Thinking about adding "pack walks" to your dog walking business? Let's check out the benefits and drawbacks!
Whether you already have a well-established dog walking business, or you're new to the game, there are a few specifics that you'll need to think through and figure out. One of those specifics is whether or not you'll offer "pack walks." There are several advantages and disadvantages to pack walks. So before you decide about adding them as one of your provided services, let's think through the pros and cons together.
Part of the Pack
First of all, what are pack walks? I'm guessing most of you already know this—being in the dog walking business. But if you're new to this world… a pack walk is when you take your customers' dogs out for walks in a group altogether.
But don't confuse this with a "group walk." Typically a group walk refers to multiple dog owners all taking their dogs out for a walk together. In comparison, a pack walk refers to one walker with multiple dogs.
Pack Walks vs. Individual Walks
Dogs are instinctively pack animals. They are social beings, and they desire to be a part of a group. As long as the dogs you are walking can behave and get along together, this could be a great experience!
But remember—depending on their breed type and previous socialization, not every dog should be included on a pack walk. The American Kennel Club has specific descriptions of each dog breed's personality and how they rank in different categories, including "good with other dogs." Think through the breeds you typically walk, and check to see if they have a natural disposition for packs walks. There are definitely outliers within each breed, but checking basic characteristics is a good place to start.
But don't just rely on breeding. Some dogs that may rank three out five or higher on being "good with dogs" could have had traumatic experiences with other dogs in the past. Or honestly—just not enough dog socialization as a puppy.
In this case, it would be best to keep those dogs on individual walks. Just make sure to have an open and honest conversation with the dog's owners about their behavior around other dogs.
Benefits of Pack Walks
Pack walks don't need to take over your whole business. You can keep both pack walks and individual walks on your services options for your pet parents. The pricing will be different for each. And depending on their dog's needs, and the owner's preference—they can make that decision.
Advantages of adding pack walks to your services:
- Multi-tasking – Pack walks can safely and effectively provide the dogs with exercise, training, and socialization—all at the same time.
- Group learning – Dogs learn not to pull on the leash, keep up with the group, and generally behave so that they get to keep walking.
- Unifying – Dogs that are responsive to other dogs may form a sense of like-mindedness with each other.
- You save time – Walking more dogs at one time means that you can earn more money per hour. And if you have a company with a team of dog walkers—this makes their hourly wages more affordable.
- Your customer saves money – Since you're not giving 100% of your attention to one dog on these group walks, your customer should receive a discounted price. This will make them happy, and create a long-lasting customer.
Risks of Pack Walks
Of course, as a business owner—and the person taking care of someone else's fur baby—you'll want to think through the risks and downsides of this added service before you jump in.
Possible disadvantages of pack walks:
- Doggy takeover – The more dogs you are walking, the more strength they have to pull and control you.
- Dog fight – Even with proper vetting, there is always the possibility of a dog having an adverse reaction to another dog. And not only do you want to avoid getting yourself, and those two dogs hurt, you're also trying to control the rest of the pack.
- Distractions on the walk – We all know the joke about a dog losing total focus the second they see a squirrel! And we also know just how true it is. There could be other people, dogs, animals, cars, etc., all around that distract one or all of your pack of dogs.
- Losing a dog – Heaven forbid… if a dog got loose from their leash or harness—how could you chase that dog while holding onto several others?
How to Walk Dogs in a Pack
Okay, the risks are a bit scary to think about. But hopefully, that doesn't completely discourage you from doing pack walks. And while offering pack walks isn't the right choice for every business, they really can be great for certain companies. It just may take a little extra training and getting used to.
You may also want to do pack walks with a walking partner. Just in case anything happens—you're not alone. And it would still be more financially beneficial to have two dog walkers with 4-6 dogs, rather than one dog walker with one dog.
Start small while you're getting used to walking multiple dogs. Don't jump straight from one dog to five dogs. Just try walking two dogs together for a while, and see how that goes.
Tips to remember when pack walking:
- Constantly supervise all dogs.
- Bring enough bags to clean up after multiple dogs.
- Bring enough water for all dogs.
- Is your walking path the best place to walk multiple dogs at once?
- Try avoiding busy areas and streets you'd have to cross.
- Offer pack walks in multiple locations and multiple timeframes.
- Start with small groups of dogs and work your way up.
- Go pack walking with a walking partner.
- Look into using a multiple dog leash.
- Request that your client provides a Y-shaped harness for their dog. This will help you have better control without choking the dog.
- Don't use retractable leashes. They train dogs to "do their own thing" and walk all over the place, rather than staying with the pack.
- Wait until the end of a successful pack walk, and then give all of the dogs plenty of praise and treats for a job well done!
Expert animal trainer, Brandon McMillan, has a great article with some additional tips on How to Walk Multiple Dogs at Once.
How to Offer Pack Walks
One of the main things a pet parent will want to know is that you have plenty of experience—not only walking dogs, but taking care of problematic dog behaviors and situations. They will want to know that you have things under control with your own policies and procedures.
Setting up your pack walks
- What to charge? – Remember what we said earlier about the pack walk price versus the individual walk price. It will be more stressful than an individual walk, but each dog is receiving less of your attention. And you are making more money per hour. So make sure to give some kind of price break for the pack walks. Our blog post on setting your dog walking rates is a great place to get started when deciding what to charge.
- Questions to ask your clients – Come up with your own survey or application for each client to fill out about their dog before they are allowed to join a pack walk. To be extra careful, you could even meet the dog in person first. And do a trial run before they are allowed to join the group permanently.
- Schedule consistent times – It's too difficult to rearrange walking times to meet every clients' needs and ever-changing schedules. Instead, pick certain available time slots—with a variety of times and days—and let them choose. We have an excellent Help Article on Best Practices For Group Or Pack Walks if you are using Time To Pet.
- Get to know the dogs – If you want to have the best chance at being the pack leader, you should spend some individual time with each dog. Get to know them, practice basic commands, and let them know you are the leader.
- Have a doggy get-together – If they are able, you could schedule a doggy party where all of the dogs who will be walking together—and their owners—meet up at a fenced-in dog park for some "get to know you" time.
- All dogs must be previously leash-trained – You don't want to add a young pup into the group who doesn't understand the proper etiquette of walking on-leash yet.
Get Your Pack Walking!
After reading through this guide, you might decide that pack walks aren't right for your business. And that is entirely okay! But for certain companies, pack walks are a great way to serve more clients and grow an already successful business. Think it through and do what's best for your business and the pets you care for.