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The Dog Walking Business Start-up

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The Dog Walking Business Start-up

By

Stephen Atkinson

Copyright 2016 S Atkinson. All rights reserved.

 

This book may not be copied, in whole or in part, or transmitted, passed on or in any way given or sold to a third party by any means. S Atkinson asserts his right to be identified as the intellectual property holder. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this book, it is a condition of sale that no liability is accepted by the publishers or author for any inaccuracies, errors or omissions.

 

Disclaimer: This book is intended for informational purposes only. Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this book was correct at press time, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause. Links to Third Party Resources may be affiliate links, meaning the author may receive compensation if a service or product is ultimately purchased from such a link.

 

Shakespir Edition

Table of Contents

Introduction

Overview of a Dog Walking Business

But what about the competition?

What Services to Offer

Financing your Dog Walking Business

Getting Organized

Doing the Numbers

Choosing your Business Name

Offline Marketing

Your Business Website

Your Business Brand

Getting your First Clients

Walking the Dogs

A Special Offer!

[]Introduction

Have you ever wanted to start your own business… but, are never happier than when you are walking or playing with your dog? Then maybe, just maybe, this book is for you…

In the Dog Walking Business Start-up you will learn exactly how to start your own successful dog walking business.

This simple and straightforward guide will teach you how to start your own successful dog walking business – which means you can be your own boss and combine your passion for being with dogs with your desire to own a profitable enterprise.

Learn How to Start Your Own Dog Walking Business with this Comprehensive Guide

Learn everything you need to know to start your business from scratch, so you can hit the ground running – and start earning money fast.

Discover the best and most cost-effective ways to promote your business, saving you time and money, and getting you quickly on the way to your first paying clients.

Build a business that is both enjoyable and profitable, so you can love the work you do and make a profit.

Everything you need to build your own successful dog walking business

In an ever busier world, the demand for dog walking services has never been higher. As a consequence of this huge demand, professional ‘dog walkers’ have sprung up in recent years – and now you can join them by combining your passion for dogs with your own business!

This guide is the ultimate in starting a dog walking business and leads you step-by-step through everything you need to know to begin your own thriving business. Learn from my experience how to avoid the most common mistakes and get off to a flying start.

About this guide

I designed the Dog Walking Business Start-up to be easily understood by absolute beginners – so that anyone with a love of dogs and desire to work for themselves can do it.

As you complete each of the guide sections, you will be able to put into practice everything you need to build your new business – enabling you to get your business up and running quickly. Step-by-step, you will learn how to set-up your business the easy way using simple examples to demonstrate how to check out and beat the competition, and what are the best services you can offer – so you build your business faster.

Also learn how to keep your costs low by using simple and cost-effective marketing techniques, both online and in the real world – again keeping your costs low, and profits high.

Discover where to find you first customers, how to build trust with them and have them promote your business for you – this is the fastest way to build your income.

By the end of the Dog Walking Business Start-Up you will have saved time and by getting all the information you need in one concise guide and you will have saved money by not making expensive errors going through a tedious trial and error process.

Most importantly, you will have learned all the skills you need to start your own successful dog walking business.

Who is this guide for?

Well, you may be frustrated with your current job or circumstances. Maybe you want to get out in the fresh air for a change and make that part of your job. Maybe you’ve just become unemployed or are looking for a new direction where you can govern your own income and decide how much you want to earn and how you want to earn it.

Maybe the great outdoors is calling to you; maybe you want to combine your passions with your work. Whatever the reason you want to start up your own dog walking business, you must do one thing: love dogs.

In this guide, we will show you how to set up your own dog walking business, how to market it so people know where to find you, how to get your first clients, how to prepare for your first walk and what the future could hold for you working as your own boss of your own business.

By the end of this guide, you will save time in knowing how to do things the correct way without making too many mistakes. You will save money by not making expensive errors and you will have your own successful dog walking business. Let’s get started!

How to use this guide

Throughout this guide I would strongly encourage you take notes, but more importantly – take action. Each section of this guide offers practical advice on setting up your business, but just reading the book won’t make it happen. You can make it happen, just by following the steps in this book.

So take notes and take action.

[]Overview of a Dog Walking Business

When considering starting a dog walking business, you need to think about what type of person you are. Are you a dog person or are you a people person?

When you’re starting your own dog walking business, you actually need to be both of these things. Because day to day you’ll be walking dogs and, of course, you have to get on well with those. But you also need to get on with people because it’s actually people that will pay your wages, not your canine friends.

So it’s important to be able to talk to people. Understand what they require from you and build trust with them. Being your own boss can be a challenging step for most people, especially if you’ve worked for a salary or a weekly wage for most of your life.

Stepping out into your own business can be quite scary. You will need to be self-motivated. When you work for someone else, your motivation is to get your salary check at the end of every month and, therefore, turn up at work.

When you work for yourself, it’s very different – motivation is key when working for yourself.

Also, what worries people when they start off with their own business is a lack of regular income. If you are used to a monthly or a weekly salary, the same paycheck coming in month after month, then that gives you a bit of a ‘cushion’, so you can pay the bills and everything is going to be in place.

When you start working for yourself the money that you earn can be up and down, so you need to be ready for that. You also need to be ready to know how much you need every month.

What are the day to day challenges of running your own dog walking business?

The main one is probably the weather. If you’ve worked in an office or a shop for most of your life, then you’ll be transferring to a role where you’re outside most of the time. So on good days when the sun is shining and it’s very pleasant and you’ve got several dogs running around with you, it’s a beautiful day.

The other extreme is when it’s snowing or it’s raining heavily and you’ve still got to take those dogs out, which might not be so appealing. So you need to know; are you an outdoor person? The main thing about the weather is to be ready for it.

You also need to get organized in advance of starting your business, so that when you do start it, things aren’t going to creep up on you. You’re going to know exactly what you need to do every day, so getting organized is important, and so too is getting organized with your finances. Knowing exactly how much you need to bring in every month, how you’re going to do that and also how you’re going to keep your costs down in the initial phases of your business.

We will be going through all of that in the next few sections

[]But what about the competition?

This section is all about scoping out your competition. Wherever you live, wherever you decide to set up your dog walking business, you are always going to have competition.

Competition is not always a bad thing. If there is competition, it means that there is a need for your services in your area. What you need to do is work out what services you can offer to differentiate yourself from your competition. And the way to start that is to investigate your local competition; what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong.

Where to start is quite easy these days. Google is obviously the easiest place to begin. So fire up the computer and get onto Google and type in the search box “dog walking service or dog walking business” and the name of your town or the area where you’re living.

That should bring up a list of the local dog walking businesses you have locally. Often you will see a map next to those businesses which show you exactly where they are. Obviously, if you have a concentration of businesses in one area, one side of town, and you live on the other side of town, then this presents an opportunity for you. So geographically you can have an advantage as well.

