Business Overview

Many dog owners either don’t know how to effectively train their dogs or don’t have time to. A dog training business offers dog owners a convenient, safe and effective place to have their canines trained. A business may be located in a home or in a commercial space, or a trainer may go to clients’ homes.

Who is this business right for?

People who love dogs and other people may be well-suited for owning a dog training business, as the work involves interacting with both dogs and their owners. Patience is another valuable attribute, because training dogs often requires repeating the same drill multiple times. Dog training businesses usually operate during the day, which can make it difficult to run a business while keeping a traditional day job.

What happens during a typical day at a dog training business?

Dog training business owners usually work with dogs on a daily basis, which often requires moving about a lot (sitting, standing, walking, running, throwing, etc.). Business owners also spend time interacting with dogs’ owners, teaching them how to interact with their dogs and providing training updates. Marketing, which is essential to growing a dog training business, can also take up a lot of time.

What is the target market?

An ideal client is someone who has at least one dog, has discretionary income and is busy. People who have little discretionary income are less likely to pay someone to train their dog. People who have many obligations and discretionary income are less likely to have time to train their dog themselves and have income to pay a training business.

How does a dog training business make money?

Dog training businesses are paid for training dogs. Businesses may offer multi-week classes people can sign their dogs up for, one-on-one lessons and remedial behavior correction sessions. Additionally, some dog training businesses also offer dog walking, dog sitting and dog grooming, which provide additional income sources.

What is the growth potential for a dog training business?

Dogs usually only need to be trained once, so the need for a dog training business in any geographic area is dependent upon the amount of untrained dogs in that area. Many dog training businesses start out with just one, or at most a few, trainers who serve a local area. Some businesses remain small, while others open up satellite locations to reach more potential clients. Few dog training businesses become larger than a local chain with programs situated around a city.

Getting Started

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful dog training business?

Dog training business owners need to be familiar with the various techniques used to nonviolently train dogs. Dogs of different ages, breeds and personalities may respond differently to training, so owners should have several techniques they can use with any given dog.

The most sought-after trainers have certifications that show their credentials. Many associations provide certification programs that teach different dog training techniques. These programs may be offered through local or regional schools, or online.

What are the costs involved in opening a dog training business?

The startup costs associated with opening a dog training business are relatively minimal. Business owners need to have a phone and computer so they can effectively communicate with clients and market online.

Aside from this, they either need a place to train dogs or transportation to clients’ homes. Those who don’t want to sign a long-term lease may be able to rent space a few days a week in a pet store, use a local park or train dogs in a fenced-in yard.

What are the steps to start a dog training business?

Once you're ready to start your dog training business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are:

  • What are the initial costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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STEP 2. Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your security guard company is sued.

STEP 3. Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

STEP 4. Open a business bank account

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 5. Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6. Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

STEP 7. Get Business Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

STEP 8. Define your brand.

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

STEP 9. Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Where can I find a business mentor?

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Growing Your Business

How to promote & market a dog training business

The most effective way to promote a dog training business is usually via referrals and word of mouth. Business owners can build relationships with veterinarians, dog walkers, or pet sitters who can provide referrals. Owners may even want to offer these people compensation for referring clients. Owners can also incentivize clients to tell other dog owners they know about the business by offering free lessons to anyone who refers a family member or friend.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

A dog training business can set itself apart from similar businesses by offering convenient lesson times and locations, and by having more highly-trained trainers. Getting certifications from dog-training agencies demonstrates expertise.

How and when to build a team

A dog training business can be run by one person, but it can also grow to include a team of trainers. Having multiple trainers can let a business offer lessons in several locations at the most popular lesson times, such as Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon. Building a team requires a considerable investment of time, as owners must ensure employees are suited for this business.

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an dog training business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information:

Maintain Personal Asset Protection

Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.

  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
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To learn more about maintaining your LLC's corporate veil, read our guide and protect your personal assets.

Service Agreement

Dog training businesses should consider requiring clients to sign a service agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. Here is an example service agreement.

Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your dog training business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

The cost of dog training varies widely, depending on a trainer’s expertise, the number of dogs in a class and the location of a business. Group classes typically cost $50 to $125 and run between four and eight weeks. Private lessons typically range from $30 to $100 per hour, with most dogs requiring at least several hours of training. The higher ends of these ranges are usually earned by trainers who have at least one certification.

What are the ongoing expenses for a dog training business?

A dog training business has two primary ongoing expenses. Unless training dogs in a home, the business must continue to lease or rent space for training dogs. How much this cost amounts to depends on where the business is located, how much space it uses and how often the business uses the space. The business must also pay to renew any certifications that expire. Renewing certifications usually doesn’t cost as much as initially becoming certified.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Dog training businesses can increase profits by opening more classes, encouraging people to sign up for individual sessions, getting trainers more certifications or adding other services. Starting more classes and signing clients up for one-on-one sessions increases how many hours dogs are being trained, and thus increases revenue. Getting more certifications gives trainers more expertise, allowing a business to charge more for the amount of time they spend training dogs. Adding other services, such as dog walking, dog sitting or dog grooming lets a business continue to serve clients after their dogs have been trained.

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