If you love dogs and spending time outdoors, starting a dog walking business can be a great way to combine the two. When you work as a professional dog walker, you’ll get to meet all sorts of dogs and help keep them exercised and entertained while their owners are away. Dog walking businesses require relatively little startup money, making this business option accessible to nearly any determined dog lover and entrepreneur.
To help you get started, this guide will provide an overview of the dog walking business, steps to get started, and answers to common questions.
Starting a business walking dogs provide important exercise and care to dogs when their owners cannot walk them themselves. Most often, dog walkers visit during the day while owners are at work or when gone for vacation. Dog walkers have access to a client’s home to retrieve a dog, then walk and exercise the dog. Once the dog is home, a walker may give the dog water or a meal, so dog walking can transition into some pet sitting at times.
Different dog walking businesses offer different types of services. Some pick up dogs from multiple homes and walk them together as a group. Others walk dogs individually. Some businesses may take dogs to dog parks for off-leash playtime, and some businesses offer more specialized services in addition to dog walking, like pet sitting, pet care, adminstering medication, training, and more.
Running a dog walking business is hard work, but it can also be a rewarding experience. Plan to walk dogs in all weather, and realize that your clients may want you to walk their dogs on holidays, too. Many dog walkers get to know their regular clients’ dogs quite well, so keep in mind that if a client stops using your services or moves away, you may miss the dogs that you’d been walking.
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The dog walking industry is a $1.3 billion industry and is projected to continue to grow steadily. Driven by high rates of pet ownership (66% of US households own a pet) and americans are spending more than ever on their pet (in 2022, they spent $136.8 billion, which was up by more than 10% from 2021), people are investing more in pet services to ensure the well-being of their beloved animals
As the pet industry grows, it’s also going through many changes. One of the major trends shaping this industry is that, while Baby Boomers previously made up the bulk of consumers in the market, they’re giving way to Millennials. Because Millennials largely access their information and do their shopping online, dog walking businesses need to create user-friendly and mobile-friendly websites, focus on SEO, and maintain an active presence on social media to market to this demographic.
The presence and development of dog walking apps Rover and Wag have also created competition for independent dog walking businesses, but these apps have created opportunity. The apps highlight how much consumers rely on the internet to find services that they need, as well as the value they place on being able to check in on their dog’s walking and safety using their smartphones. Dog walking businesses can embrace this technology on their own terms, creating their own apps, or creating practices of texting dog owners with updates each day. Dog walking businesses can also focus on the shortcomings of Rover and Wag in their own marketing, highlighting the benefits of their own business, like their extensive experience with dogs, to help market their own services.
Steps To Start A Dog Walking Business
Starting a dog walking business requires more than just a love for dogs. It takes careful planning, research, and a commitment to providing high-quality services to clients. By following the steps outlined below, aspiring entrepreneurs can set themselves up for success and build a profitable and rewarding dog walking business.
Step 1: Assess the Market
Starting a dog walking business can be a rewarding venture for animal lovers. With low startup costs and high demand, this type of business can be very profitable. However, to create a successful dog walking business, it is important to conduct research on the market demand. This research will help you to identify the target market, understand customer needs and preferences, and position your business effectively.
A few tips include:
Identify Your Target Market
First and foremost, you need to identify your target market for your dog walking business. Your target market is your ideal customer, who is most likely to use your services and pay for them. Start by researching the demographics of your target market, such as age, income, and location. Are there areas in your city where there is high demand for dog walking services? Do you want to target busy professionals or families? Once you have identified your target market, you can use survey data on pet ownership rates and your local population to estimate the potential market size.
Conduct Market Research
Market research can be done in a variety of ways: through online surveys, focus groups, and by reaching out to potential customers. Create a survey or questionnaire with probing questions about dog ownership and dog walking habits. Also, consider interviewing dog owners in your target market to understand their preferences and needs. Their feedback will be valuable in understanding what they’re willing to pay for, their preferred booking method and the times of day they would likely have a dog walk, and how to price your services.
Analyzing your local competition can help you to understand what they’re offering and how you can differentiate your services. Take a good look at their pricing model, services they offer, and level of customer satisfaction. Are there any gaps that you can fill? Perhaps you can offer more personalized services, extended hours of operation, or a mobile app to book services? Understand what’s important to the local market and innovate key features of your business to meet those needs.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
Once you have conducted the market research and confirmed the potential for your dog walking business, it’s important to write a business plan. Although funding may not be necessary to start a dog walking business, which is why a majority of people write a business plan, a business plan is essential for any aspiring entrepreneur. A business plan is a roadmap that outlines your goals, strategies, and financial projections for your business and helps you establish a clear direction for your business, identify potential areas of growth, and serve as a guide for decision-making.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 3: Register the Business
If you’re interested in starting your own dog walking business, it’s important to register your business and make it legal. While each state has different requirements, here are some general suggestions to consider:
Choose a business structure: There are four types of business structures to choose from, including sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each structure has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice for your business will depend on your individual circumstances.
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.
Obtain business licenses and permits: There are only a few cities that require professional dog walkers to obtain a dog walking license; however, many areas have dog sanitation regulations, which require people to clean up after their dogs and leash laws.
Additionally, an pet care business may need general business registrations such as a state sales tax permit and Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS if hiring employees.
While the requirements to start a dog walking business are minimal compared to other businesses, certifications can be a way to set yourself apart from the competition. Taking a course in canine CPR and first aid or bringing a background as a dog trainer to the position are just a few ways that you can make yourself stand out.
Step 4: Set Pricing
The next step to cover is setting the prices for your services and deciding on the right pricing can be a tricky task. Your prices should be competitive, yet profitable enough to sustain your business and provide excellent service to your clients.
Before settling on a final price, it is important to do research on your competition. Look at what dog walking services in your area are offering and how much they are charging for their services. You want to make sure that your pricing is competitive with others in your area, but also reflects the quality of the services that you offer. By conducting this research, you can gain a better understanding of the market and adjust your prices accordingly.
It’s important to remember that some clients may request dog walking services during peak hours (before and after work), while others may want mid-day services. Consider charging more for peak hours or offering a discounted rate for mid-day services. By doing so, you can maximize your profits while also encouraging business from clients that may have an easier schedule to work around.
Step 5: Create a Marketing Strategy
Going back to the research from Step 1, it’s important to put that research into action by creating a marketing plan that will help you promote your dog walking business. Marketing helps generate initial business, and those customers can turn into repeat customers when the business delivers quality service. Instead of starting with low prices, which can bring into question the value of your services, consider offering a discount or referral program to for new customers.
Dog walking businesses can use many different marketing techniques. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, to Craigslist, to online job boards like Rover or Wag! are popular. Also, two associations, Pet Sitters International (PSI) and The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS), provide great member resources, but they also let members list their business on their Pet Sitter Finders. By creating a strong online presence can help you reach more potential customers and increase demand for your services.
Partnering with local vets, groomers, and pet stores can be another effective way to expand your reach and build visibility for your dog walking services. By collaborating with local businesses, you can tap into a wider audience and gain credibility with potential customers. Make sure to promote your services by handing out flyers, brochures, or business cards at these locations.
Step 6: Prepare to Launch!
As you inch closer to the exciting day of launching your dog walking business, ensuring that all t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted. Every business owner will have different needs, but here’s a rundown of some of the more common steps remaining:
Business insurance: Consider obtaining dog walking insurance to protect your business against potential liability claims or damages. There are several types of insurance to consider, including general liability insurance and professional liability insurance.
Set up bookkeeping: Proper bookkeeping is essential for any business. Consider setting up a system, such as Wave Accounting (FREE) or Quickbooks, to track income and expenses and to prepare for taxes.
Contracts: Consider creating contracts such as a service contract, liability waiver, and pet care agreement for your clients. RocketLawyer and Law Depot have free and inexpensive templates that may be helpful.
Open a business bank account: Set up a separate bank account for your business to keep personal and business finances separate.
Credit card processing: Setting up a system to accept credit card payments makes transactions convenient for your clients. Platforms like Square or Stripe are user-friendly options to take payment on the go.
Common Questions When Starting A Dog Walking Business
How much does it cost to start a dog walking business?
The total costs to start a basic dog walking business range from $500 to $2,500. This includes initial expenses like licensing, insurance, equipment, marketing, and an operating reserve.
Key start-up costs include:
Licensing: $50 to $200 for state and city pet business licenses and business registration
Insurance: $500 to $1,000 for general liability insurance to cover you in case a dog gets injured or damages property
Equipment: $100 to $300 for leashes, waste bags, cleaning supplies, first aid kit
Marketing: $500 to $1,000 for basic website, business cards, flyers
How much money can you make dog walking?
Dog walking businesses generate revenue by charging per walk or per day fees. To estimate potential profit, an industry-standard formula is to take the total revenue and subtract the expenses.
For example, suppose a dog walking business charges $20 for a 30-minute walk, and the business owner works four hours a day, five days a week, for a total of 20 hours. In that case, the weekly revenue would be $800 ($20 per walk x 4 walks per day x 5 days per week).
Expenses may include equipment and supplies, such as leashes and waste bags, marketing materials, insurance, and licensing fees. Taking into account these expenses, consider estimating an average of $100 per week.
Therefore, the weekly profit in this example would be $700 ($800 weekly revenue – $100 weekly expenses). Over a year, the estimated annual profit would be approximately $36,400 ($700 weekly profit x 52 weeks).
These back-of-the-envelope calculations demonstrate the potential for dog walking to be a solidly profitable small business with revenues dependent on the number of clients and walking fees charged.
What skills are needed to run a dog walking business?
While it’s possible to start a dog walking company without a business degree, certain skills and experience can increase the chances of success.
Dog handling and care experience: Dog handling and care experience is a must when starting a dog walking business. A background in dog behavior and training can help keep both the dog walker and the dog safe and make the walks more enjoyable. Basic canine first aid skills, such as triaging a wound and recognizing if a dog is experiencing heatstroke, are also important and can build a dog owner’s confidence in a business.
Organizational skills: Good organization is important when creating and maintaining a schedule of multiple dogs that need to be walked. A well-organized walker can ensure that they arrive at each home on time, and prompt, dependable service can help win loyal, repeat customers.
Attention to detail: Dog walkers also need to pay careful attention to detail in following a pet owner’s instructions, making sure that they always arrive for every appointment, and even working with different types of harnesses and collars to ensure that a dog is safe.
Customer service skills: A dog walking service that provides excellent customer service will stand out from other dog walkers. Communication skills, both over the phone and through text, are important for any dog walker. A dog walker should also know how to address customer concerns and worries about their dog.
Management experience: For entrepreneurs who want to build a larger business with multiple dog walkers, employee hiring, management, and training experience can help with the growing business.
Marketing skills: Any dog walking business will require active marketing to gain new customers. A business owner who can do at least some of their marketing themselves can save money over the cost of hiring a professional marketer.
What is the NAICS code for a dog walking business?
The NAICS code for a dog walking business is 812910, which is classified under Pet Care (except Veterinary) Services.
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.