Start Your Own Dog Walking Business
Are you interested in starting a dog walking business? A dog walk business can be very lucrative. Do you know that the average dog walker charges between $15 and $35 per half an hour per dog, and that you can walk many dogs at a time? Staring a dog walking business is a great way to earn a living. You also promote your own physical and mental health as you do it.
Many dog owners especially the busy owners as well as the aging are in need of people to take care of their dogs. You can start a dog walking business to help these people. Besides, starting a dog walking business needs no formal qualifications, and requires minimal financial investment.
As a dog walker you will walk and caring for dogs for a living. There are many reasons why dog owners need the services of a dog walker. These include;
- Taking care of new puppies. The busy owner may not have time to attend to its needs during work hours.
- Taking dogs out for a potty break. Busy owner works more than 8 hours and needs a dog walker to take the dog out.
- Dog may need medication during work hours
- The dog owner doesn’t want the dog confined while he/she is at work
- The dog is hyper active and destructive and a walk will tire it out
- Dog owner has physical disabilities that bar them from taking the dog out
- Dog owner doesn’t have to take dog out for a walk
- Dog owner is old and doesn’t have the energy and strength to take the dog out for a walk.
A dog walker you will just let the dog out for a potty break or take it for a walk around the block. Also, You will decide whether to walk a single dog or do pack walking. Your client may ask you to give the dog attention and a fresh dish of water. It is your job to clean up after what the dog does while it’s in your care.
How Do You Start a Dog Walking Business?
1. Research The Market
Is there demand for dog walking in your area? You can find this out through simple observation, posting a questionnaire, and by holding a focus group.
2. Business Skills
First of all, to start your dog walking you have to register as self employed. Also, get a business bank account, maintain proper financial records, and complete tax returns. There are business organizations that can assist and support you with all matters for free. These include Small Business Development in the US, Business Link in England, and Business Gateway in Scotland. They are available online, and also through local seminars and workshops.
3. Get Some Experience
Walk dogs! Seek opportunities to walk dogs. In fact, you can volunteer to walk dogs for your charity. This will afford you valuable experience and you learn how dogs interact with one another and with the environment. You also a learn how to handle dogs of different ages, sizes, shapes, and temperaments.
4. Business Name
First of all, your dog business name is the face of the business. In fact, it is the first thing potential clients see. A name also says a lot about your business. Your dog business name should stand out and state exactly what you do. lastly, it must portray a professional business.
5. What Services Will You Offer?
Decide what services you will offer, and also what you will charge. Do you want to do single walking or pack walking? What about puppy care, and will you be administering medications? The more services you offer the more you will earn and the larger you will grow.
6. Business Structure
You can set up your business in 5 different business structures;
- Sole proprietor: This is the most common business structure among dog walkers. It is cheap to form and is usually owned by a single person . In this form of business structure the owner is personally liable for all business debts and can file on their personal income tax.
- Partnership: This business structure is also cheap to form and requires an agreement between two or more individuals to jointly operate and own the business. Share all aspects of the business among the partners in accordance with the agreement. Partnerships must file an informational return but don’t pay taxes. Individual partners report their share of profit and loss on their personal return.
- C Corporation: This business structure is not common among dog walkers as there are shares of stocks involved.
- S Corporation: This business structure is also not common among dog walkers since a business must be approved to be so classified.
- Limited Liability Corporation: This business structure is rather common among dog walkers. It reduces the risk of losing personal assets should the corporation be faced with a law suit. One can also choose to pay tax like a corporation and save on tax.
Get insured. Insurance coverage is essential to protect you and your clients. Dog walking insurance is specialized and only a few insurers provide it. These include Pet Sitters Associates, KennelPro, and Business Insurers in the US, NARP, Pet Business Insurance and Cliverton in the UK.
8. Create a Website
This is the information age and a professional looking website is the pillar of your business. Besides, most of your potential clients search for what they want on the internet while at work. Furthermore, a website is the best marketing tool after word of mouth. Setting up a website is rather easy and affordable. Also, make sure your content is informative, easy to navigate and search engine optimized. Before you start you website, buy a domain name that is your www. Address. So, try to choose one with your business name.
9. Marketing Your Business Services
Marketing feeds your business with clients. There are many marketing options, some more valuable than others. The useful ones include;
- Word of Mouth: This is the best and most effective form of advertising. If your clients are happy with your services, they will inform their family members and friends about you. To get these referrals you need to be trustworthy, and conduct your business and yourself professionally. Hence, create a reputation of being professional and reliable. Make your business cards accessible to your clients, because this way they can hand them to their family members and friends. It’s also a good idea to give incentives such as a referral bonus where you give a free dog walk for every paid referral. This will get your clients working to you.
