Hey! Thanks for visiting my website. My name is Jamie Shanks, and I’ve been a pro dog walker since 2010. I’m walking dogs at the beach at Boden Boo alongside other Erskine dog walkers, and if you walk dogs there too then you’ll no doubt have seen me, most likely we’ve met and had a chat. Anyway, let me tell you a bit about my biz and how it started.
I was at Reid Kerr college, learning computers. I loved it! It was the 90’s, Oasis were battling against Blur to top the charts, I discovered I had a brain after years of disinterest at school, and I was doing well. Then one day I quit and became a carer for a family member – I was 18 years old. It was a tough life, living on nothing but benefits, working as a full-time carer. I saw people I went to school with progress, build careers, find partners, buy homes, have children but my life never changed. I did this for 14 years, but in 2009 my role as a carer ended. I tried to find work but was unemployed for six months. Who’d hire a 32-year-old with no job experience? With the recession and having no work experience finding a job, any job was hard. I managed just one interview in that time.
On May 10th 2010 I sat on the train from Bishopton to Paisley and watched the trees fly by as an unemployed man. It had taken the last three months for me to get to the stage where the job centre was ready to sign me off after letting them know I wanted to be a self-employed dog walker and had a business idea called “Bishopton dog walking services”. The HMRC told me I needed to ‘sign off’ and then register my business to get working tax credits while the jobcentre told me I needed to register my business first and then ‘sign off’! It had been six months since I’d been made unemployed when I arrived at the job centre for the very last time! An hour later and after sorting out some forms, I sat back on the train and watched the same scenery go by. The same trees, the same buildings, the same clear blue sky, yet my whole world had changed. I was now, and suddenly self-employed and there was a future for me beckoning, good or bad!
Being my own boss and owning my very own business felt amazing, it was empowering, but there was a significant problem – I had no dogs to walk, no transport, was making no money, had no money to invest in my business and not to mention the three other established dog walking businesses strutting their stuff in my area! I had to learn how to be a dog walker on my own and let people know that Bishopton dog walking services existed, was ready to roll and convince people to choose me over the others, but how? Well, I started by making all my leaflets on the computer, printing them out and then posting them through every single door in Bishopton. I then saved up and got business cards made. With time on my hands and no other options I even learnt how to make a website! With no car I borrowed a bike from my brother so I could cycle to any dogs I needed to walk. I posted all the leaflets I made through every single home in Bishopton and built my website, weeks passed, but I never received a single phone call – things became pretty desperate. Then one day the phone rang with someone asking me to walk their dog. They were from Renfrew, and their dog was a show cocker spaniel named Jay! I was now a professional!!
As summer turned to autumn and I found more dogs to walk and pets to care for I managed to get hold of a 23-year-old Volvo estate. It was a very nice looking car that came with a massive boot and all the toys including heated seats which were a godsend for the winter of 2010. Sadly the ownership of that car came at a price. Because I never drove far, I didn’t think that owning a car (especially a v6) would be too expensive, but it was, and in the end and with many repair bills I had to let it go.
For over six months I went back to using the bike, cycling in the rain, again into that head-wind but eventually and after a bit of saving I bought another car. Slowly but surely a foundation was being laid and slowly I began to get known, became better at making my website and promoting my biz, and one year after I started I began to blog about my pet care. In October 2011 I bought a 2005 Chevrolet estate but frustratingly that car was jinxed as it cost £3000 in repairs and I gladly replaced it with a white 2004 Citroen Berlingo.
Walking dogs from Renfrew, Bishopton, Erskine and Langbank was getting too much, especially the time and cost it took to get to and from dogs and I knew I needed to localise the area.
After the owners of some dogs I walked in Renfrew no longer required a dog walker, and I got some new dogs in Bishopton I decided to let Renfrew go and concentrate more on Bishopton and Erskine. It was such a tough choice, but I knew that eventually, I would either have to choose Bishopton & Erskine or Renfrew and that there would come the point where I couldn’t do both.
In October 2012 I was now established and had several
So after getting first aid trained, I continued walking the dogs, blogging and continued working away, collecting more dogs to walk and cats to feed, and with the help of a canine dietitian, I began adding dog food recipes to my website. By 2014 I was full. I didn’t
So I kept working and kept taking photos every so often. At the end of 2014 I got a new puppy named Flo
A few months later I was sitting at home for a quick lunch (as it always is) when the phone rang. It was a journalist named Antonella Lazzeri working for The Sun newspaper, and she was writing an article about dog food vs human food and wanted my advice. So feeling somewhat startled and with half a pie hanging out my mouth I answered her questions. And you can read the article she wrote here.
From then on I was fully booked, blogging away, posting pics to Facebook and just getting on with it. My business turned 10 years old on May 10th this year. It was during lockdown but I continued to work with the support of my amazing clients and to celebrate my 10 years we had most of our walks at Finlaystone Country Estate. You can see the blog post for that here.