Getting Serious about Dog Walking 

woman walking a dog

Not long after I started PetCorps, I started getting requests for new services. The first service people requested was pet sitting.

With Fort Knox, Kentucky just around the corner, there were soldiers in the nearby area (on and off post) who would need this type of service.

This was before the Army implemented their base realignment and closure (BRAC) procedures that moved the U.S. Army Armor School to Fort Benning, GA and reduced the number of personnel living in the area.

Today, Fort Knox is almost a ghost town, except for being home to Cadet Command and Human Resources Command.

In 2008, though, Fort Knox was well populated with soldiers who would eventually take leave to visit their families. The only problem they faced was finding someone to care for their pets, many cats and dogs, that could not travel with them.

So I stepped up to the challenge and introduced an in-home pet sitting service. This seemed like a great way to serve people. My  background in veterinary services provided me with useful skills to be an effective pet sitter. I can perform first aid, life-saving therapy, and administer medication.

In addition to pet sitting their pets, owners often asked me to walk their dogs. This way, their companion animals could get some fresh air and exercise without interrupting their regular routines. We added dog walking as an optional service pet owners could attach to their pet sitting agreements.

After a while, I became competent at walking different breeds. Some dogs proved to be more challenging than others but the overall experience was enjoyable for both me and the dogs. While I never fully offered dog walking as a stand-alone service, there were two customers who hired me to walk their dogs in the afternoon while they were busy working.

Dog Walker in Training

My first “unofficial” dog walking customer was Lilly.

Lilly was a yellow lab puppy  belonging to a lieutenant I served alongside while in the Kentucky Army National Guard.

I walked Lilly every day in the afternoon. Because she was a puppy, I worked with her on basic obedience commands like “sit,” “stay,” “down,” “down, stay,” “come,” and “leave it.” This was a learning experience for both of us. I started using hand signals with the commands and Lilly responded better after introducing hand signals. I didn’t know that this was an effective technique at the time but was delighted to stumble upon this discovery.

Although I didn’t think of myself as a “trainer,” Lilly the puppy did learn manners through me and I always received positive feedback from her owner concerning Lilly’s improved behavior.

The Army eventually issued orders for the lieutenant to go to Physician Assistant (PA) School at Fort Sam Houston, TX so I eventually had to say goodbye to Lilly. Before Lilly moved, I did acquire another dog walking customer in Elizabethtown. She hired me to walk her two senior dogs in the afternoon while she and her husband were at work. They lived in a nice cul-de-sac, with a large peanut-shaped park in the center. The road encircled the park. Because they liked to mosey along, we often had time enough to walk from one end of the park to the other before it was time for me to go.

About this time, the waste cleanup business was growing. With the new business,  I was challenged to work the walk into my scooping schedule. I asked someone from  church to walk the dogs for me and I paid them for their services. Unfortunately, they didn’t do a satisfactory job and I lost the  customer.

Finally, I decided to “temporarily” discontinue the dog walking service until a more opportune time.

Dog Walking Revisited

Two years ago, I listed dog walking service on my web site as a stand-alone service. In the year that followed, I hadn’t received any inquiries about dog walking. I took the page down. And wouldn’t you know it? As soon as the service was unavailable, people started asking me to walk their dogs! Unfortunately, I had to tell them it was a service we no longer offered and I would recommend them to other services if I could find one.

Jeannie and Freckels

The photo above shows my wife Jeannie walking her parents’ dog Freckels. Freckels was a senior dog that started having mobility problems that negatively affected her quality of life. My in-laws decided to end her suffering by having her put to sleep.

Josiah Mourns for Freckels

It was devastating for my son Josiah who was three-years old at the time. When he heard that Freckels had gone to be with Jesus, he cried long and hard.

He said, “Let’s go get her!”

It was hard to explain to him that Heaven isn’t a place we can travel to freely. But he insisted that we get on a rocket ship and fly to Heaven and ask Jesus if we could have Freckels back. Bless his heart.

Josiah is five now, and he still tells me from time to time, “Dad, Freckels is my best friend. I miss her.”

Dog Walking Returns

It’s Spring 2016 as I am writing this. A couple of months ago, I started mulling over the idea of bringing dog walking back for good. But this time, I didn’t want to go about it in a haphazard way. This time, if we were going to offer the service, we were going to do our research and we were going to be intentional about the decision.

We are strongly considering offering dog walking as a stand-alone service. Before we do, we need to see a legitimate need in the marketplace.

To assess the market, I developed a survey using SurveyMonkey and sent it out to all of my waste removal and pet sitting customers within my target market. I didn’t get a very high response rate but the feedback I did receive was helpful.

Based on the feedback, I determined that if we move forward, we need to get some serious training to be the best dog walkers in our area. We need to have a good knowledge base about dog breeds, training techniques, and pet first aid. We need to be comfortable walking all breeds of dogs in all types of weather. Since I will be busy cleaning yards, the person I hire to be a dog walker must have all of this knowledge in order to represent PetCorps in the best possible way.

I also learned from the survey that my waste removal customers might not be the same demographic as people who pay to have their dogs walked. Isn’t that interesting?

Naturally, I want to appoint my wife Jeannie to the role of dog walker. But doing so is going to require us to purchase a second vehicle. With a second vehicle, she could tackle pet sitting jobs and dog walking jobs at the same time I am cleaning yards so that all areas of the business are productive.

We are currently exploring training through books and courses. When we effectively launch the dog walking business in our community, it will be the best thing to hit the market in a long time. Anyone can walk dogs.Not  everyone can do it with excellence. And that is what we aim to do.

 

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