Checking out the competition is all about asking the right questions. So one by one you need to find the competition’s websites and find out as much about them as possible. The key questions that you need to be asking and thinking about are: What services do they currently offer? Is it just dog walking? Is it pet sitting? Use the worksheet attached to this section and write down what your competitors are offering. Also, define where they are based. Within 5 miles of you or 10 miles of you or 15 miles of you? Next have a look at their pricing page, if they have one, and see how much they charge for those particular services.

This should start giving you an overall picture of how much to charge or what services to offer. And also have a look at their website generally; is it good? Is it bad? Is it easy to navigate? Did you get confused when you used it because if you got confused when you used it, then a potential client will too. Does it look old? Has it got some dead links on it?

The main thing is you need to be better at all these things.

Some other things that you might need to think about are: What are the services that they don’t offer that you might be able to offer? There might be an obvious one that you’ve thought about that they don’t have, such as taking your client’s dogs for a walk and then working with a local poodle parlour to have them cleaned and groomed when they’re brought back.

How do you make your website stand out from theirs? If theirs is a poor old website, which it might be if they’ve been around for a long time, then you need to make sure that you have a good website, that’s easy to find and people can navigate well. What are you competitors’ strengths and weaknesses? Are there any review sites on the net that you can go to and check out how they are getting rated by their clients?

So what to do next?

Write down your thoughts about everything you’ve learned about your competitors, the services they offer, and the prices they charge and then look for opportunities to outdo them in all areas.

You need to think about the following questions:

What services do they offer?

Where are the based?

What are their prices?

If they have website, is it good or bad?

What services can you offer that your competitors don’t?

What are they good at, can you emulate that?

What are they bad at, can you improve on that?

How will you make your website stand out from the competition?

[]What Services to Offer

What services can you offer? By now you should have investigated what your local competition does, what services they offer, and what prices they are charging. From this information, you will get a general feel of what people want.

Dog walking businesses come in all different types. So you may find people wanting dog walking, obviously, but also maybe doggy day care or dog boarding. We’ll go through a few of these services now. However, it is important to start thinking about what services you’re going to be offering and what prices you are going to charge. You also need to start thinking about how you can differentiate your services from the services offered by your local competitors.

But first of all, let’s go through some of the most common services that a dog walking company can offer.

The first service you might offer is group walks. This is where you take more than one dog for a walk at a time. The question that you need to ask yourself is: how many dogs are you going to walk at one particular time? One of the advantages of group walks is that you can maximize the amount of money you earn per hour. For example, say you were charging $15 per dog, per walk for an hour and you took 4 dogs for a walk all in that same hour you would earn $60 for that hour.

The downside is it takes quite a bit of organizing and you need to understand which dogs will play nicely with other dogs. What you don’t want is dogs being aggressive with each other. You also need to incorporate pickup time and drop off time into your group walks. Because obviously, you will be picking up each dog from their individual home and dropping it back at their individual home. So it is important to work out how long this is going to take and keep your area as small as possible when you do group walks.

Another service you might offer is solo walks. Obviously, not all dogs get on with other dogs. So you may come across dogs which have to be walked on their own. The advantage of this service is usually you can do shorter walks, maybe half an hour or 20 minutes. Another service you might offer is puppy visits. This is exactly what it sounds like. Basically, you visit a puppy maybe up to 12 weeks old whose owners want you to check up on. Maybe play with them for a few minutes and make sure they have food and water. Again, these can be quick visits – maybe 20 minutes.

Another option you might offer is a pet taxi. This where you transport an owner’s dog to the vets or to other places for the owner. Obviously, you need to work out your own prices for this and keep the radius of how far you go with the pet taxi within a reasonable limit. With this sort of service, you would generally charge by the mile depending on how far you have to go.

Pet sitting, dog sitting or small pet sitting are exactly what they sound like. Basically, you would go to the owner’s home and look after their pets (possibly overnight). This can be quite lucrative, but it depends on if you want to stay in someone else’s home. With small pets, they obviously do not need as much attention, such as hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, these types of animals. But if an owner has quite a few pets and they’re going on holiday, they may want somebody to stay with them, or at least come in and feed them – so you may offer a service for that.

Dog boarding is an alternative for customers putting their dogs into kennels while they’re away on holiday or on business trips. Basically, you take their dog into your home and look after it whilst they are away. Again, this can be a lucrative service, but you need to make sure that the dog gets on with your own pets and also with your family.

When we are looking at what services to offer, it is important to have a schedule of times for when you go for your walks and how many walks you are going to manage per day. It is important to put this in place before you start your business. Initially, work will only trickle in, but as you get busier you need to have a schedule in place and make sure you stick to it – otherwise, planning your walks will become very, very difficult.

Pricing your services

Now that you have a good idea of what services you can offer, how are you going to price your services? First of all, obviously, look at the competition. There is no point in making your prices much, much higher than your competition. On the other hand, you don’t want to go too low. Dropping your prices may start a price war where everybody tries to drop their prices to compete. This degrades the whole system and everybody loses in the end, so I would not suggest keeping your prices too low or trying to undercut your competition. Ultimately, you need to price based on the services you offer. If you can differentiate your services and be better than the competition, you can at least charge as much as the competition if not more.

Also, if your prices are slightly higher initially, you can always drop them, but if you set them lower it is very difficult to raise your prices later on. Also, if your prices are too low it might indicate that you are not professional. So what I would suggest is to look at your competitors and decide which competitor you would most like to be like. Have a look at their pricing and price your services at a similar rate, but definitely not lower.

However, to get things moving initially you can offer special promotions. So you may say: for every five walks booked, the sixth is free, or you offer 20% off the price of the first ten walks. This will get people interested, build up trust and help you find your initial customers. Also, always remember that you can usually charge more for solo walks because they are paying for a special service rather than group walks. However, with group walks remember that you have to pick up several dogs in a defined area and you are not getting paid for that traveling time - so make sure that you charge enough for group walks too.

Obviously, it’s impossible to give you definitive prices that you should charge for your services. Your pricing will depend on your local area, how many competitors you have and what they are charging. This is why you need to do research.

What to do next?

Work out exactly what services you are going to offer and at what prices.

Here’s a selection of the most common services offered by dog walking businesses, which may serve as a good basis for your services.

Group Dog Walk – Picking up several dogs from different locations and then walking them for a pre-defined amount of time, then dropping them back off at their respective homes.

1-to-1 Walk – For dogs that maybe prefer the attention of human company more than they do the attention of other dogs, or for older or less mobile dogs.

Home Visits – Suitable for new puppies or for older dogs who may not be up the demands of a 1-to-1 or group walk but still need to be let out, relieve themselves, etc.

