How to Start a Dog Walking Business

Do you love dogs? Are you knowledgeable about animal behavior and aware of basic animal care? Are you passionate about helping to keep them healthy and active? If so, starting a dog walking business may be your perfect career! In this guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know in order to get your business up and running. We’ll discuss how to find clients, what services to offer, insurance and liability considerations, and more! So whether you’re just getting started or are looking for ways to grow your existing business, this guide has got you covered.

Dog walking is a serious business, growing about 5.2% each year in the United States. Many dog walkers begin by helping out a friend or neighbor, only to find that they really enjoy spending time with dogs and grow the role into a full, self-sustaining dog walking business.

Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of how to start a dog walking business.

Is Becoming a Professional Dog Walker Right for You?

If you love all aspects of spending time with canines and meeting new dogs, dog walking can be a very rewarding job. However, it’s only half the deal: dog-walking is also a full-scale business if you want to make a living out of it, and walking is only the first step to full-service pet care (and fuller income potential). 

If you lack reliable transportation, this will be an issue – you must be able to travel to dogs’ homes to take them out for a walk.

How Much Does it Cost to Start a Dog Walking Business?

Setting up your business structure as a limited liability company (LLC) in the US usually costs around $150 (depending on your state). We recommend it, especially if you’re striking out on your own (with your own website) in addition to using apps. Check out the other helpful tools you’ll need:

  • Apps: While most apps are free, they often take 15 percent or more out of your earnings off the top.
  • Apps often include pet insurance, but we recommend springing for the background check on Rover ($25) and additional insurance through our recommended brands.
  • You may need an additional business license from your county to operate any type of kenneling or overnight sitting service. Check with your local government for rules, regulations, fees, and costs. 
  • Invest in a small variety of leashes and collars, in sizes you might need. It’s always good to have spares (from brands you trust). Don’t forget clean-up waste disposal bags, travel water bowl dishes, toys, and treats. 
  • Liability is very important in this industry. Make sure you retain signed contracts, keep your records straight, and even use photo documentation to ensure you were there when it’s time to walk the dog.

Even if you get an LLC, bare-bones start-up costs are under $200. If you’re in a pinch, the simplest legal structure to use is the sole proprietorship, but be careful – you could be held personally liable if something goes wrong.

How to Start a Dog Walking Business

1. Plan your business

The first step to starting any business is to create a plan. This will be your roadmap that outlines your goals, strategies, and how you plan on making money.

When it comes to starting a dog walking business, there are a few key things you need to keep in mind. First, you need to figure out what services you’re going to offer. Do you want to just walk dogs, or will you also offer pet sitting services?

Begin by researching the competition in your area. How many other dog walkers are there? What services do they offer? What are their rates? Once you understand the competition well, start thinking about what makes your business unique. What can you offer that others can’t? By offering something unique, you’ll be more likely to attract customers and stand out from the crowd.

Next, you need to determine your pricing. This will be based on a number of factors, including the number of dogs you’ll be walking, the length of each walk, and any additional services you’re offering.

Finally, you need to create a marketing plan. This will help you get the word out about your business and attract potential customers.

There are a number of ways to market your dog walking business, including online and offline methods. Some popular offline methods include handing out flyers in your neighborhood or placing ads in local pet stores.

2. Get the necessary licenses and insurance

Before you start your dog walking business, you need to make sure you have the necessary licenses and insurance in place.

Depending on your location, you may need to get a business license or permit. You can typically do this through your local city or county office.

You should also consider getting liability insurance. This will protect you financially in case your dog walking business causes any damage, such as a dog biting someone.

You can get liability insurance through a variety of companies, including business insurance providers or pet sitting associations.

Finally, make sure you have the proper paperwork in place for each dog you’ll be walking. This should include up-to-date vaccinations and a signed release form from the owner.

By taking care of these things before you start your business, you’ll be able to operate with peace of mind knowing you’re fully compliant with the law.

3. Market Your Business

Now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to start marketing your dog walking business.

There are a number of ways to do this, both online and offline.

Some popular offline marketing methods include handing out flyers in your neighborhood or placing ads in local pet stores. You can also get involved with local dog parks or dog-friendly events to help spread the word about your business.

When it comes to online marketing, you can start by creating a website or blog for your business. Be sure to include information about your services, pricing, and contact information.

You can also use social media to reach potential customers. Create profiles on popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Then, start sharing engaging content that will help you attract followers and build your brand.

Don’t forget to also add your dog walking business to online directories, such as Google My Business and Yelp. This will help people find you when they’re searching for dog walkers in their area.

