About 69 million US households have a dog. And most dogs remain at home as their doggie parents go to work. Finding time to take their dogs outside becomes a challenge with the fast-paced lifestyle. And many of the dog parents live in apartments and condos to make things harder.
Offering dog walking services is a wonderful idea. Imagine making money being with animals you love and exercising simultaneously. The best thing about dog walking service is not dealing with traffic or doing a nine to five grind.
Let’s walk you through the steps regarding how to start dog walking service.
Know A Dog Walking Business
A dog walking service is a wonderful job where you get paid for spending time playing with other people’s dogs. Dogs are lively animals and fun to be with all day. You need to know a few things when considering how to start your own dog walking business.
Trust Is Key
Apart from having a genuine love for dogs, you should have a clean criminal record. Showing potential clients your full and current criminal background check report gives them peace of mind. This is very important to make them trust you with their property. Some will have to trust you with the keys to their homes, and some dogs are quite expensive.
Know How To Price Your Services
The charges to walk one dog vary by location. However, you charge less when a client has more dogs to walk. Additionally, the distance or length of the walk determines the price of your service. Smaller or older dogs are best suited to walk shorter distances. These don’t usually need long periods of exercise as more active, and younger dogs do.
Don’t Walk Too Many Dogs Once
You’re likely to get more doggos to walk when business picks up. So, it is best to hire people to help you. Walking more than four dogs is not recommended. Five dogs may develop a pack mentality and disturb the walker.
And, a large number of dogs may not hear your commands and obey them. This explains why most city councils allow walkers to have packs of not more than four dogs.
Dogs Need A Strong Collar And Lead
All dogs should wear a quality collar that won’t break or make the doggo not comfortable whenever you pull the lead. The lead should match the dog’s size and height to give you full control while on the street, near a road, or in a town center.
You‘re responsible for picking up after the dogs while walking. The dogs are likely to stop at some moment to poo. So, you need to carry enough supplies of waste bags to pick up any poo and dispose of it appropriately. You have to always look out for special dumping bins for dog mess.
Some Essential Supplies You’ll Need
When looking for ideas on how to start a dog walking business in your neighborhood, you must understand the essential things to manage the business. Your dog walking kit should include various items, including those highlighted below.
One of the essential things regarding how do I start a dog walking business is having t-shirts with your company name and logo. You may have your contact details printed on the back of the t-shirt with the logo on the front. Walking the dogs dressed in a branded t-shirt will reinforce your brand identity.
Potential customers will easily recognize your employees to request your service. Wearing a t-shirt with your dog walking logo also makes you look professional and sets you apart from other people in the same business.
Some clients will give you copies of their home keys to pick up and return their dogs. So, you’ll always need to have your clients’ keys handy. You have to prepare for clients who may call to request a walk for their dogs at times.
The keyring should have your name and phone number so people may contact you to return it when you misplace it. Avoid labeling the keys with the addresses of your clients. You may never know who may come across them if you lose the key ring. Instead, put the name of the dog on the owner’s key.
You must always carry business cards. When marketing your business, dropping your business card whenever you hear or see a dog is a wonderful marketing idea. Additionally, there’s a likelihood of meeting some dog parents struggling with their furry friends on the road. They will be glad to know that you can help walk their dog and are likely to call you soon.
Vet Release Forms
Having dog owners sign a veterinary release form is smart in our litigious society. The form is an acknowledgment by the dog parent that they’re responsible for vet bills if their dog is sick or hurt under your care except for negligence.
The vet release form also authorizes you to seek to take the dog to the vet during an emergency. This form should include the terms of your emergency process and the maximum amount for the treatment, especially when the clients are unreachable. Planning for unforeseen situations will save you from getting misunderstandings with your clients.
You’re a stranger to the dogs for walking when you first visit your clients’ homes. Building trust or asserting that you’re the boss may be challenging at first. Fortunately, having some tasty and healthy snacks will solve the problem as most dogs are led by their stomachs. The tasty bribe will make the dogs walk closely with you.
