How to Become a Dog Walker: Top 15 Qualification Requirements for Dog Walking Jobs 2013
Wondering how to become a dog walker? The great thing about dog walking jobs is that they usually don’t require post-secondary education or letters after your name. But that doesn’t mean anybody can get the job. So what are dog walking companies looking for in dog walkers these days?
We sampled over 100 dog walking jobs posted in major cities in the United States and Canada during the month of August 2013 to determine what qualifications dog walking companies are looking for in their dog walkers today. For the purpose of this research, we gave 1 point for a qualification that is required, and 0.5 point for a qualification that is considered an asset/plus/preferred.
#15 Be organized and detail oriented (27 points)
Yes, dog walking is not just about playing with dogs. You are taking care of your clients’ family members, so your clients will want you to know that Jack likes to roll on the grass or Zoe is afraid of children. Some clients may want you to make sure their dogs get a good amount of running twice a week, or know that they have a knee problem. And once you start to look after multiple dogs, you need to be organized and pay attention to details to ensure your clients’ needs are met.
#14 Be comfortable with all types of dogs (29 points)
It would really help you if you are already comfortable with all types of dogs. Here, “all types” can mean all shapes, sizes, strengths, weaknesses, breeds and characteristics. This may be a challenging qualification to meet for newbies. My advice is to volunteer to walk your family, friends and neighbors’ dogs, so you get as much exposure to different types of dogs as possible, and do some research and learn a few things about popular dogs. DogTime offers a very comprehensive list of profiles for all types of dog breeds. Employers always like people who are willing to learn!
#13 Have daily email/internet access (30 points)
In many cases nowadays, your main mode of communication with your boss is email. So many employers want you to have email and internet access EVERYDAY. If your clients’ schedule changes, your schedule can also change. Also, some companies let you communicate with your clients directly, including scheduling and updating them on their dogs. So it is important that you can check and send emails to your boss and clients at least once a day to make sure communication among all parties. Speaking of communication…
#12 Communication and interpersonal skills/customer services skills (32 points)
Just as I said in #13, your role is to ensure everyone – you, your boss and clients – is on the same page. Employers would like to have good communication and interpersonal skills for excellent customer service.
So what does this entail? Firstly, you want to be able to write well and professionally. Can you write a clear and concise email with proper grammar? Make sure u dun type like dis.
Second, you want to be able to talk to your clients and team members with respect. Being friendly is awesome, but keep in mind to remain professional.
Some employers these days would like you to contribute some posts to their Facebook pages and their blogs. So if you can write with creativity, you should let your employers know!
#11 Be available during weekends and holidays (35 points)
Holidays are the busiest times for dog friendly businesses, as dog owners cannot take their furry friends with them on their trip, so they want someone trustworthy to look after them while they are away. So make sure you don’t fill up your social calendar for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Well, it’s not such a bad idea to spend holidays with happy animals, is it? :)
#10 Driver’s license and a good driving record (35 points)
Although #10 and 11 had the same points, I placed this one here for the reason explained later.
#9 Live in the service area (42 points)
You may be so motivated that you don’t mind commuting 1 hour each way to get to your work. Employers will appreciate your commitment, but they still prefer someone that lives in their service area. Why? As a dog walker, your schedule can vary. One day you might walk 3 dogs in the morning and 1 in the evening, then another day you might walk 1 dog at noon and another one at 8 pm. Also, if your team member is sick, you may be called in to cover his area. One of the employers explained in his posting that because the gas price is so high, you simply won’t be making any money if you drive from outside of their service area. Now this is a good thing for dog walkers though – you will never waste hours in commuting to and from work ever again!
#8 Previous experience working with dogs (49 points)
I thought this could be one of the top 3 qualifications, but I was wrong. While many employers prefer people with some experience, some want to train you. Some want to train you well. So this is not always a requirement.
The definition of “previous experience” can vary, but most seem to accept both personal and professional experiences. So if you have lived with dogs, that counts. Of course, if you have volunteered at dog shelters, that counts as well. If you have no experience, maybe think about any experience interacting with pets and animals – cats, rabbits, birds, farm animals… It may not be as good as direct experience with dogs, but it will still show that you know what it may take to care for animals.
#7 Be physically fit/active and able to work outside, get dirty in all types of weather (54 points)
If you’ve worked in an office cubicle the last few years, get ready! Dog walking is for active people who love working outside, and as you can imagine, work can get dirty sometime. You will have beautiful, sunny days, and you will have rainy/windy/snowy days, depending on where you are. And dogs need to get out no matter what the weather is like.
#6 Able to pass background check and provide references (55 points)
We saw this one more often in postings in the United States than Canada, but I’m sure Canadian companies share the same idea as the US ones: dog walking businesses are built upon trust. These businesses work really hard to gain trust from clients. So these employers take background checks seriously.
