The money people spend on their dogs has increased 10% since 2010; and this includes professional dog walking services. People are busier than ever, and for dog owners who work, a dog walker is a real blessing. Dog walkers provide their clients with a vital service; they not only provide dogs with the companionship they need, but they also ensure that these active animals get the exercise they need.
If you want to become a dog walker, you will be happy to know that dog walkers earn 20% more than the average UK salary. But is loving dogs and a high earning potential enough to start this kind of business?
You Still Need Experience
On the surface, it may not seem as though dog walking requires a lot of experience. The reality is that, although you don’t need to have had a career working with dogs, you will need confidence and prior experience doing this for a friend or family member. You’ll also need honed communication and interpersonal skills, and will need to be fit and understand dogs as well.
What can you do if you don’t have experience, but still want to start a dog walking business? Plenty. You can show your commitment to the well-being of your future clients’ pets by taking any number of courses in animal care, including animal psychology, first aid and medication. The latter is important, as some of your clients’ dogs may need to have medication given during the day when they’re not at home.
You can also gain real-world experience by volunteering at your local animal shelter or kennel. These places will often house a wide range of dogs of various ages and temperaments, which will give you a good cross-section of what you’ll be dealing with.
Considerations For The Dog Walking Business Plan
As a dog walking entrepreneur, you’ll need basic bookkeeping, marketing and networking experience, to name a few useful skills.
There are several rules surrounding your business which will need to be considered. Because you’ll be taking dogs out in public, you will need to acquire public liability insurance. This will protect you in the event that the dog you’re responsible for injures a person or another dog, providing you with cover for legal claims.
Although there isn’t much in the way of specific regulations for dog walkers, it can benefit you greatly to join organisations like NARPS, the National Association of Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers. This trade association can provide you with plenty of advice with regard to running a dog walking business. When this membership is included in your business plan, it will also communicate to potential investors that you are serious about your venture.
Find Your Niche
If you have implemented all of the aforementioned steps, your next step will be to find a market niche. The increasing popularity of dog walking means that you need to be able to stand out from the rest. The way to begin finding your niche is to conduct sound market research. Is there room in your desired area for dog walking services? If the local market is saturated, you will need to look elsewhere or differentiate your service.
If looking elsewhere, try and determine how far afield you can go while still making a profit. Be sure to factor in all costs, including petrol and vehicle repairs. If you decide to differentiate, consider offering complementary services like pet sitting or grooming. You can differentiate further by offering specialist services, such as administering medication or making food for special diets. Both of these will require additional training, but will help increase your earning potential. You can also tailor your services to a specific size or breed of dog, or cater to high-energy dogs who require more strenuous exercise sessions.
Although obtaining qualifications will require an investment of money and time, it will certainly be worth it when you are advertising your services to potential clients or presenting your business plan to potential investors.