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The Belfast couple earning £30,000 a year walking dogs

By Claire McNeilly

Published 02/06/2015

Husband and wife Jonny and Ciara Bingham with (from left) Libby, Lucy, Penny, Jessie, Woody and Casper
Husband and wife Jonny and Ciara Bingham with (from left) Libby, Lucy, Penny, Jessie, Woody and Casper
Kerrie Ferguson with Daisy and Diesel
Johnny Bingham
Kerrie Ferguson with Daisy and Diesel

Most people enjoy walking dogs - but could you make a living from it?

A growing number of entrepreneurs certainly seem to think so, as they ditch the drudgery of office life for the great outdoors.

Now a new survey has revealed it could also be a lucrative alternative, with professional dog walkers earning an average of £26,500 a year.

That's because cash-rich, time-poor pet owners are prepared to pay someone else to pamper their pooches.

The study, carried out by Direct Line Pet Insurance, found that dog walkers in the UK were charging an average of £11.50 an hour, and earning £26,496 per year.

In Northern Ireland, the rates are a little lower, at around £10 an hour - but that's still well above the £6.50 minimum wage.

Jonny Bingham (40), a former shop manager, set up Lead On in east Belfast in September 2013.

His 40-year-old wife Ciara gave up her job as a veterinary nurse last September to work alongside him.

The company charges £10 for an hour's walk, and the couple usually look after up to 20 dogs each day.

"There was a lot of stress with my previous job and I wanted a change," said Jonny.

"It was actually my wife's idea to start the company.

"We like walking, we like dogs... and we haven't looked back."

Jonny said they usually walked one dog at a time, collecting it from a customer's house.

And he said he estimates that, together, they earn around £30,000 each year.

"We have enough clients to keep us going and we are where we want to be in terms of the business," he said.

Dog walkers in the south east of England can earn significantly more than the national average according to the research, by charging an average fee of £14 per dog per hour.

With a typical workload of 192 dogs per month, that equates to an annual salary of more than £32,000.

Elsewhere, prices range from £10 per dog per hour in the north west and Scotland to £12 in the Midlands.

In Northern Ireland, the fee starts at £7, with most dog walkers demanding £10 for 60 minutes. Local authorities here limit the number of dogs that can be walked by a single person at one time to four in council parks and other public spaces.

Kerrie Ferguson set up her company, Wags R Us, which is a dog walking and pet sitting service, in January.

"I was made redundant from my job in telephone banking last September and I was having trouble finding employment elsewhere so I decided to do this," the 39-year-old, who is based in east Belfast, said.

She charges £10 per dog per hour, or £7 for 30 minutes, and she currently walks four dogs a day.

"My goal is to earn £1,200 a month and I think that's a realistic amount," she said.

"It's a super way to earn a living and it makes such a difference not having a stressful job. The pet-sitting side of the business is taking off too. Some people don't like putting their dogs in kennels so I go to their homes instead."

But it's not all fun and games, and dog walking has its downside too.

"A lot of responsibility comes with looking after precious pets and going into people's homes and there is a stress element with that," she said.

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