Dog walking is a booming business. It’s estimated that there are over 15,000 professional dog walkers in the United States as of 2020, and that number is expected to grow in the years to come.
It’s not hard to see why this career is so popular. Becoming a dog walker allows you to set your own schedule while earning money spending time with adorable puppies — what’s not to love?
On the other side of the equation, dog owners are always in need of someone they can trust to look after their beloved pets. A good dog walker is worth their weight in gold.
However, sometimes, things go wrong — or maybe you just want peace of mind in case something goes wrong. That’s why it’s always smart to have a dog walking contract agreed upon and signed before Fido goes on their first walk. It’s the best way to protect both the walker and owner from legal trouble down the line.
We go over everything that should be covered in a dog walking contract, so both parties can feel good about the arrangement.
Why Should I Use a Contract for Dog Walking?
The fact of the matter is that dogs are special animals. They have tremendous sentimental (and therefore, monetary) value, but they can also cause damage to property and people. When dogs get lost or stolen or cause havoc, someone has to be held legally responsible.
If you wait until after the fact to determine who is responsible for what, there’s a good chance that whatever solution you come up with will be unsatisfactory for everyone involved. What’s more, an innocent party may end up on the hook for most of the damages.
Dog walkers should want contracts because they’ll spell out what, exactly, the walker is responsible for. If they provide things like training, feeding, playtime, etc., that needs to be explicitly stated in the contract. This allows everyone to know what’s expected from each session.
Owners, on the other hand, should want to know what the walker will be doing with their pup, as well as what their recourse is if they don’t. It should also spell out who’s responsible if the dog gets lost or stolen.
There’s also the elephant in the room: What if the dog attacks someone, like the dog walker or a stranger? Who’s responsible for that?
The answer is something that should be agreed upon in writing before the dog-walking services begin.
Most Important Aspects to Include in Your Dog Walking Contract
Every dog walking contract may be a little bit different, depending on the specifics of the animal and walker involved.
Here Are 4 Dog Walking Contract Templates
1. Free Dog Walking Contract Template from PandaDoc.com
This template is fairly barebones and straightforward, but it covers all the most important bases. Things like terms of service, duration of contract, and indemnification are all spelled out so there’s no confusion. It may not cover every possible situation under the sun, but if short and sweet is what you’re after, it’s a good choice.
2. Free Dog Walking Contract from Rocket Lawyer
If you want something a little more specific, this template from Rocket Lawyer lets you fill in personal information about your business and services, helping you customize it to your liking. It’s not quite as comprehensive as consulting an actual attorney, but it’s close — and it’s cheaper and easier too.
3. Free Dog Walking Agreement from LegalZoom
Anyone who wants to create an individual contract for every one of their clients should consider this option from LegalZoom. The site boasts an easy-to-use template that allows you to fill in all the pertinent information, and then it will spit out the legally binding document. It’s quick, easy, and personalized, which is all you can really ask for.
4. Free Dog Walking Contract Template from AtYourBusiness
There’s no fuss or muss with this contract from AtYourBusiness. It’s short and to the point and covers the broadest terms possible. There aren’t any customization options, though, so if this cookie-cutter doc doesn’t work for you, you should look elsewhere. It may be perfect for anyone doing business with friends and family, though.
What Other Information Should a Dog Walker Be Provided?
There’s no set answer to this question; the best rule of thumb we can provide is that you should tell your dog walker whatever you want them to know.
If they’re going to be spending time with your dog inside your house, they should have a general lay of the land, as well as an idea of what they’re allowed to use and what’s off-limits.
The location of the dog’s food, treats, and medicine should be given to the walker, as well as instructions for each. You can also tell them your dog’s favorite toys and games, as well as what kind of toys your pooch isn’t allowed to play with.
Contact information for neighbors or local friends and family should be shared, just in case there’s an emergency and the owner can’t make it back quickly. You should also let your neighbors know that your dog walker will be entering your house regularly, just so the cops aren’t called (introducing the walker to your neighbors is an even better idea).
You should also let your dog walker know what vet you use, as well as any emergency backups in case your primary provider isn’t available. Likewise, your vet should be aware that there’s the possibility that someone other than you could rush your dog in to see them.
What About Key Handling, House Rules, and Cancellations?
Do I Need Special Insurance to Be a Dog Walker or Use One?
It’s not legally required in order to do the job, but it’s a good idea regardless. Ultimately, though, it will depend on your employment status.
If you’re working for a dog walking agency and you get a W2, then you don’t need any sort of insurance. Your employer should have you covered — and if they don’t, they’ll be the ones legally responsible, not you.
However, if you own your own dog walking business or work as an independent contractor, then you’ll want to buy general liability insurance. It will protect you in case something happens during a walk, regardless of whether it was your fault or not.
Certain agencies have special types of liability insurance specifically for dog walkers. These may be worth looking into, but most general liability policies should cover the basics.
Conclusion: Dog Walking Contract Template
Becoming a dog walker — or hiring one — can be a surprisingly complicated endeavor, legally speaking. While a handshake agreement may be all that’s necessary if nothing ever goes wrong, chances are that sooner or later, something bad will happen during a walk.
That’s why a dog walking contract is so important. It allows all parties involved to feel protected against the unexpected, so they can worry less about any legal ramifications to their actions and focus more on what’s truly important: that adorable pooch at the end of the leash.
Featured image credit: Freepics4you, Pixabay