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July 2010

Dogpreneur Becomes Latest Career Trend

By Caroline Jaffe-Pickett

Theres a memorable scene in the 2005 movie In Her Shoes, in which a stressed-out Toni Collette quits her job as an attorney and
becomes a carefree dog walker. While this career transition may have shocked audience members five years ago, it wouldnt
today. Dogs, dog walkers, dog trainers, dog spas, doggy daycares are state-of-the-art in pet chic.
The City is home to more than 150,000 dogs, according to San Francisco Animal Care and Control Agency (SFACC). An online
search shows more than 200 dog walking and doggie care businesses in San Francisco reviewed by Yelp, with nearly 500
dog-related services posted on Craigslist. Like 1980s-era hair salons, cute monikers abound in the four-legged services business,
with names like Way of the Woof, Fur Out, and Fetch in the City.
It used to be just a handful of us dog walkers, and we all knew each other, said Nancy Stafford, co-director of ProDog, a
community of professional dog walkers and trainers in San Francisco, and a dog walker for the last 20 years. Now you get a lot of
people from all walks of life, full-timers as well as those looking to make just a side income. And its not just about the economy or
people leaving their desk jobs. This growth was being seen anyway.

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Dog walking offers former nine-to-fivers a flexible schedule and decent living, while providing freelancers a way to make extra cash
on the side. Rates range from $15 to $25 per dog for an hours outing, with higher prices for swanky options like playgroups,
boarding, grooming and behavioral training. With most dog walkers leading at least two outings a day, the income can add-up.
And dog walking appears to be recession-proof. A report earlier this year on CBS-5 highlighted a marketing executive who lost his
business, turned to dog walking, and quickly topped his previous salary. Profiles of other dogpreneurs show them making as
much as $100,000 a year.

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Outside of general guidelines issued by the SFACC - not walking more than six dogs at a time, for example no formal credentials
are required to become a dog walker. SFACC, however, wont allow a dog walking service to be listed with them unless they
comply with a number of requirements, including having a current dog license and identification attached to each animal,
verification of current vaccinations, and to clean up all feces left by the dogs, among other items.

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Only 20,000 to 30,000 dogs are currently licensed, while there are 150,000 to 200,000 dogs within the Citys borders, stated Elton
Pon, who is Recreation and Parks public information officer. People get confused about licensing, Stafford said. Its the rabies
shots that are required, and they confuse that with the license.

On-going Features

Despite these guidelines, opening shop can be as simple as posting an advertisement. According to Charlie Castaneda, a
professional dog walker for more than a decade in the Potrero Hill and South Beach areas, and owner of A Girl And Your Dog,
services are becoming increasingly sophisticated and dog owners more savvy. When I started, this was mostly a cash business,
and no one worried about protections on either side. Now, its standard for every business to be registered, insured, and bonded.
The overhead is much higher than in the past, but so are the standards of care. For example, I offer very high-end organic food to
my boarding clients with an option for an all-raw food diet during their stay. Castaneda previously worked constructing interiors for
Urban Outfitters stores, and taught art until two years ago. I enjoy the flexibility of owning my own business, she stated. Its
always going to be harder then working for someone else, but its worth it.

Short Cuts

Dogpreneur Becomes Latest

Career Trend
Steady Flow of Newcomers
Call Potrero Hill Home

Morissa McNie 1947 - 2010

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There should be a professional body overseeing dog walkers, stated Emma Clarke, owner of Pawsitive Tails in Potrero Hill, which
offers dog walking, pet sitting, and training services. According to Clarke, who has a certificate in applied animal behavior from the
University of Southampton, as well as a degree in Neuroscience, anyone with a truck and a bit of charisma can set up a dog
walking business, which can become quite successful quickly.
Popular Southeast San Francisco parks for dog walkers include Esprit Park, McLaren Park, and Bernal Hill. As a result of
intensive dog use, some parks have experienced a degradation of grasses and an overabundance of lingering fecal material,
despite the threat of hefty fines for off-leash dogs and improper clean-up.
The issue is not the degradation, its the lack of space to begin with, Stafford countered. She added that attempts to legislate dog
walking rules and offer increased protections for dog walkers and owners have been attempted for the past decade. Dog
owners/walkers believe that their dogs need green open spaces to be able to run their dogs off-leash. Park users feel their
experience is negatively affected by heavy concentrations of off-leash dogs, said Pon. He added that a Dog Play Area Master
Plan is being developed, with particular attention to designated off-leash areas
San Francisco has a huge dog population, said Clarke, and Potrero Hill is no different. It has the advantage of having a couple
of parks in the neighborhood, and is close enough to the freeways to make going to Mclaren Park and Fort Funston feasible for
most people. As far as I know, neither of the local parks allow dogs to be off leash, although they usually are.

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