How to Start a Dog Training Business

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Quick Reference

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 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.

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.


Industry Trends

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 dog training certifications 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.

Costs to Start a Dog Training Business

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

  • Setting up a business name and corporation costs approximately $200.
  • Business cards, brochures, postcards for marketing $200 – $300
  • Website setup $100 –$200 for a basic, do it yourself website, $1,000 – $2,000 for a professional site
  • Dog training classes $2,000 – $4,000
  • Liability insurance, worker’s comp, property-casualty insurance,  $600 – $1,000
  • Initial marketing such as Facebook ads or search engine optimization for your website, flyers, and postcards, $500 -$1,000

Steps to Starting a Dog Training Business

Step 1: Write your Business Plan

After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your dog training business 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.

How to write a business plan
Free sample business plans

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 structure (also called a business entity) refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include a 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.

RelatedComparison of Business Entities

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 registrations a dog training business may need include a 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 business and personal finances in separate business bank and credit card accounts makes it easier to track the income and expenses of the 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 or other pet services to get referrals.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Step 9: Get Business Insurance

A dog training business needs several types of insurance for full coverage:

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.

Insurance policies will vary. 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: Hiring 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 accounting for your business

How Much Can You Potentially Make Owning a Dog Training Business?

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.

Things to Consider Before Starting a Dog Training Business

Starting your own dog training business, or any business will have its challenges.  You need to be prepared and make sure that you know what you’re getting into.

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.

Marketing your dog training business will be your biggest challenge.  You’ll have to create awareness online and through direct mail or flyers.  You may be able to partner with pet stores or veterinary offices to get referrals.

A dog training business is generally providing a one-time service, which means that you will have few repeat customers.  This means that you will need to continuously find new clients with new dogs to train.

Talk to other business owners for tips on starting a business and do your homework to determine costs.  Research other dog training businesses to see what they offer and what prices they charge.

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