Barking up the wrong tree

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My eye has been caught this week by the results of a survey by Direct Line Pet Insurance claiming that dog walkers in London and the south-east of England are earning 10 grand above the average UK wage.

Once I’d stopped alternately laughing and crying, I had a proper read at what the survey is claiming.

It says London dog walkers charge UP TO £14 per hour per dog – because competition is fierce, most will probably charge around a tenner or just over (which, from my experience, is around the going rate just about everywhere).

Taking a mighty leap, the research then suggests a London/south-east dog walker who walks up to 13 dogs for 15 days a month will earn around £32,256 a year – the average national wage is around £23k. If you’re walking dogs outside the London/south-east bubble, this survey reckons you’re bringing in around £26,000 every year while working part-time.

Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but what a load of old cobblers!

I can only speak from my own experience, gained over the last four years of walking dogs and providing doggy daycare in the so-called “lucrative” south-east.

Dog walking is one of the best and most entertaining jobs out there – but it’s bloody hard work.

First of all, you have to gain and then keep your clientele, relying on advertising, word of mouth and dumb luck usually. You need insurance, you need a vehicle, you need towels, you need treats, you need ketchup (I’ll come back to that in another blog, I promise).

And then you need to deal with the vagaries of the weather and the challenge of keeping a pack of dogs of disparate sizes, personalities and temperaments under control at least twice, sometimes three times a day.

There’s the travel time in between clients – traffic on my manor is bad enough, I can only imagine the living hell that is attempting to negotiate London streets and finding parking. Factor all that extra time into your day.

Not only that, you’re unlikely only to be working 15 days a month. You’re providing a service. Folks want you when they’re working or busy so you need to be available when they need you – that means Monday to Friday and for a lot of us, Saturday and Sunday, too.

When you have dogs for daycare, your day doesn’t start with collecting and walking your charges. The claimed hourly rate of £24.50 for London daycare centres might be true of a handful, but the reality is most of us charge only a fraction more for the whole day than we do for a single walk – again, competition is tough enough to keep prices relatively low.

So Rover gets collected or delivered before the working day begins and goes home when his or her owner’s working day is done – and that’s when my day is done.

This is not a complaint. Far from it. But would I love to be charging £24.50 an hour to look after some pampered pooch? Of course! Is it remotely feasible? Not a chance.

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I became a dog walker not to make my fortune (which is just as well!) but to have a bash at something I genuinely enjoyed. Dogs are brilliant companions, generally affectionate and hugely entertaining, though frequently challenging (again, I shall return to this in another blog!)

For me, so far it’s been mainly ups with only a few downs (lots of Downs, mind you), and persevering with it in the depths of the winter of 2012 when I was down to just three clients is the best thing I ever did.

Good luck to those dog walkers apparently coining it in. For the rest of us, well, there’s always the lottery …

2 thoughts on “Barking up the wrong tree

  1. Great response to a load of tosh which one of my clients forwarded to me from the Telegraph. As someone who boards dogs – charging £15 per day I have to agree. One is “on duty” 24/7 when they are with you so actually £15/24hrs=62.5p per hour!! Yeah, high flying here too!! PS – I know all about the ketchup!!!

  2. Hi Frances,
    Very enjoyable and enlightening read. Hard work right enough and you can’t even put them down for a long nap in the afternoon! Keep the blogs coming.

    Best wishes Pat x

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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