If dog walking business ideas are always on your mind, unleash your entrepreneurship by taking on the essential role of the professional dog walker. Dog walkers are considered lifesavers for pet parents on the go who need some help taking care of their furry friends. It can also be fun and profitable!

Discover the ins and outs of the dog walking business with our guide highlighting the vital skills you need, how to find clients and organize your operations, set prices, and understand your liability insurance needs.

The market for dog walkers has never been hotter. Let’s look at the stats — three in five (59%) Canadians say they own at least one pet, and the most popular are dogs! Canadians with at least one dog make up 35% of the population. One could argue that Canadians love dogs as much as they love children. How so? Well, in 2022, according to a nationwide survey, there were estimated to be around 7.9 million pet dogs in Canadian households. That is 20% of Canada’s population of 40 million, which is pretty much on par with how many kids 18 and under make up our population.

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Whether you want a side gig or a full-time venture, leash up and let’s em-bark on this exciting journey!

What Is a Dog Walker? What Do They Do?

A dog walker is a professional who gets paid to take other people’s dogs on outdoor escapades and provide companionship for a set period. They ensure pups get fresh air and time to explore, burn energy, and socialize. Regular walks help prevent boredom and behaviour issues!

A dog walker has many options; they can work independently or as part of a business. Some walk one dog at a time, while others handle multiple dogs. There may be additional services some may choose to provide to satisfy the preferences of the owners, who usually provide specific instructions.

The primary duties of a dog walker encompass the following:

  1. Picking up dogs from their homes.
  2. Ensuring dogs are properly collared and their tags are in place.
  3. Taking the dogs on a walking path, trail, or other planned route.
  4. Providing food and water breaks for their comfort.
  5. Using treats to maintain their focus and reward good behaviour.
  6. Cleaning up after them while abiding by local animal care laws and ordinances.
  7. Keeping track of licenses and vaccinations for safety.
  8. Handling paperwork and appointments smoothly.
  9. Ensuring dogs get exercise, interaction, and fun!

What Are the Pros and Cons of Being a Dog Walker?

Every job or business venture has pros and cons, and dog walking is not immune. We’ve broken them down for you as follows.


  • If you love dogs, being a dog walker allows you to spend quality time with them. 
  • Dog walking gets you out in the fresh air and encourages physical activity, which can contribute to better overall health.
  • Flexible hours and the ability to make this a side hustle or full-time job allow for better work-life balance and the potential to take on other commitments. 
  • If you value independent work, dog walking lets you work on your terms.
  • You can make a difference in the lives of pets and their owners.


  • Dog walking can be physically demanding, especially when dealing with larger, more energetic dogs or multiple dogs at once.
  • Working outdoors in all weather conditions, even rain, snow, or heat, can test any Canadian’s love of the outdoors.
  • Safety concerns when working with some dogs that can be aggressive or difficult to handle. Income as a dog walker can be inconsistent.
  • The dog walking industry is unregulated, and virtually anyone can start offering services without proper qualifications, making it difficult for pet owners to sort the good from the bad, leaving you subject to scrutiny.
  • While flexible in terms of schedule, it often means working during evenings, weekends, and holidays when others are off.
  • Clients. Sometimes, dealing with different clients’ expectations and their dogs’ behaviours can be challenging.
  • Most dog walkers are self-employed or work as contractors and might not have access to benefits like health insurance or retirement plans.
  • There are liability risks.

Whether or not being a dog walker is the right job depends on your preferences and circumstances. In evaluating whether dog walking is the right choice, consider these pros and cons in the context of your personal preferences, lifestyle, and goals.

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What Licenses, Qualifications, and Experience Do Dog Walkers Need?

Becoming a professional dog walker doesn’t involve fetching degrees, official certificates, or diplomas.

While dog walking is a lightly or non-regulated industry, it’s essential to be equipped with the necessary licenses and insurance to ensure smooth sailing. Specific licensing requirements might be in place depending on the province and the organization you’re associated with.

