Are you a dog lover with a passion for training? If so, starting your own dog training business may be the perfect opportunity for you. With the right planning and preparation, you can turn your talents into a fulfilling and financially rewarding career. To help get you started, this guide will provide an overview of the dog training business, steps to start your business, and answers to common questions.
Many people who own dogs do not know how to train them or don’t have the time. Dog trainers will train customers’ dogs in their homes or commercial spaces individually or as part of a class. Dog trainers train not only the canine but also the owner on how to reinforce good, positive dog behavior and reduce unwanted behavior. Some dog trainers specialize in certain types of dog training, including puppy training, obedience training, socialization, or service dog training.
Being a certified trainer not only makes you more credible in the eyes of your customers, but it also provides proper training to correctly handle pets and owners in the best manner possible. Popular certification programs include the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT).
If you don’t have direct experience in the industry before starting this business, consider being an apprentice for another trainer. Preferably, this will not be a competitor, but working under an apprentice, you will gain valuable knowledge about training and running the business.
Although training dogs can be very rewarding to see the development of the pet and pet owner, it also comes with its challenges and frustrations.
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The dog training services industry has experienced steady growth over the last decade, with an estimated market size of $276 million in 2022, according to IBISWorld. The demand for dog training services has also risen as more pet owners consider their dogs as family members and want them to live happy, well-behaved lives. In addition, the rise of online dog training courses has made training services more accessible to pet owners.
Steps To Start A Dog Training Business
Step 1: Research the Local Market
Assessing the market before starting a dog training business is the first step, which is used to identify opportunities and better understand customer needs. By doing so, you can determine whether there is a demand for your business in your area and identify potential opportunities for growth.
The first step in assessing the market for your dog training business is to determine whether there is customer demand for your services in your area. Begin by looking for indicators of demand, such as the number of pet-related businesses, online searches for dog training, or community forums discussing pet training. In many areas, you can also research dog licensing records to estimate the dog population.
Demographic data can also be a valuable tool to see if the dog ownership growth trends in your region are increasing. Areas with new residents or families might have untapped demand. You can also talk to vets, pet supply stores, groomers, and dog walkers to get their insights into local needs. These professionals regularly interact with dog owners and can share valuable perspectives that can help you identify untapped opportunities in your market.
Once you have a sense of the customer demand, it’s time to scope out the competition. Who are the major players in dog training in your area? What styles of training are they offering? Are their customers happy with their services? This information can be found through online reviews, social media, and even by observing local dog training sessions.
By conducting market research, you can identify gaps in the local market, spot emerging trends, and understand what potential customers are looking for in a dog trainer. Perhaps there’s a lack of puppy socialization classes or advanced agility training. These gaps are your opportunities. This knowledge will help you position your business effectively, stand out from competitors, and meet the specific needs of your target audience.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
As a dog trainer, you may have all the skills and experience needed to provide exceptional training services to your clients. But to turn your passion into a profitable business, you need a solid plan in place. That’s where a business plan comes in.
Think of a business plan like a guidebook for your business. It lays out your goals, how you plan to achieve them, and the obstacles you might face along the way. It’s more than just a document; it’s a tool that helps you stay focused and make informed decisions. It helps you define your services, strategies, and potential hurdles. Plus, it gives you a clear understanding of the finances, from start-up costs to projected profits.
One important section of a business plan is the financial projections. This section provides an estimate of how much revenue the business is likely to generate and how much it will cost to operate, which helps determine whether the business is financially feasible.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 3: Register the Business
Starting a dog training business involves more than just a love for dogs and a knack for training them. You also need to navigate the legalities of setting up a business. Each state has different requirements, so you’ll need to check the specifics for your location, but here is an overview of the important steps.
Choose your business structure: There are four main types of business structures:
- Sole proprietorship: This is the simplest structure and is often chosen by individual entrepreneurs. As a sole proprietor, you and your business are considered the same entity. The ease of startup and lower cost are major advantages of this structure. However, it doesn’t offer liability protection, meaning your personal assets could be at risk if your business incurs debt or is sued.
- General partnership: If you’re going into business with someone else, a general partnership might be suitable. Both partners share the responsibilities, profits, and losses of the business. Like a sole proprietorship, a general partnership doesn’t provide liability protection.
- Corporation: A corporation is a separate legal entity owned by shareholders. This means the business, not the owners, is liable for its debts and any legal actions. Starting a corporation involves more paperwork and higher costs, but it provides strong liability protection.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC is a hybrid structure that combines the simplicity of a sole proprietorship or partnership with the liability protection of a corporation. It’s a popular choice for small businesses because it offers flexibility and protects the owners from personal liability.
Related: Comparison of business structures
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
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Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.
During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.
