How to Start a Dog Day Care Businessby Elle Smith
If you have a passion for pets and enjoy caring for and playing with dogs, a dog day care business may be right for you. A dog day care facility provides a much-needed service to pet owners who are away most of the day and want their dogs to get the play, socialization and exercise they need. Dog services of all kinds is a growth industry. Nearly 40 percent of U.S. households own at least one dog, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Before you start your new business, make sure you have the expertise you need and do some research.
Enroll in dog training and behavior courses to become expert in handling dogs. Understand what to look for in breed-specific or aggressive behaviors to help nip potential issues in the bud. Learn how to provide services such as grooming and bathing, and dog training. Even if you do not plan to offer these services at the start, the depth of knowledge of dogs will be useful. Consider taking appropriate business management courses as well.
Research the demand in your area for dog day care services. Research your competition to get a feel of the current market rate for such services, then draw up a financial plan for your business to determine how much you will need to make a profit. Determine what types of services you want to provide, such as boarding, grooming or training. Your business and financial plan serves as a road map for plotting where and how you want to position your dog day care facility. Contact your area district Small Business Administration office for the help they provide for startup small businesses. They can help you with market research and drawing up your business plan. Enlist the help of a good bookkeeper, accountant or business attorney to help with complicated financial and legal aspects of running a dog day care business.
Create a name for your business. Make it catchy to appeal to dog lovers. Register your fictitious name with your county clerk. While puns can be cute, it’s safer to stick to something that relates to comfort, caring and kindness to animals. This important step helps your potential client feel good about leaving her much-loved pet in your care.
Check with your courthouse or city hall to determine business license and permit requirements. Expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $150, says Veronica Boutelle, former director of behavior and training at the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Lease a facility, or consider operating out of your home if your local zoning laws allow it. Be careful about location. You don't want your new dog day care center to be a nuisance or problem for neighbors, whether residential or business.
Set up play areas indoors and out. Create sleeping areas for dogs that stay overnight or need to rest after heavy play. Install easy-to-clean materials in your dog daycare facility, such as rubber floors, artificial turf and sealed concrete. Rubber flooring provides a cushion for older dogs, while sealed concrete doesn't absorb urine or feces odors.
Purchase liability insurance. Check on whether your policy has breed restrictions that require limiting your service to non-aggressive breeds. Consider this restriction if you plan to have an open play area. Insist on accepting only well-socialized dogs that have been spayed or neutered, not only for the dogs' protection, but to protect yourself and your business as well.
Calculate how many animals you think you can reasonably accommodate, then determine if you need or want to hire help. There should be at least one staff member for every 15 or 20 dogs, writes dog author Jamie Shaw in "Dog to Dog Communication." Too many dogs may be good for your bottom line in the short run, but if you can't properly supervise and provide the high-quality care your clients expect for their dogs, you business can be harmed.
Obtain kennel and play equipment you will need, and stock up on food, bowls, treats, toys, crates, kennels, fences, hoses, bedding and pooper scoopers.
Develop a services menu, and set standard policies that your customers must adhere to; for instance, drop-off and pick-up times, additional late fees, cancellation and reservation procedures. Insist that your new clients provide proof of vaccination against such diseases as kennel cough (bordatella), parvovirus, coronavirus, rabies and Lyme disease, advises dog day care consultant Barbra Waldare.
Prepare and maintain a database of your clients' names, addresses and emergency contact information, in addition to each pet's name, breed, birthday, food requirements and health issues.
Promote your new business by visiting veterinarians, dog parks and pet food stores. Leave a business card and ask for referrals. Create fliers to pass around to announce your grand opening.
Items You Will Need
- Business and financial plan
- Local business license and/or permit
- Rubber flooring
- Artificial turf
- Liability insurance
- Logo and signage
- Dog grooming equipment
- Crates, kennels or fencing
- Pooper scoopers
- The Humane Society of the United States: U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics
- How to Run a Dog Business: Putting Your Career Where Your Heart Is; Veronica Boutelle
- Dog to Dog Communication: The Right Way to Socialize Your Dog; Jamie Shaw
- 101 Best Businesses for Pet Lovers; Joseph Nigro, et al.
- Dogs Play Fighting image by Tourmalet06 from Fotolia.com