Coronavirus: What Dog Walkers Need to Know

Let's be real...the media has taken the coronavirus to a level of panic that's more than a little crazy. People are buying up toilet paper (🤔) and hand sanitizer like the apocalypse is coming.

There's a story circulating based on a report released by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department in Hong Kong about a dog with a "weak positive" test result for coronavirus that caused a lot of fear among dog owners.

According to the World Health Organization "While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19."

Note: An earlier version of this article included the previous statement from WHO "There is no evidence that companion animals or pets such as cats and dogs have been infected or could spread the virus that causes COVID-19." WHO has since removed this statement, as well as the corresponding infographic from their website.

This has led to confusion among dog owners and dog walkers alike. So let's tackle some things you can do to address client fears and prepare yourself and your business. 


The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends thorough and frequent hand washing using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or plain soap and water.

The general consensus I found is to use a hand sanitizer that's at least 60% alcohol if you can't wash your hands. For dog walkers, you should wash or sanitize your hands for at least 20-30 seconds before entering and after exiting client homes (this is a good practice any time, by the way). You should also wash or sanitize your hands after touching things that might have germs on them (doorknobs, client leashes, lock boxes, gas pumps, etc.).

Other preventative measures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can be found here.

Prepare but Don't Panic

Cancellations due to the coronavirus will likely be the primary impact on dog walkers. Schools and businesses may close due to quarantines, clients may cancel travel plans or start working remotely from home. As a result you might see an increase in cancellations. And if you get sick, you'll need to cancel walks unless you have someone to cover for you. 

Cancellation Policies

Now is the time to think about how you're going to handle coronavirus related cancellations. Will you make exceptions to your policy if clients need to cancel due to coronavirus? Decide your game plan so you're prepared ahead of time. It's also a good time to firm up cancellation policies and procedures in general so you'll be better equipped for other situations that may have similar impacts on your business in the future. 

Emergency Fund

Having an emergency fund for situations like this can ease the financial burden of a lighter workload or bridge the gap if you need to take time off. If you don't have one yet, start saving what you can now. Anticipate possible cancellations by curbing non-essential spending as a precaution. If you've been holding off on accepting new clients, but have room, consider working to fill any openings you can. 

Educate & Prepare Staff

Keep your staff members in the loop about what you're doing to prevent them from getting ill, any new protocols they need to follow, and make sure they are equipped with supplies they need to stay safe (like hand sanitizer, for example). Make it clear that if they are sick they need stay home.

If You Get Sick

You'll also want to consider the worst case scenario if you or a member of your staff contracts the virus. If you or your employee has to be under quarantine, what's your plan of action? If you are sick and can't work, what happens then? Figure out what your options are if that occurs. Consider if you have staff that could fill any gaps, if you can touch base with another walker who'd be able to cover your appointments or if you'd have to cancel walks. 

If a Client is Quarantined or Sick

According to the CDC "Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others." So, if you have clients who are actively sick with COVID-19, continuing to service them puts you at risk of getting the virus. You don't want to put yourself or your staff at risk of getting COVID-19, so take that into consideration as you set new protocols.


Client Education

Educate your clients about COVID-19 to prevent any confusion about pets transmitting the virus. You can save the graphic below or make your own to share on social media, and reach out to your email list as well. 

Let them know what steps you're taking (such as washing your hands between client homes) and any policy changes you're implementing. Be sure to tell them that if they are ill or quarantined they need to notify you right away. 

Learn More

If you have questions not answered here, these are reputable sources for additional information. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization