The United States is home to over 76 million pet dogs,1 and this number continues to grow year by year. The pet service industry is also projected to grow between 2022 to 2030.2 So, if you love working with dogs, it may be an opportune time for you to start a dog walking business.
Starting a dog walking business is often a long process that requires a lot of dedication and patience. There are many moving parts, and it can easily get overwhelming if you try to jump in without doing any research. Here are some things you can expect to do when preparing to start your own dog walking business.
Before You Start
It’s important to get to know your target population. Make sure to find a neighborhood with a large population of pet dogs. Places that have a good number of pet grooming salons, dog daycares, pet shops, and dog parks are great for research.
You can also look at dog walking services in the area to get an estimate of the average rates dog owners expect to pay dog walkers. As you gather information, start to think about what will make your dog walking business stand out from the rest. Consider unique features that your customers wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere.
1. Determine Your Budget
One of the advantages of starting your own dog walking business is that you can start small and just have yourself as your own employee. As you accumulate more clients, you can start to hire more dog walkers.
A dog walking business is also much cheaper than a dog daycare or grooming salon because you don’t technically need a facility to run it. So, you don’t need to worry about finding a facility and paying rent.
However, there are still some key things to consider when building your business budget.
Your budget must include the following:
Start researching average costs for these items in your area to determine how much you expect to spend on one-time and monthly costs.
2. Develop Your Business Model
Dog walking companies have different business models. Some may assign whichever dog walkers are available on a given day to walk dogs, while others will assign dog walkers to specific dogs.
You’ll also want to brainstorm ways to interview prospective clients. Some dog walking companies may refrain from walking dogs that display a certain level of aggressiveness because they can be liability issues. You may want to do an initial meet and greet with dogs to determine if your business can adequately walk them without risking anyone’s safety.
Make sure to also think about the benefits to offer your clients. Your business can offer special perks, like multi-pet discounts or referral bonuses, to encourage people to give your business a try and spread the word.
3. Find a Scheduling Software
One of the greatest challenges you’ll face with starting and managing a dog walking business is scheduling your dog walking routes. You will have to consider your dog walkers’ availability as well as the preferred hours that your clients want their dogs walked. If your business is small and you have just a handful of dog walkers, you can get by with scheduling dog walking routes on your own. However, as your business expands, you’ll have to consider investing in software to help with management and operations.
Fortunately, there are several planning and scheduling software options that are specifically designed for dog walking businesses. These programs can help you keep track of a variety of factors, such as client details, scheduling walkers to their assigned dogs, and home entry instructions.
Some software comes with GPS tracking so that your clients can know where and for how long their dogs walk. They can have communication functions built in as well, so your clients can text or call dog walkers without the dog walkers giving out their personal contact information.
4. Secure a Business Address and Phone Number
As we’ve mentioned before, one of the advantages of starting a dog walking business is that you don’t necessarily need an office space or facility. If you want to separate your home from your business, you can certainly look into renting out a small workspace or office. However, you can start running your business from a home office so that you can save on rent and budget your money towards other resources.
Just make sure to secure a business mailing address and phone number. This will protect your personal phone number and home address from becoming public information.
5. Hire Employees
Once your business grows, you can start looking into hiring more dog walkers. Try to look for people who have experience with either owning a dog or working in a job that has regular interactions with animals. You’ll also want to consider the types of employment your dog walkers will take. Dog walking businesses can either hire dog walkers as employees or independent contractors. Each type of employment has its advantages and disadvantages.
As your business continues to grow, you may want to start thinking of hiring an office administrative assistant or manager and dog walker managers. Office managers can help ensure that scheduling walks and communication with your clients remains consistent and reliable. Dog walker managers can help you keep track of all your dog walkers and help cover any scenarios where a dog walker may not be able to make it to a scheduled walk with a dog.
Safety will be a significant concern for dog owners, so make sure to collect references and background checks from all your prospective dog walkers and employees. You’ll also want to ensure that your dog walkers receive adequate training so that they know how to properly walk a dog and react to any emergency situations, such as dogs accidentally eating something off the ground or escaping from their leash.
6. Market Your Business
Once you have the foundations laid out for your dog walking business, it’s time to start marketing it. Having a website will help you to provide information for your clients and is also an easy way for them to request an appointment.
Make sure that your website has a clean and modern design with an intuitive and user-friendly interface. It’s also helpful to put your contact information and appointment booking information in very noticeable places throughout your website. Since many people scroll through websites on their phones, it’s imperative that your website has a clean and fully functioning mobile format.
Social media presence can also help immensely with boosting your business. Dog owners will appreciate pictures of how your business operates. It can be helpful to have profiles of your dog walkers so that prospective clients can familiarize themselves with the personalities in your business.
You may also want to consider giving grand opening discounts or offering referral perks to encourage people to bring in more clients. Online reviews can play a significant role in drawing new clients. So, you can try to encourage people to leave a review by organizing a raffle for anyone who leaves a review of your business.
There are many perks to starting a dog walking business. You can start small and just employ yourself. As you gain a good reputation, you can hire more dog walkers to help your business grow. You’ll also be able to meet and interact with all kinds of dogs, and dog walking is a great way to enjoy time outside and get some exercise in your daily schedule.
With some hard work, dedication, and time, you can build a successful dog walking business. You may just end up living the dog lover’s dream of spending your days exploring fun neighborhoods with friendly dogs.
Featured Image Credit: SB Arts Media, Shutterstock