Starting a dog walking business can be a great way to earn money. You also get to spend your day with dogs, isn’t that great!? Here are some steps to follow to start your own dog walking business.
Firstly: Congratulations on considering starting your own business! This is a big step and can be both exciting and intimidating. We hope you will plan and research your business idea, starting with these tips. We wish you all the best as you explore this exciting opportunity. You can do it!
These are the main topics we will cover in this post
- Researching the market and competition
- Develop a business plan
- Determine your pricing
- Set policies and procedures
- Build a client base
- Obtain necessary licenses and insurance
- Build a website and create marketing materials
- Invest in quality equipment
- Be reliable and professional
Researching the market and competition
Please view this as a fun and interesting activity. Be curious and not intimated by the competition. Competition is good because it shows you there is a demand for this service. You are trying to figure out if there is enough demand for everyone.
-Determine the demand. Let’s look at some broad indicators here. You want to know if there is any demand first. Afterwards you can work on trying to meet that demand. Google maps is your friend here. Search dog walking services in your area. Compare that to other areas of similar size.
-Pattern in the maps can you get a sense of the area by looking at the map? Is there a cluster of services in one area and not in another? Is there an opportunity here or is this telling you there is no demand? What demographic live here? young families who don’t have time for pets? or people with pets and time to walk them…
Now let’s do a search of vet services in the area. do we have a similar cluster of services? why is it the same or why is it different? are you getting curious?
Let’s look at one more thing. dog grooming services.
Do we have a similar cluster of services here? why would that be important? if you have dog grooming in that area then people are spending money on their dogs.
Ok, so what do we know now….? We have dog walkers, vets, and dog groomers. if you have vets and dog groomers and little dog walkers, maybe there is an opportunity there for you. If you have all three in the area don’t give up. Maybe there is still some room for you. Remember you only need a small number of dogs to get started.
Now what? let’s give some of these businesses a call. you should be able to see their quiet times on google maps. Call the vets office and tell them you are interested to start a dog walking business in the area. Don’t ask them if they think it’s a good idea because they will only want to be polite and tell you what you want to hear. Ask them more direct questions, do people ask them about dog walking services in the area? Do they know dog walkers in the area and do they talk about being busy or quiet. make out a list of questions before you can and don’t take up too much time from their day. I would do the same for dog groomers. I wouldn’t call a dog groomer and pretend to want their services just to get information… that sounds a little wrong to me.
I recommend (I’ve done this for other businesses) is call a dog walker in another city. Explain to them that you would like to talk about their experience. Make sure that you explain that you are in an area that won’t be competing. People will share their experiences with you, people want to help people.
-Read reviews of other dog walkers. Reading reviews will give you a good idea of what not to do. People like it when you are happy to see their dog and you have a friendly vibe. So if you are having a bad day then remember that soon you will be out walking with some furry best friends. Make some notes of what people like and don’t like.
-Look at the types of services your competitors provide, such as hourly, daily walks, and overnight pet sitting. Can you add extra services that you didn’t think about? What about a wash service? Could that bring in a little extra money? Sometimes success means doing the simple things right and consistent. Make the dog owners life easy and you will have loyal customers.
-Research the pricing of your competitors for dog walking services in your area. This should be on their website, for those who have websites. Use this information to see how many dogs you need to earn your target for the week or month. I wouldn’t rush to offer the lowest prices. Sometimes this attracts people who don’t value your service. Something to consider. Be fair in your prices and people will be fair with you.
Develop a business plan
A well-developed business plan will help you to stay organized and focused.
-Define your target market by thinking about who you want to work with. What will be your demographic? For example, a family may need more flexibility than a single person. Do you enjoy talking to elderly people? maybe this can be your target market. what about the types of dogs? are you comfortable walking and caring for a large dog? Some dogs can be super strong.
-Determine your services, from your research earlier, write down exactly what you want to provide. Get this a little clearer in your mind. What can happen is over time things get beyond your control. Ever go to the store without a shopping list? You will forget things you want and get things you don’t need.
-Develop a plan for marketing your business. There are lots of free options to start with first. Try and prove the concept before building websites and spending lots of money. Social media is free. printing out some fliers will cost some money but not a lot. building a website will be expensive compared to the other options. Try and use the money you make from dog walking to build up your marketing. Can you save 10 to 20% of your money to reinvest to get more customers? See what you are comfortable with.
Does this sound reasonable to you? I’m going to get customers by word of mouth. I know some friends that want this service and I’ll start there. Now that I have dogs to walk, I’m going to have a Facebook page and Instagram to show what I do. From the extra money I get I’m going to print some fliers to get more customers. From those extra customers I’m going to try some ads on Facebook. With the money from that I’m going to get a website to give myself more credibility. Then I will get some t-shirts printed or hi-vis jackets printed to show what I do. From there I’m going to hire someone to help with the marketing so I can spend more time with dog walking.
-Estimate your start-up costs, such as equipment and marketing expenses. What equipment do you need and what equipment do you need for the dogs? This will help you to determine how much you’ll need to charge to cover your expenses and make a profit.
Determine your pricing
Set your pricing appropriately. Cover your expenses. Make a profit while remaining competitive in the local market.
-Consider the types of services. What is your price for each service based on the time and effort required.
