You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your guard dog business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
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 long it will take you to break even?
- 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 guard dog business?
First of all, you will need a location from which to operate that has well-built kennels and space for the dogs to run. You will also need to purchase transportable sizable locked cages. As business owner, you will need to either train the dogs yourself or pay for the cost of having them trained and handled. Depending on the square footage needed, and the number of dogs employed, you're looking at start-up costs of up to $50,000.
What are the ongoing expenses for a guard dog business?
Ongoing expenses for a guard dog business include food, maintenance, and veterinary care for animals, upgrading or purchasing new kennels and cages, vehicle maintenance and gas, training costs, and salary for any handlers. You'll also incur monthly phone and website maintenance costs.
Who is the target market?
Preferred clients are business or operating in high crime areas, or private homeowners, who wish to rent or buy a trained guard dog.
How does a guard dog business make money?
A guard dog business makes money by either renting out guard dogs or selling highly trained guard dogs to individuals.
How much can you charge customers?
Guard dog rentals without any security handlers can run up to $80 for an eight-hour shift, which includes pickup and delivery of the dog. Guard dogs that are housed in cages in the location's perimeters average about $100-$150 per day, which includes visiting the dog daily, feeding it, and providing any clean-up. If you rent out guard dogs with security handlers, it will run from $150 to $200 for 8 hours. Sales of trained security guard dogs range from $10,000 to $12,000 for a level I dog, and $20,000+ for a level III dog.
How much profit can a guard dog business make?
Guard dog trainers command a salary of approximately $35,000 per year. Rentals of dogs including kennel on site service and pick up and delivery services include all costs associated with dog care, veterinary care, and transportation costs. Sales of trained dogs are much more lucrative, although it does take a substantial investment of time to train the dogs before they are ready to be sold.
Depending on the level of training a guard dog receives, and the amount of salaries and rent or mortgage payments, guard dog business owners can expect to see profits of approximately 20-25% annually.
How can you make your business more profitable?
If you can train and sell guard dogs, this will add a significant amount of profit to your business. Likewise, if you provide much of the training and handling yourself, your business will be more profitable than if you have to hire other professionals to do the bulk of the work for you.
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.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your guard dog business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?
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?.
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.
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.
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.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a guard dog 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.
For more 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
Guard dog businesses should consider requiring clients to sign a services 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 of a services agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your guard dog 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.
Release of Liability
To avoid liability and potential lawsuits, guard dog businesses should have their clients sign a release of liability. Here is an example of one such form.
Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional release of liability form for your business when you sign up for their premium membership.
Certificate of Occupancy
A guard dog business can be run out of a large storefront or athletic space. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a storefront:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a guard dog business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a storefront:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business’ location to ensure your guard dog business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
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.
How to promote & market a guard dog business
Consider your environment. Find out whether there are any other dog-related businesses in the area - groomers, vets, shelters, pet stores. Contact the owners of these other businesses and see if you can mutually advertise. Be aware of other safety organizations and crime-fighting associations. You can make a presentation at the local neighborhood watch association or the Better Business Bureau.
McGruff the Crime Dog will be 37 years old in July 2017. Contact McGruff's organization, the National Crime Prevention Council, to find out what local events they might have planned, including live appearances, parades, school activities, etc. You've got crime fighting dogs, too. Plan some joint events.
Advertise everywhere - print newspapers and pamphlets, posters, mailings, etc. Advertise online. Start a web page that features some videos of training your dogs in action. You can also encourage visitors to contribute their own blog posts or testimonials about their experience with your dogs.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
Signs and logos are very important for any businesses. Make sure that the name of your business is prominent on any equipment, as well as on your vehicles and on the clothing of your employees. Take an active part in your community. Attend trade shows, parades, and other local events. Speak with schools and local business associations about providing talks or demonstrations. Ask satisfied customers to write a blog post or a good Yelp review. Be on good terms with the local police department and other local businesses, as they might refer people in the neighborhood to your business.
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.
Start A Guard Dog Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
This is a wonderful business for dog trainers and handlers, as well as people with an interest in security and crime deterrence. A business owner should be in good physical condition, since they will be training, caring for, and possibly transporting guard dogs.
What happens during a typical day at a guard dog business?
A dog guard business owner will be kept busy with a number of important tasks, including training, transporting dogs to their place of employment, cleaning up after the dogs and locking them up in their onsite kennel after their shift is over, or dropping off rental guard dogs at night and picking them up in the morning. They'll also need to care for the dogs' health and transport them to the vet when necessary. A business owner must also be responsible for the upkeep of vehicles, finding new dogs that are suitable for training, and providing 24-hour emergency customer service.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful guard dog business?
Degrees or certification in animal science or related fields and experience with animals is very important. It's highly recommended that you or your trainer should pursue a training program in dog obedience and behavior modification and as a protection dog trainer. Join a protection sports association like PSA K9, which will give you or your trainers an outlet to practice civilian competitions in controlled protection and canine obedience.
What is the growth potential for a guard dog business?
Depending on the number of dogs you have, the increased popularity of owning a protection dog, and the crime statistics of the neighborhood, there is potential for growth. Keep in mind, though, that quality of care - clean, well-ventilated kennels and healthy, well-trained, cared-for dogs - should be a primary consideration before considering quantity.Growth potential is estimated at 15-20% annually.
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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.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a guard dog business?
You or your future trainers should attend training courses that specialize in canine behavior, behavior evaluation, and training techniques. Get to know the best breeds of dogs for training - German shepherds, Akitas, Rottweilers, Pulis, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Giant Schnauzer, Doberman Pinschers, and Bullmastiffs. Earn voluntary professional certification - either a CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer with Knowledge Assessed) for entry-level trainers or a CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer with Knowledge and Skills Assessed) for more advanced trainers.
How and when to build a team
As your business grows, it will be impossible for you to do all of the necessary training and maintenance yourself. You will need at least one other trainer and a small team of employees who can handle 24-hour emergency calls, advertising, website development, upkeep, etc.
According to www.payscale.com, dog trainers can earn anywhere from $10 - $25 hourly depending on their level of experience and expertise. This translates to around $2,500 per month for each additional full-time trainer. Keep this in mind as you budget to bring on more staff.