After 20 years in the dog-walking business, Ryan Stewart says he isn’t just a dog person — he sees himself as one of the pack.
Stewart started his New York side hustle, Ryan for Dogs, in 2002 to earn money between sparse acting gigs. Now, it’s his full-time job: He makes roughly $60 per hour walking three to five pups at a time. Guaranteed work by a reputation built over multiple decades, Stewart makes up to $120,000 per year, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.
“I don’t even think of myself as loving dogs, it’s just that they’re almost like an extension,” Stewart tells CNBC Make It. “I don’t love my right hand, you know? It’s just there.”
Ryan Stewart started dog-walking as a side hustle in 2002. Now, he makes up to $120,000 per year walking in New York City.
CNBC Make It
Stewart, who’s in his early 40s, says the best part of his job is that “without a college degree, I’ve managed to make six figures a year … doing something I love.” He works roughly 36 hours per week, spread across six days, he says — noting that dogs require constant attention, making his six-hour shifts often feel demanding.
“A good dog walker is focused and attentive, because you want to prevent your dog from getting hurt,” Stewart says. “You have to watch traffic. You have to watch the dogs [so they] don’t fight each other. It’s not one of those [jobs] that you can put on some AirPods and listen to music while you’re doing it.”
Mistakes in his field are costly, Stewart says. Small lapses in focus could lead to a dog’s tail getting caught in a door, potentially leading to a $2,000 vet bill.
But the benefits of spending his days with dogs, he says, outweigh the cons. Here’s how he channeled his connection with dogs into a fulfilling and lucrative day job:
A long road to lucrative
Growing up, Stewart’s siblings mowed the lawn and set the dinner table. His chore was walking the family’s dogs. So, when he started pursuing professional dancing in New York in his 20s, he thought dog-walking could be a natural side hustle.
“I remember standing on the street handing out business cards,” Stewart says. “I just started out with like one or two dogs [for] half a year, before that became three or four.”
After a couple of years, Stewart realized dog-walking could become more lucrative if it was his sole focus. But it would be a long road to get there: Despite high demand in large cities, the average dog walker in New York makes $35,625 per …….