A helpful guide to everything you should include in your dog walking contract — Updated for 2020!
We get lots of questions when it comes to creating a dog walking contract for your clients. While not the most fun item to work on, your dog walking contract is essential when providing services to clients and their pets. It will be necessary to speak with a legal professional when creating your contracts to make sure that all legal regulations and liabilities are satisfied. These will vary from business to business based on location, company, services offered, and many other factors. That is why it’s always best to work with a professional when creating any legal documents. While no two contracts are going to look the same, we have created this post to help get you started with some of the essential items to include in your dog walking contract.
The Service Agreement will be the main element of your dog walking contract. The Service agreement will describe all the services that you will provide to a client. You will clearly outline everything that you will offer for each dog walking client. For example, this could be a simple visit, a 30-minute walk, a hike, a run, or an overnight stay if that is a service you plan to offer. The Service Agreement will clearly define what a customer can expect from your dog walking business. It will also detail your terms and policies. Every client will need to agree to your terms and policies before you provide them with any services.
Some standard policies in the service agreement include payment terms, late payment fees, cancellation fees, vaccination requirements, who is responsible for damage or medical costs, emergency policies, and many more. We’ve included a sample Service Agreement for you to review. While your service agreement will be different; this is just a sample to give you an idea of where to start.
Medical History and Vet Release
When taking on any new dog walking clients, it will be essential to have a detailed record of their pet’s medical history and the information for their veterinarian. You will want to make sure that the dog is up to date on all their shots, and if they have particular medical conditions, you want to be aware.
It would be best if you had your clients sign a Veterinary Release Form. This form will authorize you to seek out professional medical care from a veterinarian in case of an emergency. The form should include terms that clearly outline your emergency procedure. It is also a good idea to have your client indicate a maximum dollar amount for treatment provided to their pets, especially in the instance that they are unreachable.
Time To Pet has a sample Veterinary Release Form to give you an idea of what to include in this section of the contract.
Having pet sitting insurance is another important part of starting a new pet care business! Check out our Definitive Guide to Pet Sitting Insurance for more information!
Key Handling and House Rules
If your pet sitting or dog walking business keeps keys on file, or if you will need to access a client’s home when they are not present—we recommend including a key handling form in your pet sitting contract. Many pet care businesses have stopped keeping keys on file, preferring to use lockboxes or digital combinations if they are available. If you choose to use lockboxes, you may want to replace your key handling form with a key lockbox form.
The primary purpose of a key handling or lockbox form is to clearly describe what will happen with the key after it has been used. Will you keep the key on file for future services? Will there be a fee to return the key to a client? Like with most other details of service, it’s best to have everything agreed upon ahead of time, so there is less chance of confusion or misunderstandings later on.
Time To Pet has also created a sample Key Handling Form to give you an idea of where to start. Just like with the service agreement and vet release, your final forms should all be reviewed by an attorney.
In addition to a key handling form, it might be a good idea to have documentation of any house rules that you and your client agree upon. These could include: turning off lights and appliances, any special requests for the thermostat or other house utilities, wireless internet passwords if applicable for overnight stays, and house alarm codes if needed.
Dog Walker Cancellation Policy
With all the different moving parts of life, you have to be adaptable. There will always be the occasional cancellation for your dog walking services — sometimes at the last minute. While not a big deal, you need to make sure that you have a policy in place so there is no questions or confusion about what should happen if a customer needs to cancel. It’s important that you are still compensated for your time and expenses if they cancel at the very last minute.
If you want additional information, Time To Pet has a detailed blog post on Setting and Enforcing Your Pet Sitting or Dog Walking Cancellation Policy.
Payment Authorization for Services
Getting paid is a pretty essential part of any dog walking business. The payment authorization form should provide clear instructions to your clients on how they can pay their invoices. If you require a credit card on file and if you will be charging that card for the client — you should be very clear in explaining this process.
We have a sample Payment Authorization Form for you to review. As with all of our sample agreements, this is just for educational purposes. Please have your attorney review all of your contracts and agreements before finalizing these documents.
Signing the Contract
After having an attorney help you finalize your dog walking contract, you’ll need a way for customers to sign the agreement. If you use Time To Pet, we provide a straightforward way for you to add your contracts and capture e-signature on these agreements. This is called the Portal Policy, and after enabling the policy and adding your agreement, you can require all new customers to review and e-sign the document. You can also require all existing clients to review and e-sign the document. If you make any changes to the agreement, you can choose whether or not you want your customers to re-sign the agreement. If you ever need to print the agreement, you can also download a PDF for each customer that has signed the contract.
You can also print out your contract and bring it to Meet & Greets for clients to sign, or you can use an e-signature tool like DocuSign. Regardless of how you capture signatures, it’s important to ensure that all clients have read and agreed to all your terms and signed your contract.
The ink and paper aspect of operating a dog walking business might now be the most exciting, but if you have all your ducks in a row, as they say, it will save you lots of headaches down the road. Having clear and well-defined policies will protect your team and your business. It will also make you look more professional in the eyes of your clients. As with any legal document, it’s best to have a licensed professional help you create and review any contracts before having clients sign them.
Happy Dog Walking!