Is there any sweeter gig than playing with pups all day and getting some fresh air and exercise while you’re at it? For all the pet lovers out there, a dog-walking service might seem like a perfect day job or side hustle.
It’s also one that implies a good deal of responsibility. You have lives in your hands (well, at the end of a leash), and you’re caring for other people’s most beloved creatures. And while we know you’ll take the greatest precautions possible and be extra attentive, it’s still a good idea to protect your dog walking business’s assets and reputation with a contract.
Learn what a solid dog-walking contract should entail and what bases it covers. After reading how to make your business more professional, you can get back to petting pups.
Why do dog walkers need a contract?
We may quip about protecting your tail with a pet contract, but you may wonder what having one can do for your business. You may also want to avoid thinking about situations where you’d need to invoke the contract's stipulations. We understand that. No one wants to have a negative experience with a client or an accident. But dog walking agreements aren’t just about protecting businesses from worst-case scenarios. They serve several other functions.
- Alignment with clients: A contract outlines what your services do and don’t entail, your responsibilities, and when and how you receive payment. Think of a contract as a guide to working with you. Your clients must understand and agree with all it entails before signing it.
- Compensation: A clearly laid-out contract must include your per-hour fee. It’s important for both parties to sign off on an agreed-upon payment to avoid any issues in the future.
- Professional safety: If you have a difficult client who demands more than the contract stipulates, you have your terms in writing to back you up. You can start with a friendly reminder, sharing an itemized list of agreed-upon services.
- Management: If you encounter a demanding client or someone with a specific request — say, they want you to sit their pet for a weekend — and you think you can handle it, create an amendment or second contract. However, if the request is undeniably complex, you can choose to politely decline the offer and share the contract’s copy with the client to ensure transparency.
Seek help from a legal professional to outline a neat and intelligent contract. You could also use a dog-walking contract template. However you establish your dog walking terms and conditions, double-check that your legal form contains all the following features:
- A detailed description of your services: If there’s any document that consists of the most minute level of detail, it’s a contract. Protect yourself by leaving no stone unturned and delineating what your services do and don’t entail.
- Where and when you perform your services: It’ll be easier to say no to that client that wants you to accompany them to their weekend home to care for their dog if you clearly cite where you perform your services. Also, establish when, as you may not want requests for walking dogs in the middle of the night.
- A cancellation policy: There’s nothing worse than getting out of bed in the morning ready to hang with some adorable dogs (and getting paid for doing so) only to receive a last-minute cancellation. Stipulate how many hours before a service a client can cancel without penalty. It’s also wise to include a clause that explains what happens if you have to cancel. Unforeseen circumstances can crop up for even the most organized professionals.
- The cost of your services: Clearly mention how much your services cost and reiterate what this charge covers. Include relevant due dates and information on the payment forms you accept. Try to make this section editable so that you can adapt it as needed. You could even use a client invoicing template within your contract to make things easier.
- Insurance: Explain what your insurance policy covers and who’s liable for any accident. Insurance policies may include general liability, animal bailee (protection against fires, theft, and attack), lost keys, and business personal property coverage.
- Emergency protocols: Establish an emergency guide so your client knows what steps you’ll take in case of an accident or sick animal. This part of the contract reassures both parties.
Other important documents
Contracts are robust and cover a good deal of the information you need to share with your clients before starting services. But a few other documents can help you round out their file and go into your first day of dog walking prepared. Consider creating the following documents as an addendum to your service agreement.
- An emergency contact information form
- A preferred veterinarian contact form
- The medical history for each dog you’ll be walking (including medical conditions, medications, and allergies)
- An informational sheet on the dog (the commands they understand, their fears, and behavioral tics)
- A socialization waiver that allows a pet owner to sign off on having their pet play and interact with other animals
- Vaccination records
You would probably visualize a dog walker as someone who’s getting pulled down the street by pups on 10 different leashes. While it seems challenging, it demonstrates that professional dog walkers are great multitaskers and organizers.
But even the most organized folks need administrative help. You’ve got to focus on those dogs leading you down the street, excited to get to the park. So consider getting a customer relationship management (CRM) system where you can store all your client data. Practice’s tool allows you to keep your customers’ personal information safe, send messages and documents (like your dog walker contract), and quickly receive secure payments. Try it today.