We’ve all seen the dog walker storming down the street. They command their small (and adorable) army of pups and hounds, leashes tangled together in a clenched fist or clipped to carabiners on belt loops. It’s enough to make anyone envious, no matter what they do for a living. Who would pass up an opportunity to be surrounded by dogs all day?
But, you might be wondering, what does a profession like this actually pay? This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about the average dog walker salary for both yearly income and hourly wages. From there, we’ll discuss factors that impact bottom lines and how to maximize earnings when opening a dog walking service.
Let’s get started!
How much do dog walkers make?
The most official and trustworthy source for salary information, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t have a specific designation for a professional dog walker. However, there is data about what animal care and service workers make, and that category includes dog walkers alongside similar occupations like animal trainers and zookeepers.1
Here are the splits for what BLS calls “nonfarm animal caretakers” in 2019:
• Median annual wage: $24,780
• Top 10% earned over $38,630
• Bottom 10% earned under $18,630
So, while the vast majority (80%) of animal caretakers made between about $18,000and about $38,000 in 2019, they made about $25,000 on average.
These numbers are relatively low, as the median salary for all occupations was $39,810 in 2019. However, again, this data is not about dog walkers in particular. And, it might be slightly misleading, since annual wages may not be the best measure for work typically paid by the hour.
Hourly rate vs. annual dog walker salary
Unlike much traditional office work, dog walking isn’t typically a salaried position. Instead, it’s done on-demand, so pay is usually hourly, or per dog walk, rather than an annual salary.
According to more specific 2020 data from Payscale, here’s what a professional dog walker in particular can make on an hourly basis:2
• Range: between $9.78 and $27.28 hourly
• Median: $14.77 per hour
It’s important to think of dog walking pay hour-wise, because it’s often complemented by other jobs, side hustles, or gigs that dog walkers work. So, your overall earnings can be significantly higher than the $34,699 PayScale estimates you’d bring in per year from dog walking alone. If you want to offer a complete dog walking service, you can also offer dog boarding, dog training, and other pet sitting services.
And, finally, another major consideration about what dog walkers make is how they find work—whether independently or through another business like a dog walking app or website.
Employment vs. entrepreneurship
What’s also important to remember is that there’s a big difference between working for someone else and working for yourself. While dog walking often begins as casual, freelance, or gig work, it can blossom into an extremely lucrative business—and career—if you open your own dog walking business.
For instance, according to PayScale, here’s how self-employed dog walkers’ earnings compare to their employed or gig worker colleagues:3
• All dog walkers: $14.77 per hour
• Self-employed dog walkers: $28 per hour
That’s nearly double the rate!
Self-employment has many benefits, such as the freedom to set your own prices and schedule and make all the money that’s earned rather than sharing profits with employers or platforms.
That said, what other factors impact the money you make as a dog walker?
Factors that impact what dog walkers make
Some important factors have to do with the distinction discussed above, between working for a company like Wag! or Rover or having your own dog walking business. But there are also considerations about where and how you work.
Let’s take a look at each in detail.
Where you work
Location has a huge impact on all industries, and dog walking is no different. Rates for dog walkers vary from state to state across the US. According to a Care study of 2018 state averages, dog walkers’ hourly wages ranged from $15.63 in Indiana to $18.26 in Washington, DC.
Multiplied out over a year, that’s a significant difference for pet workers.
Even within states, individual cities and townships can have significant differences in dog walker rates. For instance, per the PayScale study above, dog walkers in San Francisco make about 42% more than the national average, while their fellow Californians down in Los Angeles make just 5% more than the national average.
Why are these differences so stark? They have to do with many factors, but some of the most important are:
• Population size, density, age, affluence, etc.
• Competition in your area
• Geographic conditions (transportation, terrain)
• Local laws and regulations
Things like the size and characteristics of your local population and the competition you’re up against can impact the raw supply and demand for dog walking. And the specifics of your area, like how close people are to each other, how hilly it is, and the local weather, can all impact the act of dog walking itself. Finally, local laws can have major influence on your expenses and overall operation.
How you work
There are many elements of dog walking that can have profound effects on what you can earn while doing it.
For instance, consider:
• How you find clients – Personal connections, apps Etc.
• The particular services do you offer – walking, sitting, training etc.
• Materials you use – treats, toys, leashes etc.
• How much do you charge, and why?
All these factors impact the money you make dog walking, no matter where you work. They also intertwine with the location factors from above.
How much you charge might have a lot to do with local laws, competition, and terrain (a hike might cost more than a stroll on flat ground).
So, now that you have a good understanding of what impacts your pay as a dog worker, let’s put it to use and think about…
How to maximize your dog walking income
Based on the factors above, some basic considerations to maximize how much you make as a dog walker include:
• Increase your client base
• Get more efficient
• Insure your business
Grow your client base
First and foremost, think about getting as much work as you can possibly handle. That involves:
• Building a strong reputation for word-of-mouth advertising
• Networking and promoting your services to build your client base
• Diversifying your offerings with other services like sitting, grooming, training, etc.
Optimize your efficiency
You need to optimize the way you work, making sure that you’re doing as much as possible with your available resources and time without sacrificing quality. This includes:
• Streamlining workflow by walking as many dogs at once as you can, legally and physically.
• Cutting down expenses by using affordable, durable equipment
• Opting for the most cost-effective versions of marketing for your services and insurance for your business.
On that last bit, we’re here to help.
Insure your business
At Thimble, our mission is simplifying business insurance for entrepreneurs like yourself. That means not just explaining key concepts about business and insurance, but also connecting you to high-quality coverage at low costs. Our dog walker insurance policies feature general liability and professional liability coverage to protect you from:
• Third-party bodily injury and property damage
• Personal and advertising injury
• Errors and omissions that result in the financial loss of a client
Our plans maximize your efficiency by working when you do. You can purchase coverage by the hour, day, or month, so you’re saving money by not paying for it when you don’t need it. And you’re saving time, since you can lock in coverage in under 60 seconds by downloading the Thimble app or clicking “Get a Quote.”
We save you time and money on insurance, because we want you to be able to focus on what matters most: walking people’s hounds around town (and making everybody jealous).