Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The Joy of Six

I've just picked up another dog. Bit of a struggle, he's a big one! GSD based muttley by the look of him. He looks a bit like my dog Buster who died last year, but not enough to make me cry, which is a good thing. He gave me a jolly good wash at the interview! After trying to stick his nose in my bag, which all the dogs seem to do. When I'm working the bag sits on a kitchen counter or a table, but at the first meeting stage I think it's better not to make myself too much at home!

This owner found me by my website, through a search engine which really pleased me. All the hard work my lovely friend put in obviously worked!

The trouble is, now I really am full (except on Fridays, which is nice ready for the camping season to get away early!), yet still one third away from my target sales. I have been putting some adverts out there for cat care, but depending on where they are I may still not be able to take more than one or two at a time. This has not gone entirely to plan.

I am going to approach a couple of people I know to see if they are interested in some work, otherwise I may have to advertise to see if I can take on a couple of people to help out. One of the dogs is most likely going to be 'termtime' only, so if I can find someone who wants to earn a bit extra while the kids are at school then that would be ideal.

I'm finding it hard to believe I have enough work to pass on already. Although admittedly if I'd managed to get dogs that could walk together I should be able to do 9 (3 walks of 3 dogs) a day with no problems, which would give me my target sales, as well as a waistline Twiggy would envy. Ah well, eventually the pups will grow old enough to walk with the big growed up doggies, or even each other!

Monday, 29 December 2008

Back to Work

Well, in a kind of 'semi-working' way.

This morning I have an hour's work, tomorrow, two hours, and Friday, one or maybe two. So it's not exactly strenuous labour at this time of the year. Work really begins again on 5th Jan, when I'll be walking the grand total of... da da da da ta ta da... five dogs throughout the week (but not every day).

Two days I'll find it hard to squeeze any more in, but the other days I still have spaces. It takes some organising, this job. Should I be taking on part-timers? How am I going to fill in those spaces during the week if I can't take another dog on full time? Where will I find dogs who only want a walk on a Friday?

I've got to redo some of my advertising. A lot of walkers fill up with cats, especially over xmas. I got one enquiry but it was too far away, so I need to focus my advertising there. Also I wondered if I should be putting posters up where people might have pets but are unable to walk them. Shame there is no local hospital! If someone is home all day but unable to get out, timing of the walk won't matter and I can take on more dogs.

The council are apparently confused by my request for home boarding. One of the councillors emailed me this: "A kennel is subject to licensing so that certain standards of kennel etc. can be ensured however, if you are keeping them in your house they don't really know what applies!"

I'm not in a rush, Fred has told me he's not ready yet, but really I only want to offer overnight care, maybe a weekend, or to take in a pup to cover a family day out and that's a short enough time he can be sent to his room! I don't think I'd want a dog here for weeks at a time, unless it was one of my walking customers. Boarding is very different from fostering.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Two Down

Today was the last day of the first of my dogs to take a Christmas holiday. She's a pup, so I expect her to be the size of a small pony when I see her again. Her owners kindly bought me a lovely basket of goodies, which looks so pretty that I don't really want to unwrap it. In fact, if it wasn't for the chocolates it has inside, I'd frame it!

I also met another pup for our first visit. I'll be taking him on after the new year but covered a day out for the family. How cute is he!? As long as my boot, and half as tall. I'm already in love. The owners have booked a consultation with a behaviourist for tomorrow. Prevention is better than cure and it's part of my 'Puppy Package' to recommend it to new owners.

Tomorrow I will be seeing my 'occasional' pup, so it's been a real puppy week!

Over the weekend, I've got to concentrate on some non-dog areas of my business - I want to do some pet sitting as well, so need to aim my advertising at cats, and put it in places cat people go. Ideally I'd have had some cats to look after over the holiday to replace some of the dogs who are having time off, but I have been working so hard to get more dogs it's been badly neglected and now I'm paying the price with a very quiet Christmas.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Carrying Capacity

On Sunday I managed to get 6 dogs into my van. I was very impressed!

My mum and I went out for a walk with all our dogs. I had thought I could probably get at least one more crate in there, and I managed to squeeze Fred's small one in. Two of Mum's Yorkies went in there, Fred and Beauty were in their own crates, and Mum's other two dogs sat in the space that was left. Not ideal if we'd been making a long trip, and I certainly wouldn't be walking six dogs at a time for work, but it was nice to see them all settled in nicely. I wish I had thought to take a photo!

I am still saving for a bigger van anyway.

New Dog

This morning I will be walking an elderly cairn terrier for the first time. He's blind, or mostly blind so I've taken lots of notes from the owner, and done some research online.

