Dog-walking is a slightly different service from pet-sitting. Clients consist mainly of busy professionals who want their dogs exercised during the workday. It's a great part-time business with fairly stable midday hours, Mondays through Fridays.
The sort of person who enjoys being a dog walker is someone who likes to drive and doesn't mind being out in all kinds of weather, says Christine Nehrenz, 28, owner of A Walk in the Park in San Francisco. Besides having excellent dog-handling skills, you'll need people skills and a vehicle large enough to hold several dogs.
Nehrenz recommends starting with one client and adding more as you gain experience. She now takes groups of mostly well-behaved dogs to a fenced park, charging $10 per walk for the first dog and $5 per additional dog in a household. Other dog walkers provide on-leash walks for several dogs at a time.
Nehrenz says the best marketing is a business-card-sized ad in the Yellow Pages. "You don't need that many clients to support yourself, and there's always room for another dog walker," she says. "I don't know anyone who has a hard time getting clients once they start advertising." Start-up costs are minimal, with advertising being the biggest expense, says Nehrenz, who started with $350 in 1996. She also recommends spending $50 to get your business bonded; it's a good way to gain credibility.
Nehrenz posted sales of $24,000 last year, working half time. She plans to expand her business by adding an employee and says another way to make more money is to also offer pet-sitting. "I know people who combine dog-walking with pet-sitting and make $40,000 to $50,000 a year," she says.
Lorraine Zdeb of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters urges entrepreneurs not to jump into business before getting experience. "Learn how to handle animals by working at a kennel or a shelter first," Zdeb says. "It's not the money--it's the care of the animal that counts."
Christine Nehrenz, 28
A Walk in the Park
Year Started: 1996
Start-Up Costs: $350
1997 Sales: $24,000