If you’re planning a career in dog walking — because your alter ego is totally a dog — there may be only one thing stopping you from making the leap: money.
How much do dog walkers make? What you’ll earn for a dog-walking job varies, depending on where you live, how many dogs you walk and how often you pound the pavement. (For example, if you don’t do doggie duty on weekends, that will be a factor.)
Three successful dog walkers have shared with us key insights into what they can potentially make a year by putting one foot in front of the other, including what other expenses you may incur and what your career may look like as your dog-walking business grows.
Going rates for a dog walkers around the country
For a more precise idea of the going hourly rates for dog walking, you can research the current average rates by location and number of hours per week with our pet-sitting rates calculator.
Using the calculator, we pulled some sample data to help you get a general sense of approximate hourly and weekly earnings, based on location.
Average rate comparison for part-time walker/sitter for one dog (15 hours/week)
|CITY, STATE||HOURLY RATE||WEEKLY RATE|
|Brooklyn, New York||$15||$225|
1. Dog walker salaries will vary in different cities and towns
How much you’re going to make as a dog walker will depend on a lot of factors. Heather Doll, co-owner of RuffCity Dog Walking in New York City, started out as a dog walker with her roommate and grew her business into a company of 50 dog walkers.
If you work hard in New York City, walking as many dogs as you can in a day, you can bring home an income of about $800 a week — or $41,600 if you worked all 52 weeks a year — and that’s if you’re not working for a company and pocketing all the money you make, Doll says.
“Let’s say they are doing only 30-minute walks,” she says. “To clear $800 [a week] with just regular weekday walking, they would need to do eight solo walks a day Monday through Friday. That’s 40 walks a week at $20 each. And eight walks a day is just slightly higher than the average walks one of our employees does daily. So it’s definitely doable!”
If you’re working for a company that takes a cut of your pay, your salary will obviously be less, but you won’t have to do any of the scheduling, job finding, etc.
“The same person on my team would make $440 per week, [pocketing] $11 per 30-minute walk, doing that same schedule of eight 30-minute walks a day,” Doll says.
In Washington, D.C., where Jacob Hensley started his business District Dogs in 2014, he says dog walkers can make a solid annual salary if they work smart by doing group walks with two or three dogs at a time, charging $15 for 15 minutes.
“I have dog walkers who do up to 20 dogs a day, and my dog walkers get half the pay,” he says. “So if you’re by yourself, you get 100% of the pay, and you have 20 dogs. So you can make up to $80,000 a year easily.”
In the suburbs, in a town of average size, you’ll make less, mostly because it will take you longer to get from job to job. According to Liza Angerami, who purchased the dog walking/pet sitting business Walks of Nature in New Hartford, Connecticut, in November, you can make approximately $700 a week working for her dog walking service if you work Monday through Friday. That would total $33,600 a year, not including taxes, but that could be more if you work for yourself and pocket all your earnings.
“Being a full-time strictly dog walker [in this area], you’re probably walking between six and eight dogs a day,” she says. “My contractors make 70% of $25. That’s $17.50. If they’re walking eight dogs a day, that’s $140 a day, and that’s a really full day.”
Doll says your salary will really depend on what kind of business model you have, referring to pack walks and how close your walks are to each other.
“I think, generally, they charge more [per walk] in the suburbs,” she says. “It’s almost like getting your nails done in New York City. It’s cheaper than anywhere else in the country.”
Additionally, some dog walkers will set a weekly or monthly rate with their clients, rather than billing for individual walks. While the rate per walk may be lower, dog walkers are able to have more consistency with their pay this way, which is key for anyone who has regular bills to pay.
2. As you grow, so do your expenses
“When we first started out our overhead basically consisted of poop bags and key tags,” says Doll, who left her advertising job in 2007 to start dog walking full time. The business she co-owns now grosses more than six figures a year. “But now we have office rents, software costs, web hosting costs, payroll expenses and liabilities, insurances for employees and insurance for the dogs, etc.”
If you end up hiring employees or contractors so you can run the business side of things, it may end up taking you away from what may be most important to you: the dogs.
“I started because of my love for dogs, and now I don’t get to spend any time with them, but I could talk you in circles about workers comp and unemployment insurance and the payroll side of things,” Doll says. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world, I’ll say that. The flexibility [is important].”
3. You may need other sources of income when you start out
Like any business, growing it can take time — and if you have bills to pay, that can be scary.
“It took me a lot longer to get my first client then I expected,” Hensley says. “And it took a lot longer to get my second and third client than expected. But at some point, it’s like a snowball effect. As long as you’re doing the hard work, really getting out there, publicizing your business and really making yourself stand out, that’s really important.”
You may need to work two jobs or find other sources of income before you really start to make a living at dog walking.
“I live in a two-bedroom home, and I Airbnb’d my guest bedroom to help supplement my income while I was growing the business,” Hensley says. “So that was helpful, but I still ran the numbers to make sure I could survive off dog walking.”
Angerami found dog walking to be a great gig as a student.
“What you make is really dependent on how much time you’re willing to put into it,” she says. “While I was in school and dog walking, in a whole year I made like $6,000 to $8,000, which for a student is great. You don’t have any other expenses. But if you’re only going to walk part time and you want to be able to afford a mortgage and car payment, as well, then you need to be able to commit a lot more time to it.”
She says you can increase your income if you extend yourself more.
“If you’re doing overnights [in-home pet-sitting], as well, that would also be a lot more income because those are significantly more than a midday visit,” Angerami says.
4. There are other expenses you’ll need to think about
If you live in an area where you’ll have to travel by car to see dogs, gas money and car or bike maintenance will be other expenses you’ll incur. In general, poop bags and treats will be provided by the pooch parent, but according to Hensley, there are additional things you’ll need to invest in — like dog-walking insurance and health insurance for you.
“Have waterproof clothing,” he says. “It makes the rainy days so much more bearable when you’re not soaked. Boots, waterproof pants, waterproof jacket — no umbrellas, just a hood — you’re good to go.”
5. Your income may not always be consistent
Dog walking has its share of ups and downs, Angerami says. Clients will come and go, through no fault of your own.
“Dogs get sick and pass away,” she says. “Owners lose their jobs and can’t afford dog walking anymore. People move. It’s not necessarily consistent year-round.”
If you need a stable and consistent income every week of the year, dog walking might not be for you, Angerami says.
“There are slow seasons — like January and December for us were super slow, and the end of January and now February is picking up a lot more,” she says. “You just have to have faith that that’s going to happen and be willing to get through that slow season.”