Home Security Checks – For clients concerned about their home security whilst they are away, and would like someone trustworthy to check everything is OK. For their peace of mind you can visit the property, alternate lights/curtains/blinds etc. (if required), clear the post, water plants, and feed any small animals whilst they are away.

Pet Taxi –For when a client’s dog needs to be transported somewhere important, like the vets.

Now write down the services you are going to offer and your prices

Remember, it is not a good idea to undercut your competition as this can lead to everyone dropping their prices until in the end business becomes unfeasible. Better to ‘sell’ your services by being professional and making yourself stand out from the crowd.

[]Financing your Dog Walking Business

We now come to one of the key areas of your new business: Finance.

Many people start a dog walking business because:

1. The start-up costs are very low in comparison to most other start-ups.

2. It enables people to be their own boss.

3. It’s great for combining the love of dogs with a simple business model.

Like all small businesses, it will take time to build your enterprise. You cannot realistically expect to drop off a few leaflets in your local area or put an advert in the newspaper and watch the money start flooding in. You need to be both realistic and optimistic when starting your business.

This guide is designed to help you set up your dog walking business the smart way – by minimising your costs and maximising your income.

So what is your starting budget? Do you have one? Do you need one?

In setting up a conventional business such as a small shop, a decent start-up budget is essential – after all, you will have to buy or rent premises, buy fixtures and fittings, maybe special equipment, and have a substantial buffer of money to pay your staff even if the money doesn’t flow in straight away.

Fortunately, with a dog walking business, things are a lot simpler and not as costly. We’ll go into what your initial and ongoing costs are in a short while, but needless to say the start-up requirements are very low compared to other business.

So if you do have a pot of money that you have labelled your starting budget, don’t start spending it, just hold on to it for now, until you know exactly what you do and don’t need to get your business up and running. Remember this guide is all about starting your business the smart way.

OK – when considering the flow of cash in and out of your business you first need to set you financial goals, this will also help with working out your prices and the services you offer.

Have a look at the example below (and it is just an example, so please feel free to substitute your own figures). This example assumes the minimum you need to ‘draw’ from your business – or pay yourself every month is $2000, the costs for running the business is $220 and you need to put aside $900 for tax.

Remember these are only example figures –I strongly advise you to seek the advice of a tax professional regarding what percentage of your incomings you should expect to put aside for tax.

Example 1:

So in our simplified example, your dog walking business needs to bring in $3120 per month. The gives you a baseline target. But here is a reality check: this is simply a goal, and to achieve it will need hard work and focus – and it may take some time to build your business up to that magic number, so be prepared for this. Building a successful dog walking business does not happen overnight. If you have the funds, then I suggest you put away a ‘buffer’ fund that will cover you for the first 6 months to 1 year of your business – this emergency fund will help smooth out the financial ups and downs of your first months in business.

So what about the initial costs for your dog walking business? Well your biggest expense is likely to be your vehicle. You may need to buy or lease a suitable vehicle for your business. If you buy, then ensure you get the best monthly finance deal you can and include that in your monthly costs (for simplicity’s sake I have just put an upfront cost on the example below).

Example: Start-up costs

If you already have a suitable vehicle then you can scratch that cost, or if you are very lucky and your customers are all within walking distance you may not need a vehicle at all.

You next initial cost is likely to be for your website (yes, you will need one), but again you may be able to get a monthly deal on this or do it yourself and keep the costs down. You will also need to do some initial advertising (more about this later), again shop around for the best deals.

The other essential you will need at the start of your business is insurance, and again we will discuss this in another section.

Your start–up costs will, of course, be different to this example. So make sure you note them down on the worksheet following this section.

You may remember earlier we set an example of a minimum monthly goal. Part of that was $220 for ongoing costs; these are the costs in your business that are likely to recur every month. The obvious ones are telephone and internet charges, the less obvious are the amount you might spend on advertising each month and your fuel costs – obviously some of these costs will fluctuate, but it is best to have a rough idea of how much they will be every month.

Example: Ongoing costs

So based on your previous calculations, you should now have a good idea of how much you need to make per month.

Total = $3120

And based on your competitor research and the demand for dog walking services in your local area, you should have a good idea of what prices you are going to charge. For this example, let’s say you charge $15 per dog in a group walk.

Now let’s say you aim to have 10 dogs…

Price per Walk = $15 (per hour), 10 dogs

2 walks @ 5 dogs each = $150 per day = $3000

And you want to do 2 walks a day (of 5 dogs), that equals $150 a day, or working Monday to Friday an average of 20 working days in a month, that adds up to $3000. Not yet quite as much as you need to hit your target.

But what about your other services…

During the month you may earn further income from pet sitting, puppy visits, security visits and solo walks adding up to another $250. Your group walks will always earn you the most per hour, but you can plug the gaps with these ancillary services. This all helps you get closer to your monthly goal.

So what do you need to do next? Work out your financial goals, and what combination of dogs and services you need to achieve them.

Don’t be overly optimistic with your numbers, remember your dog walking business is very likely to start slowly so build this into your financial plans and be prepared for it. You are very unlikely to hit your monthly goal in the first few months, so plan for a gradual increase in income.

Completing the information below with your own figures will help you.

What is your starting budget? =

Set your financial goals (per month):

Your pay

Costs

Tax

Total

Your start-up costs:

Vehicle

Website

Advertising

Equipment

Insurance

Total

Ongoing costs:

Telephone

Internet

Advertising

Fuel

Total

How much do you need to make?

Work out how many dogs/walks you need below:

Price per Walk (per dog)

How many dogs

How many group walks a day

Now do the sum:

X walks @ X dogs each = $XXX per day = $XXXX per month

Now list what other services you will offer and the prices (replace Service1 etc. with the name of your services, such as Pet Sitting)

Adding the above services to your business should bring in further income throughout the month. However, this worksheet is only a simple tool to get you thinking about your financial goals and how to achieve them. I would suggest planning out your monthly goals on a spreadsheet or similar, bearing in mind that your business will take off gradually, so the start the first few months with a low target and then gradually build it up – monitoring your actual income against this plan as you go along.

[]Getting Organized

Because a dog walking business is a reasonably simple business in many ways, don’t fool yourself into getting started and then thinking about getting organized.

Getting organized in advance of starting will save you a lot of time in the long run – especially if you suddenly find yourself drowning in clients.

First off, you are starting a company and being your own boss and to do that you will need to create a business entity. For a dog walking business, this is usually a simple procedure.

In the US, the most suitable business entity to set up would be sole proprietorship or LLC.

In the UK, it might be Sole Trader or a Limited Company and you would need to register as self-employed with Her Majesty’s Revenues and Customs.

It completely depends on the shape your particular business takes, or how you plan to grow the business.

To ensure you set up the correct type of business for your needs, I would strongly suggest that you seek competent legal advice to discuss which business entity suits your business model and the relevant financial advantages.

