If you use a dog walker can I pick your brains please?

(57 Posts)
BadDucks Mon 03-Aug-20 12:20:35

Am in the process of putting together a small dog walking/pet care service but am looking to build an service to the typical day time dog walker services available in my area. Am toying with with a more "out of hours" service for those who don't work the typical 9 to 5 mon-fri hours. So after 6pm and Saturdays and Sundays (day and evening). Would include dog walking and at home sitting service. Also offering more adhoc/last minute cover rather than filling my books with only regular customers.

I've spent a lot of time researching what's available in my area and it seems there is a huge amount of daytime dog walkers who only work until 6pm and only offer weekends to regular customers or doggy day care providers. Am hoping I might appeal to those who want less typical hours and for those who's dogs can't cope with daycare.

I use doggy daycare myself when needed as dog walkers just didn't work out for us. Owning a "sensitive" dog it's been a real trial to find the perfect fit and just hoping some thoughts from other experienced dog owners. I'm still very much in the research and planning stages so feel free to grill me and point out the pitfalls as it might raise a question I haven't considered.

I'd also be really interested to know what people would pay for "out of hours" I have looked closely at local prices for typical day time walks so curious as to whether owners would expect to pay more for evenings and weekends?

Points that might be relevant to save people asking. I am an experienced dog owner (currently a rescue dog with a few issues that make walks "interesting" so I'm not expecting to make easy money just walking civilised and biddable hounds around the local park). I have an enhanced DBS, am aware of need for insurance and have got quotes, have considered a "Covid Safe" policy, am doing an animal first aid course online. Also I don't need this to generate a full time salary at this point.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated!

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BadDucks Mon 03-Aug-20 12:22:03

Sorry just re read my op and it sounds like I'm looking to only walk small dogs in the first line. I was referring to a small business rather than small dogs! I thought I better clarify as there is a local dog walker that only takes small dogs!

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vanillandhoney Mon 03-Aug-20 13:16:12

Hi OP - I'm a dog walker, hope you don't mind me replying!

I offer evenings and weekends but don't charge any extra for those times. Most people don't earn more for working weekends so I personally don't think it's fair to hike my prices. All the walkers here charge a flat rate/hour regardless of time of day/day of the week, so it would put me at a disadvantage if anything! I charge £10 per hour, plus £7 per additional dog from the same household.

To be honest, though, I've never had a single evening walk since I opened six months ago. My latest has been at 4.30pm and that's only been twice. I have one regular weekend walk (I take her out with my own dog in the mornings) but otherwise maybe once a month at the most.

Sorry to sound so negative! My main walks take place between 10am-2pm and if I fill those slots each day, I can bring home between £300 and £400 a week. That's walking between 4-8 dogs from various households. Most people seem to want lunchtime walks because it breaks the day up for their dogs.

I have a few shift workers on my books but they very, very rarely need "out of hours" care. I offer it and will continue to do so, but if that was all I offered I would barely make £50 a month.

BadDucks Mon 03-Aug-20 13:25:03

Thanks Vanillandhoney that's really interesting and useful. Just out of curiosity are your rates for group dog walks or just walking from one household? Dog walking rates local to me seem to all be £10 per half hour or £15-£18 an hour (that's individual rather than multiple dogs from different households) - one of the reasons I switched to daycare to be honest as I was paying £10 for a half hour walk but could get a full days day care including 2 walks for £20.

Appreciate your response though these are all things I'm trying to research!

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vanillandhoney Mon 03-Aug-20 13:26:54

I charge £10 per hour for the first dog. If they have additional dogs they're charged at £7 per hour for upto four dogs which is the most I'll take out at once.

I live in a cheap area though smile

BadDucks Mon 03-Aug-20 13:31:00

Thanks it's amazing how much it can vary!

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Scattyhattie Mon 03-Aug-20 14:16:30

My dog walker does evenings and weekends for me but at same £10p/hr rate as the daytime walks. Apart from work it's also useful if going out for the day or an evening to have option of a later walk/visit, many walkers in my area only work within school hours. My dog walker also has extra insurance to act as a dog taxi.

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ditavonteesed Mon 03-Aug-20 14:21:07

Not evenings and weekends but I work shifts and struggled to find someone who was flexible enough for me. A few people I approached wanted to only walk them set days, I could work any day of the week. So that's what I really appreciate is the flexibility to use on the days I'm working without having to pay for 5 days that I won't use.

Chaotic45 Mon 03-Aug-20 14:21:54

Hi OP, I'm also a dog walker. Good luck with your new venture, it's great that you are looking for a niche and giving it lots of thought.

