If you’ve been thinking of starting a dog walking business, then good for you! It’s a burgeoning industry.
Just think — this field barely existed a decade ago. Most people just had their neighbors watch their dogs, or they took their pets to a kennel.
In this article, with the help of Jeff Hook, owner of Jeffpet Custom Pet Care in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, we’ll explore the basics of getting started.
First, You’ll Need a Plan
Proper planning and organization are the initial steps.
One thing you may not realize is that as you are walking dogs, you may need to drive to the dogs’ location to either pick them up or walk them in their neighborhood. So factor in that time and mileage, and plan out your workdays.
This initial planning is one of the biggest startup challenges, according to Hook. “Picking up and dropping off dogs all day is not easy to coordinate,” he says. “To have any hope of making a profit, you have to minimize mileage. Actual car expenses can get out of control, and if you are not careful you will end up losing money.”
What’s Your Clientele Like?
Key questions to ask yourself as you consider your business location:
- What percentage of people have dogs?
- What percentage of the people who have dogs have full-time jobs?
- How is the economy in this area?
By answering these questions, you can determine whether or not there are enough dogs to support your business; enough people who spend a lot of time outside their homes; and enough people who can afford to pay for extras — such as a dog walker.
“Unless you live in a city, you cannot make a living walking dogs,” says Hook. “You can pick up a few bucks here and there — supplement your income — but that’s about it.”
So make sure you have enough customers to meet your business needs.
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What Equipment to Buy
You’ll need a few basic things to get started:
- Different sizes of collars
- Poop bags
You can buy other equipment as needed. The cost can add up quickly, so buy in bulk from a local wholesaler to save money.
Hook has some advice: “Newbies should stick to walking small, well-behaved dogs.” Then, as you gain experience, you can add more and more equipment.
How Much Should You Charge?
Pricing your services is one of the most critical areas of any business. But how do you determine what is the “right price” for dog walking?
- Call around and find out what other dog walkers in your area charge.
- Consider whether or not you’ll offer a wider selection of services.
- Then decide if you’ll want to undercut the competition or if you’d like to offer more services and charge a bit more.
The average price for a 20-minute walk is around $15–20 per dog, plus tip. Of course, this is a rough estimate and varies by location, time of day and length of walk. If you figure 8 dogs a day, at $16 per walk, that’s $33,000 per year, plus tips.
Cathy Vaughan, writing in How to Start a Home-Based Pet-Sitting and Dog-Walking Business (affiliate link), advises: “Be careful not to overextend yourself…. You can do 10 to 12 visits for 4 to 5 days, but with any more than that you run the risk of getting run down physically, emotionally and mentally.”
You also should factor in your preferred method of payment. Many businesses accept credit cards. If you want to take credit cards, discuss this with your bank.
Know the Licensing Requirements
In many towns and/or cities, businesses must be licensed. Make sure you’re in line with the law in your area.
At a very minimum, print out a few business cards and fliers. You can hand them out and post them in areas that have a lot of “dog traffic,” such as at veterinarians’ offices and dog parks.
Start a website for your business and open accounts on Facebook and Twitter to promote yourself.
Even though getting your dog walking business off the ground may seem like a daunting task at first, with the right planning you’ll be well positioned to make it a success.