In the United States it is very likely that you will also have to register for a business licence with your town or state – it obviously varies from town to town and state to state, so you will need to check locally for this – but generally it is a very straight forward procedure once you have your business entity in place. Again, your lawyer may be able to help you with the paperwork.

In the UK, at the time of releasing this guide there is no requirement for a licence to walk other people’s dogs. However, there may be restrictions on the number of dogs you can walk at any one time – so check this out with your local authority first. Also in the UK, should you offer boarding of clients’ dogs in your own home you will have to apply for a Home Boarding Licence from your local authority. This could involve an annual fee and an inspection of your property.

You will also need insurance for your business against the possibility of being sued. Liability insurance can be obtained via private insurance companies. Another alternative is to gain insurance via membership of a national pet sitting organisation such as NAPPS. Sometimes you will have to pay extra for your insurance through membership – although often at a discounted rate – or with some organisations it is included in your membership fee.

Make sure you shop around for the best deal on insurance.

You may be thinking do I really need insurance? The short answer is yes.

And here are some of the main reasons.

A dog walking business is built on trust. Your clients will be entrusting their precious pets to your care. Having the correct insurance in place lends you credibility; you will look more professional and you will be able to build that trust with your clients. You potential clients are far more likely to give you their business than a dog walker with no insurance.

Having the right insurance will protect you if anything goes wrong. Some of the things you need to consider when buying your insurance are: Are you covered if a dog in your charge attacks another dog/pet or even a person (this is often referred to as third party liability insurance)? What if a dog becomes lost, or is stolen or hurt whilst in your care? Also consider what you would do if you lost your client’s keys and they had to change the locks – a lot of specialist dog walking business insurance policies cover this too.

Your car insurance should also be updated to include business use if required.

[]Doing the Numbers

It is very important to set up your accounts or book-keeping in advance of proceeding with your business. Again, because a dog walking business is a simple business model, the accounts don’t need to be complicated. The main reason you need to keep good accounts is so that you know that your business is heading in the right direction and is in line with your financial goals. By keeping good financial records, you will be able to see which dogs you are walking on any given day, how much you are charging, which clients have paid you and how much, and how much you are spending on running your business.

The other reason for keeping good accounts is that it is going to make it so less stressful come tax season.

You will need to employ the services of a CPA or accountant who will be able to advise on the best and simplest way to keep your records, even if that turns out to be a simple spreadsheet – don’t forget to make regular backups – or one of the numerous online systems.

You also need to set up a system to keep track of your paperwork including customer agreements and contact details. Again, this doesn’t need to be over- complicated, just filed alphabetically in a ring binder will do in most circumstances.

If you have never been in business for yourself before, here is the golden rule: whatever you spend on your business, leads, doggy bags, dog treats, advertising, business cards etc., you need receipts for all of these and they need to be entered into your accounts – all the expenditure on your business will offset some of your tax liability. Again, I suggest you discuss this with an accounting professional prior to starting business.

How you bill your clients will depend to a certain extent on what type of clients you have and what services you offer. If you are billing on a monthly basis, for example, you will probably produce invoices – this can easily be done by any accounting software you use or by using invoice templates readily available within word-processing software such as Microsoft Word or Open Office. If you are getting paid weekly in cash, then a small duplicate receipt book will do the job.

The same thing goes for business mileage. Every time you jump in your vehicle to do anything related to your business, make a note of the start mileage, journey destination, end of journey mileage and total mileage travelled. Make this a daily habit and again check with your accountant how this should be logged for the maximum benefit.

Scheduling and diary management

Scheduling and diary management can be challenging when running a dog walking business, so it is important to have an idea of how many walks you can offer during the day. Particularly important are group walks, which tend to bring in the most income.

Often clients who work 9-5 will want their dog walking at lunchtime, but obviously this will soon become unfeasible if all your new clients want their dogs walking at noon time. Often it is better to have times frames for group walks such as 8am till 11am, then 11am till 2pm, 2pm till 5pm etc. This gives you more scope to pick up dogs and walk them in groups. This is only an example, but in this case, it would allow you to walk three groups of dogs during the day. How you work out your scheduling depends on your circumstances, the distances you have to travel between picking dogs up and dropping them off and what services you end up offering.

The key thing is you need to carefully manage the customers’ expectations. One of the ways you can do this in advance is to show the time frames for walks on your website. When you meet a client for the first time, they will only be thinking about the needs of their dog, so you need to discuss how long their dog is left in the home and agree on a time that they are happy with and fits in with one of your dog walking time frames.

Initially when booking walks, it is easier to use an online calendar on your phone or even just a pencil and paper diary – customers will often change their mind, so you need to be on top of who you are walking and when at all times.

Professional Communications

When it comes to email, I would suggest that you register a separate, professional email address for your business rather than your own personal email address.

Also set up a professional sounding voice message on your phone. Trying to speak to a new potential customer whilst keeping an eye on 4 or 5 dogs in your care could prove challenging and distracting. The voice message from your phone should be short but include the name of your business. Ask them to leave their name and number and promise to call them back. You should also mention your website – that way they can have a look at your website while they are waiting for you to call them back if they haven’t already done so.

When you agree to walk a new dog for the first time, you will both have to sign a service agreement. This does a number of things. First of all, it lends credibility to your business and starts building up that all-important trust. It also protects both you and the client, and outlines who has responsibility in certain situations that could arise whilst you are walking their dog. For example, you may have a clause in the agreement stating that should their dog become ill or injured and you are not able to contact them for further instructions, then you will make whatever arrangements you see fit for the benefit of their dog’s best interest, but will not be liable for any vets bills, etc. that such action incurs.

You may think that having agreements with clauses like the previous example might put some people off, but in general I have found they have the opposite effect. Service agreements can differ greatly from one dog walking business to another depending on what services are offered. You should have your service agreement drawn up by a lawyer that understands the laws that govern your state or city as it will be legally binding document. The other option is to get a generic dog walking legal agreement online, which is economical and saves a lot of time – I’ve included links to these on the worksheet. If you take this route, I recommend still showing it to your lawyer and have them make any changes necessary to comply with local laws or the peculiarities of your business.

OK, you know what to do now: complete the checklist that follows for this section and I’ll see you in the next section.

Meanwhile here is a list of useful links to help you shop around and get organized with insurance, service agreements, etc.

