- The current UK market for dog walkers is £700m a year, but our results suggest it has potential to become a £2.3bn industry
- 7 in 10 people would consider walking a stranger’s dog
- 43% of dog owners say a key reason they use a dog walker is to give someone without a dog the pleasure of interacting with one
- Half of owners think it’s very important that their dog walker has owned a dog themselves
- Dog walkers’ favourite dog to walk is the Labrador and their least favourite is the Rottweiler
- 29% think people shouldn’t own a dog if they can’t regularly walk it
- 1 in 4 would consider sharing ownership of a dog full-time with a ‘co-parent’
There's little debate about how much dogs love walkies, but less is known about why some dog owners use outside help to keep their pooches well-walked. Who are the paid professionals and passionate volunteers who walk other people’s dogs, and why do they do it? With technology bringing dog owners and dog walkers closer together, how many more people would consider passing or taking the lead? And would they go one step further and share ownership of a dog with someone else?
We surveyed 1,019 British people, including dog-owners and non-dog owners, to find out their opinions on this growing trend.
The potential market for dog walking is worth £2.3 billion
Brits spend around £57bn on their dogs every year, but how much of this is being spent on every dog’s favourite word – walkies? Our results show that 14% of dog owners pay to use a dog walker. On average, they pay £10.70 per hour and call upon their dog walker 4.3 times per month. Applying this to the entire population of nine million dogs in the UK, we estimate that the current dog walking industry is worth approximately £700m per year.
There is an appetite for more, though. An additional 31% percent of the dog owners we surveyed told us they’d consider paying for a dog walker, meaning nearly half of all dog owners in the UK either have paid or would consider paying someone to walk their dog. Those who are yet to give it a try but say they’re interested are willing to pay £9.20 per hour on average and would use a dog walker 5.1 times per month, totalling £563 spent on dog walking annually. This means the total market potential for dog walkers in the UK is £2.3bn per year.
With around 2.8 million dog owners saying they’d consider hiring a dog walker for the first time, it’s no wonder that more ‘petpreneurs’ are looking to make extra cash by starting their own dog walking service.
The benefits are mutual for dog owners and walkers
Money isn’t the only motivation for dog walkers in the UK. In fact, it’s not even in the top five. Getting outdoors and exercising was the biggest appeal for dog walkers (72%), which makes sense – the average walk lasts around 40 minutes and covers roughly two miles. This was followed by the appeal of walking a dog when you don’t own one yourself (52%) and missing spending time with dogs (30%).
The benefits for dog owners are different but no less positive. Over half (59%) of dog owners told us that they’d find a dog walker useful as they were too busy, and it’s no wonder when you consider that less than half of dogs in the UK are walked daily. Dog owners aren’t only in it for themselves. The second most common reason dog owners like using a walker is so they can help a non-dog owner enjoy spending time with a dog (43%), something many dog walkers greatly appreciate.
‘My fondest memory of walking someone else’s dog was picking it up from the house and the dog running over and hugging us.’
27-year-old male dog walker
Dog walkers are clearly in demand, but just as any responsible parent is choosy about who looks after their child, are ‘pet parents’ picky when it comes to their pooches?
Dog owners favour confidence and friendliness when choosing a dog walker
Nearly all dog owners (90%) who’ve considered or would consider using a dog walker agree that it’s ‘very important’ to meet them before letting them take the lead. But what are they looking for during that first meeting? It appears their dog’s happiness comes first, with 94% of owners agreeing that a potential dog walker being friendly to their dog is the most important factor.
The dog owners we spoke to were very keen to make sure that potential walkers are ‘dog people’. Ninety-three percent look for the walker to show confidence around their dog when they first meet them, and half feel it’s important that the walker owns or has owned a dog themselves.
It’s not just about how potential dog walkers behave around the dog that matters to its owner. Being easy to talk to (73%) and affordable (70%) are two further factors that most dog owners who have used or would consider using a dog walker feel are important.
It can take a lot for some owners to trust a dog walker, with over a quarter (28%) expecting a dog walker to be trained in canine first aid. Technology may also be on the rise in the dog walking industry, with 16% of owners agreeing it's important for dog walkers to offer GPS tracking during their walks – an option that’s only become available in recent years.
Dog owners seem to know all the qualities that they’d look for in an ideal dog walker, but what about the ideal dog? Are walkers just as picky when choosing what type of pooch they’d like to walk?
The UK’s most popular dog is also the one people most want to walk
We asked those who would consider walking someone else’s dog, either for money or voluntarily, which type of dog they’d most and least like to walk, as well as any they’d refuse to take for a stroll.
The Labrador Retriever is the UK’s most popular dog to walk amongst dog walkers and those who’d consider walking someone else’s dog, with 31% of the total vote. This cements its position as the most popular dog to own in the UK. Border Collie was the runner up in our popularity contest with 23% of the vote. Perhaps this is due to its energetic nature, given that we found exercise and time spent outdoors is the primary reason current dog walkers choose to take the lead.
The least popular dog to walk in the UK is the Rottweiler, racking up 36% of the ‘least like to walk’ vote. This could be due to its strong and intimidating appearance and tendency to be aggressive if not well trained. The second least popular dog couldn’t be more different from a Rottweiler. The Pug received 23% of the vote, despite being the ninth most popular breed in the UK. Their flat, wrinkled faces and curly tails are undeniably cute, but they don’t need much exercise, so perhaps dog walkers would prefer a dog that’s up for a more energetic walk.
