Business LoansHow to Start a Business in 10 Steps
How Does LendingTree Get Paid?
LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

How Does LendingTree Get Paid?

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

How to Start a Dog Walking Business

Updated on:
Content was accurate at the time of publication.

If you love dogs, exercise and fresh air, starting a dog walking business could be the perfect career opportunity for you. While you could get started with a few leashes and a good pair of sneakers, following our steps on how to start a dog walking business can help take your business to the next level.

To get your business set up for success:

1. Assess the local competition

Start by assessing your local area to see how many dog walking services you’ll be competing against. Some cities also offer larger dog walking companies, which means you’ll have to be strategic about how to make your business stand out.

If your community needs more dog walkers, you could charge the industry rates or even a little more. However, if there’s little room for you to compete, consider offering lower prices or even driving to a neighboring area to launch your business there.

2. Create a business plan

New businesses can benefit from creating a detailed business plan, especially if you plan to expand your company down the road. You don’t have to stick to all of your initial ideas, but starting with a clear roadmap can help make sure you don’t get lost along the way.

Here are some basics of what to include in your dog walking business plan:

  • Services: Consider what types of dogs you want to work with, how many dogs you can walk per day and if you’ll offer other types of pet care, such as dog sitting or boarding pets in your house.
  • Prices: Look at what competitors typically charge in your area and price your fees accordingly. You don’t want to aim too low since you need to cover essential business costs and turn a profit. But charging too much could turn away potential clients, especially during the early stages when you’re establishing your brand.
  • Marketing and promotion plans: Come up with creative ways to attract clients, such as social media blasts or starting a client referral program.
  • Financial projections: Creating a business budget can help estimate your startup costs and expected revenue, making sure you don’t overspend during the early months.
  • Organizational systems: Using bookkeeping software can help track income and expenses. Having an online calendar can help you organize your schedule while allowing clients to see your upcoming availability. And don’t forget to think about how to pay yourself as a business owner.

3. Register the business and choose an entity

Contact your secretary of state to discuss the legal requirements for registering your dog walking business. While you probably don’t need a specific license for dog walking, you may need a general business license or to register your business with the proper office in your area.

Next, you’ll need to choose a business entity for your dog walking services. Your business’s structure will determine your business tax rate, how many owners you can have and how much personal liability you will have.

Here are two popular options for structuring a dog walking business:

  • Sole proprietorship: This option makes sense if you’re starting a small operation on your own and want to minimize your legal paperwork. However, sole proprietors don’t have any liability protection, meaning you would be personally responsible for all financial aspects of the business.
  • Limited liability company (LLC): Forming an LLC can help create a layer of protection between your personal and business finances. You could also bring in another owner to help you run the business.

4. Buy dog walking insurance

Getting business insurance can help protect you and your business in the rare case something happens while pets are in your care. Look for an insurance policy that includes general liability, which can prevent you from being held responsible for someone else’s property while it’s in your possession — in this case, a dog.

For instance, if a dog ran into the road during a walk and caused a car accident, you wouldn’t want to be held responsible for damages to the car. And if something happens to the dog that isn’t your fault, you’ll want to protect yourself in case the client decides to take legal action.

Some policies also offer bonding, or employee dishonesty coverage, to help protect your business in case of theft, such as if your client’s personal belongings go missing while you’re in their home.

When shopping for a policy, ask agents what is included and if there are any exclusions. It’s important to avoid a care, custody or control exclusion, which means you won’t be covered if a client’s property is damaged while you’re there.

How much coverage should I get?

Deciding how much coverage to get for your dog walking business depends on what you feel would best protect your company and assets. If you hire multiple employees and expand your business or work with high-risk pets, getting the maximum coverage available could provide extra peace of mind in case of an accident.

Pet Care Insurance (PCI) provides general liability coverage with a $1 million limit per incident and a $2 million limit per year. Their policy also covers medical and veterinary expenses, up to a set limit, as well as lost key liability coverage.

If in doubt, talk to an insurance agent to see what options might work best for your company.

5. Advertise and recruit clients

Once you’ve handled all the legal paperwork, it’s time to start spreading the word about your dog walking services.

