How to become a dog walker
Being a dog walker means looking after a human’s best friend for a period of time, taking them on walkies, and getting a fee for it.
Being a dog walker can be a great, flexible side hustle, or even career if you do it on the right scale or as part of a company. You get to spend time with a doggo and it gets you out of the house going on regular walks and throwing balls. If you’re looking for a bit of income and dogs are your thing then what’s not to like right?
It isn’t always a walk in the park though, you’ll need to be ready to take responsibility for someone else’s pet and they’re not always on their best behaviour, so it’s a job that needs to be taken seriously.
Here we look at how you can get set up as a dog walker, how much you can earn, and what that means for your taxes. Because let’s face it, it can be a dog’s life managing your finances (Without an app like Earnr).
What are a dog walker’s responsibilities?
So what actually constitutes dog walking? Well, your day to day might be that you:
- Walk dogs, either on or off the lead
- Play with dogs and keep them exercised
- Collect dogs from the owners houses, possibly while the owner isn’t in
- Washing and drying the doggo after a walk
- You might feed or brush them if you offer these services, or if requested by the owner
- Doing administrative duties such as invoicing
- Marketing your services and getting clients
How can I become a dog walker?
To become a dog walker you’ll need an affinity for animals, even shy or difficult ones, and you’ll need to become trusted in the eyes of the owner and their pooch. This might mean taking qualifications in animal first aid or buying equipment like harnesses and leads that can reassure the owner you have the tools to keep their doggy safe. Here we list a few starting points to help you establish yourself:
Learn about dogs - This might sound obvious but byond loving them, understanding dog behaviour and training can help gain the trust of potential clients. If you’re able to spot something that isn’t right, or you’re able to connect with the dog in the right way, this will help with new business. Not to mention help with actually looking after a dog.
You don’t need any official training of course, but you can check out Reed.com for some courses that can help. Some respected courses include: Narps UK, Think! Dog Certificate and Compass. These cover everything from dog walking, to pet sitting and animal husbandry. Having this kind of certification can really help you stand out.
Work for someone else first - If you apply to an established company you could start doing shifts there, get some training from the business owner or other staff, and then use this experience to set up your own business. Or if you know an experienced dog walker or handler you could take on some work alongside them.
Get a DBS check - A disclosing and barring service check shows that you don’t have a criminal record which is a must if you’re going into someone’s house or have their keys, and they’re giving you responsibility over their pet.
Get registered as self-employed - Even if it’s a side hustle or you think you’ll earn less than £12,570 (the tax free allowance) in the tax year, it’s worth letting HMRC know that you’ll be getting that extra bit of cash sooner rather than later. Otherwise, you can find yourself in trouble for undeclared earnings.
Tip: The Earnr app makes this process a lot smoother and can help you manage your finances as you go.
Market yourself - Business won’t usually land on your lap like a needy chihuahua, so you’ll need to get word out to potential clients. You could think about:
- Flyering - chances are most owners will be in your area
- Referrals - you’ll have the trust of the owner if their friend recommends you
- Social media - we all know cat videos do well. You’ll have lots of opportunity for regular pet updates on your walks, which can be a great way to demonstrate what you do.
- Build on your relationships with your current clients - Make sure you give the best service and they’ll recommend you to their dog owning friends.
How much can I earn as a dog walker?
The amount you earn varies greatly depending on your clientele but the average is around £11.50 per hour. This means if you were to do a 40 hour week you’d be on around £24,000 per year, with the higher earners getting around £32,000 per year.
It’s worth considering that legally you can walk up to 4 dogs at once which can significantly increase your earnings if you consistently keep that number on each walk. You’ll need to factor in overheads though. If you’re having to transport the dogs to a park for their walk then there’s car petrol and maintenance costs to think about. There’s also daily routines to consider, can you consistently walk dogs for 8 hours a day? Is there enough demand locally for it?
If you’re self-employed you also won’t receive sick or holiday pay so it’s down to you to manage your time off and check your ingoings and outgoings carefully. Remember any doggy related expenditure can be expensed and come off your tax bill.
How do dog walkers pay tax?
Most dog walkers will be self-employed meaning they don’t work for a company and they’re not at the scale of having their own limited company. This means they pay tax as part of a self-assessment tax return. What you pay to HMRC is your tax bill minus the expenses of running your business. You can read more on how to complete your self-assessment tax return in this Earnr article.
The usual cut off date to complete your self-assessment is the 31st of January if you’re doing it online, and 31st of October if you’re completing the form by post.
For employees: If you work for a dog walking company you’ll be paid through PAYE, meaning the business pays you a salary as an employee. In this case, the tax is deducted before you receive the payment. If your entire salary is done through PAYE you don’t need to complete a self assessment tax return.
For self employed dog walkers: Your client pays you without deducting tax so it’s down to you (or us if you use the Earnr app) to do this in the form of a self assessment tax return.
For those who are paid both as employees and self-employed: If you were paid part-time by a dog walking business, say, and then had clients you worked with independently, you’d need to complete a self-assessment on the clients payments, and you’d be taxed on both revenues as one total income.
The tax bands for a dog walker are the same as any other occupation:
- Tax allowance: 0% of earnings (You earned between £0 - £12,570)
- Basic rate: 20% of earnings (You earned between £12,571 - £50,270)
- Higher rate: 40% of earnings (You earned between £50,271- £150,000)
- Additional rate: 45% of earnings over £150,000
You can read more about tax bands, how they work, and what a personal allowance is in our blog post here.
How can Earnr help?
Earnr allows you to track your incomings and outgoings over the course of the year, and automate your tax return. You mark each payment and each expense as you go so that by the time you get to doing your tax return, we’ll have everything we need to do the process for you. No need to work like a dog when it comes to your taxes!
Get started here.