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Day in the Life of a Professional Dog Walker and Pet Sitter

December 15, 2011

During a recent conversation with some one about my company I was faced with the comment “Wow, I would love to get paid to just play with dogs all day!”. If I don’t get this reaction I usually get asked whether I am doing it for extra cash during my summer holidays. I wanted to write about a typical day running my professional dog walking and pet sitting company….however, there isn’t such thing as a typical day. So on top of everything you will read below I am now sat at my laptop sharing this with you. So, next time you bump into a professional dog walker in the street please remember that we are not all spotty teenagers and that a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into any successful business!

All the people and animals in this have not been named directly. Although some of the dog’s nicknames might seem a bit weird, if you met them you would completely understand where they have come from. No offence is meant by any of the nicknames, in particular Donkey…his owners are well aware of his new tag!

7:00 – Before I even get my first canine cuddle of the day I have to sort out my own pack first. This involves trying to multi-task between getting Toddler One fed and Toddler Two dressed and getting The Partner up and hopefully washing up from breakfast. Not to mention feeding, watering and petting our menagerie of pets. Once the kids are at the nursery and childminder respectively; my mind turns to the busy day ahead.

9:15 – I don’t have just the one dog to fuss over…I have three this morning. Mum, Dad and Cheeky Boy (their son) are very excitable and extremely relieved when they are released into the closest field. First thing on The Partner’s checklist is to inspect my e-mail inbox, although this is also my last job of the day we have had people e-mailing at all hours of the night before. I am told that we have 2 new enquires from prospective clients and some one asking about any job vacancies, all of which have to be promptly replied to. Deleting any junk mail, re-posting any lapsed adverts and avoiding surfing the web usually takes The Partner far longer than I had hope, “But it will all be worth it”, I keep telling myself.

10:00 – My whole week of daily admin is segmented into 7 plastic pockets, one for each day of the week. As all my clients have different length walks on different days it takes a lot to keep on top of who is invoiced when, for how much and when I need receipts for the greatly appreciated payments. Thursday is a fairly quiet paperwork day…usually! Along with the invoices and receipts I need for today; I also need one form putting together for Golden Boy to be let off the lead, two forms to confirm when Golden Boy and Big Man won’t need us over the summer holidays and an introduction pack for a prospective client tonight.

10:30 – Standing at the front door I go through my checklist of what I need….all the above paperwork (tick), leads (tick), keys for each client (tick), poo bags (tick), bum-bag (tick), treats…which each dog having their favourite (tick) and car keys (Blast, where did they go again!).

11:00 – I am at Leggy Brunettes house and wondering what will face me on the other side of the door. Being a young boxer she doesn’t always know what to do with herself. Luckily this time there are no accidents and nothing pulled off the worktops, but one very excitable dog bouncing about. We stroll down to the park and she can’t wait to get off the lead. She only stopped running to destruct as many sticks as possible. Whilst I am here the Partner is on the other side of town with Puppy. Although Puppy is no longer the youngest dog on our books the name has stuck from when he was. He is a gorgeous 1 year old Westie and doesn’t he know it! He means more to his Clients than most dogs do and they will openly tell you that he is one pampered pooch. We should really be charging his owner’s more because Puppy’s feline friend usually comes along for the whole walk.

11:45 – Golden Boy lives just round the corner from Leggy Brunette; but even though it is barely worth it the windows on my car are promptly opened. It has been a weird week for the weather. All our uniform is burgundy with our logo on it, against the other dog walkers in their jeans and caps we definitely stand out. On wet days I am usually in my polo-short, fleece and waterproof jacket, on cold days it is just the polo short and fleece and on the rare hot days I am down to just the polo short. But this week…I have given up. One minute it is sunny and dry, next wet but muggy and then followed by strong winds. So for the rest of the week I am risking it in just my polo-short, it has paid off so far.

12:00 – Today Golden Boy is meeting Donkey for the first time. Donkey is a big, black Labrador and does not know quite know how bulky and clumsy he is. He is fantastic with other dogs and we tend to put new clients with him to see if they are suitable to be matched up with some one in their area. As usual Donkey did amazing and although he is only two he acts like a wise old man and teaches Golden Boy how things are done. The two of them spend an hour running around, chasing balls, competing for biscuits and attention. Although they pretty much get on with things on their own it is stressful having to constantly be watching for other dogs or any dodgy individuals. Being a young lass, usually working on my own, it is hard not to see myself as vulnerable. On one occasion it became very clear that one person must of thought that my bum-bag was full of money rather than poo bags and biscuits. Boy, would he of felt let down if he had risked snatching it. Today we were let off with just one drunk man swigging cider in a kids park, Donkey soon saw him off!

