Doctor earns more as dog walker

Doctors earns more as dog walker

I recently reported on a doctor-turned-dog-walker who says with her career switch she’ll enjoy more happiness—and income! In her own words:

Dear Pamela, Today I realized that if I become a dog walker and charge $25/hour and walk 5 dogs per day I would make my equivalent salary with a lot less hassles. I’m seriously considering this as a career move. I could be the most over-qualified dog walker out there with a bachelors, masters, doctorate and specialty certification! Sometimes I also dream about becoming a Yogi and Herbalist, maybe a part-time Barista? Maybe that would be more helpful to society than the assembly-line medicine I currently participate in and I would likely be happier and healthier. What do you think? ~ Erika

Many rational and highly-skilled doctors are quitting medicine to start organic farms, teach yoga, or move to cabins in the woods to write novels about surviving the trauma of medical training. So grab your pooper scooper and give it a whirl. Of course, if medicine is your passion, I’d love to help you launch your dream clinic. But if dog walking is your fancy, let’s analyze the facts:

A resident physician in the United States may earn (on the very low end) $45,000 caring for more than 30 or more patients each day. Given the unenforced 80-hour work limits, many doctors are working 90+ hours weekly (and yes, I get calls from doctors working 120-hour weeks). Daily wage is $123. Hourly wage $9.60. Income per patient is a whopping $4.10 (or less). 

Dog walkers who walk 5 dogs at $25 per dog earn $125 per day. Assuming a 35-hour work week, annual income is $45,625. Every dog walked per day beyond 5 would be an additional $9050/year or $54,675 (better than most residents in the country).

While resident work hours are not scalable, dog walkers could add another 10 hours per week and earn an additional $13,000 per year. If walking 2 dogs at a time ($50/hr) in a 40-hours/week, a dog walker makes $104,000 per year. Some dog walkers in NYC may earn up to $150,000 annually.

Dog walkers have very low liability and a high happiness index compared to physicians. And if you can handle 5 dogs per hour without tangling their leashes, you’ll make $125/hr or more. (Some docs in urgent care get paid $75/hour as a reference) Plus no student loans! Oh and dog walkers are in better health than doctors. Improved fitness with lots of time to play, eat, and sleep. Need academic stimulation? Listen to audiobooks while you’re walking 🙂

So let’s recap for a reality check:

Average first-year resident physician: $53,000

Dog walkers bypass doctors (while working half the hours).

Average veterinarian: $88,000 (low end = $53,000)

Turn out dog walkers earn more than veterinarians!

Average LPN: $45,000  & nursing assistant: $25,000

Looks like it’s more lucrative to scoop dog poop after all.

Click here to figure out how much you’re worth per hour.

Pamela Wible, M.D., is a family physician who teaches business strategy to medical professionals. She is author of Pet Goats & Paps Smears and Physician Suicide Letters—Answered

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25 comments on “Doctor earns more as dog walker
  1. Nicole says:

    I say do what gives you your best quality of life. I’ve now made $150/hour for one hour of mentoring another business owner on Facebook social media management. Easy for me, enjoyable and rewarding, and done from the comfort of my own home. This led to me managing her business page for a month (takes minutes per day) for $250. One business and $400 for only a couple hours of my time, in which I can still be at my home, with my kids, writing my full-length book, etc. For me, freedom and quality of life are now most important.

  2. Jim Anderson says:

    I think this is a lot of hyperbole. I agree that a dog walker could make more than a resident. However after graduation a physician could easily make more in multiples.

  3. Cyb says:

    Good luck finding someone willing to pay you $25/hr to walk their dog. That definitely is NOT the going rate for dog walking, pet sitting, etc where I live. And you have to make sure you never fall below your target hours/clients. Resident pay is guaranteed. Dog walkers don’t get medical insurance, dental insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, retirement, PTO, education benefits and they pay 100% of their employment taxes. Also you will never “graduate” from being a $25/hr dog walker to a $500/hr healthcare consultant. You can’t pivot from being a dog walker with a high school diploma to a professor in a medical school. Resident pay goes up every year until you’re fully credentialed to be a hospital employee with 3-4x higher pay. I honestly truly believe medical education is crazy abusive and the quality of life of physicians is tanking. Physicians are not being treated equally to other doctorate level workers. But the average dog walker does not make more than the average doctor. And lots of dog walkers DO have student loans and they have NO hope of getting them forgiven as nurses/physicians do. Most Americans would kill to be paid $25/hr for just about anything.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      I just went on a walk with a dog walker in town who gets $18 in Eugene, Oregon. Portland and larger cities are $25+/hr. Can double these rates if you walk more than one dog per hour. I am certainly no expert but I am talking to local dog walkers and reading online. I never knew much about the dog walking industry. Fascinating. And yes, you are correct that there are no health benefits as a sole proprietor dog walker.