Insurance Providers and Dog Walking (Pet Sitting) Organizations:

For USA

http://www.petsitterinsurance.com/

http://www.petsitllc.com/

http://www.kennelpro.net/

http://petsits.com/

For Canada

http://www.canadianpetpro.com/

http://www.binks.ca/

For UK

http://www.dogsit.com/

http://www.cliverton.co.uk/

http://www.petbusinessinsurance.co.uk/

Forms/Contracts

http://www.businessformsstore.com/dog_walking

http://www.walkyourdog.info/setupinformation/

Accounting Software

http://www.freshbooks.com

Use the following checklist to make sure you are organized and ready to start business:

[]Choosing your Business Name

Just a short section here – but every bit as important as the work you have done so far. Giving your business the right business name can be key to your success, so it is important to take a bit of time over naming your business. Sometimes a name will spring straight into your mind, but even if this does happen, don’t just go with it, test the name out on some friends and family to get a broader opinion. More often, it can be difficult to think of a name, especially when you know that once you have chosen it you are generally stuck with it – whether it is good or bad.

As a general rule, you need to keep your business name simple, but also say what your business does, if you can. If you have no plans to expand your dog walking business outside of your local area, include your town name.

Your business name also has to work well as a domain name – your domain name will be your website address, for example www.newtowndogwalking.com, so try and keep it relatively short.

I have found the easiest way to come up with a name is to take a piece of paper and just start scribbling as many ideas down as possible without thinking about any of them too much, then get your family to do the same. Once you have a long list of potential names you can start going through them to see which match your criteria and which you like. I would then pick your top five names and check that the domain names are available. It is important to check if the domain name is available early in this process. You do not want to set your heart on a name only to later find that someone already has that domain name and a nice website attached to it.

To check if your domain is available is quite easy. Go to Google and type in ‘domain name’ in the search box. A list of domain name sellers will come up, click on any of them and use the domain search tool to check if your domain name is available. I’ve used GoDaddy before, but you can use any – they all work in a similar fashion. If your name is available you are good to go, and we will come back to domain names when we talk about setting up your website in another section. If your name is unavailable, then try your other favourites until you find one that is available.

Once you have decided on your name, make a note of both it and the domain name. I will come back to your domain name in the section on developing your website.

[]Offline Marketing

In this section we look at offline or real world marketing. This should complement your efforts with your online website. We will be looking at the image you wish to portray for your business and the messages you want to get across. What promotions you can do to kick start your dog walking business? Where are the best places to advertise? And the importance of customer testimonials.

Business cards will be one of the most important tools for effectively marketing your business. They are small and will present a professional image for your dog walking business. Don’t be precious with your cards; hand them out whenever you can. When you meet new people who ask about your business, stick them on notice boards or leave a pile of them at offices, pet stores, dog groomers or vets. You can get good quality business cards produced cheaply either online or at your local print shop. The key information you need on them is your name, the name of your business, the services you offer, phone number and website address. Don’t clutter your business cards with any more information; it makes them look cheap and confusing. The job of your business card is simply to get prospective customers to give you a call or visit your website if they are interested in your services. Don’t try and sell your services on your business card, it will just end up looking cluttered.

Flyers perform a similar function to business cards, although depending on the size are better for notice boards, etc. Your flyers should match your business cards in style and colour, but on flyers you will have more room so you can include more information than you would on a business card, including the services you offer. Don’t put your prices on them though; you don’t want to end up with hundreds of flyers you can’t use because you’ve had to put the prices up! You can, however, use flyers to advertise special promotions such as a discount on the first walk or similar. Again, with flyers make sure you include the name of your business, phone number and website address.

As with all your marketing, it is a gradual process to build up your name in the local area, it doesn’t happen overnight. So wherever you leave your business cards and flyers, make sure you keep popping back in to renew the original pile.

Using local media advertising is something that you could consider when marketing your business to your local community. However, as with all local media advertising, it will cost, so always have in mind what you are trying to achieve when you are advertising via the local media, whether that is in newspapers, magazines, local radio or even local TV advertising. My personal opinion is that using local media to advertise your business is something that you do when you have established your business and have already seen some money flowing in. And even at that stage of the business, I would always want to have a minimum return in profit from this sort of advertising; the minimum being that the amount of business revenue gained by advertising covers the cost of the advert.

However you market your dog walking business, it is key to make the right impression, so you attract your ideal customer. Think very carefully about the impression you want to make. You also need to be consistent across all your marketing materials, both offline and online. Once you are happy with your name and strap line, stick with them so that your name and what you do begins to become known locally. Also, don’t change your images and fonts too much; pick ones you like and stick with them, this all helps to create a consistent image.

In all your marketing, keep it simple.

Too much information on your flyers and other marketing materials will turn people off and will start to look unprofessional. Keep only the core information on first contact marketing like flyers, business cards and even the home page of your website. More detailed information your customers will be able to find on the other pages of your website or they will call you and ask.

Ideas to promote your business

In the early days of your business and possibly throughout the life of the business, you may want to offer promotions to acquire new customers. Here are some ideas to start you off.

One of the easiest ways of encouraging new customers is to offer a new customer discount such as a 20% discount for any new customer when they book their first ten walks or book five walks and get a 6th walk free. The great thing about a dog walking business is that most of your clients become long-term clients, so giving away some of your profit in the early days with a new client is generally recouped very quickly.

You could also offer a loyalty card, similar to those seen in your local coffee shops. These are pretty easy to make yourself, and you just stamp or sign the clients’ card every time they have their dog walked. Once the card is full, give them a free dog walk and a new card – this will keep customers coming back for more and more.

When you have a few clients and you do a good job for them, they will in turn become your greatest advocates. So why not ask them to ask their dog-owning friends if they need a dog walker? Then, if you get a new client, give both the new client and the current client a discount of some sort – after all, you wouldn’t have a new client if it wasn’t for your current client.

You could also offer seasonal discounts – such as ‘Black Friday’ discounts for all new clients.

Have a think about what you could do by way of promotions to get new clients and try them out as soon as you can. If they work, then do more of them to build up your client base. If what you try doesn’t work out, then try something else. With these sorts of offers you have lost nothing but a little time.

Where should you advertise? The simple answer is everywhere, but most importantly everywhere your customers are likely to be. Think about it logically. First of all put yourself in your client’s shoes. Your typical client might be married with a couple of children, both partners in the relationship work full time during the day, they earn pretty well and have some disposable income, they also care deeply about their dog and consider him/her one of the family. It is helpful to build up this picture in your mind of your perfect client when planning all your marketing activities. So where might you find these perfect clients? Well, they all live in houses, so you could drop flyers around the houses in your local neighbourhood – but how do you know which of the houses have dogs (unless you hear them barking)? You might be wasting a lot of flyers on houses that don’t even have dogs – not your perfect clients. On the other hand, you might ask to put leaflets on the notice boards of local offices. Some of your perfect clients will work in those offices and they could read your flyer on the board and take action. Just one leaflet on an office notice board equals potentially dozens of clients. Other less obvious places to place your flyers are libraries, banks, post offices, convenience stores, gyms and kindergartens.

And here is a list of the obvious places you should also leave them: Dog trainers (who you do not compete with), pet stores, dog groomers and vets.

