14 supplies for your dog-walking adventure
No matter what the owner already has, keep these in your bag
Depending on which company you go with, some dog-walking companies will send you supplies covered by the registration process. (For example, Wag! mails one promo handkerchief.) Others just cover background checks (ex. Rover), and supplies cost extra. But if you make enough money at dog-walking to consider it a second job (more than $400 earned automatically requires you to file self-employment tax), then you should always be prepared with the essentials and a few just-in-case items.
To protect the privacy of the dog and dog owners, I will not mention real dogs by name.
- Wag handkerchief: For the life of me, I’ll never understand when I see Wag! dog walkers without those handkerchiefs around the dogs. I’ve walked dogs who immediately bite them off, so it makes sense to not have the handkerchief on for the entire walk — including when it rains. But definitely get your $1 promo each time. Even if you walk one dog per day all week, that’s an automatic $7 onto your original fee and (optional) tip.
- Drawstring backpack: I go to art events and vegan food fests all year round, and occasionally I’ll show up at a business conference. My hands cannot control themselves. Anytime I see a free pen or a free tote/drawstring bag, I have to have it. My suitcase set is overflowing with them. If you are like me, finally put these things to use. Open-mouthed bags are more difficult to carry because anytime you lean down, the contents fall out.
- Hand sanitizer: Whether you find a keychain version or one to stick in your pocket, there is going to be a time when you think you’re picking up dog feces in the bag and it gets on your hand. You need to get that off immediately before you touch anything else — keys, the dog, your face, doorknobs, etc.
- Collapsible water dish: Hard plastic water dishes can be awkward to carry. But the foldable water dishes that can loop on your keychain, belt buckle or in a bag are easy to carry along. If/when you need one, specifically on hot summer days when your dog has had enough, keep your eye out for water nozzles on apartment buildings or water fountains. Unfold. Fill up. Let your dog drink. Empty. And continue on.
- Towel or T-shirt: It’s a coin toss whether the owner will have a towel around for you to dry the dog’s paws off after a snowy or rainy day. Keep your own rag or T-shirt around just in case. You don’t want to accidentally use a random shirt in the owner’s garage or home, thinking it’s OK, and then it turns out that it’s not.
- Dog treats: I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve arrived at a dog’s home and he’s just not feeling me. Out of 207 walks on Wag and three dog sittings, there has only been one dog who didn’t soften up around treats. (Australian Shepherds are a tough crowd. I spent 20 minutes on the kitchen floor before I finally gave up and left.) Of course, keep in mind a dog’s dietary restrictions. There was a Ridgeback who flat-out could not eat anything outside of traditional dry dog food — that is, until I found out she could have sweet potatoes. Game on! Treats also come in handy for puppy paper training and tricks.
- Umbrella: You can get $1 umbrella from pretty much any dollar store. I’ve had enough tug-of-wars with dogs who hate getting wet. And as a black woman with a relaxer, I do understand why. Keep a mini umbrella in your bag for spontaneous rainy days.
- Smartphone pouch or wallet: I take my purse wherever I go except for dogs walks. Carrying dog supplies is enough on its own. It’s frustrating to see my palm-sized mirror, lip gloss and smartphone falling out of my bag while trying to clean up dog poop. Stick the phone in your pocket and just carry an ID for emergencies. Etsy is loaded with smartphone pouches, or you could just use a foldable eyeglass case for smaller phones. Chances are pretty high that you will not need anything in your purse for this 20- to 30-minute walk. (I am vehemently opposed to fanny packs, and despised them in the ’80s, but that’s a horrendous fashion faux pas to consider.)
- Running leash: It was not until I dog sat two Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dogs and realized how fast these dogs are that I understood why running leashes come in handy. One attacked a skunk and smelled like it my entire stay. The other was always gunning for any bird, squirrel or rabbit within a few feet. And they’re quick. If you know you have a working dog, you’re better off keeping your hands free to walk with them. Otherwise you’ll be gripping that leash the whole time, especially with pullers. As long as you can keep a steady pace, a running leash is a relief. It wraps around your waist but just clips to the dog like a regular leash.
- Gloves: I have recently walked two Golden Retrievers that both made me feel like I earned every single cent of my walker fee. I remember one as a small puppy who wouldn’t go more than a few feet. Now he barrels down the street like Marmaduke. The other dog is new to me, and he’s even stronger. And if you’re using the owner’s retractable leash, your hands will get sore fast. If you’re unsure of whether the dog is leash trained, keep at least one leather glove handy to avoid hurting your hands.
- Poop bag dispenser: While it makes sense that every owner would have poop bags around, oddly, that’s not how it always happens. Either they’re in a place that’s not easily accessible to you or they may assume you already have bags. Even if you never use your own poop bag dispenser, dollar stores have plenty of dispenser keychains.
- Poop bags: I do not recommend dollar store poop bags. They are often poor quality, tear too easily and do not unravel correctly. They’re also usually not biodegradable. If you don’t care about the latter, you may as well just go to Target or Whole Foods Market or other stores that recycle plastic bags and get a bunch of those. Or, use your own. Just shove a few in your pocket and walk on. Keep in mind that in certain states, they are pretty strict about using plastic bags versus biodegradable bags.
- Rope toy (or another dog toy): Initially I thought buying one of these was a waste of money, but it came in a dog walking kit so I just dumped it in my bag. Then I ran into two Cockapoos who despise rain and pull away, as this breed is notorious for doing. They still needed the exercise, and I still needed to get paid. Somehow having a rope toy they could pull on was fascinating enough to make them continue to walk. I also ran around like a a maniac in the garage, which turned out to be a hit, too, instead of pulling the dog down the street. (There’s nothing more uncomfortable than a dog walker pulling a dog down the street. Try as much as humanly possible not to. Passersby, including myself, will scowl at the sight of it.) Once you can maintain their interests, and they’re already wet, they’ll walk — usually.
- Water bottle (optional): Whether it’s for you or the dog, on humid days, you’re going to get thirsty. If you cannot find apartments with accessible water nozzles or water fountains, you can easily just squirt water out from your own bottle. However, I have mixed feelings on this idea because those bottles can be heavy, specifically when you’re walking a puller. But for easy walks, it couldn’t hurt. And if you opt for a backpack or drawstring bag with a water bottle holder, even better.