Around 69 million households own a dog, and the year 2021 saw $9.5 billion spent by owners on professional services such as dog walking. This profession is ideal for people who love dogs, enjoy being in the great outdoors, and are prepared to put in the work required to keep dogs safe and happy during their walks. What does it take to start a dog-walking business, and how can you ensure yours is a success?

Preparing Your Business Plan

The first step for any business involves drafting your business plan. Dog walking sounds like a low-cost business, but there are many expenses involved you may not have considered—including necessary investments in equipment and training. Your plan should be divided into three main sections: your income statement (which should indicate your expenses, revenues, and overall profit for a specific period); your cash flow projection; and your balance sheet. The latter should include your assets, liabilities, and equity. A business plan will be particularly useful if you wish to attract investors—something you may need to do if you wish to expand and/or hire other walkers.

Researching Your Market

Use the Internet to check out your competition, paying particular attention to the areas where they are offering their services. Find out their hourly rates, too, and study the full gamut of services they offer. Join social media groups such as those run by dog owners in your area and gauge the extent to which members may be interested in your services. If the market is saturated, consider covering other areas or offering services nobody else is. For instance, you might decide to specialize in dog agility courses or high-fitness walks/jogging, or offer complementary services like grooming, pet sitting, or administering medication. These may involve additional training, but they may increase your income considerably.

Is Professional Training Required?

There are no formal educational requirements for dog walkers, but there are many optional ones, and investing time in training and in identifying pitfalls and problems that can occur while you are out and about with your clients’ dogs will help you feel more confident. Some canine organizations offer professional dog walker certifications that cover topics like leash management, applicable laws, equipment, multi-dog leash handling, teaching leash manners, safety and park walks, and emergency protocols. Dogs are treasured family members for your clients, so being knowledgeable about safety is vital for your business' success and reputation.

Marketing Your Services

Get ready to build a beautiful site and use tools like Hootsuite to ensure you upload regular content to your social media sites. Make sure your website follows a sound SEO strategy and set aside time every day to create cracking texts and visual content so that a myriad of readers clicks on your blog. Your website should be mobile-friendly, and it should be easy for clients to book your services online. Finally, use Facebook ads as a means to reach your target market efficiently and affordably.

A dog walking business is ideal for pet- and nature-loving people. Setting one up involves research, though, so start with a thorough business plan that will give you and potential investors a good idea of expenses and revenue. Aim to be as trained as you can and don’t forget insurance. Your plan should include general liability, animal bailee insurance, and veterinary expense reimbursement.