Top 10 Tips For Starting A Dog Walking Business
Starting a dog walking business doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact these tips can help many people do just that.
With the right information and following the right steps, you can be up and running with your first customer on the books in no time.
In this article we take a look at the top 10 tips to help you start your dog walking business. They are in no particular order and each one is as important as the next. So take a look and make notes!
1) Get Some Experience
First up, you need some experience with dogs. Chances are you already do if your thinking about getting started in this business. If not I suggest you grab a friends dog and get some practice in.
Not all dogs are created equal, apart from the obvious size differences, the way they behave and how they’ve been trained will play a huge part in how you walk a dog.
If they lack on-lead training then you may want to take a couple of dog handling classes to understand how to handle the dog correctly from the start to make sure you both get off on the right foot.
Once you have some experience, I would suggest you step it up a notch and start to take out 2-3 dogs at a time.
Juggling different dogs, leads and poop bags will be a challenge at first and your patience will be tested. Especially if you have a dog that always wants to be at the front and ends up taking you for a walk instead!
These are all vital experiences and will make sure you can answer the question;
Do I really want to start a dog walking business?
If the answer to the above question is YES! then lets move on.
2) Do Some Market Research
You should certainly do you research, which is what I assume you already know since your here reading this website.
Take a look in the local papers and on the internet. Do a Google search and get a feel for existing businesses in your local area.
Here a few questions to ask yourself;
- Which areas do they cover?
- What is the going rate for an hours walk?
- Do they offer group walks?
- What other services do they offer that you could too?
- How long have they been in business?
Another great tip is to take a walk around your local area during peak dog walker hours – which is 10am – 3pm Monday to Friday. In fact you should grab your friends dog like we discuss in point number 1 and see how many dog walkers you bump into.
You will be surprised just how many there are. Dog walkers are by their very nature sociable and they are always happy to chat, at least from my experience.
Ask them some questions without being too cheeky and see what info you can gleam from them. Most will be willing to offer advice on how to get started.
They are your best source of information as they are your boots on the ground and doing it day-in, day-out.
f you feel a little uneasy talking to your potential competitors, then head outside your area. Go to a park in another town or village and try to meet dog walkers in that area. They are more likely to share information if they know you will not be competing with them directly.
3) Get Dog Walkers Insurance
A very important point that you must not skip over.
Dogs by nature are somewhat unpredictable and you need to make sure you have all of your bases covered. That means having adequate business insurance that covers you for third part liability, loss, injury or death of the animals in your car and various other little extras that will bring you that piece of mind.
Do not under any circumstances start you business without the proper insurance cover. It’s asking for trouble and you could end up in deep financial trouble if something were to happen and you didn’t have insurance, you would be financially viable.
Typical dog walker insurance costs around £80 – £180 per year. It’s a small price to pay for the level of cover you get.
4) Show Your Are Trustworthy & Honest
Last of all you need to treat this like a business. You will have people that will rely on you to look after their pet when they are at work or away from home.
Personal testimonials from friends, family, a local business owner and even your existing customers if you have any. They all go a long way to proving to your customers that you can be trusted in their homes and with their beloved pets.
Finally one great tips is to take along all of your paperwork whenever you go to meet a potential customer. This includes the CRB check, proof of your insurance and your contract. Which should be easy to read and straight to the point.
It should tell them what you will do in an emergency, who you will contact and which vets you would take the dog too. Also informing them that you can be reached whenever they need you adds to that element of trust.
5) Be 100% Committed
Taking on a customer is generally a long-term contract. Very rarely, unless you do something completely wrong or unacceptable, will a customer change their dog walker.
They like to find someone trustworthy and who has all of the right credentials before to look after their pet. When they do they are likely to stick with that person for a long time.
I had my first dog walker for almost 3 years before a change in work situation meant I could work from home and walk the boy myself. So take heed here – you need to be committed to the customer and the dog.
That means doing what you say you will do, when you say you will do it and most importantly being consistent.
It is also a good idea to take an Animal First Aiders Course, which you can find out more about here. Showing that you are able to take care of an injured animal shows the upmost commitment and is one step not every dog walker will take.
6) Sort Out Your Transport
Depending on the area you will be covering, most dog walkers have some form of transport to get the dogs and yourself from A to B.
You have 2 options here.
1) You can use your own car – you will need to amend your insurance policy to cover business usage and you will need to make sure the boot is fitted with adequate cages for transporting the dogs.
The downside to using your car is that you are limited to the number of dogs you can carry. I know a log of dog walkers who are comfortable walking 4,5 even 6 dogs at any one time. For this you will need option 2.
2) Buy a van just for your walking business – this has the benefit of being used only for your business, so any mileage you do is easy to record and claim for on your tax return.
You can also fit more dogs inside so you can make more per hour by walking multiple dogs. (I recommend you only do this once you get to know each dog and have tried them out with the other dogs in the pack).
Plus a dog walking business van looks a lot more professional if you can get signage etc. Whilst not an absolute requirement, a van does have it’s benefits.
7) Learn Some Business Skills
Whilst dog related businesses are fairly simple to run, you will still need some good business knowledge and acumen.
You will likely be registering as self employed, to do that you need to visit the HMRC website and you can register online. They will send you a confirmation letter within a week or two.
You simply tell them when you are starting and if you have a trading name. This is the name you will be doing business as.
Even if it’s something simple like “Katie’s Dog Walking”, just use that as the name you are trading as.
You will need to complete an annual tax return, which can be done online and you will get a reminder with plenty of time through the post.
In terms of VAT registration. The VAT limit is £72,000, therefore if you are expecting to earn over this you CAN register for VAT for which you must charge your customers 20% VAT.
However if you are not sure or don’t think your annual income will exceed that number, then it’s fine not to register. If you have a really good year and create a great business, then you can always register at a later date if needed.
8) You Need A Website
Having a website for you business is crucial in today’s digital world. More people use the internet to search for businesses than they do the yellow pages.
So whilst you should certainly use all available channels to advertise your business, you simply cannot beat a website.
Now don’t think owning and building a website is difficult. I started out with little to no experience and now have my own fully functioning website.
Having a business website can be the difference between success and failure in your business.
WordPress i find is the simplest way to create an effective website for your business.
9) Learn Where To Advertise
There are various options for advertising your business. The more you do the better.
Lets take a look at some of the options available to you;
- Local Newspapers
- Yellow Pages
- Online Directories
- Your own Website
- Shop Windows
- Word of Mouth
- Business Cards
- Flyers & Printed Postcards
- Social Media (Facebook, Google & Twitter)
10) Stand Out From The Competition
Standing out from the crowd is important. If you live in an area with very little competition then you’re in luck, however most places with a high dog owner population generally has at least 2 or 3 dog walking businesses.
If you can stand out from the crowd, you are more likely to gain the business of your target customers. Having a website as we discussed earlier is one way to stand out.
By passing on your cards and flyers etc, if people can visit a website where they can find out all of the information they need about you and you’re business, you are 10x more likely to convert that prospect into a customer.
Showing pictures of you the dogs you currently walk having a great time is one sure-fire way you can stand out from the crowd.
Another way is to look at what your competition don’t offer and provide that service. They don’t work weekends? Find a way to serve them. They don’t do puppy visits? Do them!
There are lots of ways to make a difference and be that one dog walking business that doesn’t blend in like all the rest. It’s your job to find out what that is.
Having the right equipment will make sure you are extremely successful in your dog walking business. If you have come directly to this page then you have missed all the amazing products available. From Dog Doors / Dog Gates, to Leads and Harnesses, everything you need to be successful in your dog walking business is right here on this website.