Do you love dogs and could spend all day with them? Do you also enjoy long walks no matter the weather? Then starting a dog walking business might be the best decision you make!
But if this is the very first time you’re setting up a business, you might be wondering where to start. Good news, we’re here to help you!
Why dog walking business is a great business to start?
You can get fit while working
Most dog walking sessions are half an hour to an hour. And we’re sure you will be doing a few sessions a day! Walking for several hours every day can really improve your physical health and help you stay fit!
Owning a dog walking business can be beneficial to your mental health
Animals, especially dogs can be therapeutic and help reduce stress and anxiety. Also, dog walking can give you companionship and even help you meet new people! So even if you don’t have a dog yourself, walking someone else’s dogs can have a positive impact on your mental health.
High customer retention
Once dog owners find a walker they can trust and their dog enjoys spending time with, it’s very unlikely that they will change to a different one. If they are happy with your services, they’ll not only stick with you but will also recommend you to other dog owners they know!
Dog walkers are in high demand
You probably know at least one person that got a puppy during the lockdown, right?
Now, most of those pet owners need to go back to the offices. This means that they are looking for someone to take care of and walk their dogs while they aren’t home. That’s why a dog walking business can be a great and profitable opportunity!
Low starting and running costs
A dog walking business is a low investment one, which means it’s easier to make a profit! You don’t need to pay for premises or things such as electricity or water.
Things you need to buy are dog waste bags, special adapters that allow you to walk two dogs on a single lead and some accessories such as harnesses, muzzles or toys if the owners don’t provide them.
The only big investment is a vehicle. If you want to take clients from further away or don’t live close to the areas where you could walk the dogs, you will need a van with caging and additional air-conditioning.
What skills and qualifications do you need to start a dog walking business?
There are no qualifications legally required to start a dog walking business. But it’s important to remember that you must have experience and skills in dog handling as well as understanding their behaviour. You should also have knowledge of pet first aid.
If you need any training to gain this knowledge, a great option is the Level 3 Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Business Diploma Course run by Animal Jobs Direct. It’s an online course that takes around six months to complete and costs £405. It covers subjects such as first aid, dog, cat and small animal care, house security and the law, running a business and professional dog walking.
Moreover, anyone starting a dog walking business needs business knowledge and skills, including time management, bookkeeping and marketing.
If you need help with gaining any business skills, our business advisors are always here to help you! You can contact us here.
Things you need to do before starting your dog walking business
You might be thinking that all you need to start your dog walking business is to find some dogs to walk and start walking them. However, there are a few other things you need to do before that.
Write a business plan
A business plan is an essential document that helps turn an idea into an actual business. It guides you through every stage of setting up and running as it outlines what you need to do in order to successfully launch and grow your business.
A well-written business plan can also help you secure funding, attract great employees and prepare for future scenarios.
Writing a business plan isn’t a one day job as it contains many different sections you need to complete, including market research, competitor analysis, sales forecast, your own knowledge and experience and more.
Once you have your business plan written, you will know how your business fits in the market, how many competitors you have and how you stand out from them as well as how you are going to market your new business.
We have an article that explains what exactly has to go into a business and how to write it yourself.
Do market research
Before starting a business, you need to know that it has the potential to grow and be successful.
The first thing you need to do is identify your ideal customer. It will help you come up with appropriate marketing and sales techniques, so you give your customer what they want instead of what you think they want.
When researching your target audience, you need to identify basic characteristics such as age, gender and location as well as their socioeconomic status and psychographics. As you can see, it’s not enough to say that your ideal customer is anyone who owns a dog!
When you know your target audience, it’s time to test your idea with real people! Find a small group of people that match your ideal customer and speak to them about your business idea. You can use online surveys, focus groups or even face-to-face interviews. Find out what they like and dislike about your idea. This will help you understand what changes you need to make and how to actually reach your audience.
Register your dog walking business
Before you start trading, you need to register your business to be legally recognised.
As the first step of registering your business, you need to choose a legal structure that fits your business. The options are registering as a sole trader, limited company or partnership. The process of registering depends on the type of your business.
Learn more about how to register your business here.
Work out your prices
There is no set rate you should be charging, however, most dog walkers charge around £8-15 per dog for a walk that lasts between 30 minutes and an hour. If a dog needs to be walked without any other dogs, you can expect from around £15 to £25 for a walk.
