Wag More With Wagging Tail Dog Walkers
Posted by in community on Feb 1, 2013
by Guest Blogger, Jaimal “Jackson” Warfield of Wagging Tail Dog Walkers.
“In times of joy, all of us wished we possessed a tail we could wag.”
W. H. Auden
It’s been over five years now that I co-founded Wagging Tail Dog Walkers, but when someone asks me what I do for a living, I still crack a smile when I say to them, “I walk dogs.”
I quickly became used to responses of disbelief or people thinking I was just joking around, because although the dog walking and pet sitting industry has been around for decades, it has been and largely remains an industry that is known to few. There is no formal training, no certification, no dog walking university, and probably the biggest reason, it is an industry that favors independent entrepreneurs over big companies.You don’t see dog walkers advertising on billboards, you don’t hear about them on the radio. When looking around for a dog walker or pet sitter, most people aren’t going to search on the internet or the yellow pages, they are going to ask around to people they trust, because trust is the most important factor in this industry.
While the actual walking part is simple, (though not always easy…ever been dragged down the street by a 100 pound Rottweiler who just wants to say hi to everyone and everything? Or tried to carefully pick up something stinky from the ground with two leashes in one hand, gloves under your arm and an umbrella supported by your neck and shoulder?) there is much more to being a successful dog walker.
You have to be trustworthy, reliable, flexible and available to meet the needs of your customers, which can and do change frequently. About 50% of my business is from customers who have set schedules and can therefore give me set schedules for walks, and the other 50% is made up of customers whose needs, workload and shifts change weekly.
Occasionally I get last minute calls, which I always try to accommodate, when someone gets stuck in traffic or wants to meet friends after work and not have to rush home or feel guilty for making their dog have to wait an extra hour or two to go out.
And every now and then there are “lock outs,” when somehow the dog walker is the only one around with a house key, haha. There are also house sitting visits, to bring in mail and packages, or swinging by to make sure the gas stove wasn’t left on. The benefits of having a dog walker go on and on!
I started Wagging Tail Dog Walkers with a friend in 2007 by stapling up 20 fliers around town. Soon after, I had the opportunity to do some traveling, which I have always loved, but I returned to Portsmouth in 2009 and have been running the business ever since.
Now, four years and thousands of walks later, I look back and realize how entwined I have become with many people, entirely through their dogs. Some older dogs have passed on and new puppies have taken their places, customers have married (even two separate ones to each other!), bought houses and introduced new baby members to their packs. I still think about dogs who I used to walk whose owners moved away and sometimes want to email them and ask how so and so is doing, and to give him a scratch behind the ears for me.
Along with looking back, I am also looking forward. Reactions these days, when I tell people I am a dog walker, are not as entertaining (often, “oh, nice! I want your job!” or “I’ve heard of that!”), and that’s because the industry is growing and becoming more widely recognized. Because of that recognition and demand, for the first time since starting out, I have hired help and have been enjoying introducing another walker to “my” dogs, whose tails just keep on wagging.
Along with walking, we are now doing more regular trips to Peirce Island and occasionally the beach in the off – season. I’ve always believed in the saying, “a tired dog is a good dog,” and I look forward to growing Wagging Tail and helping people with their dog walking needs.
About Wagging Tail Dog Walkers:
Wagging Tail Dog Walkers provides individual dog walking services to the Portsmouth area and group trips to the park.
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