It sounds reasonably simple for me, as most of the work has been done by the owner, I just have to remember to use 'up' and 'down' for kerbs. I thought I might wear a bell, so he knows where I am when we are out. We will be onlead, but there is a green where he can have a long lead walk so I thought it might be useful. I have a 'belly dancers' belt, with is a long line of little coin shaped bits of metal. I love wearing it, jingle jangling around but am never quite brave enough to wear it out of the house. Now I have an excuse!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Home Boarding for the Future?

It looks like the possibilty of home boarding might be on the horizon. I gave up the idea because of the local council's licensing being rather behind the times, and because Fred's behaviour at home wasn't really ideal.

As Fred's behaviour is improving, I've started looking more into it and finding out information from other Essex councils about how they deal with it. I have passed some of this information over to my council and they have said they will look into it, contact the other councils (who they claimed were ahead of their time) and perhaps put it to the committee. The whole process, if it goes ahead, could take three months, which is ideal really, as by then I will know for sure whether Fred is settled enough to be able to take in paying customers (his behaviourist said that it would be doable if I stick to the programme).

So fingers crossed! I was told I didn't need to contact councillors, but there is one who has a lot of interest in dogs so I might drop her a line anyway.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

And a Yes!

I've picked up another customer, but something is out to ruin my plans to earn enough money to become independant and pay my own mortgage once again.

My business plan revolves around walking three dogs, three times a day. Not necessarily the same dogs each time, but that was the plan. At the moment none of my dogs can be walked together, and only one with my dogs, and that one only once a week as she's still a pup and needs plenty of attention. In about four months I should be able to match her with another pup I am taking on after Christmas, but of course they'll both be at different stages of the 'who needs you?' phase and perhaps it won't seem like such a good idea. And of course, it's four months away.

Oh well, let's hope the writing work comes in to fill in some of the time, or I may need to apply for a job as a lollipop lady. In the meantime, I'm off to feed and walk the freeloading pair that live with me. ;)

Monday, 8 December 2008

More Nos

A mix of no to fixated with shadows, no to training, and no to home boarding.

It's a bit miserable this job sometimes. :( I have referred them all to colleagues, and if this keeps happening I plan to ask for a referral fee! I'm generating the publicity and passing most of the work on! Seems as if I'm working my socks off to try to bring in customers and other people are benefitting from the results.

On the other hand, I have a meeting this evening with someone who actually wants me for what I am - a dog walker!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Knowing When to Say No

Just had a lovely chat on the phone with a potential customer. Sadly I can't help her, as she wants some one-to-one help with a few problems her new 7 month old rescue dog has got.

I'd really love to help out, but with the problems she describes I may do more harm than good. If it were a foster dog I'd be happy to take it on, but of course I'd have expert back up for advice, and the tiny amount of experience at instructing people I do have is again with expert back up. I certainly don't think my first time alone helping a person should be with a dog with issues.

My next training course isn't until August next year, but of course it's in handling, not instructing.

I've referred her to a colleague who is more qualified and should be able to help.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Out of town bookings

I've had a request to look after a couple of cats over Christmas/New Year. Obviously I can't have them in the house, so have to travel to the cats, and they are in another town, so an hour's travel per visit.

After a couple of hours fiddling with a spreadsheet (not my strong point!) I've worked out that it is going to cost the customer more for my travel (bearing in mind there is a chance of snow and definitely will be lots of frost!) than to actually look after the cats.

I've done some fiddling and can get the cost down a decent amount if I visit once a day instead of twice, but I can't help but think this will be the one that got away.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

First Aider

I have now been on my First Aid for Dogs course and graduated with the rest of the class.

We learnt how to deal with wounds, burns, bleeding and shock, poisoning, drowning and CPR among other things. I had a go at CPR on their dummy, and bandaged an ear, paw and tail on a stuffed Golden Retriever. Of course, these pretend animals don't wriggle about, so we were shown some ways to restrain dogs nicely, but firmly.

I've now got a certificate to go in my information pack, a full first aid kit for the van (which is now bigger than my 'human' first aid kit) and a smaller, basics only kit to carry on walks.

This is one part of my business I hope I never need, but it's good to feel prepared.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

The Interweb

I really need some presence on the web, so I've got a friend creating a website for me, which is very good of him. I just need to find some time to write the content for it! I've got most of it through the adverts I've written, so it shouldn't take long.

Also I've got ads on Vivastreet, Gumtree and Preloved and slowly enquiries are coming in. It gives me some time to check out the competition as well - on one site most of the other dog walkers are over 20 years younger than me. I have put my age on my ads, as I hope my experience and professionalism will count for something - as all these teenagers are very cheap.

