If you are thinking of starting a dog walking business, then making a schedule for all your walks is not as easy as you think. You want to minimize travel time between dogs so that you can walk as many dogs as possible. But you also have to keep to the time range that your client requested. I share all the methods I use to do all of that, and what to do when you need to squeeze in additional dog sitting clients.
Schedule for a dog walking & pet sitting business
If you are just starting a dog walking business then you need to decide on a number of things that will affect your daily schedule. Think about the following questions to determine the type of business you want and can handle:
1. Will you walk more than one dog at a time (pack walks)?
You make more money with pack walks but there are a lot of considerations to take into account. First, your clients have to know that you are doing that. Also, you need to be highly skilled in determining each dogs’ behavior. You can not have one clients’ dog attack and injure, or kill, another one of your dogs. You’ll lose your business and maybe even be sued.
2. What length of walks do you offer (15, 20, 30-minute, other)?
The longer the walk, the fewer dogs you can walk unless you do pack walks. And since longer walks tend to have lower rates, you earn less money per hour. For example, I offer a $12 15-minute walk and a $19 30-minute walk so I make $7 for the 2nd half of the walk. Thirty-minute walks only make sense if you do pack walks, have additional walkers, or money isn’t your main focus.
3. Are you free all day on weekdays? When will/can you start and when is your last walk?
The majority of clients want walks between 11 am and 1 pm. I personally start as early as 10 am and my last walk ends after 3 pm. If you have other obligations throughout the day then that will affect your schedule.
4. Will you walk puppies and elderly dogs?
Puppies and elderly dogs tend to need specific times for their walks. Often you will have double walks for these dogs because they can not hold “it” as long.
5. Will you walk 2 or more dogs for clients who have more than one dog?
This, of course, applies to pack walks, but some people own more than one dog. Are you willing to do that?
6. Do you also offer pet sitting?
You will sometimes have to fit in dog walks for pet sitting clients with dogs. You need to take those walks into account.
The answers to those questions determine the actual schedule of your daily dog walks.
Weekday dog walking schedule
I’ve noticed 2 things over the 10+ years that I’ve been walking dogs: Thursdays have ALWAYS been my busiest day and Fridays are ALWAYS the lightest day. I like light Fridays, but I have to follow the best route for every Thursday.
Here are a number of things you need to think about or ask your client:
1. Ask each client their preferred walk time
You need to find out what time the new client prefers for their dog walk. Almost everyone will say “...between Noon and 1:00”. Everyone wants that time slot. Older clients get priority over new clients. Explain to them the time(s) you have available or give them a time range like plus/minus 30 minutes of their ideal time.
DO NOT commit to an exact time unless it’s a puppy (see below).
2. Puppies and older dogs need to have a tighter schedule
Puppies and senior dogs can’t hold it so if you say you can do an exact time then you need to do that time. I would still mention a plus/minus 15-minute range because of traffic, weather, etc.
3. Fitting in pet sitting walks
If you have a pet sitting client who has a dog then you may have to do weekday walks. It’s not uncommon for clients to need 3 walks per day for a week. You need to fit in the pet sitting dog as close to midway between the AM and PM walks. I offer walks/visits of 8:00 AM, 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM. Pet sitting dogs get higher priority for the 2 PM walk because it’s been 8 AM since you last walked then and the next walk is 8 PM. Although, between 1:30 and 2:30 should be fine.
4. Do you best to travel in a circle
This is where the plus/minus 30 minutes comes in to play. You don’t want to be losing time and burning gas for no reason. Sometimes you do have to go back and forth between 2 areas because of the clients’ preferred time but schedule each walk as close to the next walk as possible.
5. Take into account weather and construction, delivery trucks, road work, etc.
Check your local news each morning. Make sure you are aware of road construction or massive traffic situations. Snow will also make travel slow but you will probably have a lot of cancellations anyway. Count yourself lucky if it doesn’t snow where you live.
6. Excel, Google Sheets, or other scheduling software
I’m old school. I don’t use online anything for my dog walking schedule. Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets will do everything that you need. I also do not want my clients’ information in the cloud.
My weekly schedule (image above) has columns for Sunday through Saturday with time increments where I enter each pets’ name. I write the names down on a small notepad and grab the keys I need for the day.
Weekend Dog Walking Schedule
You will rarely have weekend dog walks for your weekday dog walking clients, although they will occasionally need a Saturday or Sunday walk. I make the majority of my money from my dog walking clients, so if they need a weekend or night walk, then I do it.
The weekend days are mainly for your pet sitting clients. Remember that the pets are alone so you can not forget to make a visit. You also can’t be late for morning visits, especially for the dogs who have not gone for a walk since 8 PM the previous night.
Schedule your dog and cat sitting visits so that you know your night and weekend schedule. We don’t want any unhappy dogs or kitties or have to clean up a mess in a clients’ home.
Excel or Google Sheets settings
I created a dog walking schedule template which I uploaded to my Google Drive and published it to the web. It is an OpenDocument Spreadsheet (*.ods). Feel free to download it and make changes that fit your business.
If you are not familiar with that file format, it should open up in newer versions of Microsoft Excel, as well as free programs like LibreOffice. Clicking on the link will download the file to your computer then you can open it in a spreadsheet program like Excel.
I can’t go into all the equations as that would be an article on Microsoft Excel. Just ask someone you know who knows Excel or watch some videos. Here are some of the features in that document:
1. Conditional formatting for names, meetings, questions (see image above)
Most of the colored cells in the spreadsheet have conditional formatting. When there is not anything in the cell, it has the white default color. I create different colors for pet names (yellow), important meet and greets with new clients (green), and blue for walks that are uncertain.
It makes entries stand out and I know exactly what is going on. All yellow entries are visits I have to make, and blue entries are for walks or visits but I haven’t gotten a confirmation from the client.
2. Using the =counta(range) equation to count the number of entries per day (walks or visits)
This equation is a sum function but for text entries as opposed to numbers. I use it as a quick double-check against my dollar page. If I visually count 10 walks on a Tuesday (Dollar tab), then that number on the schedule page should be 10 as well. If not, go look at the dollar tab to see what you missed.
3. Dollar tab (image below)
This tab sums the money for the week and is what I use to enter the dog/pet names on the schedule tab.
4. Past years and past weeks.
My spreadsheet has all my past year’s dollar tabs. I also copy each week $’s to “Past Weeks” which will become a past year at the end of the year.
5. Client Information tab (image below)
This is where I have the name, address, home address and email address for each client. You do not want your clients’ information in the cloud. I use the info as a record and for when I need to send emails to all my clients.
This is a tab I use for keeping track of all my online reviews.
So those are the individual tabs or sheets that I have in the OpenDocument Spreadsheet which you can download. I have another tab called SMO for Social Media Optimization where I have all the links to the social media sites associated with my website.
You need to keep an accurate record of all your walks and pet visits and any changes that your clients make. It can become overwhelming if you choose to do it on paper.
Take a look at my How To Start A Dog Walking Business (Final Thoughts) for links to all my articles on starting your pet business.