13:30 – Now I am at Big Man’s house and he has his favourite slot…last walk of the day. Big Man is a gorgeous Staffie, he is a little over weight but on a diet. This is his favourite slot because he knows that I have no where to be, well…not straight away. Usually this results in extra cuddles, from me, and kisses, from him. Today he shows just how much he loathes being a diet by trying to eat everything in sight. The menu so far has consisted of a dead bird, some discarded chips and dog poo. Luckily he has not managed to get anything past his lips but it is something to keep in mind when he starts licking me later.

13:45 – The Partner rings to let me know that Schnaffle is out on his walk. This young Beagle has gained his nickname from eating EVERYTHING. Big Man may try his luck, but because he is on the lead he can at least be stopped. Schnaffle is great with other dogs and re-calls well so comes off his lead in big fields. During our Meet and Greet with his owners he were told that he once consumed a burnt mole out of a field…whole! The owner was not aware of this until the following day…I won’t go into further details. But any wannabe dog walkers reading this, you will need to be completely comfortable with the P word! It is certainly the less glamorous side of the job but by law (and common decency) all poop must be scooped. However you can always guarantee that the dog will poop as far away from a poo bin as possible, not always a bad thing on a cold day though!

14:00 – That is our regular walks finished for the day, but that doesn’t mean I’ve finished working. Although Big Man’s walk is half an hour it can take a good ten to fifteen minutes to settle him back down, give him a treat, re-fresh his water, stop his advances of trying to lick inside my mouth, write in his diary and towel him down if it is a wet day. This is the same for each of our dogs so you can see how the hours quickly add up.

14:30 – My next appointment is caring for a full house of animals. The owner has gone on holiday and we are looking after her 3 dogs, 3 cats, 2 rats, 4 Giant African Land Snails, 2 rabbits and 1 bird. I love bookings like these because I get to spend time with other animals that I don’t usually get the chance to. They are all fed, watered and fussed. With the radio playing in the background I am locking the door up, ready for when I come back later.

16:00 – After running home for a quick snack, I grab my next set of keys and paperwork and I was back in the car. It was a twenty mile drive to the next big town for the last 2 appointments of the day. For the last couple of days we have been caring for 3 cats whilst their owner is on holiday. Half an hour sounds like a long time to get everything done, but when I am confronted with sick that stretches the length of the hallway it quickly appears to not be enough. Some how I manage to give one of them their medicine, feed all three, re-fresh their water fountain and get some play time in as well. Four smiles all round, mine included of course, the alarm is re-set and my car is sat waiting for me patiently.

17:30 – My mouth is dry and I have all fingers crossed as I enter a prospective client’s house. They want their dog walked whilst they work long hours. I go through how our company works, the benefit’s of it all and answer all their questions. Hopefully it will be worth it if they decide to go with us. Although dog walkers became popular down South a long time ago, they are now becoming a regular sight at country parks and woodlands here up North. We know we have competition but we are always trying to stay one step in front of them and by offering a high standard of service we aim to be the best!

19:00 – My risky move to wear just the polo short has not worked out! The day could not decide between sun, wind and clouds from the moment I woke up, but now it has decided on rain! I am back at Mum, Dad and Cheeky Boy’s house to feed them, take them on another walk and give them some much needed loving. In fact, the rain comes as a relief after the hot weather and hard work of the day and I am not sure who enjoys it more, me or the dogs. Rainy days are always a good selling point for us though, because lets be honest; not many people are mad enough to walk 3 medium coated dogs in the rain, especially whilst wearing a t-shirt. Some one stops me in the street and I get chatting to them. As I said earlier the uniform is such a benefit to our company because we are constantly advertising. I doubt this lady would of stopped me had I have been in regular clothing, so there is now one more business card with our details on hopefully being circulated locally.

20:30 – My daily alarm on my mobile sounds and I roll my eyes as it flashes “Do Your Book Keeping” at me! I always knew that there would be more to dog walking than simply walking dogs. But the paper work does take a lot more of my time than I had first anticipated. But ultimately, with self-employment, you get out what you put in.

20:45 – Our accounts are all in order as all receipts and invoices have been logged accordingly. The computer beckons me into surfing the web a little. Movie stars, make-up and shoes are not entered into the search engine though. I spend my time checking up on what the competition in my area is up to, reading any news relevant to the business and networking on various forums. My last job of the day is to re-check my e-mails. This evening I have a lot to get through as I missed my usual afternoon internet fix.

22:00 – Once I had finished with my e-mails I checked to see how my first article with Ezine was doing. I enjoy spending time researching anything to do with animals and then writing about it. But for this article I wanted to show you guys exactly what is involved in becoming a professional dog walker. That is me done for the day and I am about to try and catch up on some telly time. GOOD NIGHT!

22:15 – The phone is ringing, a client is enquiring about us pet sitting her elderly cat whilst she is on holiday. This has beaten the previous record of 9pm for the latest call we have received. An eleven hour day is clearly not enough…..I am off to find my notepad and pen!

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