How to Start a Dog Walking Business
Whether you own your own dogs or just love to take care of animals, you might have thought about starting a business walking dogs.
A dog walking business can be a great way of earning some extra income while being active outdoors. But before deciding if the pet care business is right for you, there are some legal issues to consider first.
The following step-by-step guide will help you plan your business and prepare for the legal tasks that come with the territory.
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1. Learn About Your Licensing Requirements
It might come as a surprise that you could need a permit or business license for a dog walking business.
The federal government probably does not require you to be licensed. But there might be local licensing requirements for these types of businesses. You should check with your local authorities to learn more.
The U.S. Small Business Administration can also help you find out whether you need a license or business permit to operate legally and avoid hefty fines.
2. Decide on Your Business Model
Traditionally, dog walking business owners sell their services to neighbors and acquaintances. Through word of mouth and advertising, they can expand and grow their customer base.
In the modern world, there are also apps and online services available to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Dog walking is no exception.
Dog walking apps help connect dog walkers to their customers. Some of them even provide training. Becoming a member of a dog walking app can be an attractive option because it simplifies the process of starting a small business.
They also usually offer a built-in customer base of existing users. But you should be aware that these apps will charge a fee for those benefits. Choosing whether to register with a dog walking app will come down to your own preferences and plans for your business's future.
3. Pick a Name for Your Business
By choosing a unique name, you can make your business stand out from the competition. You should check to make sure that your business name is not copyrighted or trademarked. It is also best if your business name is not being used by anyone else.
4. Think About Your Pricing
To be competitive in the marketplace, you will need to charge reasonable prices for services. If you struggle to figure out the right price level, you should find out if you have any local competition.
If you do, research their pricing to get a feel for the going rate. A quick search of the internet can also give you a good feel for the market price of dog walking services.
5. Write a Marketing Plan
If you decide not to register on a dog walking app, you will probably need to do a little outreach to get the word out about your business. A good marketing plan can help you formulate strategies for making your target market aware of your pet-walking services. Your market research will help you build a successful dog walking business. By defining your customer base, you can learn more about them.
A good way of making people aware of your services is to create business cards. When you meet dog owners in your neighborhood, you can give them your card and explain your services. You might also meet potential clients in pet stores. So be sure to bring your business cards with you when you pay your local pet store a visit.
Additionally, you should have a good website and social media presence for your business. These will help prospective customers get in touch with you. There have been huge advancements in recent years in web technology. So even if you do not have experience building a website, there are online website builders that can help.
6. Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan is an important step to take before you get going with your dog walking business. In the business plan, you should include your marketing strategy, objectives, and strategies for growth.
Another important detail to include in your business plan is your break-even analysis. In other words, at what level of sales does your business start to become profitable? If you need financing, a business plan helps investors understand why they should put their money into your business.
7. Fund Your Business
The dog walking business has low startup costs compared to other types of small businesses. Your startup expenses will mainly be pet care supplies. These include things like leashes, food, and treats. You will also need to pay for license fees and transportation.
If you have difficulty securing a business loan, you could reach out to friends and family to see if they would help you with startup costs. If you need funding to pay for transportation, you could consider a business auto loan.
In the dog walking business, ongoing expenses are usually low. Things like food and treats will be the main costs as your business grows
8. Weigh Your Business Insurance Options
All businesses should have insurance but dog walking businesses usually need an extra layer of coverage. Specialized pet sitting insurance may be available to help cover any potential costs of veterinary care.
You should look for a business insurance policy that will also cover property damage and personal injuries. You may need to seek additional insurance if you care for dogs in your home.
9. Create Policies and Procedures
Your clients' pets might behave unpredictably at times. It is a good idea to have policies and procedures in place that talk about how you will handle a dog that bites or does not get along with the other animals in your care.
Your policy can specify if there are any breeds of dogs you will not accept. By asking your clients to agree to a policy upfront, there will be fewer surprises later.
If your business grows and you hire employees, these policies and procedures will help them manage their clients' expectations. Good policies and procedures also help to maintain a high standard of services across your employee base.
10. Create a Contract
Your policies should be included in the business contracts that your clients sign. This type of contract is also sometimes referred to as a professional service agreement. It should cover your cancellation and payment policies, vaccination standards, and other potential issues.
It is also a good idea to include a section on your house key policy, including who will pay for a locksmith if needed.
11. Consider Your Business Structure
Formalizing your business's legal structure can have some clear advantages. Being a sole proprietor is the simplest type of business entity if you are in business by yourself. But other legal structures come with certain advantages over a sole proprietorship.
To protect your personal assets from your business liabilities, you might consider starting a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation. LLCs and corporations may also have advantages when it comes to business taxes.
Keeping a business credit card can help you keep your personal finances separate from your business. Separating business expenses from personal ones is an important precaution to take if you have an LLC or a corporation.
12. Understand Your Tax Obligations
If you are starting your own dog walking business, you will probably be considered self-employed for tax purposes. You will need to pay federal and state income taxes for other sources of income. Additionally, you will need to pay self-employment taxes for earnings over certain thresholds.
If your net earnings in a tax year are $400 or more, or you earn church employee income of more than $108.28, you will need to pay self-employment tax and fill out a schedule SE, Self-Employment Tax, for your tax return.
Additional Pet Care Services
If you want to grow your pet care empire, you could consider expanding into some additional services. Some ideas are below.
For many pet owners, it is difficult and stressful to leave their precious dog at a kennel. They would feel more comfortable knowing their furry friend is at home.
While the dog is at home, it will need walks, feeding, and company. This is where your services come in. If you offer this or any other in-home service, you should ask your clients to sign a contract.
The contract should describe your services, emergency policies, and state who will be responsible for any damage to the home.
Boarding Services and Doggy Daycare
Consider opening your home to dogs who are alone all day. You could also provide a boarding service to dog owners who go out of town and need longer-term pet care.
You should consider some additional insurance if you plan to invite clients and pets into your home. Pet insurance or animal bailee insurance can protect you if an animal gets sick or injured while you are taking care of it.
Your general insurance policy should also include public liability insurance. This can help protect you if someone is injured on your property.
Additionally, before opening your home as a doggy daycare, you should check with your homeowners association.
You may need different business licenses to operate a dog-sitting business out of your home. Your local authorities can help you determine your licensing needs.
Become a Dog Trainer
If you enroll in a dog training course, you could become a certified dog trainer. This service can be very attractive to puppy owners and people whose pets have behavioral issues. States and local governments may require dog trainers to be licensed.
You should check with your local authorities to learn more. You should also talk to your insurance provider to make sure your policy covers dog bites and other injuries. Asking your clients to sign a liability waiver can also be a good way to help limit your risk of a lawsuit.
Making Your Business Legal
If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for pet care, a dog walking business might seem like the perfect business idea.
But before you start your pet care company, you might have questions about licensing, taxes, insurance, or other issues. If you have concerns about the legal side of things, contact a business attorney today.
And when you are ready to start your business, use our simple DIY business formation process to ensure you meet all the legal requirements in your state.
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