The Ugly Truth About Dog Walking (What No one Talks About)
There are a lot of people that dream about dog walking as a career. I was one of them. The thought of spending time outdoors, strolling through the parks with a pack of dogs seemed almost too good to be true. To be honest, I would have done it for free, just for the pure joy of it. So, when I was looking for a job after theatre school I jumped at the chance to become a bonafide dog walker in the city.
I soon realized that like any job, dog walking has its ups and downs, and I think that that’s what a lot of people don’t realize when they first get into it. It’s not always going to be sunshine daisies. It’s going to be a lot of work, and there are going to be some things that aren’t so pretty.
Here are a few of them:
1. Your Body Will Hurt
Even though walking may not seem like a strenuous workout normally when you’re doing it for 8-hours every day it can easily become one. Being up on your feet, with dogs pulling you in every direction, takes its toll on the body.
When you’re dog walking you have two different options: 1) Do your route on foot 2) Take the dogs to the park in your car. Obviously, the driving option will be a little bit easier on your body because you’ll be spending half of the day in your car.
In a typical day on foot, I would walk anywhere from 15-20km per day, up and down hills, with a pack of dogs trailing behind me. The problem with this is that your muscles are always “on” and there is not enough time for them to unwind after work before you have to get up and do the same thing again. When I was walking dogs on foot I had to get massages every week, and the whole hour would be devoted to my legs. If you don’t have a good “stretch-out plan” you’re body is going to burn out pretty fast.
I suggest starting a yoga practice to stretch out your muscles at the end of the day or at least learning some good stretches to relieve your leg and arm muscles.
2. The Inside of Your Car Will Die a Slow Death
Dogs will sometimes have accidents inside of the car, and you can’t control or predict it. On top of that, a rainy day means that muddy paws will jump all over your seats, and hair is going to be plastered EVERYWHERE. If you want to have this job you can wave goodbye to your car ever smelling nice again.
Covering your seats with seat protectors, and doing a full clean of your car at the end of each week is crucial in keeping it as clean as possible. Your car is going to get dirty regardless, but this will help to keep your car a little bit cleaner.
3. There Are No Sick Days
Unlike most jobs, it’s difficult, if not impossible to take a sick day. Clients are relying on you to walk their dog while their away at work during the day, and if you call them saying you can’t do it, it’s very difficult for them to find a last-minute replacement.
All of the dog walkers that I know walk even when they’re sick. The good thing about dogs is that they don’t care that you’re sick, so you can look and feel terrible and they will still love you.
If you wake up and are feeling wretched, give the client a call and let them know that their dog may be walked for a shorter amount of time than usual, due to your sickness.
4. Regardless of Weather, You Walk
Regardless of the rain, sleet, or snow, your dogs are going to need to go outside for a bathroom break and exercise. Clients are paying you to take their dog out while they’re away at work. Of course, they understand that your responsibility is also to keep their dog safe, so in most cases, they will be totally fine with their dog having a shorter walk if conditions are extreme, but they still expect you to show up and be with their dog.
I have walked in everything from extreme heat to snow storms and I have found that the best thing to do is be prepared with your clothing choices. Invest in good shoes and a coat that will keep you dry and warm, and carry a backpack with you so that you can bring extra layers or a change of clothes.
5. The Money Fluctuates
There are sometimes of the year that people will need you to walk their dog and other times that they won’t. This means that the amount of money that you make each week will fluctuate (sometimes drastically).
Summer is usually a slower time for dog walking because people are away on vacation, off work, or their kids are off of school. Holidays are also a slower time.
You can make up that loss of income by dog sitting during the holidays and summer months. An added bonus is that you get to cuddle dogs 24/7. How great is that?
Overall, dog walking is a fabulous job. But, like I said, there are some things that you’re going to need to know before getting into it, because it’s not always going to be peachy. It’s a wonderfully fulfilling job, but it also has some ugly sides. If this is a business that you’re looking to get into, find a routine that works for you, keep yourself sane, and give those dogs some love.
Jackie, Django & Jazz