How to Start a Kennel Business

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Our guide on starting a kennel business covers all the essential information to help you decide if this business is a good match for you. Learn about the day-to-day activities of a kennel business owner, the typical target market, growth potential, startup costs, legal considerations, and more!

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Start a kennel business by following these 9 steps:

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 kennel 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 initial 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. Skip on ahead to the Business Overview for more detailed answers to all your questions.

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 kennel business is sued. Consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.

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

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.

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.

Business Overview

Many dog owners, for a variety of reasons, don’t bring their dogs with them on trips. A kennel business gives dog owners a safe place to leave their dogs while they’re away. At a kennel, dogs have a safe place to rest, are fed and get exercise.

Who is this business right for?

Anyone who loves dogs may be well-suited for owning a kennel business, as most of the work involves taking care of dogs. Owners often have to play with dogs, and they sometimes need to physically move stubborn pooches. Therefore, owners should be in decent physical condition.

What happens during a typical day at a kennel business?

Kennel business owners spend much of their time looking after dogs. This includes putting dogs to bed at night, getting them up in the morning, letting them out as needed, feeding them, exercising them and playing with them. It also involves cleaning up after them as necessary.

When not spending time directly interacting with dogs, owners often take care of administrative items and repair any damaged kennels or fences.

What is the target market?

The ideal customer is a dog owner who frequently travels, either for work or leisure, and has discretionary income. Such a person will need their dog watched frequently, and they have money to pay someone to board their pooch. A dog owner who has multiple dogs will need to pay even more, as most kennel businesses charge for each dog.

How does a kennel business make money?

Kennel businesses are paid a flat amount to house dogs for a set period of time. Dog owners may leave their dogs for anywhere from one night to a month or longer.

What is the growth potential for a kennel business?

A kennel business can be as small as a one-person operation or as large as a national chain. Many independent kennels have just one location, while national chains often operate through franchise structures.

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

Kennel business owners should be comfortable around dogs and know how to interact with a wide array of dog breeds and personalities. Owners who don’t have a lot of experience around dogs may want to volunteer at their local SPCA or another animal shelter.

While there aren’t any certification requirements for kennel business owners, owners may want to take a certificate or associate degree program in small animal care. These programs teach students how to safely treat and handle dogs and other small animals. There are programs offered at schools throughout the country. There aren’t many online programs available, though, because learning to safely handle animals is a hands-on activity.

Kennel owners should also have a relationship with a local veterinarian who provides emergency vet services for dogs, in case a dog has medical issues while boarding. Business owners can build this relationship by contacting a local vet to make sure they will take dogs on an emergency basis.

What are the costs involved in opening a kennel business?

There are many costs associated with starting up a kennel business. The two largest costs are usually securing a facility for the business and finding insurance for it.

A facility should have room for crates, several runs for individual dogs and at least one large play area, where dogs may run around alone or with other dogs. The crates should be indoors or in dog houses so that dogs are sheltered during inclement weather, and there also ought to be a small indoor play area if the main area is outdoors.

When looking at insurance policies, kennel owners should pay careful attention to each policy’s exclusions. Many policies will exclude certain dog breeds from their coverages. In order to accept all types of dogs, kennels should have a policy that doesn’t exclude any breeds.

Additional startup expenses include purchasing crates, food bowls, leashes, dog food and similar items.

Kennel business owners that are trying to keep their initial costs minimal may want to look for a facility in a rural area and only start with enough equipment to keep a few dogs. Boarding rates at kennels in rural areas, however, are typically lower than the rates that kennel businesses near airports and major cities charge.

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.

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Growing Your Business

How to promote & market a kennel business

Word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals are the most effective way to promote and market a kennel business. Building relationships with dog walkers, pet sitters, dog groomers and veterinarians can help a new kennel business get referrals.

Placing local advertisements in a newspaper, on Craigslist and on bulletin boards can also be effective.

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

How to keep customers coming back

A kennel business can set itself apart from other kennels in the area with its prices, location or level of care provided. Dog owners love their dogs, and many will pay a little more or drive a little farther to take their pooches to a kennel where the dogs will have plenty of time to play and exercise.

A certification or associate degree in a dog-related field can also help instill confidence in customers.

How and when to build a team

A kennel business can be run by one person, but it also can grow to have several employees. Having multiple employees lets the owner of the kennel business be less involved in the kennel’s day-to-day operations. Many kennel business owners hire their first employee when they can no longer take care of all the dogs that come to their kennel, and then continue to hire additional employees as needed.

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a kennel 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 about local licenses and permits:

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.

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

Like hotels, kennel businesses’ rates vary depending on how many amenities they provide. Kennels that provide no-frills accommodations for dogs typically charge between $12 and $26 per dog, per day. These kennels often include little more than a cement floor, and fenced-in run or play area. Kennels that are a little nicer usually charge $22 to $55 per dog, per day, and a few extremely high-end kennels charge as much as $110 per dog, per day. The fanciest kennels have rugs, actual furniture, fancy food, comfortable beds and even art for the dogs they board.

It’s also common to vary rates according to the weight of a dog, with large dogs paying as much as 50 percent more than small dogs. Some kennels provide a discount for boarding more than one dog at a time.

What are the ongoing expenses for a kennel business?

A kennel business’ primary ongoing expenses include its insurance premiums, license fees (if any), and the occasional maintenance that’s needed to repair fences or other facilities. Of these, insurance is often the largest cost.

How much profit can a kennel business make?

A kennel business’ earning potential is limited by the rates for boarding dogs in its region and how many dogs it can hold. A low-end kennel that is able to host up to 30 dogs and charges $20 per night can bring in as much as $600 in one night. The kennel may not always be full, though. On average, it might have 10 dogs every night, thus earning an average of $200 per night. Over the course of a year, that would add up to $73,000. A fancier kennel could earn much more, possibly several hundred thousand dollars in a year.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Kennel businesses can increase their revenue by providing add-on services. Some common add-ons including baths, premium food, extra play time, special treats and medication administration. Kennels can either charge extra for these services, or provide these services as complimentary services but increase their per-night rates.

Next Steps

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