If you have extra time or need extra money, working as a professional dog walker can be a flexible part-time job. In larger cities, a professional dog walker can string together enough high-paying clients to generate the income of a full-time job. Some communities regulate permit requirements for dog walkers because of the difficulty of walking large packs of dogs and the issues which can stem from improper dog handling. Many dog walkers also earn third party certification, purchase insurance and have their businesses bonded, which allows them to charge more.
Permits for dog walkers aren't required in all areas, but some municipalities do have requirements for dog walkers before they can walk dogs in public areas. For example, the East Bay Regional Parks District, a group of public parks near San Francisco, requires any dog walker with three or more dogs at a time to register for a permit. Professional dog walkers pay $250 for an annual permit or $125 for a semi-annual permit as of 2011. The city of Toronto requires commercial dog walkers to apply for a permit to walk four to six dogs in public places; application fees are $200.
Even if your municipality doesn't require you to obtain a dog walking permit, you will still need to obtain a business license to legally operate your dog walking business and accept money for your services. These rules vary by state. Contact your state's business licensing agency to understand any general licensing requirements you have to fulfill to operate your business legally. Contact your local chamber of commerce or municipal government to learn about any local business licenses which you must obtain before opening your dog walking business.
Dog walkers can earn certification from a few different organizations involved in the dog walking industry. Both the Professional Dog Walker's Association and dog*tec, a service and support organization for the professional dog industry, maintain certification programs for commercial dog walkers. Certification courses cover many topics related to dog walking, including dog management, controlling dog aggression and small business practices. Even where certification isn't required by a city or town, third-party certification can increase the amount of money you can ask for from clients.
Bonded and Insured
Many professional dog walkers decide to get their dog walking business bonded and insured in order to attract higher-paying clients. Dog walking insurance protects a professional dog walker from liability in the event that a dog injures someone or damages their property while in your care. Dog walking insurance can be purchased through either Pet Sitters International or the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. Purchase additional coverage to protect your business from theft -- if your dog walking business is bonded, you can assure clients that they'll be reimbursed if a particularly expensive breed is stolen.