This is an interview with Veronica Boutelle, Founder of dogTEC and an industry consultant for dog-related business owners. Veronica has given some insight into starting a dog walking business – and also offered information about how to grow a dog walking company.
1) What was the reason for starting dogTEC, and how does it differ from other companies?
I started dogTEC after leaving my position as Director of Behavior & Training for the San Francisco SPCA. During my time there I noticed repeatedly that the local dog professionals—trainers, walkers, sitters, etc.—were struggling to make a real living working with dogs. Too often they were forced to work part time jobs, or leave what they loved to go back to sitting in a cubicle. And too often they struggled with the work itself, not having anywhere to turn to learn the skills they needed to work more effectively with dogs.
I resolved to create a support system for dog pros that included education and training opportunities around both dog behavior and business practices.
dogTEC is unique in that everyone on our staff has strong backgrounds in dog behavior, education, and business. We are also the first company to do this work, and the only one to do it full time.
2) What advantages do dog walkers who are dogTEC certified have over those who aren’t?
It’s a key marketing advantage—a way to let potential clients know that you know how to take the best care of their dog, a way to differentiate yourself from all their other choices.
And our grads experience great peace of mind and generally enjoy their work better because they a) have a firm understanding of dog behavior, b) know how to control dogs without force, and c) do better financially because they’ve learned how to run a successful dog business.
3) What do dog owners need to consider before hiring a dog walker?
First and foremost, is the walker educated? Do they know how to read dog body language, build a rock solid recall, handle a leash safely? Do they know how to avoid incidents between dogs, and what to do when they happen? In short, are they best equipped to keep the dogs in their care safe?
We also recommend asking about their policies, including how many dogs they walk at once, if they keep large and small dogs in separate groups when walking packs together, how long a walk they guarantee, etc.
I would also want to know that they are legitimate businesses—do they use contracts, are they insured, do they have a business license?
4) What are dogTEC’s expansion plans?
On the education front, this year the Dog Walking Academy opens new locations in Seattle and Washington DC to add to the current classes in San Francisco and New Hampshire. We’re looking for a New York City location as well. And our new web seminar program for dog pros launches in June.
On the product end, the dogPRO CD for Daycare and Boarding Facilities will join our dogPRO CD line later this year. The dogPRO CDs are designed to help dog professionals run their businesses effeciently and effectively. We currently offer a version for Trainers and a version for Walkers & Sitters. We’ll also be launching a new product aimed at helping dog professionals market their businesses.
5) Why should people consider turning a dog walker side business or hobby into a profession?
Because, as one of our clients once put it, “The worst day walking dogs is far better than the best day working in an office.” Professional dog walking is challenging, but it is a tremendously satisfying way to make a living. And done well it can be very lucrative. Our dog walking clients’ incomes range from 30K to well over six figures, depending on location, type of service offered, etc. Not bad for hanging out with dogs, and no office personalities to deal with!