As @vanillandhoney has said I rarely have evening or weekend requests. I do work at these times and don't charge extra. I think maybe people have more options in terms of friends or family for these times. The same goes for ad hoc walks and visits- people often know someone who can do this occasionally but it is harder to find someone reliably available on an ad hoc basis.

GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman Mon 03-Aug-20 14:26:12

I've never used a dog walker (other than a friend) but if I did I'd love one that offered a bit of training - heel walking, recall - since my most likely times to need a walker are when my dogs are young and I'm trying to instil those things myself.

Chaotic45 Mon 03-Aug-20 15:05:55

@GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman I offer that type of thing, whilst making it clear that I'm only able to back up and reinforce what an owner is doing themselves. I love helping them shape their dog, and it makes everyone's life easier if a different has basic manners and recall.

CMOTDibbler Mon 03-Aug-20 15:45:50

I don't use a dog walker, but I do use pet sitters. We don't have any options to ask friends and family, so being able to book a dog walker to cover a long day out at the weekend would be great, esp if it was something like a wedding where we'd be out from 10am to 11pm - currently we'd have to try and get our dogs into home boarding for the night which is a) booked up months in advance and b) means we have to drop off and pick up plus still don't have the chickens locked up and the cats fed.
I've just booked someone new for the cats/chickens when we go away in August, and she offers an ad hoc service where if she has your keys you can call her and she'll take the dog out which would be ideal for us if delays occur getting back or we want to be a bit spontaneous.

BiteyShark Mon 03-Aug-20 15:49:11

I use daycare and the same person for occasional weekend days if needed.

Same flat rate but I wouldn't object if weekends were more.

vanillandhoney Mon 03-Aug-20 15:53:17

BadDucks

Thanks it's amazing how much it can vary!

It definitely does. All the walkers around here roughly charge the same amount as me - it might vary by a pound or two in either direction, though. I find those who charge more per hour for one dog will charge less for additional dogs iyswim.

Like a PP, I do sitting too, which is charged at a flat rate per night but is only available if the owner is happy for me to leave their dogs for 2-3 hours at a time while I do my other jobs. I can't commit to constant 24h care at someone's home as I need to be there for my regular clients who are my "bread and butter".

I also do drop ins for puppies or anxious dogs - which is basically a half an hour visit where I let the dogs out for the toilet and play with them/keep them company for a bit.

SandysMam Mon 03-Aug-20 15:56:41

My one bug bear about dog walkers is the van with advertising! Nothing screams house empty all day louder than a marker van turning up regular as clockwork, great for the burgalers!

BadDucks Mon 03-Aug-20 21:08:09

Thanks for the replies. Still lots to think over. I have been looking at the small animal care side of things too so and as I don't need high numbers of "bread and butter" daytime walkers I'm still wondering if I can create a service for those more niche, adhoc needs.

I agree that lots of people have friends and family that would pop in for one offs but my own experience is family are happy to pop in to feed, let out for a pee but less keen if it involves walking ddog (he's lovely in house but a bit lead reactive so I'm not that comfortable with less experienced people walking him). We also can't go out on New Years or Bonfire Night as he is terrified of fireworks. I would imagine a few people would like to book an evening sitter if they haven't got friends or family to do it.

Agree about signage on cars too. Was a bug bear with my first dog walker. It wasn't just a small window/bumper sticker it was a white van with HUGE signage across all aspects! Might as well have put a notice on my door saying "No one home on a Tues or Thursday".

Thanks again. Would love to know what people love/hate about their dog walkers. I'm hugely over protective of my dog who is a sensitive soldier so would love to offer services for dogs with slightly wonky personalities that need a bit a more TLC.

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LunaFortuna Mon 03-Aug-20 21:23:41

I don’t use a dog walker, mostly because I wfh and do it myself. There are times though that I could really use one but I also have a dog with a slightly wonky personality (love that expression) and it would be great to have someone to call on that could manage that. I suppose the only issue I could see is that a walker would not be able to walk any other dogs while walking my two so it may not be economically viable for them. Although having said that I would be prepared to pay more for someone that I could really trust to cope with a —reactive— wonky dog.

LunaFortuna Mon 03-Aug-20 21:24:20

Bugger - strikethrough didn’t work

nancyjuice7 Mon 03-Aug-20 21:44:54

We use a dog walker when both at work outside of Covid times .
I start later on the days we have her come round so I ask for between 3.30/4 and 5.00 which she is happy to do and ends up walking my dog with her ow after she has finished the rush of midday walks. Which I actually prefer as my dog is only being taken out with two others, so can play but is being more supervised.