      • Allie says:

        I am a general pediatrician making $65/hour. Owner pays most of bad medical insurance with high deductible. No dental,eye,disability insurance. Residency paid 12000 to 15000 and I thought it was great as had not been paid before to go to school which is what residency is. Get out ASAP if you don’t want to do it.

      • Cyb says:

        So even less than the projected $25/hr

        • CAB says:

          I agree with Cyb. My dog walker (who is awesome) charges $15 for a 30 min walk and struggles to get by. Keep in mind that most people want their dogs walked in the middle of the day while they are out at work so booking dogs for an 8 hour day would be very difficult. She can’t afford decent insurance even under ACA so I give her free medical advice sometimes. Being a medical resident can be rough, but you can’t say that dog walkers make more. And what residency pays $12000-$15000/year? Are we talking 1983?

  4. Marit says:

    I was an interior designer in my previous life. I still do a little consult here and there while in school. I charge $100-125/hr for color consults alone…. and the only paper work I have to fill out is signing my name on the back of my check. So why am I going to be an ND (who are notoriously paid less than MDs)???!!! I keep telling myself, I will make a difference in someone’s life…

  5. Donald Turken, MD says:

    very different positions, one you can talk with your clients, dogs, while the other needs translation through various ponderous sundries of biases. dog language is difficult to learn as it is a bit verbal, mostly visual, and humans do not think in terms of dog perspective and in images. the average dog is smarter than the average human, and much nicer. Resident physicians have a poor and lower class patient for those training years of practice, then leave the ‘hood’ and consider the ‘need’ for a higher end clientele and, hopefully, a concierge type practice, what used to be called private practice, but those who can pay and might pay, vs poor who may be on public dole. Many humans prefer to deal with other humans despite communication difficulties and differences, while some prefer the simple joy of dogs, and cats. and others. Remember, a human is likely to deceive you, whereas a dog, or cat, will not do so.

  6. Jed Diamond says:

    Clearly our medical system is broken and can learn from the newly emerging dog walking system. Its a small change from what’s up doc to what’s up dog?
    There are important lessons to be learned her about what’s important in our lives and why we continue to support a health-care system that is death on docs and patients (not to mention what the dogs lose when they lose docs, patients, and patience. There’s a better way and Dr. Wible has some answers for us all.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Oh thanks Jed! There are many docs leading the way with innovative delivery models. I do think that the most progressive health care models place the end user in charge. Empowering and ultimately leads to better engagement & health outcomes.

  7. Janice says:

    I am a current medical student. I started following you a few years ago. I was glad you were making the medical community aware of the importance of mental health and also the conditions in which health care providers are practicing in. However, what I do not like is the constant negativity about this profession. This article encourages people to think that being a physician is not worth it. All the PASSION behind this profession is lost in this article and in your recent posts. I understand that right now I’m still looking through things with naive eyes and I have not been jaded by my clinical years, residency, fellowships, etc. However, I have met many seasoned healthcare providers who still exude positivity about this profession–and they work in hospitals, clinics, and not self-made practices. Please continue to highlight where we need to improve without degrading the profession.

  8. Pamela Wible MD says:

    “I used to have a pet-sitting business. You don’t build up to that many dogs all at once. It takes a long time. I am not saying it is better or worse. Heaven knows I have great challenges with being an acupuncturist and think of quitting all the time. But pet/dog sitting has its own host of issues and problems, believe me. People also cancel, don’t pay, forget keys, want all sorts of bizarre things, sometimes the owners do dumb things like leave gates open and no dog, or forget to buy meds you need for them and there is insurance, mean dogs, animals that die on your watch and all kinds of stuff. Don’t glamorize pet-sitting. It may seem carefree,but it is not.” ~ Karen DeBraal

  9. Ally says:

    I think its disgraceful and completely disrespectful to theses professions that they are so grossly underpaid. If you live in Washington State you can earn $15/hr to do anything like flip burgers (its minimum wage). So how can you pay a medical intern $50k or worse still a veterinary intern $30k and expect them to pay off their $500k in loans to get there? Who wouldnt rather get some easy breezy exercise walking a dog than killing themselves under hostile supervision!

    Just my take!

  10. WC Lee says:

    Very True. I found this Mobile Pet grooming business that makes as much or more than physicians. Physicians working at Kaiser in LA are being paid only $65/hr these days and the rates drop every year. It’s getting harder to be in private practice especially with all these new Medicare Quality measures and will soon be difficult for private practices to keep up to avoid all the penalties.

    https://omgpetgrooming.com/pricing/

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Wow. No words.

      • WC Lee says:

        I was looking over some old job postings from Kaiser in Los Angeles, CA and in 2014, the rate was $73/hr for per diem and the physician is expected to see 4-6 patients per hour.

        We all need to work to keep private practices going to ensure that the best care is provided to patients as the physicians in private practice truly care for the well being of their patients and want the best for our patients (versus large organizations like HMO’s that only care about being cost effective).

