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The Path to Success: How to Build a Thriving Dog Walking Business

The Path to Success: How to Build a Thriving Dog Walking Business

My Labrador Retriever became obese almost immediately after adoption. That's when I decided to take him for long walks and hikes. In several months, the dog had regained its healthy weight. Interestingly, I had started enjoying the whole thing of taking a dog for walks.

That's when I thought of starting a dog-walking business. Things were challenging. I had to choose a business name and register it, get an insurance cover, buy the right equipment, and market my new business. But, several years into the business, I can confirm it was a great investment idea.

The business is low-risk, and the demand for dog-walking services is high. Here are my hard-learned tips on how to build a thriving dog-walking business, from choosing the right business structure to landing your first client.  

How to Build a Thriving Dog Walking Business

Recent statistics from the Morris Animal Foundation show that 56% of dogs are obese. Obesity increases the risk of cancer, anesthetic complications, urinary bladder stones, osteoarthritis, hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes mellitus. Obesity shortens a dog's lifespan by 6 to 12 months.

Interestingly, excessive fat accumulation results from a lack of calorie expenditure. If you exercise the dog, it burns the excess calories and remains healthy. The demand for exercise is the backbone of the dog-walking business.

Your work is to take the dog for long walks and hikes to help it use the pent-up energy. The number of dog walkers in the United States grew by around 5.3% in 2023 alone. The industry's revenue jumped from $980 million in 2020 to $1.3 billion in 2023.

Revenue is expected to reach $358.62 billion by 2027, a cool 6% annual growth rate. The above statistics show great potential for dog-walking businesses, and you can't go wrong starting one. Here are simple steps on how to build a thriving dog-walking business.   

Pick a Business Name

Your business success starts by playing and winning the name game. Remember, this is a new business, and you don't have many resources to market your brand name. I suggest going for descriptive names. Think of how descriptive a name like American Airlines is.

With such a name, potential customers can automatically know you offer dog-walking services. Don't be tempted to include your name or information about where you operate in the business name.

You'll be narrowing down so much that you will have issues expanding the services in the future. For example, if you describe your business as dog walking, it isn't easy to start offering dog training and sitting services in the future using the same brand name. Let the name stand for a big idea.

Something else: let the name share your business vision.  Examples of large brands that share their vision in the brand name include Apple, which means simplicity and usability; GoPro, which means heroism; and Nike, which means winning. The other step is to search and confirm the name hasn't already been taken.

Remember, there are over 300 million companies in the world. So, there is a chance your carefully chosen business name is taken. Note that the government doesn't register two businesses with the same name. Do an online search before starting the paperwork.

Choose the Business Structure

The business structure determines the paperwork you need when starting the business, how you conduct it, the type of insurance coverage you need, and how you pay taxes. Let me walk you through the possible business structures when running a dog-walking business.

Sole Proprietorship and Partnership

A sole proprietorship is the most straightforward business entity. When you're not proactive about selecting your business entity, you automatically become a sole proprietor. For example, if you get a neighbor who wants the dog walked and start taking it for walks, you're already operating as a sole proprietor.

I have combined sole proprietorship and partnership because they operate the same. The only difference is that sole proprietorship is when you start and run the business solo, and partnership is when you jointly own and manage the business. I suggest the sole proprietorship route if you don't want lots of legal paperwork.

However, if you're on a tight budget and cannot afford the dog-walking equipment to get started, consider partnering with your friends. I love this option because you can start with several clients without hiring employees.


The main issue with sole proprietorship and partnership is that your assets and liabilities are part of the business assets and liabilities. That means you carry the business risks, including bankruptcy. The lack of asset protection can be problematic when looking for financing options.

You won't be able to build your business credit because everything reflects your credit score. Limited Liability Company tries to solve this problem. As the name suggests, with an LLC, your assets and liabilities are separate from the business.

So, if you have taken a Samoyed worth $14,000 for hiking, an accident happens, and he dies, your assets like homes, cars, trucks, and bank accounts remain safe. The lawsuit only attacks the assets of the LLC to settle the liabilities.

The good news is that you can form an LLC alone. A single-member LLC operates like a sole proprietorship but has two advantages: your assets are protected, and you can pay taxes like a sole proprietorship or corporation, whichever favors you.     

Get an Insurance Cover

Even gentle and well-behaved dog breeds like the Newfoundland and the Saint Bernard are unpredictable. Remember, if you're taking someone's dogs for walks and you aren't sure of their temperament and level of training, the dog can get aggressive and attack someone on the road. 

A muscular dog like the Saint Benard can sprint while on the leash and drag you on the sidewalk. A sprinting Greyhound can get out of control, run across the road, and get hit by a racing car. I mean, accidents can happen. Something else: some of these dog breeds are super expensive.

For example, a Samoyed costs around $14,000, while a Chow Chow costs around $11,000. The damages that an uncontrollable dog can cause are equally high. For instance, compensation for dog bites in Canada is no less than $10,000, averaging $30,000 to $35,000.

