Dog walking as a career means lots of fresh air, exercise, doggie kisses, and a bit more paperwork than you may expect.

One of the most important bits of paperwork is your dog walking contract.

But what do you need to include, and how do you write one?

You don’t need to write like a lawyer

If the thought of writing a contract gives you chills, don’t panic: you don’t need to write it in legalese. In fact, it’s a lot better if you don’t.

Your contract needs to be clear, understandable, and reasonable to both you and your customers. Plain English means less room for misunderstandings, so you can put away your dictionary.

Top tip: Set up your contract as a template and email yourself a copy. Even if you have a computer malfunction, you’ll be able to get your contract as long as you can access your emails. Make sure you send yourself a new copy every time you update it.

List all your services, add-ons, rates and payment details

A lot of dog walkers also offer things like day care, overnight boarding, and grooming. If you offer these, list them, along with your prices.

Be as detailed as possible. If you’re happy to give tablets but not clip claws for example, make sure that’s noted. Things like length of walks should be included, as well as group walk versus solo walk rates.

Include weekend, holiday, and out of hours rates, and in the case of group rates, how many dogs will be walked at the same time. Your insurance and local council may have restrictions on the number of dogs you can walk together. Dogs Trust professional walkers guidelines recommends at most six dogs in a group. Your insurer will probably follow this guideline, but always check your policy.

List your billing and due payment details as well as the payment method expected.

Top tip: Offer a picture of the dog on their walk as a texted picture as a free bonus.

Cancellation policies

Make sure you outline your cancellation and late cancellation policy clearly.

Most dog walkers will charge for last minute cancellations because of the impact on their schedules and income.

You also need to explain your arrangements for a cancellation from your side, and cover for when you take a vacation or fall ill.

Top tip: Network with other dog walkers in your area. If you have someone reliable to pick up jobs when needed, you can return the favour - and if either of you end up with an overflow of clients, you’ll both know who to call.

Insurance and liabilities

Include what your dog walking insurance covers, and what the client will be liable for in case of any accidents or incidents. Unless you employ somebody, you aren’t legally required to carry employers liability insurance in Ireland, but it makes good business sense.

If the dog runs away, gets injured, causes an accident or injures someone else or their pet, you want coverage if someone files a legal claim against you.

If you use a van or car for your business, your insurer will need to be notified.

Insurers will have a range of services and types of cover to choose from, so have a chat to your broker.

Top tip: Having your type of insurance noted reassures customers that you take your business and your furry charges seriously. Anyone with a valuable dog is unlikely to hire a dog walker without any insurance.

Doggy details

Your contract needs a section for the dog you’ll be walking. You’ll want the following details for every dog:

  • Dog name, and any other nicknames they respond to
  • Breed type, colour and any distinctive features
  • Whether the dog is chipped and if so, where registered
  • Emergency contact and vet details
  • Whether the dog can group walk or need to be walked alone, and what they’re like with other animals. You don’t want to be in the middle of a pack that’s chasing someone’s cat, or having a squabble - getting towed face down on the pavement is not fun. Neither are dog bites
  • Any medical conditions and what medications and dosage are needed for them
  • Any triggers or temperament issues

Top tip: You need a section for each dog, so if you’re walking multiple pooches from the same house, you must make sure you have all of the information for each animal.

Emergency procedures and other protocols

Have a section that outlines what you will do in case of an emergency. This should cover everything from notifying the emergency contact to getting an injured animal to the vet.

You should also have a section that covers unusual events that prevent you walking the dog, like dangerous weather. Nobody should expect their dog to be walked in a major storm, but when dealing with customers this needs to be laid out clearly.

Top tip: Having separate sections for each of these makes the contract easier to read for both you and your customers, even if each section is only a paragraph long.

Social media use

Most dog walkers will post pictures and videos to their social media and website. Dogs attract views, and cute or funny clips are a bonus.

Before you post anything showing a customer’s dog, make sure they are happy for you to do so – especially if you tag yourself in locations – and have a section covering this in the contract.

Some dogs are worth thousands, and by posting and by tagging the dogs you’re with in public you’re opening up an element of risk. It’s likely a very small risk, but be aware of it.

Top tip: Make sure your customer has the choice to opt out of this, and note it clearly on the contract.

Dog walker safety and equipment

Your safety as a dog walker is important and should be covered in the contract.

Most dog walkers will want to meet the animal before taking them on. A short walk around the block is also a good idea. This makes sure that you and the dog get along, and you are aware of their temperament before you get them on the lead in a public area.

Part of the safety protocol will be stipulating the collar type and harness or lead that the owner supplies. Make sure it’s not a flexi or retractable leash, and that the dog has ID tags on their collar.

If the dog needs a muzzle, this should be supplied by the owner. Again, this needs to be a decent quality muzzle that you can rely on, and that doesn’t hurt the dog or restrict their breathing.

If the dog is allowed off lead at any point, for example in a dog park, this needs to be covered in the contract, as well as whether the owner is happy for the dog to mingle on or off lead.

All dogs should be fully vaccinated and up to date with their shots. Unvaccinated dogs cannot be mixed into the usual walking group and should never be taken to a dog park, or allowed to mix with other dogs.

Top tip: Make sure you cover road safety protocol, route changes and weather conditions. For example: what will you do if a sudden lightning or snow storm catches you all outside?

Destination walks

If you live in an area with multiple dog-friendly destinations, these should be noted. It gives the customer options and presenting them can add a bespoke, tailored feel to your business.

Keep in mind, while every dog loves the beach and forest trails, their human might not want them in these areas. Some dogs are allergic to sand fleas, and some humans are allergic to certain plants. All dogs, when faced with a heavy patch of mud, will try and roll in it. If the dog is white and long-haired, it will probably swan-dive into it first.

Offering the choice to the owner cuts down the odds that you accidently end up in the wrong place and end up with an unhappy customer.

Top tip: A simple tick-box section that lets customers select where they’re happy for the dogs to go to makes it easy to select your walking group and destination.

Exceptions and negative policies

It’s just as important to outline what you will not do in the contract.

Some walkers won’t take dogs to a park, some are happy to do so. Some will give medication as needed, and others will not. Make sure your exceptions are noted in writing on your contract.

Top tip: If something is a sticking point for you, do not make an exception “just this once.” Your customer will expect it as a matter of course afterwards, and you will end up dreading the hours that dog is on the rota.

There are free dog walking contract templates available online. It’s probably worth your time to take one and adapt it to your needs. Alternatively, you can pop into your solicitor to have one drawn up and checked. Whichever route you go, make sure you have a signed and dated contract in hand before you set out for walkies.

Pictures references:

Pic 1: French bulldog dog waiting and begging to go for a walk with owner
ID number: 76034427
Artist: @ damedeeso

Pic 2: Professional Dog Walker Exercising Dogs In Park
ID number: 78452712
Artist: @ HighwayStarz

Update cookies preferences