by Jessica Remitz
A secret dream of every dog owner is to be a dog walker (because, honestly, who wouldn’t want to spend their days taking their pup and his doggie friends on long walks?) but what does it take to make it in the business? And how do you get started? We’ve asked a Brooklyn-based walker to give us the scoop on what the life of a dog walker is really like.
Rachel Bowers, owner of Brooklyn Bark, a dog walking and pet sitting business, graduated college in 2007 and left school hoping to teach art in New York City. Unfortunately, the market for art teachers wasn’t very robust at the time and she found that freelancing didn’t provide enough financial stability. She began walking dogs for additional revenue and her business took off from there.
Bowers began building a client list by putting posters up around her neighborhood. As interest in Brooklyn Bark grew and she increased her staff (she now employs about 10 people to help care for clients and provide business support for the company), she began using the Internet to market her services in addition to community-based outreach.
Barking Up the Right Tree
While there are no qualifications or specific licenses needed to begin walking dogs professionally, Bowers knows how much work goes into caring for animals and their owners and has made it her company’s mission to provide the best care possible. Someone looking to make a little extra money without putting in the work, she said, reflects poorly on companies that pride themselves on professionalism.
“You’re asking people to trust you with one of their most beloved possession as well as keys to their home,” she said. “Do everything you can to earn their trust and maintain that trust every single day.”
Bowers works with local veterinarians, freelancers unions and Craigslist to bring on new hires and receives over 100 queries nearly every day from people looking to become a walker. These applicants are narrowed down to a handful of finalists who are interviewed by Bowers and invited into the field to shadow her at work. Potential walkers must have a college degree and a history working with animals in addition to an enthusiasm for the job and the ability to handle a variety of different animals with different personalities.
All Brooklyn Bark walkers are bonded and insured as well as pet CPR and first aid certified within three months of starting with the company. Bowers and her associates also give CPR and first aid certification classes to the public every four to six months. She recommends all beginning walkers become insured and work with their community to help other animals in addition to their clients.
“Don’t pick up a leash without being bonded and having insurance [and] as you grow, become a force for good in the animal world,” she said. “As you’re making a living from animals, give back and help other animals and their owners succeed.”
As with all businesses, challenges exist in the world of dog walking. The biggest one Bowers faced, giving everyone what they wanted when they wanted it, was overcome with an online scheduling portal and a GPS tracking system for associates to get their walking schedules on their phone and clients to schedule walks through the website and see exactly where their dogs are walked each day. It always helps to have a wiggly pup waiting for you during a stressful day, too.
“No matter how horrible things may be going, there is nothing as wonderful as opening a door to be greeted bye a tail wagging to tell you how much you are appreciated and loved,” she said.
To learn more about Brooklyn Bark or request a free consultation locally, click here.