We caught up with professional dog walker Annie Rumbaugh to chat about the pups of Pittsburgh and how she’s scaled up her small biz.
No doubt about it. Pittsburgh native Annie Rumbaugh gets her steps in.
“On an average day, I’m walking 14 to 17 miles. My most ever was 23.2 miles in one day.”
Her dog walking business – Peachy Paws Pittsburgh – keeps her moving. Literally.
After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, Rumbaugh moved to New York City where she lived for 3 and a half years. During her time in the city, she linked up with Brooklyn Bow Wow – a dog walking business that experienced astronomical growth.
“My first day there were only three dogs at the daycare,” Rumbaugh explains. “When I left there were 46 dogs there. The company grew a TON.”
The skills Rumbaugh gained in New York proved to be tremendously helpful as she made her way back to western Pennsylvania.
“We all took leash training courses, learned how to walk dogs at night, learned how to walk more than one dog at a time…I even ran our social media so I was helping to bring in new clients as well.”
We sat down for a Q&A with Rumbaugh to chat pups, Pittsburgh and advice for pet owners in the Steel City. We also got the lowdown on some of her favorite walking routes (Hint: her pro tips emphasize the Strip District).
Q&A with Annie Rumbaugh (Peachy Paws Pittsburgh)
Very Local: So, you’re a Pittsburgh native?
Annie Rumbaugh: Yep! I was raised in Ben Avon (graduated from Avonworth HS) and I currently live in Polish Hill.
Very Local: When did Peachy Paws get started?
AR: I started the business in December 2018. To be honest, at first, I wasn’t sure if I made the right decision. I didn’t make any money til February 2019. It wasn’t until April / May 2019 that I felt more confident and things started picking up.
Very Local: Why did you start a dog walking business?
AR: When I was unemployed, I was walking my boyfriend’s dog through the Strip District and I began to notice all the pet-friendly apartment buildings. I decided to print some business cards and started dropping them off and slowly meeting people. That led to gaining clients and, ultimately, starting my own business.
Very Local: How did you settle on the name Peachy Paws?
AR: Peachy Paws is dedicated to my dog Peaches; I got her for Christmas in 11th grade when she was a puppy. She became our family dog. Sadly, she passed away this past spring. I drew a picture of Peaches and came up with the name and logo as a tribute to her.
Very Local: Walk us through a typical day for Peachy Paws
AR: Every day is a little different. Typically, I try to check in with my clients around 7:30 am (to firm up my schedule) and then head out for walks beginning at 9:30 am. I try to start in Bloomfield and work my way through Lawrenceville toward the Strip District. All my clients’ dogs have different walk lengths; I can usually do one to two clients at a time. The smaller puppies only need about 15 minutes but some dogs need up to an hour walk.
Very Local: OK, surely you track your steps. Do you have a favorite step tracker or app?
AR: I just use the Health app on my phone. That day I walked 23.2 miles was a super early start and I didn’t get a break. At the time, I didn’t have a car – so I walked TO and FROM all my clients, including the ‘hour walk’ dog. Then, a client called and added a night slot, so it just ended up being an exceptionally high mileage day.
Very Local: How do you onboard clients? Do they pick a service or a type of walk for their dog?
AR: I offer my clients “social walks” or “individual walks.”
Social Walk: your dog is allowed to walk with other dogs.
Individual Walk: if your dog is aggressive or cannot be walked with other dogs.
Almost all my clients pay for social walks. From the experience I gained in New York, I’m good with multiple dogs at once. I’ve done up to four at once here in Pittsburgh. The main thing is you just have to make sure they are good dogs.
Very Local: You’re heading out for a day of dog walking. What type of gear or stuff do you take with you?
AR: ALWAYS have an umbrella (it’s Pittsburgh). I always take a waterbottle and some type of human snack for me. I always pack a flannel or a sweatshirt; you never know if it’ll rain or get cold.
Very Local: What is your favorite route to walk?
AR: Definitely the river trail in the Strip District. There are chairs so you can just sit and look out over the river. I have a dog right now with a leg injury so we just go and sit by the river and enjoy it.
Although my routes are based on client demands, I really like routes that take me from Bloomfield / Lawrenceville down to the Strip. Since my clients need me both morning and evening, sometimes I have to bounce back to Lawrenceville (from the Strip). I love walking the back streets where there is less foot traffic. Also, cutting through parks is really nice.
Very Local: Was there ever an Ah-Ha moment when things began to click and you knew this was the right decision?
AR: Yes, it was when I started getting dogs with set schedules. For a while, all my (clients’) dogs needed me just a few times per week. When I eventually got to a regular, 5-days-per-week schedule, things started to level out. Now, it’s to the point where my clients just let me know when they need me. There’s no minimum requirement; you can just sign up for one or two walks. Building a relationship with folks has led to regular, recurring business.
Very Local: You deal with so many different pups. What advice do you have for pet owners in Pittsburgh?
AR: If you are a first time dog owner, be sure to have a budget. Having a dog is like having a kid. And I am your puppy’s babysitter. I’ve met a lot of folks who are running home on their lunch breaks to walk their dog. That’s exactly where I can come in and make things easier for you.
Related to advice, you never realize how many chicken bones are on the street. In the Strip District, for example, I know exactly where the chicken bones are; there is a whole area on Penn Ave where I just have to watch out. Sometimes I won’t see it and then I am pulling chicken bones out of a dog’s mouth.
Very Local: What is the craziest moment you’ve ever had on a walk?
AR: My one client Moose and I were walking one day and we ran into this group of people ALL wearing Hawaiian shirts. They said they needed to take a photo with someone walking a dog. Well, I turned around and there was another group taking a photo of me walking Moose. I turned around; sure enough there was another group. And another group. There must have been eight groups on this Pittsburgh scavenger hunt and they ALL got photos of me and Moose from different angles. It was just crazy.
Very Local: What do you love most about being a dog walker?
AR: I feel like this is therapeutic. If you have a bad day, suddenly this dog is so happy to see you. They are like, “When are mom and dad coming home?” And then I show up and pet them and take them out.
Also, the exercise is so good. I hate cold weather, but I power through it. It makes me feel tough.
Very Local: Do you currently have a pet of your own?
AR: I have a cat named double cheeseburger. He was a stray I found during my time in New York. He’s here with me now in Pittsburgh.
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