The ugliest side of the dog walking service is cleaning up. You have to carry a good supply of bags for cleaning up when nature calls. Having a handy bag dispenser is always strongly recommended. This should have a roll of plastic bags to be prepared if the doggos go on a poo break.
Dog Drinking Vessel
Staying hydrated is very important for you and the dogs on a walk. You need a water bottle for yourself and the dogs. This doesn’t mean moving with a cumbersome dog bowl. Get a specially designed dog water bottle with an attached bowl for the dogs to drink from.
Your dog walking kit wouldn’t miss a fanny pack. This is for packing waste bags, water bottles for you and the dogs, keys, business cards, doggie treats, sunblock, and extra leads. Some come with holders for water bottles on the sides. The fanny pack will give you a hands-free experience when walking the dogs.
Doggie First Aid Kit
Dog walking comes with a lot of pressure to ensure that the dogs in your care are always safe. While hoping that nothing happens is a good idea, you have to prepare if anything happens. So, investing in a doggie first aid kit is a wonderful idea. It should include items such as:
- Blanket for using as a stretcher
- Emergency vet numbers
- Wound dressings and bandages
- Antiseptic wipes
- Sterile saline wash
- Tweezers for removing foreign objects stuck in dog paws
- Thermometer for monitoring temperature
Create The Business Plan
Planning how to set up a dog walking business requires having a solid plan. This will help you identify opportunities and take an honest look at your competitors. The business plan allows recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, setting a budget, financial projections, and potential profit.
Here are the essential elements of a dog walking business plan.
The ideal executive summary for a dog walking business plan is one page long. It highlights the money you need and how you will use it. A financial summary is not necessary when you don’t plan to use a loan or a grant.
The executive summary should include how long you’ve been in business or whether you’re just starting, qualifications, and your state. It should also indicate opportunities in the local market and projections for income, expenses, and profits.
This section will include how you’re to operate your business and who will be responsible for running it. Here, you also state your staff and their salaries. Even when managing the business yourself, you have to account for operating hours, time, and dogs and their owners you’re likely to serve.
An operations plan should include your dog walking insurance, licenses, and customer policies. You may attach your contract in the appendix section with reference to this section of your dog walking plan.
Price And Competitor Analysis
In this section, you highlight how much you’re likely to charge for your services and your competitor analysis. Analyzing competitors allows knowing how to make your business better than theirs. You also have to analyze and evaluate your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.
Competitor analysis allows realizing the successful ideas of your competitors to strengthen your business plan. It also gives insight into the potential prices customers are likely to pay in your local area. After the analysis, you may spot services that they don’t offer. Additionally, you’ll be better positioned to determine your business’s more realistic price structure.
You determine how you’re to market your business in this section. Some options include word-of-mouth, creating a website, or listing in directories. The ideal marketing plan should match your potential customers. You have to understand the demographics of your business, including age, sex, and type of work.
You need a financial projection for the next three to five years of your business. The projections should be in the worst, average, and best-case scenarios. In the worst-case scenario, business is usually slow with few customers.
The best-case scenario is when you hire new staff and the business grows rapidly. It is very important to plan how your business will survive throughout all scenarios.
Choose Your Market
The people who are likely to be customers for your dog walking business are dog parents. However, you have to know where to find them. Let’s highlight some ideas on where to find your ideal clients.
Condos and apartment dwellers
Look for condos and apartments that accept pets and advertise your service by word of mouth. Go and talk to the complex manager wearing a branded shirt for your business to request marketing your service in the complex.
Most managers will welcome your idea since tenants with dogs will have their pets not messing on their units. Move with some business cards or flyers to leave behind. You can also carry a few posters for placing near the tenants’ mailboxes or laundry room.
Residents In Corporate Housing Complexes
Some companies have residences where their staff live before they are relocated. Most of these complexes accept residents to keep pets. Since the residents are busy most of the time, they will welcome having you walk their dogs.
Most residents have just arrived from different areas. So, they will be glad that you’re available to help them recommend the best local vets and other resources for the well-being of their furry pals.