The prices you charge depend on the location and competition in the area. If the demand is high but the competition is low, you can charge more. If the other way round, you might want to lower your prices or include additional services into the price to attract dog owners to choose you instead of other businesses.
Many dog walkers also charge extra for collecting and dropping off dogs if they are outside a certain distance and for additional services such as feeding or drying the dog after the walk.
Legal issues you need to be aware of when running a dog walking business
Dog control legislation
Even if you don’t own a dog, when you’re walking someone else’s you, you are their ‘keeper’. This means that you’re responsible for them and may be held legally liable if a dog causes injury or damage, for example by biting a person or another dog.
Also, there are some legal requirements that apply when dogs are walked in public or on agricultural land. These include:
- A dog must wear a collar with a tag indicating the owner’s contact details.
- It is an offence to be in charge of a dog that attacks or worries livestock on agricultural land and in Northern Ireland farmers can shoot dogs on their land to protect their livestock.
- Local authorities can make Public Spaces Protection Orders and ban dogs from certain areas, restrict the number of dogs that a single person can be in control of and provide fixed penalties for dog fouling. Failure to comply with those can result in fines of up to £1,000.
Animal welfare legislation
When you’re a dog walker, you must take appropriate care of the pets you’re walking.
If you’re causing any unnecessary suffering to an animal, for example, by mistreating it or not seeking veterinary treatment when needed, you’re committing an offence. This means you might face a penalty of an unlimited fine and/or five years in prison.
Criminal record checks
Dog walkers might require to have a criminal record check also known as a ‘disclosure’ or DBS check. It is needed to prove that you’re suitable to look after pets or to be licensed to run a dog-walking service. Also, as a dog walker, you might need to hold your customers’ house keys and people want to make sure they can trust you.
Running dog walking business from home
If you’re planning on running your business from home, for example using your home as a base from which to start and end walks, you need to inform your mortgage company or landlord and check whether you’re allowed to do this under the terms of your mortgage or tenancy agreement.
When you run a home-based business, you need to check whether you are liable for business rates. Read more about business rates here. It’s also important to hold adequate insurance cover both for the home and for business purposes.
Dog walkers require various types of insurance, including:
- Public liability insurance. It covers you if a dog injures a member of the public or causes damage to third-party property.
- A ‘care, custody and control of animals’ policy. It provides cover against claims for compensation from customers whose dogs are injured or lost while in your care.
- Loss of key insurance. This insurance provides cover if you lose your customer’s keys and they have to change their locks because of it.
- Income protection insurance. It will pay an income if you are unable to work because of sickness or injury.
- Employer's liability insurance. This insurance is mandatory as soon as you employ staff.
It’s always a good idea to sign a service agreement between you and your customers. A service agreement can protect you and your business if there are any disagreements or disputes.
The agreement should include the description of your services, how much your customer is paying you and when you will be taking their dogs for walks. You can also include details about the dog and any specific needs it has. This way your customer will feel protected, too.
How to promote your dog walking business
Set up your business website
A business website is essential as most people will be looking for dog walkers online using a simple Google search!
Don’t forget to include the most important details such as your location, descriptions of services and prices.
You can also start writing a blog that will show your potential customers that you have the right knowledge to look after their beloved pets.
Use social media
Who doesn’t love cute pictures and videos of dogs?
When you’re a dog walker, you can share loads of them!
You can share stories of the dogs you walk, show what your regular day looks like and how excited dogs are to see you when you pick them up.
We understand that attracting people to follow your new accounts can be difficult. That’s why we have created a guide on how to build your social media following from zero.
Leaflets can be a great way to promote your business when you’re just starting out as well as later! Let people know you’re starting a dog walking business in their local area and show what they can expect from you. After that, you can use leaflets to promote special offers and savings.
Ask for reviews and testimonials
Ask your existing customers to leave a review and share their positive thoughts about you and your business on your website, social media or leaflets!
Did you know that 70% of consumers trust online reviews more than advertisements created by a company? Also, 68% of buyers are more likely to trust a local business if they read positive reviews about it.
Reward your loyal customers
Customer reward schemes are one of the best ways to keep your customers happy and excited about coming back for more!
You can introduce stamp cards or offer special deals for those customers who have more than one dog or need their dog taken out every day.
Are you ready to turn your love for dogs into a successful dog walking business?
We have a team of dedicated business advisors that have helped start hundreds of businesses and are now ready to help you!
Contact us here and start your journey with us.