Female business woman shaking hands with a client.What if you could make the same money you make, or even more, with fewer clients, while also enjoying calmer, easier behavior from the dogs you walk? Oh, and also smooth out your income so you’re no longer bouncing between bountiful months and tight ones? What if, while you’re at it, your dog walking service did more good for dogs and clients, too?

Achieving all of this is simply a matter of policy. Good policies are at the heart of all smoothly-run, efficient, sustainable dog walking businesses. Unfortunately, too many dog walkers suffer a lack of strong policies, or a discomfort enforcing them.

The result? Stress. The stress of unpredictable, inconsistent income. The stress of walking under-exercised dogs, overly-excitable dogs. The stress of extra admin work and client contacts.

Policies—or a lack thereof—have consequences. Here’s what you can do…

Require consistency
The more consistently clients use your service, the more you, your business, the dogs, and clients themselves benefit.

In the Dog Walking Academy, we teach walkers how to craft policies like set and minimum days, which require clients to send their dogs out on the same days every week and to commit to enough days to see a difference in their dog’s behavior at home.

Not only do clients benefit from this, and dogs get the exercise they need, but you enjoy calmer, safer walks with dogs who walk regularly enough to learn and fall into your rules and routines.

These policies provide more predictable income and release from the administrative hassles of taking weekly reservations and creating weekly walk schedules. You also have fewer clients to care for, as you don’t need so many to make sure you keep your schedule full.

Whatever your policies look like, your goal should be moving away from drop-in and as-needed walking services that are better left to pet sitters. Focusing instead on serving clients with regular needs will make running your dog walking business far easier.

Stop the bleeding
Cancellations are a killer. I encourage you, if you haven’t, to run your numbers. Count the number of cancellations you get each year and multiply by your walk rate. Chances are you’ll be stunned—and dismayed—by the resulting number. Can you really afford to lose that money every year?

Part of requiring that your services be used on a consistent basis is curbing cancellations. Most dog walking business cancellation policies are really notice policies—a request to be informed by a certain time if their service isn’t needed. Such 24, or 48, or 72-hour notice policies are not true cancellation policies because they don’t serve the intended goal, which is to keep from losing revenue.

Many walkers are beginning to move toward monthly flat fees, paid up front before the month begins, with no cancellation credits. The idea behind this policy practice is to shift client perspective from paying for a service rendered (i.e., paying for walks after they happen) to paying to reserve one of a limited number of spaces. This is a common model for similar human services like child daycare, private schools, even gym memberships. And it is a much more financially sustainable one.

At the very least, you want to craft a policy that limits the number of credited cancellations (for example, two weeks of “excused absences” per year) so that you can minimize and predict losses, and enjoy more reliable income.

Policies—and behavior—have consequences
How you choose to structure your dog walking business has a huge impact on how you enjoy it—on how much time you spend walking versus scheduling, on how calm and well-behaved the dogs are, on how well you sleep at night knowing all your bills are covered.

But good policies are only as good as their enforcement. You must set aside the fear that new clients won’t choose you and that current clients will abandon you should you choose to run your business more effectively. If you’ve chosen your clients well, they will respect your decisions. And here’s one more secret to dog walking success: The more competently and confidently you run your dog walking business, the more you’ll draw the right clients and the more in demand you’ll be. But the cool thing is that your policies mean you won’t have to work nearly as hard.


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