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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Poop Scoopin' Boogie

I am a dog walker. If you haven't figured this out by now, you haven't been reading very carefully. I don't want to walk dogs for the rest of my life. If you haven't figured this out by now, you're not very smart. Just kidding. But seriously. Dog walking provides two very different lifestyles: there are those who are like me and are doing this as a way to earn money while doing something else (like school) and working towards something 'better' (like a real career), and then there are what I like to call 'career walkers'. These are the old men and women who may have started out on my path, but ended up getting stuck. They are (generally speaking) very difficult to be around, either because they lacked the social skills to succeed in another field, or because they are bitter about still walking dogs past the age of 40. Granted, there are exceptions to this rule; I happen to know an incredibly successful, incredibly cool dog walker who supposedly makes six figures, and she's perhaps the nicest, most socially capable person I've ever met. But I digress. My biggest fear, it turns out, is getting stuck in this job for far longer than I intended.

I will say, there are not many dog walkers with degrees. I'm not sure about college, but I seriously doubt there are many with graduate degrees. Maybe a few who started out wanting to be an accountant or something boring but realized they wanted nothing to do with a 9-5 desk job. But not many. Once I finish my thesis (which I am FINALLY working on again) I will have a Master's degree in ANIMAL BEHAVIOR. With that kind of credential, I really should be aiming higher than a professional pooper scooper. My supportive boyfriend has been coaching me on how to expand my walking business into a training business, but I have this ethical aversion to charging people for something in which I have no "official" training. I will say, I'm darn good at training dogs. My clients appreciate my skills, and tell me so quite frequently. But then they also flip out when I express even a flicker of an interest in leaving my dog walking business. What to do, what to do?

IF (and it's a big if) I decide to stay in NYC long term and develop a dog training business, it would behoove me to get certified as a trainer so I could a) sound more impressive and b) charge more. Alas, in order to become a certified trainer, you already have to be a professional trainer. What a circular situation THAT is... So in essence, I need to work for someone else first so I can get experience teaching classes, or I need to bite the bullet and offer my services privately without any official certification. My encouraging boyfriend wants to build me a professional website with my own domain name and a list of services offered (with prices, of course). The whole idea of having a legitimate, registered business scares the poo out of me, but also excites me. Not many people get to set their own hours, rules and salaries. But at the same time, there's a greater risk of failure. Am I willing to take that risk? Or am I going to keep applying for so-so jobs with organizations I believe in, hoping that at SOME point I'll be qualified enough to be hired? Or, will I get stuck in an eternal hell of needy clients and dog shit? Oh the possibilities...


  1. Do it. You have absolutely nothing to lose. You do what you do for free for one or two clients, those that you think can do you the most good. And then you use them as references and recommendations. Do it. Just do it. One of us has to have a real job...

  2. I have a friend from UM that is a certified dog trainer in Miami currently. She started her business on her own and is successful and loving it. Check out her website for some ideas! www.applauseyourpaws.com