How to Start a Professional Dog-Walking Service

When I imagine my dog ​​walking service, I see me wearing a cute white sweater with a red 501 Levis tag, walking along the Pacific coast with six attentive, well-behaved Golden Retrievers and Labradors. Be my own boss, make my own clock and be a dog all day. What could be better?

The reality hit on my second day of professional dog walking, when I twisted my ankle and fell face-first into the sand after chasing a ball-obsessed, overweight yellow Labrador named Willard and a Sheepdog named Bear who behaved like he was in acid. journey. The sand is everywhere — up my nose; down my pants; in my mouth, my shoes, my hair. It was an exceptionally bad start to my new career.

What did I implement after this incredible start? I brushed myself out, took a shower and went on to build my new business, which in time turned into a client list of 80 dogs, eight employees and a fleet of five dog-appropriate vehicles. I love dogs, and my passion outweighed the job hazards.

Perhaps you secretly harbor the same passion, the same dream. If so, here are some tips to help you get started.

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Do your research.

Investigate dog walking services in your area. When I first started, an off-leash adventure service — one that allowed time for Labrador Retrievers to swim, play chase and destroy picnics — wasn’t there. (Just kidding about the picnic.) Once you know the type of services you need, you can start developing your business.

Create a business plan.

How many dogs can you safely take in a group? How many shifts a day? How long for each walk? How much will you charge? Which city area are you going to service? Don’t spread yourself too thin. Choose an area that is close to where you live or, better, as my Wall Street financial analyst father told me, “Choose an area that is resistant to recession; If they lose millions in the market, it doesn’t matter and they will get you a job so you can pay rent.

Establish your business structure.

Most dog walking services are set up as sole proprietorship or LLC. A single proprietorship means the owner’s personal and business assets are in the same pot, so to speak, and he or she is responsible for all debts. An LLC separates personal and business assets. Incorporation is also an option; under that structure, the owner is not responsible at all for the company’s debts. Initially, I got a sole proprietorship but converted to an LLC when I hired employees and married a man with fiscal responsibility who was anxious to protect our assets and the earth.

Set your price.

Check your competition rates and services. In 1995 when I started, the average walking rate of a San Francisco dog was $ 8 per walk. I charged $ 5 to build a client but in retrospect, realized that I had reduced my services, which included longer roads and more time out of the earth that were provided by others. If you have a skill set, you may want to offer obedience training and pet-sitting.

Draw up a contract.

Have the client sign a contract that covers at least the basics: information about the dog, any training or behavioral issues, who to contact in an emergency and contact info for the family vet. It also includes relief from liability as well as permission to seek vet care if needed (and will be reimbursed for that care, when it comes to that).

Build web pages and social media presence.

Now, WordPress, Square space and Shopify are three highly rated web sites and e-commerce platforms. Building a social media presence through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is also important for business growth. Eventually, you’ll probably get most of your business via word of mouth, but in the beginning, you’ll have to reach out through the internet.

Obtain appropriate licenses, insurance and permits.

Although the process can test your patience, it is important to obtain the correct government business licenses and permits.

• Business License: Issued by your local city government.

• Liability insurance: Pet Sitters Associates offers an affordable plan and covers all your needs.

• Permission: Some public parks, dog parks and other outdoor spaces require permission for those walking multiple dogs.

Consider becoming Certified.

The online and (post-pandemic) courses in person give students basic instruction on a range of related topics, including dog behavior, safety and first aid skills, and business and client management. Successful completion gives you certification, which can be a good selling point.

Market your services.

Networking, flyer distribution and card giving are all part of good marketing. Volume is key; I distributed 500 flyers and received two clients, then received three more clients through oral. If you are like me and shy about self -promotion, ask someone to help you. Friends who are unemployed helped me to replace burgers and beer.

• Mailboxes and cars. Distribute flyers in the area where you want to draw your clients.

• dog park. The early evening is the most optimal time to give a card.

• Local bars, restaurants, coffee shops. Most of these have areas where you can post flyers. (Be sure to ask before posting.)

• Groomers and vets. Introduce yourself to a local groomer clinic and veterinarian, preferably close to your service area, and drop a treat for the front desk staff every often. Referral incentives can also work. In my first month in business, I made friends with a local groomer, who sent me 10 clients over a three -month period; I also offer veterinarian clinic front desk personnel $ 25 for each successful referral, which results in four new clients.

Invest in equipment.

Basics include six-foot leashes, a 20-foot lead line (great for new dogs until they get to know you), poop bags (I use Earth Rated Dog Poop Bag-Lavender Scented!), Dog cookies (I get a great response to the bison line. Jerky wheat -free roast) and, most importantly, a reliable, dog friendly vehicle. My first year, I was driving a four -door Mazda. Going down the street, we look like a canine version of Norman Rockwell’s Road Trip painting, but the dogs managed to find their spot. Ideally, something larger — a minivan or truck with a camper shell, for example — is a better option.

Keep your sense of humor and patience.

Patience is your brother’s strength: patience in building your business, with dogs (because no dog is perfect) and with clients. Add a sense of love to the dog and a sense of humor and you’ll be on your way.

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