You are dog-lover and are thinking of starting a dog walking business. The idea of spending your days with furry friends and getting paid to do so sounds like a dream come true. Plus, with 89.7 million dogs owned nationwide, there is great potential for clients who need your services.
So, how do you go about starting a dog walking business? We’ll dive into all the details, steps, and specifics you need to know to be successful. Let’s get started!
1. Research Before Starting A Dog Walking Business
With any business you start, it is first essential to research. You want to research if there is enough demand and how much competition is in your area. Starting a dog walking business may not be the best route to go if there isn’t enough demand or too much competition.
To start researching the demand for dog walkers, you can do the following:
- Conduct an internet search for dog walking companies in your area.
- Use Rover to get an idea of how many people need dog walking services.
- Tap into local dog rescue groups.
- Talk to your local pet stores and pet grooming services.
To get an idea for the competition, you can check Rover.com as well as online classified sites like Craigslist to see how many people in your area are offering dog walking services.
Once you understand your market and know that there is enough demand to support your dog walking business, you can start figuring out the logistics.
2. Figure Out The Logistics
There are some logistical considerations you need to consider when starting a dog walking business. Read on for more details!
Before starting your dog walking business, it is a good idea to get some formal training that will help prepare you for interacting with various different dogs. If you don’t want to pay for formal training, you can also volunteer at a local dog shelter.
You should also have an understanding of pet first aid and the different kinds of collars/harnesses/leashes available. Being knowledgeable about this will help you with recommending the right one for an owner’s dog. It will also help you walk the dog more safely and effectively. Ensure that the owner approves of the collar you plan to use and that you are using the collar properly.
Being educated and trained will help you walk dogs with more confidence and give your business more credibility.
Business Name And Structure
Once you are ready to get started, you need to choose a business name and decide what type of business structure you want to set up.
If you decide to run your business under a name different from your legal name, you will need to register that name with your state.
The majority of dog walking businesses either run as sole proprietorships or limited liability companies (LLCs). If you want to keep your personal assets separate from your business and have more flexibility with certain tax benefits, you may want to consider setting up an LLC. However, you should still speak to a certified tax accountant or legal professional to help you make the best decision.
Pricing And Services
Now that you have already researched your competition, you’ll have an idea of what other dog walking businesses are charging for their services and what services they are offering. Figure out what you want to charge for your services based on the competition and decide what services you wish to provide. Consider whether you will offer service packages, dog hikes, and other related services such as obedience training and pet sitting.
Also, decide how long you would like to offer your services. Dog walkers usually provide their services in 15-minute, 30-minute, and one hour blocks of time.
Create A Website
Having a website creates greater legitimacy for your business. You can either create one yourself using sites like WordPress or Wix or have someone design one for you. You can find freelancers website designers on Upwork if you don’t personally know anyone who can do it or can’t find anyone on Google that you like.
Although keeping records might not seem as important at first, it will be as you grow your business. It’s best to start with the right platform from the get-go. It will save you time from having to transfer information in the future.
It does cost $35 a month for solo dog walkers, but if you speak to a tax accountant, you’ll likely be able to write this off as a business expense on your taxes.
If you don’t want to use an app like this, you should still have a spreadsheet that keeps track of the following client information:
- Phone number
- Emergency contact number
- Dog’s breed, color, date of birth, health history, veterinarian’s name (and contact information).
Significantly costly insurance claims come from dog bites, and specifically from dog bites that occur when a dog walker allows a third party to get too close to one of the dogs. As a dog walker, you are responsible for the dogs and any damage done to any of the dogs during the walk.
To protect yourself, you should strongly consider getting insurance. There are insurance policies designated explicitly for covering dog walkers. Research what policy best fits your needs.
For a more in-depth guide to help you decide on dog walking insurance, click here.
3. Figure Out The Legalities Of your Dog Walking Business
Now that you have figured out the logistics, you also need to consider the legalities involved with running a dog walking business.
Know the Law
You need to be aware of local laws that could affect you or your business. Regulations you need to be mindful of include sanitation regulations (i.e., do you need to clean up after the dogs?) and leashing laws.
Be sure to check with local authorities to get information on any other laws that could affect your business.
Many dog walkers let their clients know up-front that they will not be walking any dogs off-leash. However, if you want to accommodate client requests on this, you can have them sign a liability waiver.
You need to make sure that there aren’t local licensing requirements regarding dog walking. You also need to check what the licensing requirements are for business owners in general in your city/county/state. You may need a general business license, so you need to research the requirements for your specific location.
When it comes to working with clients, you want to have contracts in place, laying out the terms and policies of your business. You need an agreement to protect you and the client and to make sure that everything is clear from the beginning.
What you should consider laying out in your contract includes:
- Business hours
- Dog-walking hours
- Services areas
- How you will handle client keys
- Cancellation policy
- Inclement weather policy
- Dog behavioral issues policy
- If the dog will be walked alone or in a group
- Services provided
- Payment methods
- Protocol for emergency health situations
You should also consider including a veterinary release. This way, you can seek veterinary help in the case of an emergency if the owner doesn’t answer when you try to contact them. The release also needs to clarify that the dog owner will be paying the veterinary bills.
Speak to a lawyer about setting up your contract.
4. Promote Your Dog Walking Business To Get Clients
Now that you have all of the logistics and legalities figured out, you can work on getting clients. With regard to obtaining clients, it’s going to come from your marketing efforts, but a lot of it will also come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ways that you can advertise your dog-walking business:
- Place flyers or business cards in vet clinics, pet groomers, pet stores, church bulletin boards, your local library, and coffee shops.
- Advertise on craigslist and in local newsletters.
- Place a magnetic car sign that has your company name and logo on the back of your car.
- Use social media to attract clients. An excellent way to do this is to post photos on Instagram of your client’s dogs on walks.
5. Start Dog Walking And Get Paid
You finally have clients, and you’re ready to start walking and getting paid! When it comes to getting paid, remember to invoice your clients. Some dog-walkers choose to ask for payment upfront. The best way to accept payment is either via cash, PayPal, or Venmo. You should also set up a separate business bank account. That way, you can keep your business finances separate from your personal finances, making filing taxes easier when it comes time.
Wrapping Up: Starting A Dog Walking Business
Now you know what starting a dog walking business takes. It might be a bit difficult to get your first few clients, but don’t get discouraged. If you stay consistent and hustle hard, you can make it happen. Once you have a few clients, it will be easier to get more because they will spread the word for you. Now, all you have to do is start walking!