5 things dog walkers wish you knew

While she was a college student, Lauren Radke started a part-time job walking dogs so she could make some extra cash while having a flexible schedule. Plus, she missed her dogs. “It was also a really good way to get around the city and just be able to get a little workout in because it’s easy to get caught up in your room and on campus when you’re a student,” the 22-year-old told TODAY. Radke, who graduated from American University in Washington, D.C., in 2021, is still a dog walker but now works with private clients instead of using an online service that connects pet owners with caregivers. With three years of experience under her belt, Radke shares what she wishes people knew about part-time puppy work.

Watch Out For Your Dogs Feet in the Summer. Hot pavement can burn your dogs paws rather quickly. To see if it’s too hot for your dog place the back of your hand on the pavement – if you can’t hold it there for 5 seconds it’s too hot for your dog. On really hot days consider walking your dog in the woods, on the grass, or waiting til the sun goes down.

The job is more serious than you might think.

For Radke, the most frustrating thing is when clients aren’t prepared for their walkers and lack proper supplies, like leashes. Radke’s dog-walking shifts start with a fanny pack filled with treats, doggie bags and Band-Aids. Dogs have bitten and scratched her before, so she comes prepared. Popular dog-walking services like Wag! and Rover don’t cover pet sitters' injuries while on the job, according to their online terms. When Radke first started as a dog walker, she had to take multiple tests about safety — for the dogs and for herself.

“It is not our responsibility to risk our personhood and our safety to walk their dogs,” Radke said. “And if they don’t have the supplies in order for us to do our job, I think that’s irresponsible.”

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Pets are a major source of support and increase the ability to cope, which contributes to keeping cholesterol and blood pressure down.

Now you can order a dog walker as easily as an Uber

Nov. 22, 201702:08

Don’t lie about your dog’s behavior.

Dog walkers must think on their feet when it comes to dealing with pup behavior — particularly with new clients. Though Radke said she could sometimes see notes through the dog-walking service she had previously used from other walkers or owners, the messages from owners weren’t always truthful.

“Pet parents can lie about how easy it is to walk their dog and you can get hurt pretty easily,” Radke said. That's why it's a good idea to inform your dog walker if your pet gets nervous around strangers or has behavioral problems that they should be aware of.

Learn How to Make Some Simple Dog Treats. Don’t have any dog treats on hand? You can make your own simple & healthy dog treats. Here’s 21 dog treat recipes you can make, all with 5 ingredients or less.

Besides biting, Radke says the most common bad behavior among dogs is pulling on the leash, which can be a painful burden on a dog walker’s shoulders. For some pets, it seems like the owners “simply do not want to deal with their untrained dog,” Radke said.

“We deal with a lot of different temperaments,” she added. “I understand maybe they have some reactivity issues, but it’s not on us to have the dog as a liability with what we’re doing and how they act.”

Agencies can take a big cut from dog walkers' pay, and the pandemic didn't help.

Once your dog has removed all of the fabric from the ball, you can stuff the scraps right back in!

The flexibility of dog-walking services makes it an ideal opportunity to earn some extra cash. Still, Radke ended up switching to exclusively private clients after becoming frustrated by how much money she was leaving on the table.

After an estimated 40% cut that dog-walking agencies take from a contractor's earnings, Radke made about $12 for a 30-minute walk. Radke said she almost always got tips, which were around $15 a walk.

“It’s really not that much of a lucrative business (but) it can be enjoyable,” Radke said.

And the coronavirus pandemic may have also impacted dog walkers' income — something to keep in mind when it comes to tipping. Radke said she completely stopped walking dogs for eight months because of the lack of jobs.

Meeting your new puppy, kitten or any other pet can be an exciting experience. Your pet, however, has some adjusting to do. New sights, smells and sounds can be overwhelming for the little guy and keeping a calm household is important.

Radke recently switched from using a dog walker service to private clients. Radke recently switched from using a dog walker service to private clients. Courtesy Lauren Radke

Trust is everything.

One of Radke’s favorite parts of being a dog walker is forming connections with her clients and their furry friends. As a private dog walker, she said her clients are “some of my favorite people and animals.”

“It’s just nice to have that bond with not only the pet parents but the dog themselves and how excited they get to see you,” Radke said.

For pet owners in search of a dog walker, Radke recommended finding someone you trust to walk your dog.

Plan for When You’re Not There. Make sure your pets are provided for during those long hours when you’re away. Dr. Becker suggests technological options. “DOGTV has stimulation and relaxation channels, and there are apps that control contraptions that talk to your pet, or dispense treats. Pheromone sprays can also reduce anxiety, creating that kumbaya atmosphere.” And, of course, daycare and dog walkers are a great way to enrich your pet’s day. “Know someone who wants exercise? Maybe they’ll walk your dog.”

“You are letting somebody walk up to a family member of yours and take care of your family member, and so you just want everybody to be set up for success,” Radke said.