Launching a business as a dog walker has become the go-to idea for many entrepreneurs in recent years. Protectivity Insurance, who insure pet businesses report that the number of policies taken out in the sector has risen 300% in two years.

Professional dog walker
photo credit: Alberto Gonzales / Flickr

The benefits to opting for this type of business are clear. Dog walking for a living allows people who enjoy both the outdoors and the company of canines to combine business with pleasure.

Any initial outlay to become a professional dog walker is also reasonably small, with transport the only real material expense to those launching their business.

However, there are challenges facing dog walkers right now.

A victim of its own popularity?

The first of those comes as a direct consequence of the popularity of the start-up idea, that is more competition.

The saturation of the market needn’t mean potential dog walkers should shelve their ideas though, it’s all about picking the best marketing strategy for you.

Facebook groups are a great way to tap into your local community. Search ‘dog walkers’ plus the name of your nearest big town, city or county is highly likely to throw up a whole host of potential customers.

Stepping up from being the friendly local dog walking to the person that runs the area’s go-to business is all about maintaining that visibility and building up good relationships through word of mouth and social media.

A walk in the park – or maybe not…

Once you have your business set up though, the current obstacle that dog walkers must overcome is finding somewhere to walk your new-found clients.

That might sound easy, but recent reports have indicated that the locations that mutts are welcome are dwindling rapidly.

According to the Telegraph, in just two years over 3,300 parks and open spaces in the UK have seen dogs banned or severely restricted using Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs).

The so-called “Busybodies’ charter” is intended to allow local authorities to clamp down on threatening or violent behavior.

In 2015 it was reported that hospital admissions following dog attacks had risen 76% in 10 years, with the rise in high-profile dog-related incidents potentially harmful to the lovable image of ‘man’s best friend’.

And while the vast majority of canines are capable of enjoying their daily walks without causing so much as a stir, addressing those statistics was always going to be a priority for the authorities with PSPOs being the local council method of choice.

Unfortunately that can punish the law abiding pet owners and responsible dog walking business owners.

Finding somewhere when mutts are welcomed can be a challenge now in some areas but there are resources like Dog Friendly Britain which outline the areas where pooches are welcome, while the National Parks are still welcoming of dogs as long walkers follow their guidelines.

Dog walker and his dogs

A hurdle worth overcoming

Regardless of the challenges that dog walkers now face, starting your own business in this sphere is still a thoroughly rewarding and potentially very profitable venture.

The industry is still growing rapidly with the pet care market predicted to be worth £4.5 billion in 2021 by retail research and analysis firm Verdict Retail, indicating that the need for providers is still on the increase.

Ensuring you have the correct insurance is key, especially for the reasons outlined previously. Many pet business policies include Personal Liability as standard, protecting walkers from any mishaps the dogs in their care may cause.

With the right cover, correct mindset and willingness to follow the stricter rules as to where you can take a stroll with your clients, launching a business as a dog walker remains something that will be attractive to many entrepreneurs.

About the Author: Protectivity Insurance is a leading niche small business insurance provider specialising in pet business in particular dog walking insurance.