As mentioned earlier, your current customers will become your best advocates. The best and cheapest form of marketing is word of mouth – it costs nothing and works the best of all. Do a good job for your clients and they will naturally promote your business for you. To help that process along in the meantime and reach a wider audience, you can ask for and use testimonials. Testimonials will re-enforce your trustworthiness and reliability.

When you have a couple of satisfied clients, you need to ask them for a testimonial. If you have done a good job for them they will be more than willing to do this. Tell them it doesn’t have to be very long, just a few lines about how your service has helped their dog. Once you have collected one or two testimonials, use them whenever you can in your marketing materials, such as a short and punchy one on your flyers. Spread them throughout your website or have a whole page of them. Also print some off to show clients when you meet them face to face.

Never stop collecting testimonials, you can never have too many.

With all you marketing, you constantly need to monitor your efforts. See what works and what doesn’t then do more of the stuff that works for your dog walking business.

[]Your Business Website

In this section we discuss marketing, particularly the online variety. Marketing your dog walking business is just another way of ‘getting the word out’ about your business to your potential customers. Good marketing is targeted so you are spending your time and money attracting the right clients to your business. Good marketing should also be measurable, in that you will be able to know which of your marketing efforts is attracting the most clients.

A key piece of your marketing strategy or plan will be to have a website.

Now you may say, “Why do I need a website? I put some flyers out, and I can use my Facebook page to advertise my business.” Both are valid ways to advertise your business, but nothing says professional like your own good looking, easy to navigate website, So in this section we are going to look at why you need a website, the ideal website, and the options you have for setting up your own website.

So what is the main reason for having your own website? That’s simple: to attract more clients!

The main ways that people find a service they require, such as dog walking, is often to ask around friends and family first to see if they can recommend anyone. If that comes up zero, then you can be pretty sure they will consult Google. They may even consult Google first. Nearly everyone in the western world is connected to the internet with their laptop, tablet or smart phone – it is now easy to search for new services. So you need to make it easy for them to find your services. You can do that with a good website. With a website, they have a very good chance of finding you when they type into that search box. If you haven’t got a website, then all they are likely to see are your competitors popping up…guess who will probably get the business.

A good website also lends you credibility and professionalism, as opposed to someone who has no web presence or a Facebook page advertising their business among cute pictures of dogs doing crazy things!

And your own website allows you to compete on a level playing field with your competitors. If you do this well, you will beat them.

Another reason you need a website for your dog walking business is to inform and potentially filter potential clients. Your website should answer the most basic questions about your business. The more a potential client knows about your business, the more likely they are to pick up the phone and call you. Your website can also filter out clients you don’t want or don’t need. For example, if you are servicing clients at the high end of the market and your pricing reflects that, then having your prices on your website will put off customers you don’t want, i.e. customers who don’t want to pay your prices and even if they did they would probably make your life a misery by complaining they are too high all the time. Your true potential customers in this example may think your prices reflect your great service and professionalism and will be quite willing to pay them.

So what makes an ideal website?

Well I strongly suggest that you keep it very simple to look at and navigate. Everyone hates a terrible looking website where you cannot find anything you are looking for.

You need to be sure that your potential clients can find it. You may have come across the term SEO. This stands for Search Engine Optimisation, and basically means ensuring that your website can be found by the likes of Google and Bing. SEO is ever-changing, and beyond the scope of this guide, but some websites now come with some SEO built in, making the process a whole lot easier.

Your website needs to be kept up-to-date. While a good website shouts ‘professional’, one full of out of date info screams ‘amateur’.

Your website should also be a reflection of the image you are trying to present. Its layout, images and fonts should match as closely as possible any other offline marketing materials you produce, such as business cards and flyers.

For this section we are going to imagine an example dog walking business website and some of the key components that you will need to include on your website.

The first screen visitors to your website are like to land on will probably be your home screen, so it is pretty obvious that you need to make sure that your potential clients have landed in the right place. On the home screen the name of the business need to be right at the top where they will see it first. You should also have you logo here if you have one. Next to your name you might also have what is known as a ‘strap line’, usually a little bit of text which snappily sums up what your business is all about. An example could be “…providing a fun and stress-free experience for your dog!”

You also need to ensure your visitors can find their way around your website easily, and find the information they are looking for, so a prominent menu should direct them where to go. Also, it is often useful to put yourself in the shoes of your prospective clients and think about why they might need your services and phrase this in the way of questions to grab their attention when they reach your website.

Also on the home page you could have a noticeable special offer code to entice 1st time visitors to read on and encourage them to use your services. Include some highlighted text showing that you are fully insured and the services you offer as this promotes credibility and quickly lets the customer know what the website and the company is all about.

Finally, at the bottom of the home screen you need to include what is known as a ‘call to action’. An example would be a prompt for the customer to book a walk, such as ‘Call Us Now and book your first walk!’

Moving on to some of the other pages. Your website will need a page explaining in a little more detail the services you offer. Here you can explain what services you offer, and the duration of the services. For example: an hour’s walk and the benefits of the service.

Another page you might have separated or combined with your services page is a pricing page. You may feel you do not want to put prices on your website, but my opinion would be to do it for a couple of reasons. First of all, most of the people coming to your website will be looking for them, and secondly it will help filter out people who are not your target clients.

The other essential page for your website is a contact page. The more ways for your prospective clients to contact you the better. And having a contact page on your website makes it very easy for them to do this. Also, if you have a contact form on your contact page, then they will have the option of sending you a message regarding what they require, so that when you give them a call back you have a good idea what they want to discuss.

So how do you set-up a website? Well generally, you have a few options. If you have the budget you could have one made by a web designer or web design company. However, costs on this will vary greatly. Another option is to get one ‘off the shelf’ from an online company that specializes in providing websites for business and take care of all the technical stuff. Or if you are technically minded, you could do it yourself. You could use a website building platform such as Wordpress. This would generally be the most economical option, but depending on your technical skills, may involve a steep learning curve. If this is an option you decide to go for, there are many training videos available on YouTube or Udemy.com. The prices for getting a website online have become much cheaper over the last few years, so shop around before taking the plunge.

Your website will be the hub for your business, so work out what pages you will need to include on your website, and also the information you need to include on the pages, such as the services you offer and your prices. Then decide how you want get your website. However you decide to get your website, you will need to purchase the domain name you came up with on the section about naming your business, or have someone do it for you.

[]Your Business Brand

Every day we are bombarded with advertisements, and in general we make split second decisions on whether to give them our attention. If someone is searching for a dog walker in your local area, your (and your competitor’s) brand is the first thing they will see and in all likelihood influence their decision as to whether they will investigate further. The power of the brand will influence their decision.