For more severe injuries, the compensation is over $100,000. A new business can't settle these claims in case of an accident. Considering that there are over 500,000 dog bites annually in Canada, don't underestimate the possibility of these incidents. Take an insurance cover. Here are the policies to consider.

  • General liability: As the name suggests, this policy covers the third party. It's the one that covers property damage and bodily injury to third parties.
  • Professional liability insurance: This is also called errors and omissions insurance. It protects your dog-walking business from lawsuits from dissatisfied customers. For instance, if you're using treats to reward the dog, the dog becomes obese, and the owner is dissatisfied and files a lawsuit, the policy covers contract breach lawsuits and the resulting fines.
  • Workers' compensation insurance: As the name suggests, this policy applies to employers with employees. It compensates the employees for accidents and injuries they sustain in the course of their duties, such as dog bites. Note that this policy is required by law.
  • Commercial auto policy: When dealing with dogs from busy residential areas, you need a car to ferry them to the right playfield or streets for exercise. The commercial auto policy covers auto accidents that might occur during business operations.

Buy the Necessary Equipment

Starting a dog-walking business costs less than setting up a dog training facility or veterinary services—there is no extensive licensing and specialized equipment like ultrasounds and X-ray machines. So, I consider a dog-walking business a low-risk and low-investment business. Here are the things you need and their average costs.

  • Clip-on lights: In winter, the mornings are usually foggy, and the sun sets earlier. That means you'll sometimes walk in foggy mornings and dull evenings. The clip-on lights make the dogs visible, reducing the chances of accidents. The LED clip-on lights are cheap, costing around $5.
  • Water bowls: There is a chance of dehydration after long walks or hiking. Cold water is necessary during exercises for brachycephalic dog breeds like Boston Terriers. Make sure you get a portable BPA-free water bowl. These bowls cost around $5.
  • Dog toys: If the dog owners live in an apartment, the surroundings are usually busy streets, and walking isn't possible. In such cases, you'll exercise the dog in an enclosed park or field. The best way to do this is to get balls and chase toys. The price of these toys ranges from $1 upwards.
  • Treats: Not all dogs are well-trained and well-behaved. Dog breeds like the Great Pyrenees, Bullmastiff, and Samoyed are stubborn and independent thinkers. They can outright refuse to follow your instructions. The best solution is to get dog treats to encourage obedience. On average, dog treats cost around $1 per pack.
  • Poop bags: The Canadian Public Health Associations research shows that dog waste carries Salmonella and Yersinia Enterocolitica bacteria that cause bacterial infection in humans. In some states, you can end up in court arguing a $50 to $100 ticket if you leave the pet waste on the ground. So, poop bags are an absolute must! As an environment lover, I suggest getting biodegradable bags at around $1 for 100 bags.
  • Walking shoes: Of course, you'll walk several hours daily. Remember, the weather and terrain are unpredictable. I recommend getting rugged, waterproof shoes that can withstand abuse. Make sure the shoes are comfortable so as not to cause foot fatigue.

Join the Necessary Associations

As I said, dogs are expensive. Dogs are also royal, and most people treasure them as part of their family. So, it takes lots of trust for a person to allow you to take the dog for walks. It's almost like taking a child from a mother.

One way to build trust is to join dog associations such as the National Association of Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers. I also recommend getting certifications in dog training and first aid. Clients have peace of mind knowing their dog walker can recognize and provide care in case of difficulty breathing, excessive bleeding, fractures, or choking.   

Market Your New Business

The rapid growth of dog-walking businesses means the industry is competitive. You must have marketing strategies to inform the local community about your new business and convince them you're the best choice. Here are the best marketing methods to use.

  • Start a website: A website makes your business look professional and trustworthy. Add your business information, customer testimonials, and reviews. The advantage of a website is that you can use SEO techniques to rank on Google searches. Your site appears first when a potential client searches for dog-walking service providers.
  • Use social media platforms: Join dog-related groups and pages on social media platforms like Facebook. These groups are for dog lovers, and someone may need dog walkers. Another option is to pay for sponsored ads.
  • Print and distribute flyers: Print flyers about your new business and randomly distribute them in your neighborhood.
  • Network with teams that offer dog-related services: As I said, it requires trust for someone to let you walk away with his Fido. Word-of-mouth recommendation from trusted sources is a powerful tool. For example, clients take the recommendations of a vet more seriously. So, network with people who offer dog-related services like grooming, training, and dog sitting.

Set Competitive Prices

Check your region's average rates and set competitive prices. This way, you'll not burn your fingers charging so low or chase away clients with high prices. The industry average in Canada is around $22.5 per walk, but the actual rates vary with region. For example, it costs $28 per walk in Toronto, $22 in Montreal, and $27 in Vancouver.

Final Thoughts

The demand for dog-walking services is high and increasing. The business has a low barrier to entry, and the risks are minimal. You choose a business name and structure, register it, buy the right equipment, get insurance coverage, and start marketing your new business.