Here’s a rundown of the licenses you might need to fetch:

  • Business licence: If you own an organization, you may require a business licence, which allows you to conduct business legally.
  • Driver’s licence: A valid driver’s licence is crucial if your journey involves transporting dogs via vehicle.
  • Liability insurance: If you’re a business owner, securing liability insurance is necessary to cover potential accidents involving dog walkers, the dogs themselves, or the dogs’ owners.
  • Regional licenses or permits: Certain cities may require additional regional licenses or permits before you can bring dogs to municipal parks, other properties, or public spaces. For example, Toronto requires individuals to obtain a license to walk more than three dogs. The maximum number of dogs that can be walked at a time is six.

These skills are needed to be a dog walker: a love of animals, physical fitness, responsibility, communication skills, problem-solving skills, first aid training, and knowledge of dog behaviour. Experience in dog walking is also helpful and can be gained through volunteering or walking dogs for friends and family.

What Items Do I Need to Be a Dog Walker?

What you have can reveal your preparedness to manage a group of dogs adeptly, benefiting you and shaping the customer’s impressions.

For walks, here’s a checklist of must-haves to ensure it’s a paw-some experience:

  1. Leashes, collars, and other gear: Different dogs have different needs. Having leashes, collars, and dog toys can prove helpful.
  2. Waste bags: Keep it clean and considerate by having bags for dog waste ready.
  3. Water and bowls: Pack collapsible bowls and a water bottle to keep the dogs hydrated.
  4. Treats: Reward good behaviour and maintain focus with tasty treats. Ensure you know the dietary needs of each dog in your care, custody, and control.
  5. First aid kit: Be prepared for minor scrapes or incidents with a compact pet first aid kit containing essentials like bandages, antiseptic wipes, and tweezers.
  6. Hand sanitizer: Keep yourself germ-free after handling pups. It’s an extra touch that your clients will appreciate.
  7. Emergency contact info: Carry a list of emergency contacts, including the dogs’ owners and local veterinarians.
  8. Weather essentials: Whether it’s a raincoat, sunscreen, or extra towels, weather-appropriate items ensure a comfortable outing, no matter the forecast. 
  9. Pet ID and information: Some dogs may not be familiar with you initially, so having their identification and relevant information on hand can provide peace of mind.
  10. A dependable smartphone and charger: Enabling daily updates, media sharing, and quick schedule adjustments. Regular updates and photos connect clients with their pets, providing reassurance and joy. Stay connected in case of any unexpected situations.
  11. Maps or GPS: Familiarize yourself with the walking route or have a GPS handy to avoid getting lost.
  12. Comfortable shoes: Your comfort matters, too! Opt for sturdy, comfortable footwear to keep you going through each adventure.

Tailoring your gear to your clients’ needs and the environment you’ll be walking in is key. With the right equipment, every step you take as a dog walker can be memorable and enjoyable.

How Much Money Do Dog Walkers Make?

Indeed.ca reports that the average salary for a dog walker in Canada is $46,967 per year. The highest-paying cities for this profession include Toronto ($53,000 annually), the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, Calgary, and Vancouver.

How Much Should I Charge for Dog Walking Services?

The average rate for dog walking in Canada is approximately $20. You can expect to charge between $10 to $40 per walk.

However, the price for dog walking can vary depending on multiple factors such as location, competition, dog size, and additional services like longer walks, pet sitting, special requests, or multiple dogs.

Researching the market and considering costs to set a fair price reflecting the quality of care and expertise is essential. For example, you can expect to pay about the average (up to $35 per hour) in Toronto. Someone in Calgary may be more used to paying below that average, while Montrealers are accustomed to paying above that average.

You can search online or ask around for an idea of what other dog walkers in your area are charging. Don’t forget to factor in your costs, such as transportation, insurance, and any certifications you need. Your pricing strategy should reflect the quality of care and expertise you provide. Over time, you’ll fetch the right balance for your business.

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How to Promote Your Dog Walking Business

When starting a dog walking business, getting customers can take a lot of work, especially if your target market is already saturated with other dog walkers. When growing your dog walking business, marketing plays a vital role.

