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How College Students Can Build a Successful Dog Walking Side Hustle


Written by Emily Bayne

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 09/08/2021, edited: 08/10/2022

Are you a college student who loves dogs? Why not take your passion for animals and turn it into a money-making side hustle? Working a full-time job with a packed school schedule is nearly impossible — that’s why many college students are turning to dog walking as a way to make some extra cash between classes.   

If starting a dog walking side gig has crossed your mind, read on. We’ll give you a few tried and true tips to get your business up and running smoothly.

What does it take to be a successful dog walker?

Dog walking is a business, after all, so you'll need some basic business skills to get your venture off the ground. You must be able to effectively communicate with clients and have the time management skills to book your walks around your busy school schedule.

Three important traits you'll need to become a successful dog walker are:

  • Dependability           
  • A willingness to learn
  • A love of dogs        

If you have these 3 traits, you're bound for success! Need more guidance? Check out our article on the key characteristics all top-rated dog walkers share.

Getting started: Where to find dog walking gigs near you

By now, you should have some idea of whether dog walking is the right side hustle for you. What next? Here are 3 things you should do to get your dog walking biz up and running. (Or should we say walking?)

First steps: Learn your way around the leash

Walking dogs seems like an easy gig, right? Not quite. Remember, as a dog walker, you're responsible for keeping your canine clients safe and out of harm's way.

Knowing how to secure a leash and collar and how to respond to bad behaviors like leash pulling are essential for protecting the pups in your care. You should also know the difference between the most "pawpular" types of collars and harnesses and how they're used.

Ready to get started? Check out the video below from Robert Cabral, expert dog trainer and former member of the Wag! Advisory Board. To see more educational dog walking videos, check out Wag!'s YouTube channel.

Practice, practice, practice

Before launching your pet care business, it's a good idea to take a few practice walks first. If you already have your own dog, you've likely got this part covered!

But if you have limited experience walking dogs, ask your friends or family members if you can take their pup for a spin around the block. This will help you earn valuable experience without risking your reputation as a professional dog walker.

Brush up on your business skills

Dog walking is a great side hustle, but you'll need some business know-how if you want to excel at it. Before you dive in, make sure you know the ins and outs of things like setting your dog walking rates, calculating your business expenses, and filing your income taxes. Wag!'s Support Center is a terrific resource for new dog walkers.

Tips for walking dogs as a full-time college student

Now that you know how to start walking dogs as a college student, it's time for the fun part: hitting the pavement with your new pup pals! From managing your time to ensuring your practices align with local ordinances, here are some tips for walking dogs as a full-time college student.

Book your walks around your class schedule

Take your schedule into account when booking walks for clients. Walks before or after your classes are optimal, but depending on the length of time between your classes, you may be able to fit in a walk during your breaks.

Pick up after your canine clients

Bring along some doggy waste bags when going out for your walks. Pet Parents often forget to provide them. Not to mention leaving a canine client’s “presents” behind is impolite and could result in fines.  

Use treats to your advantage — if the Pet Parents allow them

Treats are an excellent way to encourage positive behaviors and gain trust with your canine clients, but not all parents allow their dogs to have them. Always ask Pet Parents if they give their pet treats or have any food allergies. Some parents will even leave their pet’s treat bag out for walkers if you ask!

Secure your clients' keys

Keeping up with your clients' keys is a huge responsibility, so it’s important you secure them before and after the walk. After you get the dog out, make sure you put the key in the designated spot so you don't misplace it. When it’s time to lock up after your walk, return the key once again to the designated spot or lockbox.     

college student kneeling on steps in front of leashed dog

Be mindful of your walk length

Always walk dogs for the agreed-upon length of time, except for short breaks if the dog needs a rest or if, for some reason, the dog cannot complete the walk. Always inform the Pet Parents if their pet is unable to finish their walk for any reason (especially if there is a behavioral or medical problem).

Stay in contact with the Pet Parents

Stay in contact with Pet Parents and send them “pupdates” about their dog’s walking experience. We also suggest filling out a report card to give your clients details about their dog’s bathroom breaks and behavior during the walk.  

Read up on local laws and company policies

We highly encourage you to familiarize yourself with local ordinances as a Pet Caregiver. While there aren’t any federal laws regarding dog walking or dog walking businesses, there may be county or city ordinances (specifically leash and licensing laws) that you must follow.

Likewise, if you're working with a company, either as an employee or an independent contractor, educate yourself on their guidelines to keep pets as safe as "pawssible" and prevent issues down the line.

Building a successful dog walking side hustle

Dog walking is a fun and rewarding job, but it comes with its challenges. As with any business, building a successful dog walking business takes some work, but it's entirely doable if you put in the time and effort. 

Thinking of becoming a dog walker? Consider signing up for a Pet Caregiver account with Wag!.

The Wag! app helps you build your client base and makes booking appointments a snap. Unsure where to start? Our Support Center provides guidance on everything from staying safe while dog walking to navigating the Wag! app.

What's stopping you from joining our network of over 400,000 Pet Caregivers? Sign up today and start making "furbulous" friendships with cute doggos in your neighborhood.

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