The cost of hiring a dog walker in Melbourne
Hidden costs that a Good Pro dog walker has to pay.Car maintenance costs and Fuel typically takes up about one quarter of my dog walking income. If we factored in depreciation, so we could actually replace the car, the costs would be closer to one third.A good dog walker will have dog public liability, a website they need to maintain, advertising costs, buy dog treats for daily feeding and recall. So yes, easily one third of a dog walkers’ income can be removed by ongoing costs.How does dog walking fees compare with the average job?
We accept that dog pick up, part time, dog return and client email reports may only take up to 4 hours per day. But it’s not always easy to find another part time job for just the afternoons each day that has any decent pay.Let’s begin with the concept of the average wage in Australia being near $60k per annum. This wage will include holiday pay, superannuation and many things that casual jobs like dog walking do not provide.
But if we just halved the income of the average wage for comparison, then that would be $30KSome articles out there suggest that a dog walkers fee should be $25 per dog and a maximum of four dogs. They also talk about discounts for multiple walks per week and discounts for walking two dogs from the same owner.
All of these things could potentially drop that single fee down to closer to $20 per dog.If you have the recommended maximum (also a push by councils to limit the number of dogs allowed), then a dog walker would be getting $80 per day (four dogs). And with ONE THIRD in costs, that total fee would reduce to closer to $53 per four hour day. Times that by 45 weeks, and the annual wage after costs, but before taxes would be: 53 x 5 x 45 = $12K per year.I guess that solves the tax issue (under the threshold for a single job), but clearly not a liveable wage.
Why should a dog walkers wage be $40 per dog per walk?For one thing, a $25 fee, (or $20 if you take into account discounts and cancellations during most holidays) doesn’t account for the cost of operating and maintaining or replacing a vehicle.Clients expect that a vehicle that their dogs are in should be safest and probably moderately modern, but how can that be, when the average dog walker wage can be as low as $12K per year?A good dog walker goes out in cold, windy, rainy and warm conditions. They don’t choose the weather. They don’t get paid for discomfort.A dog walker takes the risk of keeping their pack safe with whatever other dogs they encounter in the dog park.
SO, they personally take on the risk of dog bite, or even threats of violence from other owners (yes I have seen this first hand).A dog walkers car needs to be cleaned more regularly, and because of the carriage of animals the car usually becomes single purpose – most people don’t appreciate that strong dog pack smell for regular family activities.We spend a considerable amount of money on website maintenance and operation, on website promotion costs (a monthly recurring fee) etc. This all comes out of the very low weekly income. If enough new dogs are not taken on to account for current clients moving suburbs etc, then the business will fold.
I have had council parking fines, for parking for five minutes in a loading zone directly outside of the business that I was picking a dog up from. The local council said that because I didn’t permanently mark my car with a painted logo on the side of it, and opted for a large bright magnet instead, I had to pay the $100 fine, essentially wiping out two days of net income in one hit.So when anyone argues that dog walker fees are too expensive.
That an experienced dog walker taking on all the risks and debt to just maintain their business. For the walk keeping these dogs safe and fit and healthy and happy for $20 to $25 a day.
Then think about how much they really provide.Some people will then say that a dog walker should do two or three pack walks per day. Assuming that this many clients contact a walker and everything is suitable, this is impractical for at least one third of the year because of warmer weather, and each off lead walk done properly can take a surprisingly large amount of energy making multiple walks impractical.
Each walk will of course increase fuel and car maintenance costs and most walker know that unless a dog is walked relatively early in the morning, they can suffer considerable angst and separation anxiety before being picked up for a later in the day walk.
What motivates a Melbourne dog walker?I have previously posted many articles on the benefits of dogs walking for a dog.The actual dog physical exercise can often be a relatively small part of what the dog gets. There are massive mental benefits, ease of movement of joints, socialisation etc.And I have also written many articles on what benefits owners typically think they are getting. The truth is that many owners purely see that their dogs are unhappy and they are looking for an easy fix.
They think that their dogs are bored or there is something missing. Other owners have dogs that dig out of their yards or bark continually, and they are looking at reducing these issues. But the truth is that dog walking simply balances the vast majority of regular dogs, and the simple process of associating with their own, provides such a calming factor when they get home and come down from the rush of doing what’s natural, running, walking and playing with their own kind in a LARGE OPEN area, off lead.
So back to the title, I believe that for the simple fact of the appalling annual wage, that true high-quality dog walkers are motivated by the change they see in the dogs in their pack.They actually want to profoundly benefit each and every dog, and how it interacts with nature and the other dogs, because they were born to love and understand dogs.
To keep them safe and to coax them out of themselves if the dogs are shy or anxious.I get many resumes from prospective walkers, some very eager. A lot of back-packers, a lot of people in university or just out. A lot of people saying how they love their dog, or that they have had experience with walking a few dogs for someone back in the day.But also there are a lot of people just wanting money and willing to do anything. They don’t have a deep or true calling for walking dogs. I have to say it took a few years before I really started to feel confident in what I was doing.
So many different breeds, and personalities among each of those breeds. Things to look out for with young and older dogs. Dogs on medications. Dogs susceptible to suffering in cold or warm conditions.An excellent dog walker will not have any distractions like music or radios, they will be focused on the pack, who is not keeping up and who needs to be motivated to join in, or to cool their level of play down.
They have to communicate their packs needs with other owners they meet in the park, with authority but not aggression.There are a million tiny and large things that a good dog walker takes care of automatically that almost no client can perceive. And yet it is one of the most underpaid jobs in the world. Go figure.