More alpha men and women seem to be answering the call of the wild, signing on as leader of the pack for several hours each day. For herders able to command six-to-ten furry friends at a time in a neighborhood park or at the beach, dog walking can rake in as much as $200 a day (minus the truck fuel). Scooping poop just got a lot more enticing!
But you should know it isn’t all fun and games, warns Emy Sakai, 29, owner and founder of The Urban Paw dog walking service in San Francisco. The consummate animal lover has been pet sitting and dog walking since the age of 12, starting her career working part time while working in office settings and then branching off to launch her own service, which she likens to running a daycare program.
“The dog walker is like the teacher on a preschool field trip who has to keep a very close eye on the kids or they might wander off or eat something that is poisonous,” she finds. “I use treats and positive reinforcement and know what they are doing at all times.”
Sakai walks some seven different breeds at a time at Fort Funston, a wild and breezy stretch of headlands, sands and dunes. It has become the new happy hour spot for unleashed thirsty beasts and their guides, and where she has seen a lot of newbies come and go. It’s easy to talk the talk but can you walk the walk?
“You have to walk the dogs rain or shine, get dirty and not be grossed out by a lot of things,” she shares. “You have to have thick skin. It’s not just hanging out with cute, fuzzy animals. Being the pack leader shouldn’t be viewed as a glamorous or good transitional job.”
Okay, so it’s not as cushy as being a personal assistant to Carrie Bradshaw or being the intern who erases the chalkboard on the Glen Beck set. You may not be after glamor. You may not be a cat person. But perhaps flicking a Frisbee or waving a ball wand is your idea of a fling.
Here are seven signs that dog walking is the career for you:
1. You form attachments easily, even with drooling mutts who won’t pick up their poop. (“It’s sad when clients leave and I don’t get to say goodbye or have one last walk,” shares Sakai. “They’re like our second kids.”)
2. You are seeking part time work with flexibility so you can play with your human kids or finish that novel. An indoor retail job would be impossible, and besides, they won’t let you wear your gnarly, muddy boots at Saks.
3. You’re an alpha personality (a.k.a. control freak) who feels powerless in your current position. Why won’t someone, anyone, listen to you? Why are you constantly interrupted by stupid humans? Dogs know their place.
4. When you run on the beach you feel like a lonely loser and envy the dog walkers you spot throwing balls and sticks and connecting with their four legged friends. You like throwing sticks. You want friends.
5. You are looking for way out of that booth at Starbucks and perusing your laptop for listings for desk jobs. Your tush is spreading like nobody’s business, but the bills are not getting paid. You need exercise and money. Who doesn’t?
6. While you are a master at multi-tasking, you have never had the right job to employ your skills. As a dog walker you can shout loudly (calling out each name so everyone around you can hear), run, scoop, praise, play, feed, defend and reward, all while socializing and commiserating with other walkers.
7. No matter how hard you try, you cannot get rid of that gas guzzling SUV but realize you can use it for a good cause, namely the outings with your Fidos. Better yet, your clients all live within walking distance and you can pick them up on foot and hit parks a few blocks away!