How to Start a Dog Walking Business
The ASPCA estimates there are over 78 million dogs owned in the United States. A vast majority of those canines are left alone each day as their parents go to work. Presented with the option, many pet owners would happily give up a portion of their budget to ensure their dog isn’t cooped up inside all day. Enter the dog walker.
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Learn how to start your own Dog Walking Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start a dog walking business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Dog Walking Business
- Form your Dog Walking Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Dog Walking Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Dog Walking Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Dog Walking Business
- Get Dog Walking Business Insurance
- Define your Dog Walking Business Brand
- Create your Dog Walking Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your dog walking business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a dog walking business?
Unlike most startup businesses, your initial investment is fairly small. Most dog walkers report start-up costs of less than $10,000.
A few items you’ll need are:
- Chew toys and treat dispensing toys
- Dog treats
- Slip leads
- Carry-all treats dispensing bags
- Crates for transporting
- Business cards
- Website - make sure your site is informative and that customers have the ability to make appointments online
- Attorney services to assist you in writing a contract to be signed by each new client
- Reliable transportation
What are the ongoing expenses for a dog walking business?
Much like your startup expenses, ongoing expenses are minimal. While you’ll need to keep a steady supply of dog treats on hand, the rest of your initial purchases should last for several years. The bulk of your budget will go towards fuel costs, vehicle maintenance, and insurance. These costs will vary depending upon your location and how wide of an area you serve.
To avoid the costs associated with hiring employees, many dog walking business owners hire individuals as freelancers. Just be sure to set aside a portion of your budget for “employee” background checks, as this will prove to be an important component to your organization’s long-term success.
While free social media will encompass much of your marketing campaign, you’ll want to invest both time and money each month into marketing your business. If this isn’t your strong suit, many marketing companies offer basic packages starting around $50 per month.
Who is the target market?
Anyone that owns a dog and works outside of the home regularly stands to benefit from your services. Your ideal customer, however, is the consumer who is concerned for his or her animal being left alone and who has the means to pay for your services on a regular basis. Recent studies indicate that Millennials and Baby Boomers are the age groups spoiling their four-legged family members the most.
How does a dog walking business make money?
Your business will generate revenue from each canine you walk. Many professional dog walkers offer additional services to increase their company’s profits. Examples of these additional services will be provide in a later section of this article.
How much can you charge customers?
Fees are based on the specific services needed of each client/dog. On average, professionals charge $15- $17 for a 15 - 20 minute walk and $18 - $22 for a 30 - 40 minute walk. For a 40 - 60 minute walk, you could charge between $22 and $27. If your client requires late night or early evening walks, many dog walkers charge an additional fee of $5 per dog.
How much profit can a dog walking business make?
For the sake of determining your business’ profit, let’s use an example of a dog walker that can walk four dogs an hour at $20/hour. Let’s assume they’re able to walk sixteen dogs per day and work five days per week. In this instance, that’s an annual salary of $83,200. And this is based on your services alone. As the business owner, you’ll collect a portion of the fees each additional dog walker is able to charge, which could add an additional $15k - $17k per year, per walker. Exact figures will vary depending upon how much you’re able to charge and how many canines you’re able to walk each day.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Building a loyal client base takes time. The following are a few strategies other dog walking professionals have implemented to ensure a more profitable business:
- Offer dog running for those high energy dogs. In larger cities, walkers are able to charge $30 for a 30 minute run, or $200 for 5 45-minute runs per week.
- Include additional services, like feeding, watering, and strength and agility training/exercise
- Include overnight services/pet boarding in the services you offer
- Become a certified dog trainer
- Teach dog training/educational classes - this can be done online or in person and can cover a variety of topics
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Dog Walking Business Name Generator
If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your dog walking business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Learn how to get an EIN in our What is an EIN guide or find your existing EIN using our EIN lookup guide.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
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.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
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.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Dog walking businesses are typically not required to obtain any particular licensing or permits. However, it is advisable to look into the particularities of your municipality:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
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.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Typically dog walkers provide their clients with a dog walking contract to decrease legal liability and encourage transparency. A sample contract can be found here.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your dog walking 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.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
Recommended: Learn what business insurance for your Dog Walking Business will cost.