  11. cugeno says:

    This is not directly related to US medicine, but… I visit Bulgaria a couple of times a year as part of my PhD research, and I have met a number of doctors there driving cabs (or doing other things unrelated to medicine) just to support themselves. One of my favorite docs there was a board-certified general surgeon, and he was earning about 300 Euros per month working 80-100 hours/week – that is not enough to live on, even there. (His wife, also a physician, was working as a pharmaceutical sales rep and nearly quadrupled his salary). Is it any wonder that he moved to Germany?

    One of the biggest reasons that I stayed overseas for residency, rather than entering the US match, was because I was offered a competitive position in one of the only places in the world that pays a living wage (for a family, especially) during training.

    I foresee a lot of people leaving medicine, or possibly leaving the US to practice elsewhere. Depressing, but real. I also have to say that a lot of the things that seemed SUPER important to me ten years ago have lost much of their lustre.

  12. Jonathan says:

    Not following the math here, or perhaps I don’t understand the job description.

    $25×2000 hours (8hrs/day, off on weekends, 2wks vacation) = $50,000, which seems like plenty for a dog walker but is not more than an average first year resident salary.

    Perhaps your correspondent is talking about walking 5 dogs at the same time (like the graphic) all day long, and getting $25/hr for each dog. That would be $125/hr (the $150/hr quoted in the graphic would be for six dogs). That seems pretty unlikely to be sustainable for an entire working day. Nobody’s going to pay you to walk the same dog all day long (a boutique dog practice). On the other hand, the practical implications and scheduling costs of changing dogs every hour (a total of 8×5=40 dog-hours per day total) seems certain to be a logistical nightmare, and an unobtainable market goal on most days. It is disturbing that a dog walker could make more per hour than a physician, but on an annual basis I think the physician would still earn a larger salary.

    You can carry the comparison further, in reverse. What would it be like if dog walking services were owned by Kaiser, HMA, inHumana, the VA, CMS, etc. ? You would have to walk 25 dogs simultaneously for 10 hours a day minimum, and document (on your own time, but using required proprietary software) where and by what method you cleaned up each individual poop. Kaiser would “manage the billing” for you, and pay you seventy-five cents per dog per hour, with bonuses if you hit certain contractually specified poop metrics. CMS, however, would be allowed to withold your pay if there was a single misspelling on the documentation, and if three poops per year were unaccounted for, they would not only suspend payment altogether, they would threaten you with felony prosecution.

    One of the things I continue to admire about your blog, however, is your relentless positivity. I love how you turn even the most discouraged and cynical sounding analysis into something upbeat ” if medicine is your passion, I’d love to help you launch your dream clinic”. Even when I disagree with you , I keep referring people to your blog and workshops because of comments like that. Thank you.

  13. RA says:

    The key is to balance what you want between work and life. I see way too many docs working ungodly hours and ignoring all the important things in life. If you like a sport, the outdoors, your family, NEVER give it up for medicine. It makes no sense. The only exception I would say is residency. There you may have to sacrifice a few things for a few years (it’s pretty much slavery and needs major changes). Once you become an attending, YOU decide where and when YOU work. You technically can’t complain about your job…GET a new one OR create one. With the internet and the many options available to docs, you have no excuses if you’re complaining about your job. After my first call in residency, I vowed to never do call as an attending (unnecessary and a waste of time). Since an attending, I work 40 hour weeks, weekends off, no call and all major holidays off. My first job as an attending was through a recruiter. I only took it because I was out of work for a while. Boy do they rip you off! I was being paid only 87.50/hr. I actually thought that was decent considering my hours and duties. After I left the job, I asked the company’s payroll how much they were paying the recruiter. It was a shocking $145/hr! They did pay for lodging and a rental car (estimated at $75/day), but do the math..they were making $57.50/ hr I worked basically doing “nothing” (that’s almost $500/day) . Later, I found out the owner of the recruiting agency was a HS dropout. What’s the point to all this?? YOU decide where and when you work. Read all contracts and revise as needed. Don’t take any job that will make you sacrifice your quality of life (you only have ONE). I am always looking for alternate ways for docs to make money and am working on an ebook.

  14. Ally says:

    so how do we raise salaries for junior doctors and veterinarians. It seems cruel to put them through so many years of schooling to come out earning peanuts especially when the tuition has seen far greater increases in recent years. Who is responsible for determining the appropriate salaries and who can take this first step?

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Informed consent regarding debt is essential. See (for example) what happens in Caribbean med schools here:http://www.idealmedicalcare.org/blog/ugly-truth-caribbean-medical-schools/ and then we need to beware of corporate employers that degrade our worth. Don’t sign a contract with someone who pays you peanuts. So many of us could do much better in our own independent clinics, for example. In a way, this is really psychological warfare and financial predation on the kind-hearted souls in the world—the humanitarian idealists who just want to help people and animals.

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