Improve your business
Guides & Templates
Mastering Taxes for Self-Employed Dog Walkers: Your Ultimate Guide

Mastering Taxes for Self-Employed Dog Walkers: Your Ultimate Guide

Optimize your small business with Acuity and Calendly scheduling tools. Boost efficiency, automate appointments, and grow client relationships.


Are you a dog walker or pet care business owner who loves your line of work but hates filing taxes?

If so, you're definitely not alone! Filing taxes can feel overwhelming for anyone, and it's even trickier if you're an independent worker or have a pet care business. It's not just about managing your earnings and expenses – you're also tasked with navigating the realm of self-employment taxes. This includes the likes of Social Security and Medicare taxes, which can add up quickly.

But here’s the good news… Despite essentially acting as your own business tax accountant, the silver lining of running a dog-walking business lies in the realm of tax deductions. You see, these deductions can help you reduce your taxable income and save you money overall.

In this article, we're going to break down the basics of self-employment taxes and explore the common tax deductions that pet care business owners can take advantage of. We'll also address some of the questions that often pop up about taxes for unique business owners such as yourself.

Whether you're running your own dog-walking or pet-sitting business, or you're working as an independent contractor with platforms like Wag or Rover, think of this guide as your roadmap. It'll help you confidently navigate the world of self-employed taxes while keeping both Uncle Sam and the IRS happy! 

What is Self-Employment Tax

If you're a dog walker, pet sitter, or you're running a pet boarding business, you're likely operating as a self-employed individual. That means you're your own boss and responsible for your own financial affairs, including taxes.

Think of self-employment tax as a close relative of the regular income tax that most people are familiar with. It's the way the government collects Social Security and Medicare taxes from individuals who work for themselves. When you work a traditional job, your employer takes care of part of these taxes for you. But when you're the one calling the shots, it's up to you to handle it.

The self-employment tax rate is 15.3%, which is split between Social Security (12.4%) and Medicare (2.9%). So, if you earn $10,000 from your pet care business, you'll owe $1,530 in self-employment tax.

Now, here's the kicker – when you're an employee, your employer splits that 15.3% with you. But as a self-employed dog walker or pet sitter, you're on the hook for the full amount. That's why keeping track of your income and expenses is crucial; it helps determine your actual taxable self-employment income and the corresponding tax amount you owe. Plus, you can also deduct certain expenses from your income, which can help reduce your overall tax bill. 

If you use platforms like Wag or Rover to connect with clients, it's important to be aware of their tax implications. These platforms typically classify you as an independent contractor. That means, once again, you're in charge of dealing with your own taxes.

Bottom line: Self-employment tax can be a bit daunting, but it's all part of the package when you're your own boss in the world of dog walking, pet sitting, or any other pet care business. By understanding the tax rules and keeping good records, you can ensure that you're paying the correct amount of taxes and avoiding penalties. 

Understanding What Tax Write-Offs Are for Dog Walkers and Pet Sitters

Just because you're an independent contractor doesn't mean you're out of luck when it comes to taxes – quite the opposite! You've got a powerful tool in your hands called tax write-offs. These magical deductions can work wonders for your bottom line by trimming down your taxable income and putting your hard-earned dollars back where they belong – in your pocket.

You see, tax write-offs, often referred to as tax deductions, are the secret weapons in the financial toolkit of dog walkers and pet care business owners. These deductions are legitimate business expenses that you can claim to lower your taxable income. 

By tracking and utilizing these deductions, you can minimize the amount of income that's subject to taxation, ultimately keeping more of your hard-earned money in your pocket. It's a strategic way to optimize your financial situation while ensuring that your pet care venture remains financially sound.

Here are some of the tax deductions that you may be eligible for as a self-employed dog walker, pet sitter, groomer, or dog trainer:

1. Mileage and Transportation Costs

Think of all the miles you put on your car as you move between dog walking and pet-sitting appointments. Well, those miles can translate into tax savings. Each mile you drive for your pet care services, such as dog walking or pet boarding, can potentially mean more money back when it's time to file your taxes.

2. Home Office Deductions

Your home isn't just your relaxation zone – it's also where you manage your pet care empire. If you've carved out a space for a home office, you're in luck. A portion of your home-related expenses, like rent, utilities, and even internet bills, could qualify as deductions on your income tax return.

3. Pet Care Supplies and Equipment

From leashes and doggie bags, to toys and treats, these items are the essentials for your dog walking business. This means, these items aren't just tools – they're also eligible for tax deductions. The money you spend on keeping tails wagging and pets safe can actually reduce the amount of money you're taxed on, leading to potentially lowering your taxable income.

4. Business Use of Your Vehicle

Your vehicle is more than just a means of transportation; it's a valuable asset for your pet care business. Whether you're traveling to dog walking appointments or pet sitting gigs, the wear and tear your vehicle experiences could lead to meaningful deductions. Think gas, repairs, and other vehicle-related expenses – each could play a pivotal role in your strategy to save on taxes.