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.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a dog walking business
As with every modern business, online marketing should be an integral part of your marketing strategy. Include a blog on your website, offering pet owners tips, tricks, and advice on raising a canine. Share your blog on social media and request to be a guest blogger on other well-known industry blogs.
Upon opening your business, issue a press release to local papers announcing your grand opening. Network with pet stores, veterinarians, and dog groomers in the area. These businesses regularly come in contact with dog owners with a new puppy or an elderly canine that might need to be walked more often than most. Most importantly, show them why/how your services stand out above the competition.
How to keep customers coming back
Customer retention is a critical component to your business’ success. Always keep in mind the motivation behind your customers - they’re looking for an individual who cares for their canine the way they would. Send them texts or emails with updates on their dog’s activities for the day. You could even send each canine home with a “pet report card,” informing the parents of the events of the day.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.
Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
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Is this Business Right For You?
Whether your goal is to supplement your income or set a new career path entirely, dog walking is a rewarding and dynamic profession. If you enjoy the company of dogs and are ready to be your own boss, owning a dog walking business could be the change you’re looking for.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a dog walking business?
Most of your days will be similar in nature - you’ll pick up your charges, take them for a walk, and drop them back off at home. Where you walk the canines, for how long, and at what time will vary, depending upon who you’re walking that day.
In addition to walking dogs, there are a number of administrative duties you’ll need to attend to each day. Once your business has grown, you’ll want to consider hiring someone to handle the office duties.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful dog walking business?
As with every entrepreneur, strong business and marketing acumen will be fundamental to your organization’s success. You should be detail oriented, organized, and have strong interpersonal skills. Remember, you’ll be spending each day with animals, but your clients are the dog owners. They’ve hired you to ensure their pets are well cared for, so it’s important to prove your value with each visit.
While it’s not required that you have experience in dog training, your clients’ dog’s safety is in your hands. A basic understanding of canines and the characteristics of each breed would prove beneficial. If you’re able to read their mannerisms, you’ll be better equipped to predict and head off a dangerous moment before it occurs.
What is the growth potential for a dog walking business?
While competition in this field is strong, there are many opportunities for growth. Revenue in the pet industry is growing an average of 5% annually, exceeding $62.75 billion in 2016. Consistently strong customer service and educating the public on the benefits of using your services over the competition will be critical to your business’ success.
Not sure if a dog walking business is right for you? Try our free Business Idea Generator and find your perfect idea.
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Take the Next Step
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.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a dog walking business?
The following are some tips from experienced, professional dog walkers who have chosen to make a career out of their passion:
- Educate yourself on canine behavior
- Set up a system of policies and procedures and stick with them
- Understand the risks of being a professional dog-walker
- Research the safest dog walking areas in each part of town
- Avoid dog parks, as they’re prime spaces for aggressive dog behavior
- Carry a canister of citronella spray at all times. Safer than pepper spray, it will spray 10-12 feet and will deter 95% of approaching animals
- Join a professional organization and become certified in pet first aid
- This is a physically demanding job and often requires you to work inconsistent hours. Before getting started, be sure you’re ready to take this on.
- Keep in mind that this type of business can take some time to grow. Be patient.
How and when to build a team
If your goal is a small-scale, local business, you’ll want to start out as the only dog walker. As your local business grows, you could begin to build a team, with each member targeting a specific part of town.
If you’re dreaming big, another option is to set up dog walking services nationally. To do this, you would need individuals across the country who can be trusted with your client’s canines. This will require a more complex, interactive website and, for best results, a mobile application. Regardless of how big or small you desire to be, you’ll need to perform a background check on each new team member. This should include running both criminal and driving reports, as well as a basic canine knowledge test. Your clients are hiring you to care for their furry “children,” so it’s critical that you hire only the best.
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