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Hiring a dog walker can provide amazing benefits for your pet, including keeping them healthy and socialized, while giving you peace of mind that your pet is being taken care of when you’re away. We talked to Aarika Milykovic, owner of A Dog Named Gary Pet Services LLC, about what it’s like to be a professional dog walker!

How long have you had a dog walking business?

I have had my business going on 6 years. I got my first dog walking job and I quit my full-time job two weeks later to start my own business and thankfully it grew rapidly! I currently have over 500 active clients.

How did your work changed during the pandemic?

Once the pandemic hit I basically lost all of my business.  It was quite terrifying.  One thing that did save me was that I have a few clients that are in healthcare and they continued to need me more than ever.  As terrible as the pandemic is/was, it really has allowed me to slow down and appreciate the extra time I have with my own dog, Gary.

I have about 75% of my business back and that is the way I plan to keep it.  Instead of working 70-80 hours a week I am working 45-55 hours per week, which fells like working part time to me! It has definitely helped me with burnout, which is extremely common in this business.

What are some challenges you/your business faces?

The biggest challenge my business faces comes from a logistics standpoint. I provide services in two Wisconsin counties, Milwaukee and Waukesha, which is a large area to cover.  There is a lot of driving involved in my day-to-day operations.  Which also poses another challenge of trying to grow and hire. It is hard to find a dependable employee that is willing to do the traveling that I have to do in a day.

What is your favorite part about your job/your business?

Hanging out with all the dogs, cats, rabbits, hedgehogs and every other pet that has been handed over to me to care for! As stressful and tiring owning your own business is, I do get to hang out with dogs allll day! So that is the upside! Another cool part is the people and families I have been able to meet and help over the years. Most people who go into this type of business obviously love animals, but they also love to help people. You also become more than just a dog walker to some families.  I’ve watched teenagers while dog sitting.  I’ve run a forgotten laptop to the hospital for a doctor. I’ve been a transport system for owners who needed rides when they didn’t have transportation.  I can confirm that all the dog walkers and pet sitters I know have worn many different hats during their day!

Do you have a fun story to share?

I have a billion stories, but a couple quick ones that come to mind:

I have been invited to be a wedding date… a plus one if you will… to a couple of my dogs’ parents’ weddings!  I’ve walked all of them down the aisle too, talk about pressure! I’ve also walked rabbits down the aisle, which was interesting.

I used to care for a Siberian Husky named Max. I would pick Max up every morning and he would travel with me all day, stop to stop.  What is special about that is, it is very rare to find a dog that will get along with every other dog and for the other dog to get along with them. I never had any issues of aggression or protectiveness, just dogs being dogs being friends! He would ride shotgun with me all day. He helped me train puppies on how to walk on a leash and we would even go to San Camilla once or twice a week to visit with the residents there.  They absolutely loved it! He was definitely a special dude!

Everyone wants to know: how many dogs do you walk at once?

This is the second question I get asked when I tell people what I do for a living! The first question they ask is “that’s a real job?”!  Then yes, they do ask how many dogs I walk at once or how many in a day.  Since I do not work in a city where I can grab multiple dogs at a time, I get to spend quality time with the 1-3 dogs that live at that residence. I can see as many as 30 different dogs in a day. But I average around 10-18 dogs a day. I also do overnights, and I had an overnight once with five dogs for two weeks in one home.  Three families brought all their dogs over to one house for me to watch while they went to Ireland. 

Do you have any favorite treats?

Stella & Chewy’s treats are the only treats I feed my dog!!!!

Anything else people should know about you, dog walkers or owning a dog walking business?

I think one thing people should know about owning a dog walking/pet sitting business is that although it is amazing to hang out with awesome dogs all day long, it is a lot of work. It is a lot of stress. To get your business running and off the ground you must be a “Yes” person.  Being a “Yes” person carries the burden of burnout. Every pet service business owner I know works 7 days a week and you are always on call. I think one year I only had a total of 2 days off that year. Many years have not been much different. So having a Dog Walker Appreciation Day is 100% warranted. We show up every day!  We walk through thunderstorms, drive in blizzards, bundle up in polar vortex’s, sweat our butt’s off when it’s 100 degrees outside, we show up  when we are sick and we even show up when an owner is ill and can’t care for their pet that day. We always show up to take care of your furry loved ones: to love them and protect them, regardless of what that day brings!  We always make it work!

Thank you so much to Aarika for sharing with us what it’s like to be a dog walker and have a dog walking business. We appreciate dog walkers like Aarika every day of the year! Check out Aarika’s Instagram @amilykovic for more pictures of her and her dogs!