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The pandemic pet boom has allowed some dog walkers to make six figures a year

Dog walking
Posted at 3:37 PM, Feb 09, 2023

Dog walking might not sound like a glamorous job. Many times, we might begrudgingly do it because a friend or family member is out of town and needs help caring for their furry friend. Other times, we might be elated to bring an extended member of their family under our roof for a few days.

Some people, though, have made dog-walking a full-time job that manages to pay upwards of six figures a year.

“It’s like a dog lover's dream out here right now,” said Bethany Lane, founder of Whistle and Wag, a boutique dog-walking business located in New York City. “Everyone has a dog. They finally had time to get a dog and now people have to start going back to the office.”

Since 2013, Lane, an English major who was interested in getting into the public health field, has been walking dogs 12 hours a day, six days a week for her 50 clients who have been coming in droves since the pandemic.

“I used to get, pre-pandemic, maybe one or two calls a month. Now, I get at least one or two calls a week,” she said.

During the pandemic, more than 23 million households nationwide adopted a pet, according to numbers from the ASPCA, and according to Rover, a gig-economy platform that focuses on dog-sitting, that meteoric rise in pet ownership translated to a record $157 million in revenue for the platform during just the third quarter of 2022.

The business has tipped over to smaller businesses like Lane’s.

“There are definitely plenty of smaller pet care businesses all around the country, even in small towns,” she said. “I hear from people all over the place. It’s not just big cities.”

Barkbox, a subscription treat and toy service, saw membership increase by 39% in 2022 compared with the same period a year prior, as Americans as a whole spent $50 billion on non-medical pet products and food through the first 11 months of 2022. But that is just the monetary side of things, and not what this job does for people like Lane, who says working with dogs brings her inner peace.

“I’ve been walking [in the West Village] for 10 years and it never gets old,” she said. “Walking the dogs is hands down my favorite part of this job. This right here, this is the best.”

The cliché says do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. It’s hard to top that when you’re working with man’s best friend.