Asking to leave your business cards, flier, or poster at the vet’s office is a good way to attract potential dog-walking customers. Ask the vet to recommend you to their client, and you’ll do the same.
Another way to attract local residents is to leave your poster in a location like a laundromat and shopping mall that attracts many people daily. Visit these often and strike conversations with people you find, and don’t forget to hand out your business cards.
People In The Local Park
Always find time to visit the local park in the evenings or on the weekends. You’re likely to find a lot of people moving with their dogs. Don’t be afraid to stop and talk to them about your services. Most of them are likely to be interested in hiring a professional walker to walk their dogs.
Find time to visit local hotels and other locations that allow pets. Most tourists don’t leave their dogs behind. So, they wouldn’t mind paying a local dog walker to walk their pets while they enjoy checking out local attractions where pets may not be allowed.
Register Your Company
Running your dog walking business legally requires registering it with local authorities. This varies from one state to another. However, there are some basic steps. You may have to file your dog walking services with the federal government for an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
The EIN allows:
- Opening a bank account
- Paying employees
- Paying taxes to the state and federal government
Any business that hires employees needs an EIN, whether you operate as a sole proprietorship, a corporation, or a liability company.
You also need to register your services in the state of operation. The requirements include having a physical location and an established income source. Some states require registering with the office of the Secretary of State, business agency, or business bureau. To register with the state requires:
- A business name
- Business mailing address or location
- Structure of ownership of the business management and directors
- Corporations have to state the number and value of shares
Obtain Necessary Insurance And License
After understanding all state requirements and responsibilities, you must have insurance for your business. Insurance will come in handy if a dog in your care damages people’s property or attacks and injures another dog.
A pet care insurance policy will protect you through:
- Animal bailee
- Vet bill reimbursement
- General liability
You’re likely to start as the sole employee of your dog walking business. As the business grows, hiring people to help you becomes inevitable. You need ideas on how to hire the right people. This is very important because the recruits will represent your brand and care for your clients’ pets and homes.
Understand The Right Time To Hire
When your business is just starting, you will have a handful of clients. Managing business and related pet care requirements is easy at this stage. You must offer quality services and have a killer marketing strategy to get more bookings.
And, you must have a great team to meet customer demands and grow your business. It is very important to realize that you need to hire staff for your dog walking business. You can tell this when you’re:
- Turning away business
- Offering services where you lack appropriate skills like grooming and training
- Failing to keep up with scheduling and correspondences
- Clients having trouble reaching you
- When your service quality begins to suffer
- Working too many hours to keep up with the demand
- Spending a lot of time on administrative tasks
How To Hire The Right People
When you decide to hire people in your business, you need to determine the kind of people you need, their availability, and their skills. Additionally, the current demands of your business determine the people to hire.
Here are some qualities to look for when evaluating hiring people for your dog walking business.
- Availability to work part-time or full time
- Living within a reasonable distance from your business location
- Experience handling dogs
- Ability to work in various weather conditions
- Comfortable and compassionate about dogs
- Topnotch time management and communication skills
- Passing a background check
- Honest and trustworthy
Create Your Company Website
Having a fabulous website is one of the ingredients of a successful dog walking business. The website will tell your brand story and build trust with potential customers. Additionally, the website allows sharing your dog care philosophy, testimonials, recommendations, certifications, licenses, and insurance.
The ideal website for dog walkers that attracts and engages pet parents should have these essential pages:
- Home/landing page
- About Us
- Contact us
Use Special Software
Dog walkers need to keep a book to write down all the day’s appointments and carry a notebook and pen all day. The appointment book is also for billing, invoicing, scheduling, and dispatching.
You also have to keep records of all expenses and incomes for tax purposes. This requires keeping all receipts and a mileage book. An address book is also essential to track customers’ numbers and addresses.
Fortunately, you can use an app with all these features to run your business smoothly. Field Complete is a software that accurately and easily allows scheduling, dispatching, communication, and invoicing for dog walkers.
Schedule a free demo TODAY to see how Field Complete can help you get started in the dog walking industry.