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Discussion Starter #1
I've been dreaming about starting my own dog business, starting out with dog walking, then making enough money to possibly do some training certification, (maybe karen pryor academy?), and just start doing what I really want to do.

With some problems with work it's been enough of a push to get started on my own.

While I've done dog walking/sitting before I'm a little unsure how the background business part of it goes. I'm trying to think of everything I will need before, but its a little overwhelming trying to start this up. I'm considering that I will need:

  • Copy of Background Check
  • Insurance
  • Bonded ?
  • Pet First Aid certification
  • Website
Beyond that how to look into insurance is a bit hard. I'm not exactly sure what it means when you're bonded and how to do that. I'm great with websites, getting pet first aid certified is easy and I've done the background check before.

Should I register my business? I figure that way I can do tax write offs.

Should I start on a site like Rover to build up cliental? Or should I just start from scratch on my own?

Is there anything I'm missing?

For those that walk, I want to only walk monday-friday and from 9am-4pm, I also would like to be able to take some vacations. How do you do that and do you do that? My research says that most walkers give 2 month notices of any time off and its suggested to take 2 weeks a year. Is it okay for a business if I don't want to work weekends? I may be willing to do an occasional short pet sit, but not on a normal basis. Also for holidays do you say you do or do not walk?
 

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Yeeey for you! Very exciting!

Your bullet points are spot on, I went through all of those when starting up. Also setting up a Facebook page will be very helpful. I promote the crap out of my Facebook page and that's where pretty much all of my business comes from.

Our insurance over here is pretty basic, companies do specific professional dog walking insurance with loads of added options to be covered with not just public liability but a whole host of others. Just search professional dog walking insurance and see what comes up! Not too sure what bonded means either so can't help there!

Things are a little different here in the UK we don't really have things like Rover, we do have some but their not really popular and not for professional walking services. I'd definitely set up myself, can set your own rules, ethics, opening times etc plus being your own boss is awesome. Especially in the future if you want to go into training which is what I'm hoping for aswell!

Definitely get registered. I had to sign up online telling the government I was self employed, that id be doing my own taxes etc that way it's all legal and legit, I'd be too scared not to.

I do Monday-Friday 9-4 ish and that works perfect for my clients. Most people want their dogs walked between 10-2 so that's pretty easy to schedule. I have to do all my walks individually right now cause I don't drive but when I pass I'll be doing 2 group walks a day with 5 dogs each then some solos for the dogs who can't be walked with others.

I never took any holidays last year purely cause I just wanted to keep the business going but this year I'm taking about 3-4 weeks off depending on money. Everyone's different it just depends on what works for you. As long as you give your clients plenty notice it should be fine.

I worked weekends and any day I could get in the beginning but now I'm strictly Monday-Friday. Weekends I keep for social walks with new clients or dogs that are staying with me for boarding, so they can get to know Buster and I.

Hope this helps!
 
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I am super impressed with all the entreprenurial spirit here on the DF!

I am also in the process of setting up a training school! I'm hoping to have it totally up and running by next year, after I complete the KP course.

I have this book and it helped me a lot. I'm sure there is something similar you could read if you wanted!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
@BusterBCsMum That is all super helpful!

Was it hard to get enough clients to make a living? I could probably go 2 months on a limited pay, but it wouldn't last long. I'm trying to decide when I should quit my current job. I really hate the idea of putting my manager short staffed (he already is a person short) my manager of the store I work in is great, but the upper management...is not. I feel like telling him I'll stay until they replace me, but it took them 3-4 months to replace someone last time. I feel like giving a 2-3 month notice haha.

I'm really just trying to figure out if I can live off of that pay. Right now I can barely live off what I'm getting. I want to do the same thing you are aiming for I want to do two group walks of 3-4 dogs, and these dogs will all go out hiking. I'll take them out for an hour and hike around our local trails. Then any other solo dogs around those group walks. I want to specialize in taking dogs out on trails instead walking around neighborhoods. I calculated that I can make what I am already making if I have 4 days that walk for the hour 5x a week I'll already be making more than I'm making now, even after taxes, insurance, equipment and car uptake. Thats using competitors average pricing.

I don't know if I should charge a little extra because I will be shuttling dogs around to hiking trails or not, or less because I'm walking multiple dogs at once.
 
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@Shandula I'm sure we have a small business for dummies book for here in the USA. I'll look into it. I'm super excited for you to start up your own Training School! A little jealous too! ;) That is really exciting though.
 

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@BusterBCsMum That is all super helpful!

Was it hard to get enough clients to make a living? I could probably go 2 months on a limited pay, but it wouldn't last long. I'm trying to decide when I should quit my current job. I really hate the idea of putting my manager short staffed (he already is a person short) my manager of the store I work in is great, but the upper management...is not. I feel like telling him I'll stay until they replace me, but it took them 3-4 months to replace someone last time. I feel like giving a 2-3 month notice haha.

I'm really just trying to figure out if I can live off of that pay. Right now I can barely live off what I'm getting. I want to do the same thing you are aiming for I want to do two group walks of 3-4 dogs, and these dogs will all go out hiking. I'll take them out for an hour and hike around our local trails. Then any other solo dogs around those group walks. I want to specialize in taking dogs out on trails instead walking around neighborhoods. I calculated that I can make what I am already making if I have 4 days that walk for the hour 5x a week I'll already be making more than I'm making now, even after taxes, insurance, equipment and car uptake. Thats using competitors average pricing.