It is essential to have a great service for your clients, good customer reviews and an excellent and professional reputation, but if you don’t have a strong brand image you may still get bypassed for the dog walking business a few miles away with the great logo, flashy website and cool T-shirts. People might never get a chance to see that your dog walking service is by far the best service they could ever wish for once they are ‘inside’ your company, if there is nothing to catch their attention on the ‘outside’.

The solution is to build a strong, friendly and easily identifiable brand!

Building a strong brand is the best way to communicate your core message and communicate ‘consistently’ with your customers.

Branding may sound a bit pretentious, boring or complicated, but it doesn’t have to be…

Defining your Brand

At its most basic level, your brand is all the facts, images and emotions that spring to mind when your customer thinks about your dog walking company. This could include your name, slogan, logo, and the colors and photos on your website, your advertising materials and the way you present yourself at the first meeting with your customers. When your prospective customers experience any of these things, they should associate them with your brand and the professional message it conveys and the great services you offer.

Branding is about creating something instantly recognizable that will create an emotional connection between you and your customers. That in turn will make them more loyal over the long term.

For a lot of businesses, and dog walking is one of them, branding boils down to creating one key image or idea that is instantly recognizable as yours. Put it this way, if you had one word that you would want to be associated with your dog walking service, what would it be? Reliable? Trustworthy? Professional?

Your brand is your business identity, and you need to strengthen it at every opportunity.

Your brand is, in a sense, a promise to your customers. In time they will come to associate certain expectations with your brand (good service, kindness to their dogs etc.).

Don’t confuse your brand with advertising. Advertising tells your customers to come to you, whilst a brand communicates what and who you are.

Creating a Strong brand

Making a strong brand requires a bit of thought. You will need a logo that sticks in the mind and conveys what your business is all about, or a slogan/catchphrase that sticks out from the competition. If you are not clear on your branding, your potential customers may go elsewhere.

So What Does a Great Brand Look Like?

So now that we know what a brand is and why it matters to your business, we’ll look at the top three qualities that make a great brand.

1.As we’ve said, great brands are easily recognizable. They are often simple and you don’t need to explain them (if you do, they are not a great brand!). They are easy to recall, and they will stick in your customers’ minds. Here are some brands that everyone knows: Apple (hi-tech/exclusive), McDonalds (fast and affordable), and Coke (a modern icon). Be bold and brassy with your brand; make it stand out from the competition.

2.Great brands appeal to your customers’ emotions. People should feel emotionally connected to your brand because you have made sure they and their dogs have had a positive experience with your company.

3.Be consistent in your branding. Whether you are designing posters, meeting potential customers at a dog show or thinking about the way your website should look, always keep your brand in mind and follow it through everything you do. Make sure one consistent logo/message appears on everything you do; keep the same fonts and colour schemes running through your website, business cards, flyers etc. to re-enforce your brand image.

Recognizable brands take some time to develop, so you should spend a while considering how you want your customers and prospective customers to feel when they think about and work with your dog walking company.

[]Getting your First Clients

In this section we cover the absolutely essential part of your business. Get this part right and your business will thrive.

You may have decided to start your own dog walking business because you:

1. Want to work for yourself, and

2. You love dogs.

Dogs are great; they give love unreservedly and are not judgemental. However, they don’t tend to have much use for money and consequently they can’t pay you even if they wanted to. Their owners are the ones that will be paying you.

People, as we know, tend not to be as predictable as dogs can be. This means that you may have to work just as hard on your relationships with your human clients as your canine ones; in fact, probably harder.

The four areas we are going to look at in this section are: First impressions and how to make the right one. The dos and don’ts of ‘First Contact’ with your clients. What to discuss at your initial client meeting. Access to their home and dog.

Basically, this section is all about building trust with your client. Trust is not automatic, people are naturally often wary of people they don’t know, especially if they are considering paying them and letting them walk their beloved dog and giving them access to their home. It’s a lot to ask. Your job is to make sure that you can prove that you are worthy of their trust. Until that is done you will not get the business. Bear this in mind with all your interactions. A dog walking business is a trust based business.

The first building block for developing trust is to ensure that the first impression your potential client has of you is a good one. In all likelihood a potential new client will contact you by phone or email. You need to make sure you come across as professional in that first interaction.

The use of your phone in your business is pretty straightforward. If you are using one phone for both personal and business, then assume every incoming call is a potential business inquiry and answer it accordingly. So if you use a ‘jokey’ answer when you pick up the phone to amuse you friends, you may have to explain to them they will be getting a more formal answer from now on. If you have a separate phone for your business, always answer it with your business name. Obviously you should only answer the phone if it is safe to do so and you can give the conversation your full attention. So if you are walking a pack of unruly dogs, it may be better to let it go to voicemail. As for your voicemail message, keep it short, professional and ask them to leave their name and number and you will get back to them as soon as possible.

With email interaction, ensure you have a professional sounding email address. Set up a new one with Gmail or Yahoo and use it only for your business. Sign off all your emails respectfully and professionally.

After a potential client gets in touch, try to get a little information from them over the phone, such as what services they are looking for, where they live, what type of dog they have. It is also useful to find out if they have visited the website and particularly if they are happy with the prices. This may seem a little presumptuous, but if they have seen the pricing on the website and are happy with it, then this may save you making a journey to see a potential customer only to find out they will not pay your prices, which wastes everyone’s time.

If everything sounds ok over the phone, then make arrangements to meet with them and get to know their pet before agreeing to take their dog on.

On meeting with the potential client, remember you are still at the first impression stage so make the most of it. I would suggest dressing relatively casually (they won’t expect you in a shirt and tie), but tidily. Remember that you will be going into their home, so change if you have been out walking dogs and are covered in mud.

Some owners like to do a test walk while they get the measure of you. So you may end up walking their dog for a few minutes while you chat about the details of what they want.

Take proof of your insurance, etc. and any testimonials you may have with you to the visit.

And although this is pretty obvious, always make sure you are having the discussion with the person or the persons that are going to make the final decision about whether they take you on or not.

At the meeting, along with meeting the potential clients, you will also meet your potential new dog. If you don’t, you are probably at the wrong house! It’s not within the scope of this guide to delve into dog behaviour, but needless to say, you need to be aware that you are entering the dog’s territory and some dogs can be very protective of their territory and their owners. As we are all aware, often the way to a dog’s heart is through its stomach, so take some treats with you to get the relationship off to a good start. Always seek the owner’s permission first. It is important, of course, to make friends with their dog on this first visit, but don’t put all your focus on the dog. Your main focus should be on its owners. It is their trust that will be harder to win.

When discussing the requirements of your prospective new clients, be friendly and straightforward. Smile. Throughout the meeting ensure that you are having a conversation and not an interrogation. Although there will be a lot of information you will need from the clients, try not to fire a barrage of questions at them, this will make them feel uncomfortable. If you are relaxed in your conversation with them, they will relax too and you will appear more confident.

