How To Set Up A Dog Walking and Grooming Business
“Dude, why the hell are you writing about dog walkers? That’s not going to buy me an island in the South Pacific for my villainesque James Bond plans!” I hear you shout.
You are absolutely correct, this business is definitely less likely to make you an evil billionaire compared to most of the businesses we write about.
But here’s the thing, and I really cannot stress this enough, I really want a frigging dog! So I’m writing about starting a frigging dog walking business. Anyone has any problems with this, they can meet me outside to discuss further!
Anywho, how this popped into my head. I visited with my nieces a couple of weeks ago, and I knew they also wanted a dog. So I thought to myself with my evil Bond villain brain, let’s have some fun, and annoy the hell out of their parents by reintroducing this conversation. Unfortunately the kids are far more mature than I am, and seem to now value the welfare of the dog more than annoying the crap out of their parents (annoyed.com). In fact the only person that the conversation forced an emotional response out of was myself, as it reinforced how much I really, really, really want a frigging dog.
I live alone, I get up early, I go to work, and I get home anytime between 6 and 8 in the evening. Even as a future evil billionaire I realise it is just not fair to leave a dog in my tiny 1 bed flat, on his own, all day. So what are my options, or anyone else’s options in the same position as myself;
1. Become rich
2. Become unemployed
3. Work from home
4. Set up a dog walking business
Option 1 is the preferred choice for most of us, but option 4 is the quickest. At FindMeAStartUp.com I want to know how feasible this is. Is it just a part time hobby? Would the stay at home furry lifestyle now, make up for not having homes dotted around the globe in the future? Is there any potential to scale, and actually make a healthy living? Then most importantly, is it anywhere
near as fun as I think it would be? Or does smelling of dog, and endlessly picking up dog poo start to eat away at the fantasy lifestyle of running through fields of wheat (with the dogs, not Theresa May)?
As always at FindMeAStartUp.com , we have not only researched the hell out of this bad boy. We have also interviewed several dog walkers / groomers, to find out for you (and more importantly me), if this is a feasible option for all you dog lovers out there.
Benefits that will make you jump for joy
- Get paid to play with dogs, whilst your friends are stuck in an office
- Meet different dogs, with new personalities
- Save money on gym membership, your exercise is built into the job
- Potentially earn up to 20% more than the average salary
- £10 per hour / per dog (In London this increases up to £15)
- Integrate a dog grooming service into your offering
- o £30 on average per dog, depending on what you offer
- Scale up, and become a doggy day care centre, and dog sitting service
- o £17 per day / per dog (In London this increases up to £25)
- o By offering an overnight service, you can double this rate
Negatives that will make you want to punch yourself in the face
- Rain, Hail, or Shine – Walking dogs in the snow, or gale force winds is not that fun
- No sick days – If you are feeling poorly Bruce the Boxer still needs his walk
- Poo – walking up to 4 dogs at a time, means picking up and carrying up to 4 bags of dog poo. Just before lunch, yummy!
- Doggy stress – you are responsible for important family members. Dogs are unpredictable and will get into all sorts of trouble. You need to be able to handle these moments calmly, whilst managing the other dogs under your care.
- Challenging dogs – Not all the pets you walk will be cute little Shih Tzus, some may be aggressive, lazy, spoilt, sick. Some will not get on with other dogs, how do you manage that when walking 3 or 4 dogs at a time?
Can I run a dog walking business from home?
Duh! Absolutely, what else would you be doing it for.
I say that, but obviously there is a caveat, if you are in an apartment or rented accommodation you probably will not be allowed to have a hoard of cutsie Labradoodles running through the corridors, barking en masse. Even if you have a house with a big garden, you will want to check with your neighbours if they are at home during the day.
What you will need to set up?
This bit surprised me the most when we were researching this business model. You surprisingly need more equipment than you would think. If you are only walking one dog at a time, you will not need all of these.
