If you’re ready to leave the corporate world behind, there’s no better 180 degree change than starting a dog walking business. Learn more about if this small business is right for you and which steps to take to get started.
It’s no secret that people love their dogs. In fact, recent studies have shown that millenials — now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce — are even prioritizing their pet’s needs when home buying. However, not all animal lovers have the option to bring their best friends into the office, which means Fido is likely going to need a med-day house call. Whether you’re an animal lover or just a savvy business person who can tell it’s a great time to to start a pet care company, you’re wise to wonder how to start a dog walking company. Let’s take a look at what it takes to start a dog walking business and who’s a great fit to take on this exciting, fun career.
Who Should Start a Dog Walking Business
Becoming a dog walker is natural career path for animal lovers. Many people who enjoy being around dogs, but can’t commit to owning one, find this is a great middle ground. And there are a lot of benefits to starting a dog walking business. For starters, it’s extremely flexible. If you want to keep your operation small and remain your only employee, you can easily set your own hours and even run your business as a side hustle.
If you want to launch a more full-time, full-service dog walking business, there are definitely opportunities to succeed on a larger scale as well. Beyond the flexibility, small business owners who run dog walking businesses also enjoy the companionship of excited animals as well as the opportunity to exercise and be outdoors.
Legal Considerations for Becoming Dog Walker
Dog Walking Insurance
Whether you’re planning to personally handle the dog walking or you’re planning to hire employees, your dog walking business should have insurance coverage. Chances are most days on the job are going to be pretty enjoyable, spending time with lovable pups. But animals can sometimes be unpredictable and accidents happen even with the best-behaved dogs. Pet care insurance coverage (different from the insurance you buy for your own pet) is relatively affordable starting at less than $200 a year for your business. If a dog in your business’s care is injured or becomes ill, bites someone or another dog, or even if you lose a client’s house key, dog walking insurance will keep you covered.
Animal First Aid
Though it’s not generally a legal requirement (unless your city or state has specific dog walking regulations), getting training for yourself and your staff on animal first aid and CPR is a smart move when running a dog walking business. Not only does it better prepare you for an emergency and make you a more responsible care giver, but becoming certified in animal care is a an attractive marketing tool. Animal first aid classes are available through local Red Cross offices as well as pet stores and veterinary organizations.
City Leash Laws
If you plan to take the dogs on your route to the park, or if an owner insists they don’t need to be on a leash, keep yourself and your business safe by first familiarizing yourself with local leash laws. Most parks have posted signs, but you and your employees should always know whether it’s legal or not to ‘unleash the hounds.’
Building a Successful Dog Walking Business
For any new business owner, it’s tough to find the sweet spot for pricing — remaining competitive and affordable while driving sufficient revenue. Fortunately, there are some large dog walking and dog care companies that make it easy to compare your pricing. Rover.com and the Wag! app both make it easy to see what dog walkers in your area are charging. You can and should also do a search of local services in your area to see if their prices are comparable. Keep in mind, these services are just a baseline, and depending on any special services you offer and the area you live in, you should adjust your prices accordingly for your own dog walking business.
Understanding Your Audience
As a part of your initial business plan for your dog walking company, it’s essential to define your target audience. This will help you better communicate with and market to the right people. For example, we discussed that millennials are most like to both be at work during the day and to own a dog. That means working millennials in your area might be a great target audience for your dog walking business. If you’re targeting millennials, consider what’s important to them and where they’re likely to find your business. Building a strong social presence and advertising online will be essential.
On the other hand, elderly clients who aren’t as active may also seek the services of a dog walker. For this group, you can build trust by meeting with people face to face, providing clear, easy to read handouts and making it easy to make payments in person or through the mail rather than online.
As you start your dog walking business, you may find that there’s a demand for additional pet care services. Get four legs up on your competition by considering providing offers such as overnight pet care or in-home or on-location doggy day care. Just keep in mind, that if you do go this route you may need additional business licenses and/or insurance policies.
Whether you’re an animal enthusiast, an entrepreneur who sees a need in your area, or both, starting a dog walking business is a great way to build a fun and successful new career. Get started by deciding whether you want to work as a solopreneur or if you want to hire employees for a larger scale operation. From there, complete in-depth research on your required paperwork as well as how to be competitive in your local area.
Learn more about how to start your own small business with our Complete Guide to Becoming a Small Business Owner.