- Flyers: These are a great and cheap way of advertising you dog walking business. Yet, be careful how you distribute them. Don’t mass print them then go distributing them door to door. Conduct your advertising campaign in a professional manner. Place your flyers on bulletin boards in the stores, post offices, pet stores, coffee shops, the vets and other places frequented by dog owners.
- Websites: Use free online advertising. List your dog walking business on as many sites as you can include local business directories. Also, targeted locations like forums frequented by dog owners. You can also advertise in place like craigslist, Yahoo Local, Backpage, Superpages, Google Maps and many others.
- Magazines and Newspapers: Another valuable marketing option. Advertise in the county papers and also in the local community papers.
- Car Magnets: Car magnets are a very valuable marketing option. Car magnets are a cheap and one time cost. Try them out.
- Business Card Distribution: Get business cards and use them when you get an opportunity to display or give them out. Yet, avoid handing them to everyone; it’s neither cost effective nor professional.
- Veterinarian Referrals: As a dog walker you will find to be a very valuable option. It is very effective. So, visit local veterinarians and seek permission to display your flyer and business card there.
- Be Trustworthy: First of all, be open and honest with your client from the beginning and you will gain your clients trust. It’s rather a good idea to make your full resume available and in addition, apply for a Police Check certificate.
- Provide Safe Dog Transport: You can start with the vehicle you have and convert it into a safe vehicle for transporting dogs. If a family car , fold the rear passengers seats down , and cover the whole rear area with non slip and easy clean material. Besides, install a dog guard behind the front seats.
- Prove Your Commitment: Invest in acquiring skills that are essential for your business. So, get the relevant qualification and attend animal behavior courses. In fact, you can start small by attending short courses like those offered by the American Red cross.
- Distinguish Your Services: As much as possible, stand out from the crowd by being unique. Offering services that set you apart from the crowd. This can be the area you are willing to cover, your discount rates, flexible work hours,or unique location.
10. Contract or Service Agreements
Use signed contracts to protect your business. These are the bare necessities in your dog walking business.
- Dog walking Service Contract: The service agreement should include your name and the name and address of the home you will be working in, because its evidence of a contract between you and the homeowner. This will permit you to be in the home. The contract should also state what you will be doing there. In fact, have all your business policies clearly stated and place them where the client can see and agree to them. Besides, include liability issues like damage, illnesses, aggression, accidents etc. Also list your payment policy, cancellation policy etc. The service contract is very import because it protects your business and your money.
- Dog Walking Information Sheet: This carries all dog’s information like birth date, breed, color, shot record, microchip number etc. Besides, it will have questions on how the client wants you to care for the dog. The sheet should be pre-filled with all the questions to avoid forgetting important ones.
- Veterinarian Care: This sheet enables you to take the dog to the vet without being responsible for the payment. It will show who is the dogs normal vet is and give permission to take the dog to another vet if need arises.
- Dog Walking Report Card: This card documents what you did and how the dog fared on your visit. It is left behind after each visit. Clients like to know how their dog’s day was, so they read it. There are other forms that help you simplify business like mediation permission slip, which allows you to administer medications and give medication instructions, the telephone reservation form, the satisfaction survey, which helps you get feedback from clients on your services.
11. Sub-Contracting or Employing an Assistant
Once you dog business is up and running, you may find that you can not keep up with the demand for your services. When this time comes, you will have to decide whether to sub contract or employ.
- Sub contracting gives you many tax advantages such as not having to purchase workman’s compensation cover, pay the employers part of federal with holdings, Medicare and social security
- You save on insurance since sub contractors come with their own insurance.
For these reasons many dog walkers choose to sub contract.
However, you need to research and find out your state rules about the classification of sub contractors.
- Sub contractors run their own business. Hence, you have no control over the sub contractor. In fact, you can not tell a sub contractor what, where, when or how to do like you do with employees.
- Many states do not permit you to sub contract for you offer your clients normally. So, Find out what the position is in your state
- A sub contractor will have their own business license and insurance. So, get supplemental insurance in the event that theirs is inadequate.
- Sub contractors are responsible for reporting their income. Hence, make sure you provide the sub contractor with a 1099 at the close of year reporting their income.
- Sub contractors are not entitled to any benefits.
- Sub contractors should also keep your business and your client’s information private.
Dog walking is a great business idea. In fact, it’s a very lucrative business and you are your own boss! Besides, you will make a living while at the same time having fun, and promoting your physical and mental health.