By using a combination of both offline and online marketing methods, you’ll be able to reach a wider audience and attract more customers.

You can also join services like Rover or Wag to connect with potential clients. This is particularly helpful when you’re just starting out because you can build a customer base with ease and you’re covered under their insurance. That said, you won’t make as much money since these services charge a fee.

4. Start Walking Dogs!

This is the most important part of starting your dog walking business! Be sure to walk the dogs in a safe and comfortable environment, and always keep an eye on them. Be sure to clean up after them, too! 

5. Keep Track of Business Expenses and Income

One of the most important things to do when starting any business is to keep track of your expenses and income. This will help you stay organized and on top of your finances. When it comes to a dog walking business, there are a few key expenses you’ll need to keep track of:

  • Dog food and treats
  • Leashes and collars
  • Poop bags
  • Advertising and marketing costs
  • Insurance

Keeping track of your income is just as important. Be sure to record how much you charge per walk and how many walks you complete each week. This will help you see how much money you’re bringing in and where you can improve.

The easiest way to keep track of cash flow is to keep your personal finances separate from the company, using a business bank account.

There are a lot of great expense tracking apps out there that can make this process a lot easier. We recommend using one of these to help you stay on top of your finances.

6. Evaluate Your Business

After six months, it’s time to evaluate your business. How did you do? Are you making a profit? If not, what can you do to change that? Are you providing a service that people want and need?

There are a few key things you should look at when evaluating your business:

  • Your financial situation
  • Your customer base
  • Your competition

If you’re not happy with how your business is doing, make a plan to change things. If you are happy with your progress, keep up the good work! Either way, it’s important to take a step back and assess your business every now and then to make sure you’re on track to reach your goals.

Pros of Starting a Dog Walking Business

All dogs, all the time. If you don’t mind picking up the occasional poo, dog walking can be a rewarding business, giving you lots of time out in the fresh air. Let’s take a look at some dog walking business pros:

  • Doggo central: Like spending time with pooches? It’s the number one benefit of this day. All dogs, all the time. 
  • Work efficiently: If you expand into dog-sitting, you can take care of most of your paperwork and bookings while you’re working, which leads to maximum efficiency and more profits.
  • Referral galore: Dog walking is one of the easiest businesses in terms of referral. That’s because people always want personal recommendations to provide the best for their dogs.
  • Local networking opportunities: Volunteer with a shelter and form relationships with local veterinary clinics to get local networking opportunities and recommendations. 
  • Stay fit: If you’re walking dogs, you’re moving! Unlike many self-employed folks, you’ll be on your feet and staying in shape when you walk dogs. 
  • Room for expansion: With a few more licenses and inspections, you can grow your business to include stay-overs, kenneling in your home, and even grooming.
  • Documentation: Marketing largely involves referral and documenting your time with those precious pets. Showing you’re active and trusted goes a long way in your success, and it can be fun to snap summertime selfies and post them on your dog-walking sites.

Cons of Starting a Dog Walking Business

From bites to business costs, a dog walking business isn’t entirely a walk in the park. Let’s take a look:

  • License and insurance cost: You have precious pets’ lives in your hands, and that means getting insurance to ensure you’re fully covered.
  • Sometimes it’s sad: Every now and then, one of the dogs you watch will become old or injured and will pass away. Compassionate people who walk and watch dogs find it very difficult to deal with this end of the business.
  • Last-minute service: Lots of folks wait until the last minute to book their pet care services before going on vacation. Sometimes they start new jobs or have emergencies that require emergency pet care services, so your schedule is at their mercy.
  • Competition: Many less experienced dog walkers will come in to take a cut. This includes folks using the Wag and Rover apps for occasional gigs.
  • Once bitten, twice shy: It happens eventually: an irascible furry friend might take a chunk out of your hand, and it’s just the nature of your business. You can avoid this pitfall by focusing on engaging the same regular clients.
  • Price control: Apps like Rover and Wag take cuts and create price control by listing multiple dog walkers in the area. Pricing can get competitive, and depending on where you live, low.

Start a Successful Dog Walking Business Today

A dog walking business requires some investment and is not for the faint-hearted. Getting your feet wet is crucial for success. As you build your clientele, you must purchase supplies and equipment to start. If you want to succeed, you must also have the right knowledge and experience to make your business a success. You need to know how to deal with dogs and their owners. Understanding how their bodies and minds work is important because your work will depend on this. Starting with an app like Rover or Wag will help you decide if the business is right for you.

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