Have Leash, Will Travel
Yes you can make a living walking dogs.
For many of the 64 million dogs owned by humans, each day is filled with boredom and little to no exercise. And most, if not all dog parents feel some form of guilt when they don’t take their pupsters out for a daily walk. In a recent study, 63 percent of pet parents surveyed believed that their dog should be walked twice a day, but only 22 percent reported walking their dog once or less a day.
Over the past five years, growth in the number of cats and dogs has exceeded U.S. population growth. According to Ibis World, a provider of industry research, in 2020, the market size of the dog walking services industry measured by revenue is $1.1 billion.
New Orleanian Ben Fox has spent more than a decade walking dogs for hire. His business, Foxtrot Dog Walking, caters to dogs of all shapes, sizes, attitudes and breeds.
“We provide dogs with stimulating and fun exercise, make sure they have plenty of food and water, and administer oral and topical medication when necessary,” Fox says. “I give them the care, attention and affection I would give my own dogs.”
Fox offers 30-minute and one-hour walks, as well as quick potty breaks for older or infirmed dogs. His business, however, has been among the many affected by COVID-19. Before the pandemic, Fox had 25 regular clients, now he’s down to 15, undoubtedly due to more people working remotely.
Fox serves clients throughout the city. For example, he daily rambles through Audubon Park with 10 dogs happily wagging their tails and doing their businesses.
“For the most part, they’re all well-behaved, but sometimes it can be hard on hands,” he says.
Fox says the best way to have a well-behaved walk with one’s dog is to constantly communicate with them.
“Be stern with them when they misbehave and praise them for their good behavior,” he says. “It’s all about building a relationship with them. There’s not really a quick trick.”
For Fox, dog walking is a chance to make a living doing something he loves.
“I like having my own business and being my own boss,” he says. “I make a comfortable living: I’ve bought a house and have a decent car. I’m definitely making a living and loving what I do.”