Do you ever think about spending your days outdoors, surrounded by furry friends? Then starting a dog walking business might be right for you.
It’s quite different from a regular office job – instead of being cooped up indoors, you get to enjoy fresh air, stay active, and spend quality time with dogs. It’s a great way to combine work with your passion for animals.
But how do you actually get started?
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to start a dog walking business. We’ll also explore strategies for building and nurturing your clientele, and how to grow your profits to ensure a successful and sustainable business.
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Why start a dog walking business
There are lots of compelling reasons to start a dog walking business. Here are a few:
Spending Time Outdoors
If you love fresh air and being in nature, a dog walking business allows you to work outside rather than being stuck indoors all day. You’ll have the chance to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors while doing something you love.
Instead of sitting at a desk for hours, a dog walking business keeps you physically active. Walking and exercising dogs can contribute to a healthier lifestyle, allowing you to stay fit and energetic.
Bonding with Dogs
If you’re a dog lover, starting a dog walking business is an opportunity to spend your days surrounded by furry, four-legged friends. You’ll get to build connections with various dogs, learning about their unique personalities and forming lasting bonds.
Freedom and Flexibility
Running your own dog walking business provides a sense of freedom and flexibility. You can set your own schedule, choose the number of clients you want to work with, and have control over your work-life balance.
Dogs are known for their unconditional love and companionship. As a dog walker, you’ll have the privilege of bringing joy and happiness to both the dogs and their owners.
Knowing that you’re making a positive impact on their lives can be emotionally fulfilling.
Starting a dog walking business is a chance to be your own boss and build a business from the ground up. It allows you to develop your entrepreneurial skills, make independent decisions, and potentially expand your services in the future.
What you need to start a dog walking business
Liability insurance is crucial when starting a dog walking business since it protects you and your clients from potential accidents or mishaps. Accidents can happen despite your best efforts, and having insurance safeguards you in many ways.
Dogs can get injured, escape, or cause harm to others during walks, and liability insurance covers the costs associated with such incidents. It also provides coverage for any property damage that may occur, such as scratched furniture or broken items.
If a dog bites or injures someone or their pet, you could be held legally responsible. Liability insurance takes care of legal expenses, medical bills, and potential compensation claims, easing the financial burden on you. Besides financial protection, liability insurance demonstrates professionalism and enhances your credibility.
Clients feel more secure knowing that you have insurance, since it shows your commitment to their safety and well-being. Ultimately, liability insurance brings peace of mind, allowing you to focus on your business and provide exceptional dog walking services.
To start a dog walking business, you don’t need any specific formal qualifications or degrees. But certain qualifications and skills can benefit your business and give you an edge over the competition.
Here are some qualifications to consider:
Knowledge of Dog Behavior
Understanding dog behavior is important for a dog walker. Get familiar with basic canine behavior, body language, and how to handle different breeds and temperaments.
This will help you keep the dogs in your care safe and comfortable.
Dog Walking Courses or Workshops
Consider attending dog walking courses or workshops offered by reputable organizations. These programs can teach you about leash handling techniques, group management, basic training commands, and other important skills.
Joining professional associations or organizations related to pet care, such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) or Pet Sitters International (PSI), can demonstrate your commitment to professionalism and ongoing education.
Experience and References
While not a formal qualification, having experience working with dogs, like volunteering at animal shelters or helping friends and family care for their dogs, can enhance your credibility.
Collect references from people who can vouch for your reliability and trustworthiness.
First – aid certification
Having first aid certification is crucial when starting a dog walking business. It ensures you’re prepared for emergencies and can provide immediate care to keep the dogs safe and healthy.
With first aid training, you can respond quickly to injuries or sudden illnesses, which can keep the dog’s condition stable until veterinary care is available.
Certification covers essential skills like assessing situations, performing CPR, controlling bleeding, treating wounds, managing choking incidents, and identifying signs of distress or poisoning.
It brings peace of mind to both you and the dog owners, and shows your commitment to their well-being.
First aid certification also demonstrates professionalism and shows your clients that you’re equipped to handle emergencies responsibly. It also makes collaborating with vets easier by helping you communicate with them more effectively during emergencies.
To get certified, seek out pet first aid and CPR courses tailored to the unique needs of dogs. Completing a recognized first aid certification program improves your credibility, boosts client confidence, and prioritizes the safety of the dogs you walk.
Having a driver’s license and access to your own car
Having a valid driver’s license and access to your own car is important when starting a dog walking business. Here’s why:
As a dog walker, you’ll need to travel to your clients’ homes to pick up and drop off the dogs. Having a driver’s license means you can legally operate a vehicle, making it easier to reach your clients efficiently and on time.
Convenience and flexibility
Owning your own vehicle provides flexibility in scheduling and servicing a larger area.
You can plan your routes according to your clients’ needs, accommodating multiple walks in different locations throughout the day.
Safety and comfort
With your own vehicle, you have control over the safety and comfort of the dogs while you’re transporting them. You can ensure that the vehicle is equipped with appropriate restraints, such as crates or harnesses, to secure the dogs and prevent them from roaming freely or getting injured while on the move.
Easy access to supplies and equipment
Having access to a vehicle means you can carry necessary supplies and equipment for dog walking, like waste bags, water bowls, treats, and extra leashes. It’s more convenient and keeps you fully prepared for each walk, providing a professional experience for both the dogs and their owners.
