With dog ownership on the rise, you’ve likely already considered how to start a dog walking business. But as with any business, there are things to consider to ensure you set things up the right way, get dog walking clients, provide a good service and learn how to earn a good wage.
In this guide, we cover everything from what you need to do upfront to start your dog walking business right up to how to easily promote and pull in extra clients and profits.
Is a Dog Walking Business Profitable?
Dog walking as a career/business idea is as profitable as ever due to the side-effect of the Coronavirus pandemic causing an uptick in the number of people buying new dogs. A sad side-effect is that many of these new owners, now they’re moving back to normal working do not have the time to walk their dogs. But, this is where you step in!
How much you earn will depend on your country or even location within that country but dog walkers in the UK for example earn around £10-£15 per hour.
What You Need to Start a Dog Walking Business
Create a Business Plan
This doesn’t need to be overly in-depth, but there are some things you need to consider. Because setting up a dog walking business isn’t overly complex or costly, this plan is really just for you to get everything straight and planned out. Having a plan including the following will be a good starting point:
Get the Right Equipment
Transport is the big one, and depending on your plans may or may not be necessary. Ask yourself, how will you get to the owner’s home, how will you transport the dogs, how many dogs will you transport at a time and will they need to be separately caged?
Think about whether a car is enough or if you’ll need a van. Also, remember you can always start off small with a car and expand if your dog walking business takes off.
If you will be offering your service in the evenings, make sure you have some hi-vis clothing and even consider buying hi-vis wear for the dogs you’ll be walking.
Offering this to owners will increase their confidence in you and put them more at ease.
Water Bowls & Water
Not a big cost, but a cost nonetheless. This is especially important if you live in a warm climate. Taking water bowls and a few bottles of fresh water to fill them up with keeps the dogs happy and the owners happy.
Understand the Rules & Regulations
These rules will differ from country to country, and sometimes within countries. Checking out your local council or state website is a good starting point to understand what rules apply when you start a dog walking business. Additionally, many animal charities also provide good advice. But generally what you’ll need to keep in mind:
- Clean up dog poo or face a fine.
- Restrict the number of dogs walked at a time. For example in the UK, this is 4 dogs.
- Only allow the dogs off the leash where it is safe to do so, but also only where you are allowed to do so.
- Register as a self-employed, sole trader and pay your taxes.
The Coronavirus pandemic may also introduce some new rules in your country. For example, you may need to wear a mask when picking up or returning the dog to the owner.
Prepare for the Worst
This isn’t a shock tactic, but something every budding business owner should think of. It is crucial that when you think about how to start a dog walking business, that you also think about what can go wrong and how to protect both yourself and your clients.
Dog Walking Insurance
Most businesses need a form of public liability insurance, and a dog walking business is no different. To simplify this you can actually get dedicated dog walking insurance to cover this. For example, Protectivity in the UK offers exactly that.
Emergency Contact Number
Make sure you get an emergency contact number from the owner. If something happens such as an accident, or the dog goes missing, you want to be able to contact them asap.
Planning How to Start a Dog Walking Business Begins With Marketing
In order to get clients for your dog walking business, you need to market yourself. Because it’s likely your business will be local, then offline marketing is best suited here but do not ignore the online component.
Create Flyers & Sell Yourself
Creating a flyer is cheap and easy with services such as Vistaprint but the really important part is what you include and how you set yourself apart from others.
Explain What You Offer
Generally of course you mention that you offer dog walking services, but be clear. Mention the times available, how long the walks will be, the cost, and any extras that your offer.
Offer a Low-Cost Trial or Other Offers
Everybody loves a bargain, but don’t go too overboard. Make sure that your offers are still profitable to you. Some ideas or concepts to think about:
- Entice customers with a cheap first walk.
- Multi-dog discount
- Dedicated one-on-one walk (more expensive)
Make Sure Your Contactable
Give people choice. Let them contact you by phone, text, email, Facebook or whatever other mediums make sense to you. There’s nothing worse than losing a customer because they’re not comfortable with a particular form of contact. These details should be clear on your flier in the form of a “call to action”. Don’t just list your details, tell them to contact you.
Once you have the flyers perfected and printed off get out and about. If your country allows you to do so, go door to door and post your flyers. Start in the immediate area and then branch out as your business grows. Also, check with local business owners if you can leave a few flyers on their front desk or even put one in their window. You need to make sure that you make your dog walking business as visible as possible locally.
Have an Online Presence
Just because your business is local, don’t ignore having an online presence in the form of a simple website. It will generally increase confidence in your business, you can ask your customers for feedback which can be added to the site and you can even add the link to your flyer and push people towards the site which contains more detailed info on your services.
Creating a Website is Easy
A lot of people see creating a website as complex or costly but with a full coverage webhost such as Ionos you can spin up a website in minutes, and it can cost you as little as £1/$0.50 a month.
We suggest going for the WordPress package which is basically a website and blog in-a-box.
In fact, Earnologist runs on WordPress and we use Ionos as our host, so take a look around at what is possible!
Facebook is a great place to start. With many local groups already in place you can gauge interest and promote your business (don’t spam!) to those in your immediate area.
Focus on the Financials
Part of understanding how to start a dog walking business is understanding the financials. This is both from the perspective of costs (to you), such as tax, equipment etc. and also the profit vs time.
As we’ve mentioned it is critical that you sign up as self-employed and that you pay your taxes. And just as importantly you need to figure out what your taxes will be as you don’t want a surprise after-tax to find out that your business is not that profitable.
Figure out a good price for your services. Don’t go crazy but don’t undersell yourself. In the beginning, it helps to be a little flexible to get those first customers and their reviews & recommendations. But again, make sure it is still profitable and worth your time.
So by now, you should have a good idea of how to start a dog walking business, know what you need to consider and have some actionable tips to get you started.
While you’re waiting for your business to get off the ground, or even just to get some additional funds to help towards the planning, make sure to check out the other earning opportunities we have here on Earnologist:
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