How to start a dog walking and pet sitting service

Written by tracey sandilands Google
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How to start a dog walking and pet sitting service
Start a dog walking and pet sitting service and become your own boss. (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

A dog walking and pet sitting service is one of the most affordable enterprises you can start. You need little in the way of equipment and supplies and, unless you plan to renovate your premises to accommodate the business, your capital outlay is limited to the cost of training, business registration, permits and marketing.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Get the right training. The Dog Walking Academy, for example, offers a certificate in dog walking to graduates of a workshop that takes place in multiple locations. Students gain increased understanding of animal behaviour, techniques in dog fighting and pack management, and comprehensive knowledge of how to market and manage the business.

  2. 2

    Compile a business plan. Calculate the number of hours each day that you can devote to the business, work out how much money you require to start, and what you need to earn each month for the business to be viable.

  3. 3

    Decide on the services you will offer. These may include overnight pet sitting in the owner's home or yours, or doggy day care if you have suitable premises. You can offer long or short dog walks for groups and individuals, or 15-minute potty breaks for dogs that live close by.

  4. 4

    Research the going rates for dog walking and sitting in your area and set your prices. Services in suburban areas are often cheaper than downtown, and dog walkers can tailor their prices to provide a discount for more than one dog. According to Pet Business Experts' website, the average price for dog walking in 2011 is between £14 and £19 per hour, and half price for a second dog from the same client that will be walking with the first dog.

  5. 5

    Register your business by completing the application form on the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) website, and contact the IRS to register for business and sales tax. Find out from your state authority if you require a boarding kennel or other license to pet sit in your home.

  6. 6

    Join local and national pet sitting associations, such as Petsit USA, Petsitters International and the National Association of Professional Petsitters. These associations and others, such as the San Francisco Professional Dog Walkers Association, have rules and standards for members to adhere to, as well as directories on which they will list your business for marketing purposes.

  7. 7

    Take out liability insurance to protect yourself and your income, and a fidelity bond that will cover any losses to clients resulting from your actions. Most business permits require you to have these in place before you apply for your license, and clients will welcome the fact that you do.

  8. 8

    Create a website, flyers and business cards for marketing your business. Ask your local pet store and veterinarian's office to display these on your behalf, and to refer potential clients to your services. Ask your friends to share your website on their social media pages, and to refer you to pet owners they know.

Tips and warnings

  • Many pet owners appreciate it if you leave a daily diary sheet describing your visit (e.g. if the dog or cat was happy to see you, if they ate their food, if you played with them, if they tried to bite or scratch).
  • If you have more than one dog to walk at the same time, get the owners' permission to take them to the off-leash dog park--but remember to observe the three-dog limit; it's hard to keep an eye on too many dogs at once.
  • If you don't have a lot of daily clients you can make up for it with overnight stays.
  • Don't be discouraged right off the bat. It takes time to build your clientele. You'll most likely get the bulk of your initial calls during holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and Labor Day and establish regular clients from there.
  • When you start to get more calls than you can take on, instead of turning down business, consider hiring additional help.
  • In addition to cats and dogs, keep in mind you may be asked to care for other pets such as fish, birds, rabbits and guinea pigs. Never accept a job you don't feel comfortable with.
  • If you're not in good enough shape physically, don't take on dog walking. It's not fair to the dog (or the human who's paying you).

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