Tell them of specific and true stories of the work you have done with dogs as examples of your previous experience. Keep your tone light and confident. To back up your example stories, offer proof by way of copies of your insurance documents and the customer testimonials that you have brought.

You will need to complete some paperwork at this first meeting, specifically a dog information sheet and a contract should the clients wish to take you on. I would leave any paperwork until later in the meeting and when the client has agreed to take you on and you are happy to take them on. Pulling out the paperwork at the beginning of the meeting might seem presumptuous or pushy and could put the client off. As discussed in a previous section, I strongly suggest that all your contracts and forms are checked by your lawyer to make sure that they are correct, straightforward and legally sound.

Another thing you will have to discuss at the meeting is access to your new client’s property. This is a major trust issue, so treat this area of the conversation with respect. You will need a spare key from the client so you can let yourself into the premises and collect their dog. You will also need the code for the alarm if required. Assure the client that you will not write the clients address on the key, so in the unlikely circumstances that it is lost, no-one will be able to use it to enter the clients home. Also let them know that your insurance covers lost keys and replacement locks, if you have this insurance in place. Ask them to let their neighbours know that you will be coming to walk their dog as this could save awkward situations down the line.

[]Walking the Dogs

Okay, we have covered a lot of ground in this guide, and you should have built a solid foundation for your new dog walking business by now. You should have your financial goals defined and the costs associated with your business listed. You will be organized, have picked a great name, created a website for your business and started your marketing campaign, met with and gained your first clients and now you are getting ready for your first walk.

So in this final section we will go through some of the things you will need to think about as you get into your walking routines, such as equipment, your vehicle, keys, routes and walking your canine clients.

This may seem a little bizarre, but when setting out on a walk with a new dog for the first time I like to visualize or practice the walk in my head beforehand. I find this helps me remember all the things I might need on the walk and check in advance if I am likely to come across any problems. Try it out, it only takes a minute.

Some of the essential equipment you will need in your vehicle or carried with you is pretty obvious when you think about it.

Always keep a spare slip lead with you. Occasionally, leads snap and usually at the most awkward moments, so having a spare lead means you have an immediate tool to rescue what could be a potentially dangerous situation.

A canine first aid kit is also key should any of your dogs injure themselves. I would also have a first aid kit for yourself. Remember you are outside and out in the open, so if you are not careful it is easy to injure yourself.

Don’t forget to take some dog treats; these are obviously useful for obedience training and as rewards.

And remember to take poo bags. In the UK there are significant fines for not picking up after your dogs, but as a professional dog walker, being caught not picking up will severely damage your reputation.

Whatever type of vehicle you decide to use in your dog walking business, make sure that it is kept in good condition. It should be mechanically sound, clean and comfortable. Your dogs should be comfortable and safe when travelling between pickups and where you are walking them. Remember, your vehicle can be part of the image you are promoting for your business. It needs to reflect your professionalism. You also need to have a think about what you will do if your vehicle breaks down while you are out and about, and organize breakdown cover if you do not already have it. Finally, make sure you have your insurance documents and driving licence with you.

Visualizing your walks, as I mentioned earlier, helps you prepare for your walks and you do need to be prepared. One of the biggest issues you will face is the weather, but as Sir Rannulph Fiennes once said, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” So make sure you have the appropriate clothing for the weather you are likely to encounter, because every day will be different.

Be prepared for traffic. Getting stuck in a serious traffic jam can really affect your schedule if you have a lot of dogs to pick up and walk, so build a time buffer into your day to account for unexpected traffic.

You can’t always be prepared for it, but stuff just happens. Keep in mind that not every day will go to plan and things will go wrong. Accept it, learn from it and move on.

The security of their homes will be a top priority for the majority of your human clients, so make sure you keep their keys and alarm codes safe. I always keep keys on separate fobs, so that if I lose one, I just lose one and not a whole bunch of them. I never put the address or the alarm code on the key fob. If I did and the key is then lost, that would just be like just handing over the keys to the kingdom to a would-be burglar. Better to identify the keys by colour-coding them or having a picture of the dog on them and your telephone number so if they are lost and the finder calls you, you can go and pick them up.

Planning your route in advance is essential. Remember, you are on the clock and time is money. So here are the things to consider when planning your walking routes.

Planning to walk somewhere that is safe for your dogs, especially if they are going off lead, is particularly important. Avoid busy roads, places with sudden drops or hidden hazards such as barbed wire fences or farming equipment. Again, visualization or walking the route alone before you take the dogs out will help you find safe routes.

You also need to time your routes. If you have agreed to walk some dogs for half an hour, then you need a circular route that will bring you back to your vehicle in that time frame. Again, doing a little research in advance will help here.

Above all, consider the needs of your dogs. Does your route offer plenty of safe and interesting places to run and play? Mix it up for them and for yourself by not taking the same old routes every day.

When it comes to actually walking your dogs, it all boils down to common sense. If you have been booked for a solo walk, then there will usually be a good reason, such as the dog can be aggressive with other dogs. You need to find out all this information when you meet up with the owner. Puppies or older dogs may not need longer walks, so bear this in mind. Not all dogs are equal in their particular requirements.

As you build your dog walking business, you may need to shuffle the dogs within the walking groups you take out together. Some dogs will get on well, some won’t. You need to adjust your packs until you have a good group to work with that play and get on well together. Every time you introduce a new dog to the pack it will change the dynamic within the group, so be on the lookout for changes in behaviour.

Always remember when out and about with your canine clients that you are permanently on show. Walking a pack of dogs or an unusual breed will attract attention, so be professional and pleasant with everyone you meet; they might end up being your next customer.

And whatever you do when out walking your dogs, remember to enjoy yourself. Working with dogs can be frustrating at times, but the great times should totally outweigh the bad times – how many jobs these days can you say that about?

Finally, congratulations for completing this guide. I hope you have enjoyed working through it as much as I have putting all together. If you have completed all the steps in this guide you now have the tools to build your own dog walking business.

I would love to hear any comments or questions regarding this guide, so please feel free to contact me through the Dog Walker HQ website at www.dogwalkerhq.com where you will also find further resources to help you build your dog walking business, and also where you can sign up for the Dog Walker HQ newsletter to you can keep up to date with innovations and updates for people in the pet care industry.

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To your future dog walking success!

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The Dog Walking Business Start-up

Everything you need to build your own successful dog walking business. In an ever busier world, the demand for dog walking services has never been higher. As a consequence of this huge demand, professional 'dog walkers' have sprung up in recent years - and now you can join them by combining your passion for dogs with your own business! The Dog Walking Business Start-up leads you step-by-step through everything you need to know to start your own thriving business.

  • Author: Stephen Atkinson
  • Published: 2016-12-22 10:35:10
  • Words: 13795
The Dog Walking Business Start-up The Dog Walking Business Start-up