Dog boarding makes us think of big yards, kennels, cages and lots of noise, right?
But what’s great about dog boarding is that you have control over the growth and size of the business, and — major bonus — you spend oodles of time with dogs. You will have fun and make money at the same time.
However, David Cavill, writing in Running Your Own Boarding Kennels, says not everyone is up for the task. “It is an occupation of great responsibility involving the complete care of other people’s pets,” he says.
5 Things to Consider
There is quite a bit of research to do ahead of time. But take heart — it’s not as intimidating as it seems, and the payoff can be stellar if you’re organized.
- Zoning Regulations: This is a big one. It would be terrible if you did all the work (and spent money for equipment) then discovered that your town won’t allow you to run your business because you are in an area zoned for residential use only.
- Laws: Find out the local laws, regulations, insurance and licensing requirements. You will probably need a vendor’s license as well as a kennel license, says Constance Cupps, author of How to Start a Dog Boarding Business. State government websites often post regulations, and your town hall will be able to answer most of your questions and direct you to the right departments.
- Dog Sizes: What size dogs will you be boarding? Large and small dogs require different equipment. If you decide to charge by weight or breed, you will also need to consider the impact to your bottom line.
- Equipment: You’ll need to invest in kennels, food, leashes, collars, and possibly gates and fencing.
- Data Storage: What kind of requirements will you expect from your clients? Consider vaccination records, emergency contact numbers, veterinary information, and so on. This is where checking up on potential competitors comes in handy. Find out what they require.
“Above all,” says Cupps, “make sure having a kennel on your property is within the law and all right with your neighbors before you start.”
Being around dogs all day is fun, but a business exists to make a profit, right?
During your planning stages, decide how to make your business profitable. Setting a price initially seems easy, but it will actually be one of the hardest decisions you’ll make.
Prices vary widely. Cupps says the average rate for boarding a dog is around $12–18 per day where she lives, but Care.com puts the rate at closer to $20–25 per day.
So how do you price? Check out what your competitors offer their clients. Cupps advises that you not only research what your competitors charge but also find out what a client gains from the service. Visit a few boarding kennels in your area “as if you were a prospective client,” she says. “Ask for a tour and a list of any additional services they offer, and ask about the pricing for all of it.”
Find out if these kennels charge extra for bathing, grooming, walking and giving medication. Remember: When opening your facility, you want to be competitive but comparable.
Check out this luxe pet boarding facility for inspiration:
Keeping Your Business Afloat
How you make your profit is up to you:
- You may offer perks such as free bathing but then charge overall a bit more for dogs to board with you.
- You may try and fall right in the average and count on your excellent facility and services to help you stand out among your competitors.
- Or you may charge less than the competition — but beware of pricing your services too low. If you don’t charge enough, your business may struggle, competitors may be unhappy with you, and clients may even think you’re offering substandard services and seek another facility.
Patience is key, according to Cavill, who cautions, “Making a success of running your own boarding establishment is more likely to be a long-term proposition than an overnight accomplishment.”
Investing in Your Facility
Advertising costs, equipment and licensing — all large expenses — will come before you see a single client walk through the door, so it’s just as important to plan financially as it is to understand how you will physically set up your facility.
It’s a delicate balance. But remember that all businesses face these challenges, and many of them not only get by but also thrive.