Helpful in emergencies
In case of emergencies or unexpected situations, having a vehicle readily available can be crucial. It allows you to quickly transport a sick or injured dog to a veterinary clinic for immediate care, potentially saving valuable time and ensuring the well-being of the dog.
Starting a dog walking business takes more than just skills and qualifications. Your personal qualities play a big role in your success as a dog walker.
First and foremost, you need to genuinely love dogs. Enjoying their company, understanding their needs, and being patient and caring are super important.
Responsibility is another key quality. Dog owners rely on you to take good care of their furry friends, so being reliable and committed is crucial. You also need to be physically fit to keep up with energetic dogs and handle different types of terrain safely.
Having good communication skills helps you connect with both clients and dogs. Problem-solving abilities come in handy when unexpected situations come up, too. ‘
Patience, adaptability, and professionalism can help you handle different dog behaviors, adjust to changes, and build trust with your clients.
5 simple steps to start your own dog walking business
Step 1. Research your local dog walking business market
Explore the market in your area to see what other dog walking businesses are doing. Look up information on dog walkers’ earnings in your neighborhood, the services they provide, and their rates.
Keep a list of your findings while you research, keeping track of:
- What you like about your competitors’ approaches.
- What you don’t like about their strategies.
- Opportunities for your pet business to gain a competitive edge.
Another important aspect of your research is the financial aspect. Look into the financial side of starting a dog walking business, factoring things like initial costs, ongoing expenses, and potential revenue streams.
This information will help you develop a realistic financial plan for your business.
Step 2. Figure out your start up costs
As you delve into your research while establishing your dog walking service, you’ll start to understand the initial investment needed before it starts generating substantial revenue.
Start by considering the essentials. What supplies will you need? Take stock of the supplies you already have. Then, you can get into more detailed aspects of financing your dog walking business.
Different costs need to be taken into account, including:
- Securing a website domain name and hosting.
- Designing the website (if you decide to outsource).
- Using work scheduling software
- Covering business registration fees.
- Obtaining dog walking insurance.
Create a spreadsheet listing each anticipated expense to estimate the total amount needed to kick-start your business. This will help you assess the feasibility of your plan and decide if you need to put in more funds.
Step 3. Get an appropriate business license
In most places, you’ll need to obtain a business license before operating a dog walking business, regardless of its size. Whether you’re a solopreneur or part of a big corporation, registering with your local governing body makes sure that your business is legitimate and compliant with local laws.
Getting a business license is usually pretty straightforward.
Sole proprietorship vs LLC
Setting up a sole proprietorship is a simple option for starting a dog walking business. It’s easy to operate, but it provides fewer legal protections compared to other business entities like a limited liability corporation (LLC).
An LLC helps separate your personal finances from your business, creating a barrier between yourself and any potential legal issues that may come up.
This is particularly important for dog walking businesses. Without the right business structure, you could be personally liable if something goes wrong with a client’s pet.
Talk to a small business lawyer if need be
If you aren’t sure about which type of corporate entity is best for your dog walking business, it’s a good idea to talk to a small business attorney. They can guide you through the pros and cons of each option.
While it may cost more to seek legal assistance, it can save you a significant amount of money if any problems come up in the future.
Step 4. Build your brand and market your dog walking business
Your company name is just the beginning of building your brand. Branding is how your business presents itself to the world, including your logo, website content, colors, and fonts.
It’s what sets you apart and connects you with consumers.
Research shows that customers prefer to support familiar brands, having a distinct brand color increases recognition, and consumers form an impression of trustworthiness in just seven seconds.
Take time to evaluate your brand values and find ways to convey them through visuals and daily business practices. Consider working with a branding coach to create a logo, brand colors, and a slogan that align with your core business identity.
Creating a small business website is a great first step to launch your business. Your website should include information about yourself, your experience, the areas you serve, pricing details, and contact information.
Building a simple website is often affordable and easy to maintain, and it can significantly contribute to building your company’s reputation.
Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth advertising. This is especially important for dog walking businesses since people tend to rely on recommendations from friends and family when entrusting the care of their beloved pets.
You can also implement a customer referral program to encourage satisfied clients to refer your services to others. By offering rewards like free walks, you can incentivize happy customers to spread the word about your business.
Step 5. Choose the right small business apps and software to manage your business
When it comes to managing your dog walking business effectively, choosing the right software can make a big difference. One great option is Homebase. It’s a user-friendly software that offers tools to streamline your operations.
With Homebase, you can easily schedule walks, assign them to specific walkers on your team, track employee work hours and keep track of each dog’s needs. You can also create client profiles, including contact information and special instructions.
Homebase simplifies billing and invoicing, allowing you to generate professional invoices and track payments. It also has communication features, so you can keep clients updated on their dogs’ walks.
If you’re hiring dog walkers, you can use Homebase’s gps time clock app to keep track of who on your team is clocking in and where. Homebase also provides reporting and analytics, giving you insights into your business performance. You can track the number of walks, revenue, and customer satisfaction.
Starting a dog walking business allows you to combine your love for dogs with the freedom of being your own boss. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can set yourself up for dog walking business success.
Do your research, get the right licenses and insurance, obtain the right qualifications, and build a strong brand.
Market your services effectively, using both online and word-of-mouth strategies.
Consider using software like Homebase to streamline your operations and provide excellent service to your clients. With dedication, passion, and the right approach, you can create a thriving dog walking business that brings joy to both you and your furry friends.
One easy app to manage your hourly team.
Get your team in sync with our easy-to-use, all-in-one employee app.
> Get started for free with Homebase