#5 Have your own (not shared), reliable vehicle & insurance (59 points)
Now this should explain why I placed “Driver’s license and a good driving record” at #10, although #10 and 11 had the same number of points. I think many employers meant to say or assumed that you have a driver’s license and clean driving record, if so many of them want you to have a reliable car! I mean, how useless it would be if a new person has a car but can’t drive…
If your vehicle is used to transport dogs, employers usually want you to have a SUV, truck or wagon that can fit multiple dogs safely. Or if you just need to get from a client’s place to another, then there shouldn’t be any specifications. Just be aware that you may still have to transport dogs in your car in case of emergency. A few employers in our sample requested that your car be equipped with a GPS.
#4 Have a cell phone/smart phone (59.5 points)
More and more employers prefer smart phones – iPhone or Android phone. As you’ve seen already, you will need access to the internet and email on a daily basis, so if you’ve got a smart phone, you are good to go.
What’s more important for employers nowadays is that your smart phone has unlimited texting. Some do require you to have an unlimited texting plan. It’s the easiest and most convenient way to communicate for them with regards to schedule changes, booking etc.
They would also like you to take photos of the dogs you are responsible for, so the clients can see how their babies are doing when they are not there. The photos can be emailed or uploaded onto Facebook, so it would make your life easier if you have an iPhone or Android phone, instead of carrying a digital camera around and transferring photos from it to your computer after work to send to clients.
Another cool thing is that some companies have their own GPS tracking apps or pet sitting software. To provide clients with current information and/or maintain the company’s database, this technology is a must.
#3 Be reliable / responsible / punctual (61 points)
Again, this is for building trust. Other adjectives used are mature, hardworking, committed, trustworthy, honest, good work ethic, and on-time. Having a professional demeanor and attitude (7 points) can also fall under this category. Good news for you is that you will be working with some great bunch of people in this industry.
Other notable personalities:
- Have a friendly/outgoing/ approachable personality (17.5 points)
- Be motivated /enthusiastic/willing to go above and beyond/ self-starter (14 points)
- Ability to work independently (13 points)
- Able to follow both verbal and written instructions (10 points)
#2 Be available during weekdays and evenings (Monday to Friday) (63 points)
Most dog walking takes place on weekdays and evenings when people are usually working. You will be one of your clients’ (both human and dogs) favorite people because you lessen their guilt feeling of not being with their dogs, and the dogs are just so happy to see you! To be this rock star, you must be available at least a few days out of Monday – Friday and some evenings.
Now, it’s time to reveal the #1 qualification employers are looking for this year. Drumroll please!
The number 1 dog walker qualification 2013 goes to…
#1 Animal lover / passionate about animals (63 points)
I know, I know, this one also has the same number of points as #2, but I put this one as #1, because I believe ALL employers meant to put this one on their posts. You think I’m biased? Okay, I may be, but your work could be anytime during the week, weekends or holidays, but you must ALWAYS be passionate about the dogs you care to be a professional dog walker. This may sound cheesy, but that’s the truth. Your furry clients will love you for making their otherwise long, boring days exciting – so you’ve got to love them, and if you do, this could very well be your dream job!
Now the above qualifications proved popular in the sample of dog walking job postings, I want to mention a few more things that I feel are also important in this industry.
It’s about trust. I know I mentioned this three times in this single post, but it is crucial in this industry. Many employers want you to commit at least 6 months (19 points), and many more require 7-12 months commitment (23.5 points). It will take some time to create good connection with dogs, and after months of walking together, dogs (and their owners) will be attached to you. At the same time, you will most likely get attached to the dogs too, so the commitment piece may not be an issue for many of you. If you are looking for a temporary gig, I strongly suggest you go look elsewhere.
Along with smart phones, some companies want their dog walkers to have a computer and printer at home (19 points). Basically, they want you to be able to check your email and print out relevant forms for client consultation, requests and reports.
Some jobs do require you to have CPR/First Aid or be willing to go through the training (9 points), and we did see job posts that preferred people with a college degree or graduates of San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers, Dog Tec or Marin Humane Society… Having said, this is a small percentage of the sample, and this should not discourage you from applying for a dog walking job. Rather, know that employers appreciate your willingness to learn and grow, and if they think you will benefit from certain training, you should definitely take advantage of it. After all, the knowledge will give you confidence when dealing with different types of dogs and situations, and you will be able to have more fun with the dogs.
So I hope this article helps you understand what dog walking jobs entail and decide whether this is for you. Did any of the above results surprise you? What do you think about today’s employers’ expectations? Comment in the box below!
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Image credit: Adam Wyles on Flickr