- You will need to be fit, 4 or 5 one hourly walks, plus chasing after dogs is physical work
- Knowledge, and experience of different breeds of dogs
- Business plan – It may seem strange needing a business plan to walk a dog, but this will depend on your goals. If you only want to earn spending money, and are happy with walking 3 dogs a day, you may survive without one. On the other hand, if you want to eventually grow to a chain of Puppy Spas, you will need to work out how you will achieve this within your business plan.
- Large roomy cages – to transport the dogs
- Blankets to make the dogs comfortable in the cages
- Van / Car – you may be able to start in your car, but to scale a van will be required
- Pet paraphernalia – Leads, harnesses, poop bags, treats, towels, dog shampoo, tick treatment, doggy first aid kit, water bowls, dog beds for your home, dog food
- Insurance – Both vehicle insurance for transporting dogs, plus liability insurance in case anything happens to the pets whilst they are in your care
- Membership of the National Association of Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers (NARPS) – Although not mandatory it will put your future customers minds at ease and help you win more business.
- CRB Check – Again not mandatory, but for an investment of about £30 your customers will think you are less likely to drive off with their dog never to be seen again.
How competitive is the market?
There is a huge demand for dog walkers, but if you provide an awesome service it will not be long before you build up a loyal canine clientele. In your vicinity there will be everything from local kids, to Doggy Day Spas offering their services, so it may seem a bit daunting at first. The good, and the bad thing about the pet industry is that owners want nothing but the very best for their little pooches. If you can differentiate yourself from the competition by checking out the services they offer, and the prices they charge, you can carve yourself out a decent niche. At FindMeAStartUp.com we strongly recommend checking out the local competition, look on their websites, ask local dog owners what would make them start using your service.
What do you need to be successful?
A total love of dogs
Dog handling experience – Before you start, walk and care for your friends and neighbour’s dogs. We also strongly recommend you volunteer at an animal shelter, to build up valuable experience in managing dogs from different breeds, and backgrounds.
A love of the outdoors – This is your new office, rain, hail, or shine
Reliable – Dogs know what time their walk is, if you do not arrive they will get stressed and agitated. This leads to unhappy clients of both the 4 legged, and 2 legged variety.
Market your business – Leaflets to start, then as you grow invest in a website with photos of your happy clients. Social media should be your best friend, not only because it is free, but it is also a great way to network with the local community, and everyone you know.
- Dog Cages – £85 – £2,000
- First Aid Kit – £20
- Van – £2,000 – £5,000 (Not new)
- Van Insurance – £1,000 – £2,000
- Dog paraphernalia – £300
- Liability Insurance – £150
- CRB check & NARPS membership – £270
Total Approx Start Up Cost – £825 – £10,000
Will I, won’t I?
I don’t normally write a summary, but I would really enjoy running this type of business so I thought I would.
The first thing that struck me about this business is how surprisingly scaleable it is. I came into the review thinking I might earn a few hundred quid a week if I’m lucky, but I’m leaving thinking;
- 9 dogs a day walking (3 sets of 3), 5 days a week – £675
- 1.5 Grooms a week (once every 6 weeks) – £45
- 1 stay over, or weekend dog sit a week – £50
- Revenue based on a 46 week year – £35,420
- Minus my year one costs – £32,000
That is much better than I expected, plus definite room to scale by hiring part time staff and increase both the dog grooming, and dog walking business. Plus with the potential to build a full doggy spa when revenue allows, then scale again by opening multiple branches. This business is one of the safest capital investments you can make if you have the right attitude, and are physically fit enough to keep up.
This is unfortunately where my Doggy business dream collapsed, there is no way I am going to walk 6 miles a day in the rain. Plus it is a massive responsibility managing all those dogs running around together. If I lost one, or something happened to one of them, it would kill me. Sadly I will not be starting a doggy walking business, but massive respect to those of you that do. You will have one of the best work life balances available, plus have the ability to make a tidy sum of money. Just as long as you are ambitious, outdoorsy, and keep healthy, Wooof!