You get what you pay for!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


Yes, it's great. It may have found me a new customer.

While in a muddy field with one of my pups, a little Cav pup came over to say hello. My pup, being a Weimy was very bouncy and the Cav jumped up at me a few times (probably thinking 'save me! save me!) and left me covered in mud. Her owner rushed over to apologise and we got chatting for a couple of minutes.

I left her my business card and she may call - her current dog walker won't let her pup off the lead, and seeing me with my charge off lead made her think she might like to change walkers.

I've added a couple of ads to Vivastreet and Gumtree, and I think it was this week that my ad was supposed to be in a local free paper. Which I haven't had, so I must chase that up.

I also realised I threw away a note from a customer thanking me for clearing up her dog's diarrhea (obviously I scoffed the choccies). I think I should have kept that as a testimonial for my info pack. I will be spending the morning going through the recycling bag!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Legs Aching!

I don't think I've felt so tired for a long time.

It's been four days of walking my two, then two Great Danes (one at a time) who are very good but there is always a slight strain on my arms, and the very bouncy and constantly trying to eat everything she shouldn't including fag butts, stones and twigs Weimeramer puppy. She is very good on the lead, can do close heelwork but usually we just wander with her on a loose lead - and of course I'm forever picking things out of her mouth. I've given her a toy to carry on a couple of occasions and that works really well with plenty of encouragement.

Anyway - that works out to approximately four hours walking, plus another, say, 30 mins in and out of houses, feeding etc, then another 30 mins of driving - which is a nice sit down, but with all the roadworks in my town at the moment can feel like I've walked every inch.

I knew I would be tired, so I've been trying to get early nights but oh my poor legs! Hopefully my fitness will catch up before I pick up another daily customer. I have some 'on and off' weekend customers, just looking after the dog when the owners go out for the day so I hope to manage as I am for a while.

Fridays I get a day off from the Weimy, so I'll take mine for Fred's once a week offlead walk in the park, then the dogs can chill in the car for an hour while I walk the Danes.

I am enjoying it very much though - even clearing up poo doesn't seem so bad when there's a dog giving me kisses for doing it.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Car Crates

Finally I've got a new large crate for the van. I've removed Beauty's XX large crate so that I can get Fred's in, and I think if I jiggled them around a bit more I'd get Fred's smaller crate in as well, so three dogs can travel in safety. Most doggy travel won't be huge distances, but I will have to try to take on customers in batches of three - one small, one medium, one large.

I have begun yearning for a tardis. I'd like a bigger van inside, so I can have some proper crates built in, with enough space that Fred and Beauty's can be solely for them, with no paying passengers 'borrowing' their spaces. Be nice to have a hand washing area, and a couple of seats up front. But I don't want to lose that 'park anywhere, go anywhere' feeling I get with my current van. Luckily I don't have a few grand hanging around burning a hole in my pocket, so will have some time to think about it!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Another Customer

I am going out to meet another dog today - a little puppy, 13 weeks old, just needs a babysitter for a day at the weekend. The owner is really anxious about leaving the little thing, but has a sick relative she wants to visit. It means she won't be a regular customer, but if I do well there may be other babysitting days in the future.

Obviously I am sorry about her relative, but this it is pleasing to see that the target markets I identified on my business plan are slowly coming in. I was right that they would be mostly female, haven't had a bloke ring up yet!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Good News for Me

My terms and conditions have been okayed by my solicitor, so I can now ask customers to sign a registration form saying they agree to them.

I've also got two new dogs - Great Danes! Another dog walker has apparently given up so I have inherited one of her customers. I have traced her via the interweb and am trying to contact her to see whether she will leave my number with any of her other customers if she has them. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

My current pup is now able to go out for walks, so we've been doing 20 minutes round the block.

My new dogs start next week.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The Phone is Busy

Yesterday I had three calls for work! I am still a little bit surprised that people are phoning, despite all I've been doing to encourage dog-owners to contact me! I assume I will eventually get used to this.

Mostly it seems to be people getting puppies soon and wanting to set up a dog walker in preparation. I thought I'd get older dogs, but I suppose that people with older dogs already have a routine and don't need new people.

For someone who always said puppies are not her thing I am getting a little bit persuaded that perhaps they are more interesting than I expected. Such a blank canvas to paint on. Scary in a way.