Here are some ways to market your services:

  • Create a website. An eye-catching website can help draw in clients, especially if you include pictures of you playing and bonding with other pets. Listing your services, prices, certifications and other key details can ensure potential clients can access all the info they need.
  • Advertise on social media. You can create profiles on several social media platforms to help spread the word. While advertising on social media comes at a cost, it can be worth it to build your brand and credibility. And who doesn’t love looking at cute pets on Instagram?
  • Offer a customer referral program. Offering referral bonuses can be a great way to gain more clients via word of mouth. You can offer a discount for both your existing client and the new client, making it a win-win for everyone involved.

What to include in your dog walking contract

Before you start working with your first clients, it’s important to fine-tune your customer contract. Having well-defined policies not only makes your business look more professional, but it also helps in case issues arise.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Service agreement: A service agreement can include your company’s terms and conditions, including details about rates and specific services, such as walks, administering medication or providing snacks. You can have a lawyer draw up an agreement or get a free template online and customize it.
  • Vet release form: In case of an emergency, a vet release form will allow you or your employees to seek medical care for the animal.
  • Key handling form: If you will be going inside a client’s house, it’s worth having them sign a key handling form. This document can state that you will lock the house after your visit and put the key back in its appropriate place.
  • Payment authorization form: A payment authorization form can outline the various ways a client can pay for your services, such as credit card, check or bank draft.
  • Cancellation policy: Having a client cancel last minute can negatively impact your business, especially if they don’t provide enough time to fill that slot. Including a detailed cancellation policy can help cover these losses, such as requiring full or partial payment if a service is canceled with less than 24 hours’ notice.

 Pro tip: If you’re just getting started, you can often find templates for dog-sitting legal documents and forms online. Though it may be worth consulting a lawyer to make sure you’re fully protected.

Fortunately, startup costs for a dog walking business are typically less compared to other business types, such as starting a restaurant. In fact, some dog walkers can get their business started for less than $500.

Your exact costs will vary based on your services and general operating expenses, such as launching an extensive marketing campaign or hiring employees.

Here are some typical expenses you might need to pay when starting your pet care business:

  • LLC fees: Depending on your state, you may need to pay a one-time and/or annual fee if your business is structured as an LLC. These fees can range from $40 to $500, with an average annual fee of $91.
  • Business license: If required in your area, you could spend up to $500 to obtain a general business license to operate. This fee varies by state, city and county. For example, it costs nothing to secure a business license in certain areas of Arizona, while you could pay $50 to $100 or more in California.
  • Website: Building a website yourself can be a great way to trim expenses. While you can use a free website builder site, it’s worth paying a little extra to remove ads and access higher quality templates. Your average cost will run around $200, with an additional $50 a month for hosting and maintenance.
  • Insurance: Pet care insurance can vary based on your location, your business’s size and how much coverage you need. In general, you can expect to pay anywhere from $139 to $500 per year.
  • Pet first aid class: Becoming Pet First Aid and CPR certified can help give your clients extra peace of mind when you’re caring for their pets. Estimated costs range from $50 to $200 or more.
  • Dog walking supplies: You might want to invest in toys, leashes, treats and more to provide a five-star experience for your furry clients. These costs can vary depending on how much you want to invest.
  • Dog walking software: Investing in dog walking software can help streamline your business and automate certain tasks, such as scheduling and invoicing. Some platforms even provide a client app for quick and easy communication. Prices can start around $32 a month, although some companies offer a free 14-day trial.

While starting your business can be relatively inexpensive, you might need some extra cash to cover the initial startup costs.

Small business loans

You may be able to obtain small business financing from a traditional bank or online alternative lender. While online lenders typically have more lenient requirements with quicker funding times than traditional banks, you’ll likely pay higher interest fees.

Here are some types of small business loans to consider:

  • Short-term loans: If you have a minimum personal credit score of 500, you might be eligible for a short-term business loan. Funding amounts range from $2,000 to $1.5 million, although you likely won’t need that much for a dog walking business.
  • Lines of credit: Similar to a credit card, a business line of credit allows you to borrow up to a set limit as often as needed. You typically only pay interest on the withdrawn amounts, although some lenders charge monthly or annual maintenance fees. Minimum credit score requirements start as low as 600, with funding limits going as high as $250,000.
  • SBA loans: Loans backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) may be easier to secure if you have trouble getting approved for traditional financing. Some SBA loans require a minimum credit score of 680, plus two to three years in business. However, an SBA microloan can provide up to $50,000 with more flexible eligibility requirements, making them an ideal option for startups and minority business owners.