5. Marketing and Advertising Expenses

When you're putting yourself out there as the dog walking expert, the costs of getting noticed – think flyers, ads, and promotions – can often be deducted. By boosting your business visibility, you're also potentially boosting your tax savings.

6. Professional Development and Training

Investing in your skills pays off in more ways than one. Training costs for dog walkers and pet sitters might just be the ticket to lowering your taxable income. So, every time you enhance your expertise, you're giving yourself a valuable edge in both your profession and your taxes.

7. Health Insurance Deductions

Your health is crucial, and so is being covered. The good news? You could be able to deduct a chunk of your health insurance premiums from your taxable income. It's like caring for your well-being and your finances all in one go.

8. Meals and Entertainment Expenses

Treating clients or networking pals to a meal? Those expenses could sometimes be tax-deductible, provided they're directly related to your dog walking service or pet car business. It's a delicious way to blend business and deductions.

Remember, these deductions aren't just random numbers on a form. They're the rewards for your hard work and smart financial choices.  By meticulously tracking your mileage, meticulously recording expenses, and skillfully deducting your business expenses, you transform into more than just an exceptional pet business owner – you become a tax-savvy expert.

Now that you have a thorough understanding of these tax-deductible write-offs, let's move on to our next important step.

Navigating Dog Walking Tax Forms and Filing Quarterly Business Taxes 

Understanding the ins and outs of dog walking taxes and quarterly business tax filing is crucial for independent contractors in the pet care industry. Here's a comprehensive guide to help you traverse this intricate landscape while staying on top of your financial responsibilities.

What Are Tax Forms? 

Tax forms are official documents used to report your income, expenses, deductions, and other financial details to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As a self-employed individual, these forms provide a comprehensive snapshot of your business finances and are a crucial part of fulfilling your tax obligations.

What Are Quarterly Taxes? 

Quarterly taxes are a method of paying your estimated tax liability in four installments throughout the year, typically due in April, June, September, and January. These payments are a way for self-employed individuals to meet their tax obligations on a more frequent basis, ensuring they don't face a large tax bill when the annual tax deadline arrives.

Now let’s look at…

Selecting the Appropriate Tax Forms for Your Dog Walking and Pet Sitting Business

To accurately report your self-employed income, you'll primarily work with the following tax forms:

  • Form 1040: This is the main tax form that every taxpayer uses to report their annual income and calculate their tax liability. Whether you're an employee or an independent contractor, you'll need to fill out this form.

  • Schedule C: Accompanying Form 1040, Schedule C is essential for reporting your business income and deductible expenses related to your dog walking or pet care services.

  • Schedule SE: This form calculates your self-employment tax, which covers Social Security and Medicare taxes. It's based on your net earnings from self-employment and helps you determine your required tax payment.

  • Form 1099-MISC: You may receive this form from clients or platforms like Wag and Rover if you’ve been paid $600 or more for your services. It's a record of your earnings that you'll need for accurate reporting.

Steps to Accurately Report Income and Deductions:

  • Gather Documentation: Collect records of all your earnings and expenses, including receipts for deductions like pet care supplies, travel expenses, and marketing costs.

  • Complete Schedule C: Transfer your business income and deductible expenses to Schedule C. Calculate your net profit or loss, which feeds into your Form 1040.

  • Calculate Your Tax: Use Form 1040 to figure out your overall tax liability, considering both income tax and self-employment tax.

  • File Quarterly Taxes: If your annual tax liability is expected to be over $1,000, you should make quarterly estimated tax payments using Form 1040-ES.

Note: Platforms like Wag and Rover provide tax documents like Form 1099-MISC that detail your earnings. Use these documents to accurately report your income on your tax return. Keep records of all your earnings from these platforms for proper tax reporting.

Now before you file taxes… 

Take Note of These Special Considerations and Deduction Benefits:

  • Reporting Threshold: If your net earnings exceed $400 in a year, you're required to file taxes as an independent contractor.

  • Tax Deductions: Remember tax deductions are your ally for your dog walking business. They include expenses like office supplies, marketing, travel, and more, all of which can lower your taxable income.

  • Medicare Surtax: High earners ($200,000 or more) may be subject to a 0.9% Medicare surtax on their net self-employment income.

By following these steps and understanding the nuances of tax forms, you're well-equipped to navigate dog-walking tax forms and effectively file your quarterly business taxes. Remember, while the process might seem intricate, it's an essential aspect of running a successful and compliant pet care business.

Common Questions About Dog Walker Taxes

Given the complexities of taxes for independent contractors, it’s only natural that you have additional questions regarding your dog-walking and pet-sitting business taxes. So, we decided to answer some of the most frequently asked questions below: 

Does Wag take out taxes for its dog walkers?

