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Dog walking is big business

by Therese on January 25, 2008

in Dog walking, Dogs, Pet Care Business News, Pet Sitting

20080125dogmanrun.jpgIf you think the dog walking business can’t bring in enough money to make a decent living, think again. There are certainly many people who do it as a way to make some extra cash, but there are also those who put their whole heart and soul into it and turn it into a lucrative business.

Last summer, Rebecca Davis and her boyfriend were at one of the outdoor tables at Vesuvio in Philadelphia, having coffee or wine or whatever, that’s not the point. The point is that when she wasn’t gazing lovingly into his eyes, she noticed a dog getting a short walk around a small park.”The owners seemed disinterested,” Davis recalls, “and the dog looked frustrated.” Davis is a marathon runner. “I thought, that dog needs a run. Maybe I should start a dog running service.”

Three days later, with her computer-savvy boyfriend’s help, she set up a Web site for Run Philly Dog Run, offering, for $40 an hour, to take dogs for a leashed cardio workout at their pace of choice.

Today, the 27-year-old research assistant at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is running six to 10 dogs a week and hoping to turn her budding business into a full-time profession.

Over the last five years, the dog walking/pet sitting industry has grown exponentially. Young entrepreneurs have found profitable careers doing what used to be mere after-school chores that paid little more than change for popcorn and pinball.


Dog walking still does not rate its own classification from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since many in it operate off the IRS radar, it would be difficult to obtain accurate numbers anyway.

“But anything related to companion animals is absolutely booming,” says Henry Kasper, an economist in the BLS Office of Employment Projections. (He has a cat.)

Claudia Kawczynska, editor of the magazine The Bark, says the growing number of dog walking/pet-sitting franchises shows a clear trend.

Franchises of the national chain Fetch have opened in the Philadelphia region. The company, founded in 2002, reports 1,000 “service areas” across the United States.

Dog walking, says Kawczynska, “has become one of the biggest growth areas in the pet sector.”

Those who have been in the business for a while say increased competition is no problem. The demand for reliable animal-tenders willing to go out, even when the wind chill shatters the enamel on your teeth, is so great that there’s room for all comers.

“It hasn’t affected me one iota,” says Richard Whiteside of Blue Beagle Promenade.


“The work is physically grueling,” says Anna Nagy, who lasted 18 months. Nagy, 36, who has a master’s degree in public administration, was working as an associate director of a research center at Penn in May 2006 when she quit to become a dog walker. “I was looking for a different lifestyle,” she says.

After a year of 15-hour days, she tried to hire someone to help share the burden, but found few she could count on.

“I was working so much,” she said, “that I had no time to give the quality care I wanted to. By the 10th walk, you can’t give the same attention to a dog that you’d like.”

In September, she went back to work at Penn.

Here’s the rest.

The work can definitely be grueling, which many people don’t understand until they dive in head first and actually start working in the business. Many decide to be a dog walker or pet sitter thinking it’ll be a fun way to play with pets. It can be, but there’s also a heck of a log of work involved…it’s not just about spending time with the pets. What they don’t take into account is the time spent in the car going to and from households from early in the morning until late at night – seven days a week. And on top of that there’s all the paperwork, marketing, finances, and much, much more.

Taking care of pets can be a great business for someone who likes to be on the move all the time, has a genuine love for animals and people, and doesn’t mind a heck of a lot of work.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

jan January 26, 2008 at 11:42 am

Definitely grueling.

Whenever new people see me out walking my four, they always ask if I’m a professional dog walker. I know I could get a lot of business around here, but there are things I will do for love, but not for money.

Dog walkers have my deep respect and admiration for what they do.


Danielle Chonody January 26, 2008 at 8:52 pm

I think that the demand for dog walking really varies by city and geographic region. I know that in the Eastern states many sitters do great and have a whole business that relies on dog walking.

I’ve found here in Dallas TX that the demand is low for this service – most people have yards and the weather is not prohibitive to leaving dogs outside during the day or having a dog door. The clients that I have picked up have most often decided after the first few visits not to continue with the service – even though they thought we did an good job.

I would be interested to hear from other sitters in the Southern Central and Western areas of the US to see what they think.



Darryl Arneson January 23, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Hi my name is Darryl and I am an inventor and your story of doing a dog walking buis. is rite up my ally as my dog invention has to do with picking up dog waste as you walk! I have a provisional and am working on manufacturing the product now, How important to you is it to have a product that attaches to your retractor or regular leash that houses both your waste bags and dogs waste so you don’t have to carry it with free hand? I have the solution, and would be proud to share it with you for your review.



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