We have used her once a weekend when we had a wedding and all our family were there.

We pay £10 an hour and I would be annoyed if she charged more as we are getting the same service.
I appreciate the other walks she does she is getting paid a lot more per hour, but also she is getting paid by us to walk her own dogs she would have to do anyways so it's kinda win win.

nancyjuice7 Mon 03-Aug-20 21:52:27

Just seen your second comment about loves / hates.

We've been through 3 dog walkers, our current is our third and she fabulous the best yet.

1) she has a mud daddy for their paws
2) she takes 100's photos and puts on our private fb group so I can see what my dog has been up too.
3) i ask her to come round the back and lock him in kitchen if he's wet or muddy and she does so every single time.
4) she does monthly invoice texts to say how much you owe. Saves her chasing and reminds people to pay correct amount.

The first walker we had, awkwardly lives down our street but she was never washing his feet properly. She wanted paid weekly which was a faff, and didn't do invoices so I had to go back and check how much I owed each week and I once caught her on my cctv drag him down my drive by his collar rather than on a lead. She was swiftly dropped after that.

The second we had was a Young couple, they were picking him up and dropping him off at exactly the hour. Meaning the travel time I was paying for, I asked them about it and they said Awh no don't worry we're not...
anyways they started walking him on the fields opposite my house. Which was annoying because that's where I took him each morning or late evening so he wasn't getting a change on scenery.
Lastly they dropped him off once bone dry when it has been chucking it down.....

BadDucks Mon 03-Aug-20 21:53:23

I've always paid for individual walks for mine Luna rather than group ones. I only plan on walking individual dogs or ones from the same household. Another one of my bug bears about my previous walker is I found out even though I was paying for an individual walk she always brought her own dog who she would let off lead whilst mine got frustrated about staying on lead (she used to let him off lead with my permission but he let himself down one day and understandably she said she would need to keep him on lead ).

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areallthenamesusedup Mon 03-Aug-20 21:58:27

I use 2 dog walkers and I would BLOODY love a regular weekend walker. One of mine occasionally does Saturday mornings and I really appreciated it because of school sports commitments. I told her to charge me more for weekends as its to me its "out of hours" and I didn't mind paying it. Sundays would be fab so we could go out for the day without overarching guilt!

I think its a fab idea. There must be loads of shift workers/weekend workers.

Though, in all my years never needed an evening walker in the week

elephantfeels Mon 03-Aug-20 22:02:52

Commenting for the loves/hates question

My biggest hates with my ex dog walker was the following
1. Leaving her all muddy and wet which led to matts
2. Not talking her out for a substantial walk - we paid for an hour but by the time she picked up all the dogs for that walk, drove to the walking place and then got home pup only had a walk for about 15-20 mins.
3. Commenting on other animals! We had a cat who couldn't go out because he hadn't been neutered yet. We lived in a flat so when we weren't there but she was due to come we would put cat in the corridor with the run of that and the bedrooms she accused us of mistreating him and offered to rehome to a friend! She also had a go because he had knocked over his water bowl a couple of times and said we weren't giving him water!!!!
4. Not turning up when expected. We paid expecting it to be a mid day/afternoon walk quite often she would turn up at 10am meaning that pup was alone for ages.

She was awful to be honest but I was too scared to tell her I didn't want her anymore. She never returned our keys either even when we said we were moving.

Positives - I don't have any it was an awful experience!

AnneBullen Mon 03-Aug-20 22:06:57

Our lovely walker does occasional weekends for us if we are having a day out. We normally pay £12 for an hours walk but it is double at the weekend, which I am happy to pay.

If you are only walking one or two dogs at a time, how will you make it pay? No one will want a walk at 9am, they want walks in the middle of the day, giving you 2-3 hours walking time... you could potentially be earning £30 a day?

BadDucks Mon 03-Aug-20 22:11:03

I wouldn't be happy be with any of those peeves either nancyjuice.

I had a one walker who brought her kids during the holidays and basically refused to do a proper walk and talk him to the local play park so her kids wouldn't be bored. She also walked hers and her kids muddy feet through my house. This was on a day I was working from home so bugger knows what she does when clients are out!

Had one dog walker for two years who decided to start employing people but got funny when I asked to meet them first. Also sent one I had never met to pick up ddog despite knowing that I wasn't agreeable to changes in walkers without prior knowledge/meets. Also text me once to say that she hadn't given ddog his kong when she dropped him home as he had been difficult on the walk and she won't reward bad behaviour.

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