Business credit cards

If you can’t meet the criteria for a loan, a business credit card could be another way to cover essential dog walking business expenses. Just be prepared that credit card APRs can go up to 30.74% or more, while small business loan interest rates can start as low as 3%. Because of this, it’s worth keeping your credit card spending within reason and paying the full bill each month.

You could also consider a 0% intro APR credit card, allowing you to make interest-free purchases for up to 21 months. While this can be a great way to handle daily or big-ticket expenses, make sure you can handle the payments when interest kicks in.


Online crowdfunding platforms help business owners raise funds from family, friends and the general public. Some platforms, such as GoFundMe for business, allow you to accept donations without offering anything in return. Others, such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, may require you offer a product or stake in your business in exchange for funding.

Note that while launching a crowdfunding campaign doesn’t cost you anything, these platforms typically deduct a fee from your donations for their service. Additionally, some platforms won’t give you any of the funds if you don’t reach your total goal.

loading image


Besides the physical demands of the job, there are a few hurdles you could face as the owner of a dog walking business. Here are some ways to help set your business up for success.

1. Get certified

Getting certifications like Pet First Aid and CPR can show your clients that you are a professional dog walker and you take the safety of their pets seriously. In turn, this can help you stand out from competitors.

You can also continue to learn more about the industry by attending conferences for pet sitters and dog walkers. For example, Pet Sitter International (PSI) offers one-day online events as well as in-person, multi-day events for professional pet care businesses.

2. Start a pet care blog

Establishing yourself as a pet care expert can help strengthen your business’s reputation and credibility. Consider starting a pet care blog or social media profile with regular tips on grooming and caring for your pet. You could also include links to dog training programs, local kennels in your area, dog shows and more.

3. Offer free meet and greets

Clients may feel nervous handing over their beloved pets without knowing who you are first. Offering a free meet and greet can help ease their nerves. It can be a short online video chat or a 30-minute in person meeting where you can interact with the pet.

This can also be a great opportunity to go over your range of services, fees, terms and conditions, availability and answer any questions the client may have.

4. Hire people with experience

If you expand your business to include additional pet walkers, take enough time during hiring to make sure they are a good fit for your business. Consider having them do a trial run along with you to see how they interact with pets.

You must also follow employment laws regarding contract workers and full-time employees. Categorizing workers as independent contractors if they meet the requirements for full-time employment could lead to IRS penalties for your business.

Although it would be more expensive to provide resources such as health benefits and workers’ compensation to full-time employees, making the investment could be worth it. Hiring contractors might result in high turnover rates, taking up more of your time with onboarding and training.

Consider using a payroll service to lighten your administrative workload.

Dog walker salaries can vary by location, education and training. According to Zippia, average annual dog walking salaries in the U.S. typically range from $21,000 to $44,000.

Hourly rates can range from $6.73 to $25.72, with the average around $17.20, based on data from ZipRecruiter.

Keep in mind these are just estimates. Your final earnings will depend on factors like your business’s structure, local demand, your qualifications and overhead expenses.

There are some risks involved with running a dog walking business. The most obvious risks include losing the pet or the animal getting seriously injured or even dying while under your care. The animal could also attack or injure you or another pet or person — and you might be the one who gets blamed.

Other risks include losing your client’s house key or damage happening to the home while you are pet sitting.

You can protect yourself against these risks by making sure you and your staff are properly trained on how to handle worst-case scenarios. You also want to make sure you have comprehensive pet business insurance in place.

It’s worth discussing your concerns with a lawyer before moving forward with your dog walking and pet sitting business. With a lawyer’s help, you can structure your business to better protect your personal assets.

Getting a decent roster of dog walking clients can take time and effort. You can start by asking friends and family members if they need your services. From there, you can create a referral program with an incentive for each new client you receive, such as a credit for their next booking.

Traditional marketing efforts like flyers posted at local libraries, social media advertising, blog posts and posts on Nextdoor can help drum up business.