I don't know if I should charge a little extra because I will be shuttling dogs around to hiking trails or not, or less because I'm walking multiple dogs at once.
I am super lucky seeing as I stay at home with my Dad, that's been the whole reason I think I've been successful, I've got a roof over my head and I've been allowed to build up my client based.

I think maybe try for a month and REALLY get your name around, fliers + business cards around pet shops, supermarkets pretty much anywhere that allows you to advertise. Get a Facebook business page made me start getting that around, share on buy and sell Facebook pages, get all your friends to share it weekly.

I go to Pets at Home once a week, I put fliers up and leave business cards at the counter and I also walk Buster round the shop and hand cards to everyone. Having him with me being so well behaved seems to draw people in even more. I also go to popular walking routes and hand out cards there.

The fact that you want to do walks out on trails rather than round neighbourhoods is a major plus. Find your niche and work on it. Work that into your posts on your Facebook page, mention that regularly on the page aswell.

It may be an idea to maybe offer daycare type walks or longer walks. The other walkers I talk to and walk with do daycare, so basically the dog stays with them the whole day, comes on all the walks then gets dropped off, that may be an idea to bring in that extra bit of cash. I'd just include travel costs into what you charge that may be easier.

I personally charge at the higher end of the other walkers in my area, if the clients are happy to pay that higher price then great, if not then that's their choice.

I put a lot of effort to get my business off the ground, I worked my butt off big time to get my name out there, I got hoodies and tshirts made and I wear them everywhere.

I think if you put your mind to it, work hard and get your name out there it'll happen for you :) my Dad didn't think I'd succeed, he said I'd never make any money and I'd have to close up after a few months. I overheard him on the phone to my Aunt saying 'it's what she wants to do, she'll end up failing and she'll realise I'm right'

Reaching the 1 year mark with 25 dogs on my books was the best feeling in the world, really stuck it to my dad haha
 

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@Bustercbsmum I can't do any at home sitting or daycare because Kota is not dog friendly. I actually don't want to do any sitting period.

So if I do say my niche is taking dogs hiking instead around neighborhoods, should I only do that? Cater to people who only have dog friendly dogs that work well in a group? Should I plan 3-4 walks in a day and then just do that? Or should I try and slip in single dog walks? I have a schedule right now that allows for an early morning group walk (I figure for owners want their dogs to not be restless in the house), 3-4 midday single walks (for those that just want potty breaks) the an afternoon group walk again. Or should I take out the single walks and add in another group walk? I'm thinking I don't want to exclude people that don't have dog friendly dogs.

I'm really happy to hear that you made it! Gives me hope that I can make it from scratch as well. You really have done great.
@Gnostic Dog - Those are great resources with a lot for me to go through. Thank you for posting that!
 

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@Bustercbsmum I can't do any at home sitting or daycare because Kota is not dog friendly. I actually don't want to do any sitting period.

So if I do say my niche is taking dogs hiking instead around neighborhoods, should I only do that? Cater to people who only have dog friendly dogs that work well in a group? Should I plan 3-4 walks in a day and then just do that? Or should I try and slip in single dog walks? I have a schedule right now that allows for an early morning group walk (I figure for owners want their dogs to not be restless in the house), 3-4 midday single walks (for those that just want potty breaks) the an afternoon group walk again. Or should I take out the single walks and add in another group walk? I'm thinking I don't want to exclude people that don't have dog friendly dogs.

I'm really happy to hear that you made it! Gives me hope that I can make it from scratch as well. You really have done great.
@Gnostic Dog - Those are great resources with a lot for me to go through. Thank you for posting that!
The daycare doesn't have to be in your house you just keep the dog out with you all day.

Definitely! I think if people have the option of a boring walk around the neighbourhood or a off lead hike on a trail I know what one I'd pick. It depends on the time you've got really and on where the dogs are in relation to the hiking trails. My plan is to do a morning group, pick up between 9-10 and walk between 10-11 then drop off. Then same again 12 onwards.

In the little gaps you can offer half an hour walks round the block for dogs who can't be walked in a group. That way your still catering to everyone.

One piece of advice I will give. Yes the end goal is to take on loads of dogs to be successful, but I would make sure to put something in your terms and conditions that the first month of walking the dog is on a provisional basis, that way you get to know the dog before making proper commitment. Too often a walker will take on a dog that honestly makes their life a living hell and having that 1 month trail basis allows you to make a decent decision of whether it is worth you continuing to walk that dog or not. A friend of mines walks 2 beagles that make her life hell so she could've done with that to make her life easier.

^hope this makes sense.
 

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I've always thought about doing group hikes too. I know a lot of people around here that do them. The one thing that worries me is if a dog runs away or gets injured out in the woods. I once had to carry Mia back to the car from a hike, and she's only 20 lbs and we were only a 1/4 mile in. Are GPS collars something that you are planning on investing in? That's what I've thought about.

I could only start my own business though if I moved- with my current job I signed a contract saying that I wouldn't compete with them and I can't do walking/pet sitting services on my own for a year after I left.

@ThatYellowDog about your question of whether to charge extra or less for the group walks- do extra. Even though it might be less time or money for you, it's actually offering additional services to the customer (off leash and any training that comes with that, hiking, socializing with other dogs). The dog hikers around here charge about twice as much as the dog walkers. $10-$20 for a walk, $30-$50 for a hike. You could look around and see what other businesses are charging in your area.
 
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