When it comes to basic maintenance and care, dog owners will often spare no expense for professional and dependable pet services.  Operating a pet-care business from home brings the added bonus of convenience for you and your client.    Stay at home moms, students, or people looking for a second income can easily and inexpensively build a small business from home by offering pet services such as dog walking, dog sitting, dog training or pet photography.  In this article you will find helpful information to get you started on a dog walking business.  This is a great small business idea for those who love dogs and who genuinely enjoy participating in a dog’s life!

Starting a Dog Walking Business

  Full time professionals who have pets at home alone all day often hire a dog walker to visit once a day to walk, play with or feed their canine fried. This is typically less expensive and more convenient than a doggy day care and in many urban professinal areas this valuable service is in high demand. You may already have walked your own dog hundreds of times, so you have some experience, but here are some things to keep in mind before starting your own dog walking business:

•    Educate yourself: especially if you are planning on walking more than one dog at a time, make sure to learn about typical differences in breeds and temperaments. 
•    Decrease liability: Get yourself bonded and insured.   Many clients will feel more comfortable with you entering their home if you can show evidence of police background checks and your business will seem more legitimate. 
•    Establish credentials: Take dog training and first aid classes.  Your clients will appreciate this expertise.  Also learn how to handle aggressive dogs, and dogs in heat, as you are likely to encounter such circumstances at some point
•    Add value to your services: Set competitive prices but undersell your service; charge a fair price and add value by offering services that set you apart from other dog walkers in the area. A brushing after a walk?  On leash training?  Socialization with like-minded dogs?
•    Be prepared: Keep extra supplies available: leashes, collars, poop bags, water and portable water dishes, and treats. Make sure treats and toys are out of reach of the dogs as you walk. Keep phone numbers of veterinarians, back up walkers and clients on you while walking the dogs.

Marketing Your Dog Walking Business

  With experience and establishing a great reputation with your clients, word of mouth will spread fast and your dog walking business will grow.    But beyond word-of-mouth, good marketing strategies can help accelerate that growth – here are some inexpensive ideas to bring you more customers:
•    Make flyers and business cards and post them in pet shops and vet offices and also on bulletin boards in apartment building lobbies 
•    Keep business cards with you always, especially when you are providing dog-walking services. Visit dog parks and make friends with pet owners.
•    Build a website and social network page to create a community of customers and expand your network.

The dog walking business is a win-win enterprise. Successful dog walkers enjoy the freedom of being their own boss, earning money, doing what they love, and providing an invaluable service people need.  A happy, well cared for dog generates happy humans!

  Now that you have established a new doggie day care or pet boarding business, have you considered a plan to grow your customer base and get them excited about your brand? How do you go beyond one dog at a time to build a great reputation for your facility?     It is important to establish a unique image that will differentiate you from cookie-cutter operations. In addition to traditional small business marketing strategies there are many approaches to take in marketing your pet boarding business that will create customer loyalty, community recognition, and high demand for your services.  Here are some tips:

Make Your Facility an Enriching, Engaging Environment for Pets

•    Your employees represent you – make sure to hire animal lovers! 
•      Earn credentials and expertise in the training and management of animals. Become a certified dog trainer and hire or certify those who work with animals in your facility. Post these credentials where customers can see them. 
•      Establish a basic training method or dog management program to use in your facility so clients can expect consistent and routine structures for their pets regardless of the employee schedule. Your customers will be happy to pick up a calm submissive dog at the end of the day! 
•   Include a variety of structured playtime that includes mentally and physically stimulating games, and write progress reports for each animal.

Add Convenient Retail and Services:

•    Working pet owners will appreciate one-stop shopping for pet supplies and services

•    Offer grooming and pet training services. 
•    Add a retail section where customers can purchase necessities, such as food, treats and toys, while they are picking up or dropping off their pets.
•    Partner with a vet to be on site once a week or month for vaccinations and general health exams.

Actively Participate in Community Outreach for Animals in Your Community:

•    Sponsor pet adoptions and hold fundraisers for local shelters.
•    Donate resources to first time pet owners who rescue animals.
•    Donate to pet shelters.
•      Don’t be shy about telling people of your community outreach!  Your customers love animals and so do you – get the word out about your work by posting it on your website or writing a press release to the local media    Charity and compassion relieves the suffering of animals and generates public interest for your pet care business!

Treat each dog as part of the family:

•    Create a family atmosphere in your lobby by including photographs and videos of regular customers, their owners and staff.
•    Celebrate a pet’s birthday.
•    When possible, accommodate special requests that make pets more comfortable in your facility.

Employ Social Networking:

•    Use networks to expand your business marketing and generate valuable word of mouth marketing

•    Create a Facebook page and build a network with clients.
•    Tap into pet-friendly social networks online to gain exposure for your pet boarding business.
•    Fresh and current social networks sites will keep your clients and their networks engaged. Your message will reach a gazillion people!
•    Become a member of pet associations and participate in expos and tradeshows. Look for speaking opportunities at these events to share your expertise and be a leader in the industry.