Animal handling permit: While not required in many areas, this permit may be required to handle and train animals for commercial purposes. It is typically obtained from the local animal control department.
Obtain business licenses and permits: Depending on where the business is located, there are likely general business registrations that may include a local business license, sales tax permit, Employer Identification Number, and more.
Step 4: Set Up Operations
As you take the next step in setting up your dog training business, it’s time to establish the key operational aspects of your business.
The location of your dog training business is the first operational aspect to consider. Will you rent a space where clients can come to you, or will you operate a mobile training service that goes to clients’ homes? Perhaps a hybrid model that combines in-person and virtual training might suit the modern pet owner’s needs. Each option has its benefits and challenges. Renting a dedicated space can be costly, but it allows for a controlled environment that’s ideal for training. Mobile training eliminates the need for a physical space, reducing overhead costs, and offers convenience to clients. In-home services offer personalized training in the dog’s living environment, which can be highly effective. Meanwhile, virtual training has gained popularity for its accessibility and convenience, allowing you to reach clients beyond your immediate geographic area.
Another consideration is determining your fees and creating service packages. Set fees that reflect your level of experience, the specific services you offer, and the location of your business. Take into account factors such as the local market demand, competition, and the value you provide. Creating packages can help attract clients with various needs and budgets while streamlining your pricing structure.
Step 5: Prepare to Launch!
As you wrap up the preparations to launch your dog training business, there are probably a few remaining steps that need your attention. While the specific needs may vary for each individual, here are some common loose ends to tie up.
Business insurance: Given the nature of dog training, where there is a risk of injury to animals or people, having the right business insurance can provide peace of mind. It can cover everything from accidents during training sessions to potential legal fees.
Setting up bookkeeping: Setting up accounting software like Wave Accounting (FREE) or Quickbooks helps track daily transactions, prepare for tax season, and understand your business’s financial health through statements and reports.
Contracts: Protect your business and outline the expectations between you and your clients by having them sign agreements that cover policies, pricing, rights, and liabilities. RocketLawyer and Law Depot have free and inexpensive templates that may be helpful, but it’s worth having these reviewed by an attorney to ensure they cover all necessary areas.
Opening a business bank account: Separate your personal and business finances by opening a dedicated business bank account. This will simplify your financial management and allow for easier tracking of your income and expenses.
Creating a marketing strategy: Letting potential customers know about your new business is key to attracting clients. A logo and website are basic elements of your brand identity. Beyond that, consider strategies like social media marketing, email newsletters, and local advertising. Establishing relationships with local veterinarians, animal shelters, and other pet-related businesses can also be a great way to get referrals.
Joining industry associations: Consider joining industry associations such as the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP), the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), or the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). These associations provide networking opportunities, professional development resources, and credibility within the industry.
Common Questions When Starting A Dog Training Business
How much does it cost to start a dog training business?
Starting a dog training business can be relatively cost-effective compared to other businesses, but initial costs vary depending on location, business model, and personal choices regarding quality and scale.
On average, expect the total costs to start a dog training business to range from $1,000 to $5,000, largely influenced by rental space and initial setup requirements.
Location: For those opting to rent a space, initial deposits can often be the equivalent of one or two months’ rent. This can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, based on the size and location of the property.
Equipment: Basic training equipment, like leashes, collars, treats, and agility equipment, and other supplies may cost between $500 and $1,000.
Business insurance: To protect your business from unexpected events or accidents, you’ll want to consider insurance coverage. As an initial cost, expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $1,000 for general liability insurance.
Marketing: Initial marketing expenses may include designing and developing a professional website, creating a logo, and launching online and offline advertising campaigns. Depending on your approach, budget around $500 to $2,000 or more for these initial marketing costs.
Business registration: The cost of registering your business can range from $50 to several hundred dollars, depending on your state and the business structure you choose.
How much does a dog training business owner make?
Determining the exact profit that a dog training business owner can make will depend on several factors, such as location, market competition, pricing structure, and the number of clients served, but we can come up with an estimate using industry averages and assumptions.
The revenue of a dog training business is generated by charging clients for training services. The amount of revenue will vary based on factors such as the number of clients, the rates charged, and the frequency and duration of training sessions. For example, if you charge $50 per hour for a training session and conduct an average of 20 hourly sessions per week, your weekly revenue would be $1,000 ($50 x 20) or $50,000, assuming you provide training over 50 weeks during the year.
Average monthly expenses like marketing, insurance, equipment, and other operating costs for a small dog training business without employees could fall in the range of $1,000.
That puts the potential annual pre-tax profit for this hypothetical dog training business at $38,000 ($50,000 – $12,000).
What is the NAICS code for a dog training business?
The NAICS code for a dog training business is 311811.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.