-Have a look at the pricing of your competitors. Some will have a price list on their website. Use this information to determine your own pricing.
-Think about your expenses, such as equipment and potentially travelling cost. It’s tempting to ignore some costs, but they all must be paid for. For example: if you need to get a bus or train to some clients, this is a cost to be included.
-Package deals are great and they do work. such as a discounted rate for multiple walks per week or a discounted rate for many dogs. This can help you to attract more clients and increase your revenue.
Note: Be careful not to undervalue your services. If there is demand and you offer excellent service, then trust that people will be happy to pay for it.
Set policies and procedures
This is more important than you may think. Spend some time here thinking about what you do and don’t do, what are you responsible for. It would be a good idea to print out these policies so your clients can read them. It’s better to have something written down rather than just telling them. People won’t remember and you may also forget what you agreed to.
-Develop a plan for handling emergencies, such as a dog becoming injured or lost while in your care. What steps will you take in these situations? It’s better to think about this now and have a plan in place.
-What are your policies for cancellations, including how much notice you require. Will you charge a fee for last-minute cancellations? What about one free cancellation a month? Be sure to communicate these policies to your clients.
-How you’ll handle payment, including whether you’ll accept cash, check, or credit card? Will you require payment in advance? Will this affect your ability to get new customers?
-What are you responsible for while providing dog walking services? Such as injuries to dogs or damage to property. Make sure to communicate these liabilities to your clients.
No one wants anything to go wrong but it is something you should think about. Discuss this with your new clients. Have a document in place and talk over each point. If possible, you should consult a legal expert on this. Each country will be different so we can’t give any advice on this.
Build a client base
By networking with local businesses, you’ll be able to attract new clients and grow your business.
-Visit local pet stores and veterinarians to ask if they would be willing to refer clients to you. These businesses often have many dog owners as customers, and they may be willing to promote your services to their clients. Word of mouth is often one of the best ways to get new clients, this can take a little time to build up, so stick with it.
-Promote your business online. Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok etc. would be a good place to start. These can be setup for very little cost and are easier to setup compared to a website. You can show the parks you visit and the dogs having fun. Once you have some money coming in you can add a website to give you more credibility.
Obtain necessary licenses and insurance
Get the necessary licenses and insurance. This will give you peace of mind against any unexpected events. Your local Vet and Police department should be able to help here. If you were able to ask someone already in the dog walking business this would also be very helpful. Sometimes there are rules and regulations that could surprise you. It’s always better to check.
-Check with your local authorities to find out what licenses and permits you’ll need. These may include a business license, a sales tax permit, and other licenses or permits specific to your area.
-Get liability insurance to protect yourself in case of accidents or injuries. This can cover you if a dog is injured while in your care or if you are sued for any reason related to your business. If you offer overnight pet-sitting services, check if your house insurance covers this. You may need to upgrade your insurance.
-Be aware of any laws or regulations related to dog walking in your area, such as leash laws and dog park rules. You should always follow these rules.
Don’t be put off by reading you may need a license and insurance. It won’t be as difficult as you think. You may need to fill out some forms to get a permit, but this won’t be difficult. Insurance should not be too expensive either and should be straight forward.
Build a website and create marketing materials
If you want your business to grow over time, it’s important to think about marketing.
-A website will show that you are a more established and serious business. Websites will help with having more credibility. Your website should include information such as: location, services offered, pricing, and contact information. You may also include photos of your business and testimonials from satisfied clients.
-Create marketing materials to promote your business, such as flyers and business cards. These can be distributed to local pet stores, veterinarians, and other businesses.
-Use social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to promote your business and reach a wider audience. Think about offering promotions or discounts to attract new clients.
It is also a good idea to have a t-shirt or a Hi-Viz jacket showing you are a dog walking service. This will encourage people to come ask about your service.
Invest in quality equipment
By investing in quality equipment, you’ll be able to ensure the safety and comfort of the dogs you’ll be walking. You will also be able to provide a higher level of service to your clients.
-Invest in durable, high-quality leashes as you will be using these a lot. This will also give your clients more confidence in you.
-Purchase high-quality collars that fit comfortably and securely on your walking dogs. Make sure to check the fit regularly and adjust as needed.
–Invest in a supply of waste bags to clean up after the dogs you’ll be walking. Consider purchasing bags that are biodegradable or environmentally friendly.
-Purchase water bottles and bowls to ensure that the dogs you’ll be walking stay hydrated on hot days.
-Purchase a basic first aid kit to keep on hand in case of any minor injuries or emergencies.
Be reliable and professional
Most reviews you read will talk about the importance of being reliable. You really need to focus on this. People want you to be consistent because if not it can mess up their day and you never want that reputation.
-Make sure to show up on time for all your dog walking appointments. This will show your clients that you are reliable and dedicated to providing quality service.
-Keep in touch with your clients regularly, either through phone calls or email. Update them on their pets and address any concerns they may have.
-Be flexible and willing to accommodate your clients’ needs. Such as offering additional services if requested.
-Use professional language and communication with your clients and avoid slang or casual language.
-Follow through on your commitments to your clients, and make sure to do what you say you’ll do.
Congratulations on considering starting your own business! This is a big step and can be both exciting and intimidating. We hope you will carefully plan and research your business idea, starting with the tips we gave above. We wish you all the best as you explore this exciting opportunity.