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How to Start a Dog Training Business

How to Start a Dog Training Business

Are you a dog lover and owner and have to experience training dogs?  Turning your experience into a dog training business may be a great way to combine your skills and passion.  You could do something you enjoy and make money while setting your own schedule and being your own boss.

Business Overview

Many people who own dogs do not know how to train them or don’t have the time.  Dog trainers will train customers’ dogs for them in their home or in a commercial space either individually or as part of a class.  Dog trainers train not only the canine but 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, it provides to 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.

Industry Summary

According to the America Pet Products Association, the pet services (non-veterinary) market that includes dog training was $8.1 billion in 2020 and is expected to be $9.7 billion in 2021.  63.4% of households own a dog in the United States.  According to PetPedia, the pet industry overall was $99 billion in 2020. Interestingly, 21% of consumers spent more money on pets during the pandemic.

According to PetPedia, the pet industry is expected to grow to over $258 billion by 2027.  Dog training is a large part of that industry and should grow at a similar rate.  The pet industry, in general, is not sensitive to economic downturns.  Dog training may be a bit more sensitive to economic fluctuations because it is not an essential service.

Target Market

Your target will be dog owners, particularly new dog owners and those with more disposable income.

Skills, Experience, and Education Useful in Running a Dog Training Business

There are several specific skills and education that you will need to open a dog training business.

  • Experience.  It’s essential to have knowledge of and experience in dog training and if you have trained dogs in a professional setting, that’s a bonus.
  • Dog Training Class Experience. There are classes and certificate programs to become a professional dog trainer, which will give you more credibility with potential customers.
  • Certifications. There are various types of certified dog trainer courses available, which would add greatly to your credibility.
  • Business knowledge and experience.  You will need to have at least some basic knowledge of marketing, finance/accounting, and human resources.
  • Customer service. You’ll need to be able to build rapport with your customers so that you retain them as customers and gain repeat business and referrals.

Checklist for Starting a Dog Training Business

Starting a dog training business can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it’s important to make sure you’re prepared for the challenges ahead. Use this checklist to help get your business off on the right foot.

Step 1: Write your Business Plan

After coming up with the business idea, the next step in starting your dog training service should be to write a business plan.  The business plan will make you focus on some important aspects of the business, such as who your customers are, how you plan to reach them, projecting sales and expenses, your value proposition to use for marketing, and more. You’ll also need to do some research to calculate exactly what your startup expenses will be and what your ongoing expenses will be.

Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan if you need financing, but multiple studies have shown that having a good business plan increases the odds of starting a successful business. Writing the plan helps you to think through all the aspects of the business and then serves as a guide as you begin.

Related: How to write a business plan

Step 2: Name the Business

Finding the perfect dog training business name can be challenging. Not only does the name have to reflect what you do and be appealing to customers, but it also has to be available to use. You can check your state’s website to see if the name is available and register your name.  Your name should make you stand out, reflect your brand, and tell potential customers exactly what you do.

Related: Tips and ideas for naming a dog training business

Step 3: Form a Business Structure

A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.

When deciding on which business entity is best for a dog training business, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.

A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay. The corporation can be a good choice because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.

That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.

The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.

Related: Guide to forming your LLC
 

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:


IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

IncAuthority - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent the first year!

ZenBusiness - $49 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

Step 4: Select your Location

Your dog training business location should be in a convenient area and close to homeowners.   You can also offer in-home training, so you need to decide how far you are willing to travel.

Related: Choosing a business location

Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

While there isn’t a specific business license for a dog training business, there will likely be general licenses and permits needed to get started. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located.  

Some common local, state, and federal business registrations a dog training business may need include a local business license, sales tax permit, Employer Identification Number, and more.

Related: What licenses do dog training businesses need?

Step 6: Find Financing

Dog training businesses are generally very inexpensive to start and most entrepreneurs invest their personal money instead of getting a loan. If a loan is needed, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able to invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.

Related: Finding the money to start a business

Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account

Keeping your small business and personal finances in separate bank accounts is important to track the income and expenses of your business and identify trends.
 
Many banks offer free business checking accounts, so be sure to find a cost-effective option for your business.

Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place

A dog training business will need to set aside a budget to cover marketing costs on a continuous basis. Common marketing techniques for a dog training business include social media marketing, email newsletter, Facebook groups, and online advertising, as well as flyers and postcard mailers.  Developing a website can be a significant expense, but it can also give your dog training business greater visibility online.  Try to partner with pet stores, animal shelters, or other pet services to get referrals.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Every business is going to need a logo. Make a professional logo in no time with the free logo makers from BrandCrowd and Canva.

Step 9: Get Business Insurance

There are several types of insurance to consider when starting a dog training business. A few of these include:
General liability insurance can help protect you from third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage.
Worker’s compensation insurance covers expenses like medical bills and legal fees that a business might face if an employee were ever hurt while working. This is critical in a dog training business in case one of your employees is injured.

The cost to insure a dog training business will vary depending on a number of factors. To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, consider not only the premiums but also how the plan exclusions, coverage limitations, and deductibles compare.

Related: Common types of insurance a business may need

Step 10: Hire Employees

You may need employees to help you run your dog training business if it grows large enough. Make sure that your employees have the proper dog training experience and education.

In addition to salary costs, your budget will also need to include other employee-related expenses. Workman’s comp insurance, unemployment insurance, and paid time off are common expenses that a business will need to cover when hiring staff.

Related: Hiring your first employee

Step 11: Set up an Accounting System

Setting up an accounting system for your dog training business is critical to the long-term success of your business.

Staying on top of taxes not only keeps the business out of trouble with the government but the numbers can be used to track and monitor trends and cash flow in the business and maximize profits.

Related: Setting up the accounting for your business

The thought of accounting can be intimidating for a lot of new entrepreneurs. There are a number of ways of handling bookkeeping, from DIY to hiring a bookkeeper. These include:

- Pen and paper - Low expense, but difficult to track.
- Spreadsheet - Low expense, but easy to make errors.
- Accounting software - Medium expense, but owner typically inputs expenses. Some great accounting software programs include Freshbooks or Wave Accounting.
- Hire a bookkeeper - Higher expense, though very affordable at $100-$200 per month in most cases. A dedicated bookkeeper will probably save money because, in addition to handling all of the bookkeeping (so you can focus on the business), they also provide personalized tax advice and ensure the business is in compliance.

Find bookkeepers in your local area or use a service like 800Accountant.

How much does it cost to start a dog training business?

Here are the typical costs you will face when you open a dog training business.

– Dog training classes $2,000-$4,000
– Liability insurance, worker’s comp, property-casualty insurance,  $600-$1,000

How much does a dog training business owner make?

Prices for dog training are about $75 – $150 for six to eight-week group classes, or $30 – $100 per hour for private training.  The average dog trainer can make between $30,000 and $60,000 per year.

Are there grants to start a dog training business?

It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a dog training business. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.

Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.

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.

Related: What is a NAICS code and how to find yours

Resources:
International Association of Canine Professionals