When it comes to breeds that potential walkers would refuse to walk, we’re afraid it’s more bad news for Rottweilers. Thirty-seven percent of those who would consider walking someone else’s dog, either for money or voluntarily, said they’d refuse to walk a Rottweiler. The unfortunate runner up to the ‘Rott’ is the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Over a quarter (28%) would refuse to walk a ‘Staffy’, followed in third place by the gentle but giant St. Bernard (12%). None of these breeds are listed as dangerous dogs, so perhaps their size and strength is doing them a disservice.
Refusing to walk a particular type of dog is one thing, but we found that 29% of non-dog owners wouldn’t consider walking someone else’s dog, regardless of its breed. Is it just because they don’t like dogs, or is there more to it?
Missing out on bonding time is a bigger factor than cost for those who wouldn’t use a dog walker
The prospect of the dog misbehaving under their supervision is the primary concern amongst those who would never consider walking someone else’s dog, with 64% citing it as a reason they wouldn’t be interested.
Forty-one percent would be concerned about the dog attacking them, the same figure as those who simply don’t like dogs.
Thirty-nine percent of those who wouldn’t let someone else walk their dog said the risk of theft was a reason why. This is an understandable concern when you consider that dog thefts in the UK are up for the fourth consecutive year. Although, as far as we know, there’s nothing to suggest that dog walkers are specifically to blame for these thefts.
‘It is the owner’s responsibility when you commit to getting a dog. If you can't do the most basic of its needs then perhaps a dog is not for you’.
35-year-old female dog owner
Three-quarters of dog owners who wouldn’t want to use a dog walker said that it was simply because they enjoy walking their dog, and over half (54%) said they have plenty of free time to do so. Half were concerned that their dog would be unsettled when walking with a stranger, and 29% of our survey respondents agree that if a dog owner can’t walk their dog regularly then they shouldn’t be allowed to own it.
Nearly a quarter of non-dog owners would consider sharing ownership of one
Given that 71% of non-dog owners would consider walking someone else’s dog, be it paid or voluntarily, and that 55% of dog owners would consider letting someone they didn’t previously know walk their dog, we wondered whether people would be willing to take this one step further and ‘co-parent’ a dog. ‘Co-parenting’ is when two or more people who usually live in separate households share ownership of a dog. For example, couples who don’t live together or friends.
Just under a quarter of the people we surveyed showed an interest in co-parenting, with 24% of dog owners and 23% of non-dog owners telling us they’d consider it. Six percent of owners already do co-parent a dog. Those who already co-parent or would consider it told us the main attraction is that it would be cheaper, with 68% admitting this was appealing. Sixty-five percent said co-parenting appealed because they are too busy to own a dog by themselves, and 62% said it would minimise time spent in doggy daycare.
‘Co-parenting would allow me to get around the problem of working shifts and lack of walkers available’.
28-year-old male non-dog owner
Sixty-five percent of our survey respondents told us they would not be interested in co-parenting, with 10% saying they weren’t sure. Of those who wouldn’t consider co-parenting, 59% said that having multiple homes could unsettle the dog, and half believed that differences in ownership style could be confusing for the dog.
It seems walking someone else’s dog is just enough for some people.
‘I like dogs but don't want the responsibility of owning or co-owning one’
33-year-old female non-dog owner
With the verdict still out on co-parenting, we asked people whether they think it’s good or bad for the dog’s welfare. Nearly a quarter (23%) felt it would have a positive impact on a dog, but one in three people felt that co-parenting would have a negative effect on its welfare.
Looking to the future
The market for dog walking in the UK is growing, and our data suggests there’s still plenty of room for that growth to continue. With 45% of dog owners telling us they’d consider using a dog walker, but only 14% of them currently doing so, the annual market for dog walkers could rise to £2.3bn.
Getting help with walkies is a win-win situation for some, with owners leading busy lives and would-be walkers itching to get outdoors. However, some people aren’t convinced. Forty-five percent of dog owners say they wouldn’t consider using a dog walker, most commonly because they enjoy walking and have plenty of free time. Twenty-nine percent of non-dog owners said they’d never consider walking someone else’s dog, even if they were paid, and the same proportion agreed that those who can’t walk their dogs regularly shouldn’t be allowed to own them.
Start-ups which pair time-strapped dog owners with passionate volunteer dog walkers are also a threat to the size of the market, or at least its market value. As the ‘gig-economy’ grows, professional dog walkers might find themselves losing out to people who just want to spend time with dogs – and are happy to do it for free.
Fair use statement
Our research on dog walking in the UK is available for you to share for any non-commercial purposes, but please link to this page so the Legal & General research team is credited and others can explore our results in full.
The Legal & General research team surveyed 1,019 British people in April 2019. Among our survey participants, 511 were dog owners and 508 did not own a dog. We surveyed an equal number of men and women. Their age ranged from 18 to 75, with a median age of 33. Our sampling of each generation was broadly representative of the UK population.
To estimate the current and potential market value of dog walkers in the UK, we asked people whether they currently use a dog walker or if not whether they’d consider doing so in future. We also asked if they’d pay for the service or use only free services. We asked people who do pay for a dog walker how often they use a paid service in a typical month and how much they pay for an hour’s walk. Using these numbers we estimated the current amount British dog owners spend on dog walking each year. We estimated the potential growth in the dog walking market by asking people who would consider paying for a dog walker what is the maximum number of walks a month they’d consider paying for, and how much they’d pay for an hour’s walk. We combined our estimates of the current market value and the potential market growth to reach our total potential market value of £2.3bn a year. Our method for estimating the potential market value assumes that people who currently pay for a dog walker would not consider hiring a dog walker more frequently than they already do. It also assumes that there would be a sufficient supply of dog walkers to meet the potential increase in demand. Our survey results indicate a sufficient supply is possible: only 3% of people who don’t own a dog have walked someone else’s dog for money, but a further 50% would consider doing so.