Having a comprehensive dog walking contract is an important part of operating a successful dog walking business. In addition to helping protect your business from liability, a well-drafted contract also shows both current and potential clients your professionalism and enhances your credibility.
Of course, if you're new to providing dog walking services, your first step should be to research how to start a dog walking business. Once you know the basics, it's time to look at what needs to go into your standard dog walking contract.
The Importance of Having a Dog Walking Contract
While, in the short run, it might seem easier to plunge right into starting your dog walking business—and worry about a comprehensive contract down the road once you have a few steady clients—having a proper dog walking contract to present to your clients from the very start is likely to save you some major headaches later on.
Whether you start out with a basic dog walking contract you've downloaded as a template, or you're consulting with an attorney to help you draft one that's specific to your business's needs, the contract you use serves a number of different purposes. In addition to addressing liability issues, which are important when it comes to the long-term health of your business, your contract also serves to lay a solid foundation for the professional relationship between you and your client. Ideally, your dog walking contract should serve as the document both you and your client can turn to whenever questions arise.
Important Clauses to Consider
Your dog walking contract needs to cover a number of important topics. While you may need to customize the content of your contract based on your business's specific needs, some of the basic elements of a standard dog walking contract include:
- Dog walking services. This is the section of the contract where you describe the basic services you provide. In addition to outlining these basic services, include a list of other services that are available at an add-on cost. For example, if you also provide dog sitting services, or perhaps both dog and cat sitting, this would be included in your list of add-on services. It's also a good idea to consider including a list of services you don't provide. For example, you may have decided you will not take clients' dogs to run off-leash at dog parks. Listing the services you are not able to provide helps potential clients determine if your dog walking services will meet all of their needs.
- Dog walking prices. This section of your contract should set out your fees, both for your basic services, and for each additional service you may offer. Remember to include fees for things like last minute cancellations by the client and other unexpected situations. For example, you may want to specify a fee for occasions where you show up on time, but are unable, for whatever reason, to gain access to your client's dog.
- Payment. In addition to setting out your fees clearly, the contract also should specify when payments are due, whether a deposit is required, and the means by which the client can pay you.
- Authorization to enter client's home. It's important that the contract includes clear authorization from your client for you to enter their residence for the purpose of providing your services. If you have employees, this authorization should cover both you and any of your representatives.
- Emergency medical care. This section sets out what happens if a pet in your care requires medical assistance. For example, you may want clear authorization to obtain emergency medical care in the event you're unable to contact your client. In such a case, your agreement also should include a veterinarian release form for your client to sign, so that the veterinarian can provide medical care if the pet's owner is not reachable.
- Liability. Go through this section in your contract with care, as it will prove to be very important in the event something unexpected happens and damages result. Use clear wording about what you do and do not accept responsibility for. For example, because pets can be unpredictable, it's important that the client understands that, while you will exercise due care and diligence, you are not responsible for any damage that may be caused due to the actions of their pet.
Your dog walking contract also should contain various clauses common to all contracts, such as who the parties are, along with provisions dealing with notices, amendments or changes, cancellation, and what the governing law is.
Whether you work from a dog walking agreement template or obtain professional legal services to help you draft your contract, having a comprehensive dog walking contract to present to your business clients is an important step when you're in the business of providing dog walking services.