Here are some tips for getting customers for your dog walking business:

  • Do your research. Who are your target customers? Where do they live? What are their needs and preferences?
  • Create a website or social media presence. Showcase your services and photos of your furry friends.
  • Promote your business. Create flyers and posters to distribute in local businesses or even go door-to-door in your neighbourhood. Hand out dog treats with your business card attached! Visit dog-friendly businesses and ask if you can post a flyer advertising your services in their stores.
  • Market your business. Design a logo, and print t-shirts, fridge magnets, and buttons to hand out to existing and prospective clients.
  • Use word-of-mouth referrals. Recommendations from your existing clients are highly effective in gaining new ones. Also, encourage referrals from friends and family members to others.
  • Offer referral incentives. Offer bonuses, coupons, and bundling offers for caring for more than one dog to your clients.
  • Offer discounts and promotions. It’s a simple but effective way to attract new customers.
  • Get involved in your community. Volunteer or attend dog-friendly events. 
  • Be reliable and trustworthy. Essential for any business, but especially for dog walkers.

Do I Need to Have My Clients Sign Contracts?

As you gear up to welcome your first clients, one crucial aspect to consider is the creation of contracts.

Any business should use contracts, though they carry particular weight in professional canine walking. As a dog walker, you bear the responsibility for the security and welfare of the dogs belonging to your clientele. A well-structured contract establishes a safeguard that proves invaluable in scenarios involving miscommunication, mishaps or harm.

To ensure a smooth working relationship and provide a solid foundation for your business to thrive, consider these key elements that should be included in your dog walking contracts:

  • Consult a legal professional to draft and review customer contracts. 
  • Include the scope of your services, including the rates you charge, your hours of availability, and payment terms.
  • Ensure you’ve included the responsibilities of both you and the client.
  • Prioritize pet well-being. Incorporate emergency veterinary care clauses in your contract.

Ensure your clients sign contracts before you start providing any services. Having a signed contract with your clients can help build trust and confidence and prevent disagreements or misunderstandings.

What Liability Risks Do Dog Walkers Face?

Dog walking businesses face several liability risks, including: 

  • Bites: If a dog you are walking bites someone, you could be liable for the victim’s medical expenses and other damages.
  • Damage: If a dog you are walking damages property, you could be held responsible for the cost of repairs.
  • Runaways: If a dog you are walking dashes off and you can’t retrieve it, you could be liable for losing the animal.
  • Theft: If a dog you are walking is stolen (yes, it happens), you could be liable for replacing it.
  • Injuries to dogs: If a dog in your care, custody, and control falls ill or gets injured, you could be liable for the incident.

What Insurance Does a Dog Walker in Canada Need?

Dog walking businesses in Canada are not legally required to have insurance, but it is highly recommended. Dog walking insurance policies are designed to protect dog walking businesses and provide you and your clients with protection and peace of mind at a small cost.

A comprehensive dog walker insurance policy typically covers general and professional liability claims tailored to the specific risks associated with your services.

  • General liability insurance covers your dog walking business in case third-party bodily injury or property damage occurs while a dog is in your care. It also covers liability for injuries caused by the dogs in your care. It offers optional protection such as coverage for losing a customer’s keys to their home, animal liability coverage when a dog is in your care, and emergency veterinarian fees.
  • Professional liability insurance (errors and omissions insurance) is crucial for dog walkers. It protects you from allegations of professional negligence, misconduct, and failure to deliver a service as promised.

Additional coverages your policy may need include:

  • Cyber liability insurance can protect your dog walking business from losses due to cybercrime. If you have a website, use email to confirm appointments, and take digital payments from customers, you should have cyber liability insurance.
  • Commercial auto insurance covers using your vehicle for business purposes, such as driving to customers’ homes or transporting pets.

If you’re considering buying insurance for dog walking, consult a licensed broker to ensure you have the necessary coverage. They can help you understand any breed exclusions that may apply and ensure that you’re fully protected in case of any incidents or accidents while out with your furry friend.

It’s crucial to understand the importance of insurance when starting a pet-related business, whether it’s a dog walking service or a home-based pet-sitting business.

Go ahead and give those paws a purpose! Em-bark on your dog walking journey today and make it a tail-wagging success!

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About the Author: Brandon Bowie

Brandon Bowie is a Team Lead, Professional Lines at Zensurance.