at a massive dip in income so consider whether that's manageable. I'm a self employed dog walker but I envy your salary and financial security, the grass is always greener! I charge at the low end of the scale I think, £8 an hour for dog walking, £30 per night to dog sit at the owner's own house. I can't offer dog boarding at my current property but I'm considering it to increase my income after I move. Bear in mind that you need council approval to run a boarding business from home and also the neighbours may take issue as dogs bark more in an unfamilar environment. At the moment I make about £500 a month consistently and more when I am petsitting but that's seasonal rather than regular. What you can charge varies depending on area, check out other local dog walking businesses to get a feel for the pricing options. You would make more if you walked multiple dogs together.

I advertise through Tailster.com, they take 15% commision on each booking through them so you need to increase your price to factor that in, for example I charge £9.50 an hour on walks booked through Tailster, but I have found a lot of clients through them.

Bear in mind that it can be a demanding physical job, in all weathers, and consider what would happen if you needed to take time off sick, my DH and my brother help me with my business, you need a back up. TBH it's always at the back of my mind that, unlike an office job, my job depends on me being physically active, mobile and strong so if I had an accident or something and wasn't able to be those things I would lose it all. Sorry to sound gloomy but job security is a worry for me. I don't mean to be negative, I love animals and sometimes when I'm out in the fresh air walking dogs it doesn't feel like work but it's not without it's challenges.

mugatea Thu 16-Feb-17 20:57:57

Hey Damselindestress. £500 is what a dog walker should be earning in a week, easily more if full or close to being so. Dog walking pays quite well actually and there is absolutely no need to pay companies like Tailster.com to get you clients. A google business listing, website and facebook page is more than enough to get you work online. And if you are wanting to pay then there are much better ways to get work than those money grabbing companies.

While it can be physically demanding, the days are shorter than your average working day, with no rush hour, no bosses, no redundancies etc.

You can get insurance to cover your wages should you become sick. Overall it's a low cost business to run which is why I and so many others started up.

Home boarding can double your income over the school holidays but it's bringing your work home with you so you have to deal with that, but there is so much demand for boarding right now.

Startingtolooklikemother, overall, I think it depends on how much money you need, vs quality of life. If your job is killing you then it's time to change it but if not then maybe worth considering keeping your old job. Dont think for a sec pet care doesnt pay well, it does, you get paid your worth, might not be £50k though but that's defo poss to get and more. But generally I recommend dog walking to those who are stuck in dead end jobs that they cant get out off and to improve quality of life - not sure if that's you.

Dog boarding may (probably) require a council license, but they are not that dear usually (I'm £68 a year). Dog walking insurance is around £100 a year. If you do dog walking, expect to do around 12-18 dogs a day (3 walks x 6 dogs) at around £10 per dog. £20 per night per dog for dog boarding. Do the maths.

Jamie (www.bdws.co.uk)

Lesley1980 Thu 16-Feb-17 21:15:36

My friend gave up nursing to become a dog walker & sitter. She earns over £40,000 a year. She charges £13 an hour doing 2 walks with up to 5 dogs per walk. She also does individual walks for £13 per half hour. She offers pet sitting in owners house or her house & thats £60 per night including night & morning walk. She also visits your dog at home for 30 minutes & thats £20. Her biggest expense is her insurance & the van. We all thought she was crazy but turns out there are a lot of pampered dogs out there.

ArriettyClock1 Thu 16-Feb-17 21:33:21

I met a woman a couple of weeks ago - she had her own floristry business and gave it up to start a dog sitting/walking business and now earns a good deal more than she did before.

She really loves it (but God did her house stink!).

Cantbeatatryer Fri 17-Feb-17 00:14:01

I would love to do this! Just not got the motivation to do it at the moment. Plus seems to be quite a lot of competition where I live.

semanwen Fri 17-Feb-17 00:39:23

Would you be happy for your DH to do the same (drop to a possibly minimum wage type income/give up work etc). If so and you can afford it for both of you then go for it.

If not then I think it is selfish- why not keep working and both retire a bit sooner?

WhyPost Fri 17-Feb-17 00:45:47

I wouldn't want my neighbours to set up as dog walkers. 🤔 Does anyone know what legislation applies, if any? I guess if there was a lot of noise from dog barking it might be a problem.

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