My current pup is now fully vaccinated, although it will be another week or two until she can go out, so I am working on getting her to sit still nicely for her lead to be put on, as well as trying to teach her to walk nicely when she is on it. I am also feeding her half her dinner in my van, so by the time she is old enough to go out to the park she won't think twice about travelling. The other half of her dinner is used for training (sit is fantastic, recall 100% around the house and garden, down, not so good but working on it) with a little scattered on the patio to really get her sniffing. She has some treats as well, which she gets as a bonus for doing fabulous work. I think she prefers her dinner though, as when she's done well I drop it on the floor, where it clatters. I think I have clatter trained her, and the treats don't clatter!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Slowly Moving in the Right Direction

Things seem to be going the right way, I am getting customers calling up. I can't take every job, I have to be especially careful of boarders that they get on with Fred and if there is a clash of any kind I have to say no.

Giving out cards to all and sundry seems to be working - people are passing my number on to other people they know if they mention needing a dog walker etc. No more new customers yet, but we all have to start somewhere. My current job has doubled - I've been booked for four days a week from next week, which leaves me one day free for my office job. Hopefully I can keep that going as long as possible, but eventually I will have to give that up. Obviously being busy enough to keep myself going is a good thing, but I like working there and enjoy the company of other adults.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

I really, really..

... want to ring the pup's owners today to make sure she was okay with her other carer today.

I have been trying to think of a catchy strapline for the business, and all I can think of now is 'We care TOO much'... 'and will immediately fall head over heels for your pet and fret and worry on the days we don't see them'.

And on the 4th day

I rested. I was booked for three days this week, from now on it will be two days a week. Hopefully some more customers will come flying in. Silly really, I'm worried about how the other people taking care of the little pup will take care of her. I know her mum loves her - who are these other people?

I must get round to the other vets and groomers, pet shops etc in the area. I am also going to take in some chocolates to the vet nurse where I left a card, because that's where my lovely pup came from. As it's my first, nice to say thank you I think!

Today I'm in the office - I hope that I can manage to keep one day a week free for that when the rush of customers finally comes heading my way. I love working there.

Monday, 13 October 2008

It's Happened!

I have my first customer!

A 9 week old Weimaramer puppy, who is the cutest thing on earth. I love puppies, but can't be doing with all that getting up at night business so this is the next best thing.

I'm very excited about going to see her today.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Something happens...

The phone rang!

I have a meeting tomorrow afternoon to meet with the owner of a new puppy. She wants time, attention and feeding two days a week, leading to walking as the pup gets older.

I'm very excited!

Do I dress all professional in my suit, or for the job? *ponders* Where can I get a briefcase by tomorrow?

Friday, 3 October 2008

Still Very Quiet - well, Silent

No work incoming so far, but I am talking to the local paper about having an advert in their special supplement in November. Something about pets, I wasn't really paying much attention because my mind wandered towards wondering whether they needed articles or writers.

Anyway, I have sent in the flyer I made recently, and hopefully they will design me a nice advert with it, and also hopefully I'll be brave enough to say 'go ahead' please.

I've also submitted my name to the free bit of the Yellow Pages, which is now showing. Makes it feel real - although still no calls...

I must get on with making a web page at the very least, if not a proper site just yet.

Friday, 19 September 2008


It's a slow old process this dog walking business.

I've designed my logo (clearly very important), have been working on a business plan, set up a bank account (when I can raise £100 to open it), putting the word about on all the forums and to all the doggy people I know, started doing a pet-sitting course and doing various other things to help me to learn how to run a business.

I'm going to be designing some flyers now I have my logo - I want to leave some at the few dog shows there are left this year.

There are fewer dogs involved than I'd like at this point.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Carding Up

I've been giving out cards to contacts in 'the industry' but the phone hasn't started ringing yet.

What's going wrong?

Friday, 5 September 2008

Dog Walker to-be

Ok, so I've decided to try this 'dog walking' thing. So far I've not actually started yet, although I've dog sat a couple of dogs. Illegally apparently.

I'm going through this properly, setting it up as a business rather than just going out and walking dogs, so it's taking some time before I feel ready to look for customers. As I'll be a sole trader I can't risk losing my house so I'm working on the terms and conditions, among other things, first. Might be going crazy, but my business advisor thinks I'm not.

To board dogs in the house I need to be licensed, and there is no difference between a boarding kennels and one dog at a time in the home, so dog sitting is out. However, I have been told of a loophole - residential training, no licence needed. Excellent. I am now a residential trainer.

There are a few courses I want to do to help, one for training, and one for the pet care, I've got to get my car kitted out with some proper guards and I need to do all sorts of other things. My CRB check has arrived, so that's one thing out of the way! All the other stuff I think is just so I don't have to go out there and actually do any work just yet...