Whether you need extra income or just something to do, working in retirement can be a great choice. But after years of paying your dues, you don't want to spend any more time in a stifling office. For a change of pace, why not start a dog walking business instead?

Why Start a Dog Walking Business

Dog walking is a great way to not just earn extra money, but also stay healthy during your senior years. Walking dogs for a living guarantees you meet the CDC's physical activity guidelines for moderate-intensity activity. When you exercise regularly, you have a lower risk of developing heart disease or losing mobility as you age. And aerobic exercise isn't the only way walking dogs improves senior health. As The Washington Post reports, walking dogs also encourages social interaction — an important facet of healthy aging.

Of course, dog walking is great for the dogs, too. Many dogs get insufficient exercise and interaction because of their owners' busy schedules. Unfortunately, under-exercised dogs tend to have health and behavioral problems. Dog walking services help close the gap between dogs' exercise needs and owners' schedules, leading to healthier, calmer pups.

How to Start a Dog Walking Business

Walking your neighbor’s dog is an easy way to earn a few extra dollars per week. However, if you want to earn significant income through dog walking, you'll need to treat it like a serious business.

Legal Considerations

It's possible to run a dog walking business as a sole proprietor, but it's not wise. As a sole proprietor, you're personally responsible for any damages that arise from your business. Form a limited liability corporation instead to protect your personal assets. Forming an LLC is inexpensive and easy; contact your state's Secretary of State office to find out how.

After forming an LLC, file for an employer ID number. An EIN isn’t always necessary for single-member LLCs, but it’s smart (and free) to get one anyway. Your state or municipality may require additional licenses or permits, such as a business license or sales tax ID.

Dog walkers should also be familiar with local laws surrounding dogs, such as leash laws and vaccination and registration requirements. Otherwise, you may inadvertently incur a fine while walking a client's dog.

Financing Your Business

Dog walking makes a great side gig because start-up costs are minimal. However, you'll still face expenses when launching your business, such as:

  • Licensing and permitting fees
  • Liability insurance
  • Pet First Aid class
  • Website hosting and domain name.
  • Flyers and business cards
  • Dog walking supplies (leashes, poop bags, portable water bowls, and treats)

If you've itemized your start-up costs and discovered you need financing, research your options for small business lending. Fundera offers a step-by-step guide that lays out what you need to consider for financing your business, such as the amount of funding needed, the best small business lending options for your circumstances, and more.

Finding Customers

Once your business is set up, you're ready to start earning money. But first, you need to find customers. Many dog walkers work through apps like Rover for the convenience. If you go that route, identify your ideal customer and target your tagline toward them; otherwise, your profile might get lost in a sea of dog walkers.

Dog walkers can also market their business the old-fashioned way: by knocking on neighbors' doors, hanging flyers, and spreading the word with local pet stores, veterinarians, dog groomers, and other pet service businesses. If you only plan to walk dogs in your neighborhood, this is the best approach.

Finally, have fun. Dog walking can be a profitable business, but it’s also a way to brighten your mood, get active, and meet more people in the community. Like any job, there will be bad and good days (and rainy days and snowy days!). But on the whole, a dog walking business is a great source of income and enjoyment in your retirement years.