No, Wag does not take out taxes for its dog walkers. As a self-employed individual, you are responsible for paying your own taxes. This includes federal, state, and local taxes. It's important to set aside a portion of your earnings for tax payment, including estimated tax payments if applicable.

Is pet sitting considered a taxable service?

Yes, pet sitting is considered a taxable service. If you earn more than $400 in a year from pet sitting, you are required to report your income to the IRS. It's important to report your pet-sitting earnings on your tax return and pay the appropriate taxes on that income. Your adjusted gross income will include your pet-sitting earnings.

What tax deductions are available for dog walkers?

As mentioned above, dog walkers who are self-employed may be eligible for various tax deductions. Some common deductions include expenses related to transportation (mileage, gas, repairs), pet care supplies, advertising and marketing costs, home office expenses, business insurance, and more. These deductions can help lower your taxable income and reduce your overall tax liability. Seeking tax advice from a professional can help you navigate these deductions effectively.

Is dog-sitting income taxable?

Yes, dog-sitting income is taxable. Just like any other type of income, the money you earn from dog sitting should be reported on your tax return as taxable income. If you earn more than $400 in a year from dog sitting, you are required to report your income to the IRS.

Do you have to pay taxes on income earned through Rover?

Yes, you have to pay taxes on income earned through Rover. Rover is a platform that connects dog walkers and pet sitters with clients. However, Rover does not take out taxes for its walkers and sitters. As a self-employed individual, you are responsible for paying your own taxes.

What can you write off as a pet sitter?

Pet sitters, like other self-employed individuals, can also potentially write off various business-related expenses to reduce their taxable income. These may include pet care supplies and equipment, transportation expenses, and more. 

Keep in mind that tax laws can vary based on your location and personal circumstances, so it's recommended to consult with a tax professional or accountant for personalized tax advice.

State-Specific Tax Regulations for Pet Businesses  

While the overarching principles of self-employment taxes apply universally, it's essential to recognize that each state can have its own set of rules and regulations. 

Take Texas, for instance. While Texas generally doesn't apply a sales tax to services, there might be exceptions for specific services, including pet sitting. It's advisable to conduct research and verify if your pet-sitting services are subject to any potential sales tax implications in Texas. Staying informed about these possibilities can help you ensure that you're complying with the applicable tax laws and addressing any necessary tax obligations.

To navigate the complexities of state-specific tax regulations, it's highly recommended to conduct thorough research or seek professional guidance. Consulting with a tax advisor who is well-versed in the tax laws of your state can provide you with accurate information tailored to your location. This will help you ensure that you're meeting all your tax obligations, including potential sales tax requirements.

Remember, understanding and complying with state-specific tax regulations is crucial to avoid any unexpected liabilities or penalties. Taking the time to educate yourself about the tax laws in your state will contribute to a successful and smooth pet care business journey.

Stay Tax-Ready in Your Dog Walking Business: Experience the Power of Practice

With a more comprehensive understanding of how self-employed dog walkers and pet sitters navigate their taxes, it's evident that the challenges of tax season can still be quite overwhelming. Successfully managing the intricate aspects of your small business is no small feat, which is precisely why we want to help. 

Here at Practice, our all-in-one platform is designed to simplify your business operations and streamline the most intricate details of your dog-walking business, including your tax-related tasks.

Here are just a few of the benefits of using

  • Organized tax records: Our platform efficiently logs your financial interactions with clients, offering insights into your earnings and expenses. This insight proves invaluable when it's time to fulfill your tax obligations accurately.

  • Effortless invoicing and payments: Create invoices, set up payment plans, and even integrate with payment processors for smooth financial transactions. It's not just about getting paid – it's about keeping track of your earnings for tax purposes.

  • Secure file storage: Safely store all of your tax-related documents, from receipts to financial statements, ensuring you're well-prepared when tax season arrives.

  • Streamlined form management: Manage essential forms and agreements with ease, contributing to compliance and preparedness.

  • Client communication: Interact with clients through a unified portal, potentially facilitating the exchange of appropriate financial information and addressing inquiries.

  • Reminder features: Stay informed about important dates with scheduling and reminder functionalities, assisting you in staying on top of your commitments. 

With, you can dedicate your attention to your core pet care services. We'll handle the operational details.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up for a free trial of Practice today and start taking control of your business and your taxes!


Free content
Dog Trainer Contract Template

Legal is the least exciting part of a business. But it's important. We worked with our lawyers to create a dog training contract template, free for any dog trainer to use. Let us know where to send it:

Give your clients a simple and professional experience

Practice has scheduling, payments, client management, file storage and more — all in one place.
Try for free

Simple client management designed for teams

Delegate, collaborate, and oversee your client base across your team — without missing a step.
Learn more
Are you a coach? Take our quiz to find out if Practice is a good fit for you
Get started
Get a simple and professional experience for you and your clients
Get started
Text Link