There are so many pet lovers in the world. And many of them leverage their admiration for pets to start their own pet-based business. A dog walking business is one of the easiest and most common to start.
It’s easy to see why someone would want to own a dog walking company; the pet business is big business. In the United States, 67% of households have a domestic pet. Offering a dog walking service is affordable for anyone to break into the pet care market.
And the pet business is rewarding. The average pet owner spends about $1,200 annually on their pet. Surprisingly, the U.S. pet industry is worth a whopping $99 billion. There’s a cost to keeping pets healthy, and Americans are more than happy to shell out for these beloved family members.
Most dogs need to be walked for at least 30 minutes a day. But some breeds need several 30-minute walks daily to stay in shape. People love their pets, but walking the dog often falls to the bottom of the priority list for a busy family.
Dog walkers play an essential role in keeping furry friends healthy and youthful. If you want to start a dog walking business, here are a few easy steps to get your company off the ground.
Step 1: Make a plan
You may think you don’t need a plan just because you’re starting a small business based on something you love— spending time with animals. But you couldn’t be more wrong.
Despite the low startup costs and the minimal training required, you should have a plan before you start your dog walking business. When you lay everything out in a plan, you can make better decisions, anticipate and prepare for adversity, and increase your chances of success.
Companies with business plans grow 30% faster than those without. And the many positive impacts of having a business plan are more likely to help your dog walking business if they take the time to write your plan before you begin operations.
Don’t let a business plan intimidate you. This document can be as detailed or concise as your want– your business, your rules. If you need help getting started, check out the U.S. Small Business Administration’s templates for crafting a business plan.
For a company like yours, two of the most important things your business plan should do is firm up your company’s name and coverage area. Your name should be indicative of what you do. You want people to hear the name of your business and instantly know what you do.
And when it comes to choosing your coverage area, be strategic. Fifty-eight percent of Texas households own a dog, but that statistic will vary based on where you are. Research pet ownership trends in the areas you want to serve to ensure you’ll have plenty of customers eager to solicit your services.
Step 2: Get insurance
You read that correctly. You need to ensure your dog walking business. Think about it; you’re dealing with people’s treasured family members and their dogs. You must protect yourself and prepare for anything that happens when other people’s dogs are in your care.
There are many Texas business insurance options, and most companies have several policies to protect their interests. But for a dog walking company, the best place to start is general liability insurance.
General liability is the equivalent of an umbrella policy for your business. For example, it will cover you if you trip and fall during a walk or if one of your customers bites you (ouch). Even though the law doesn’t require businesses to get general liability, every business owner needs this policy. This policy can protect you from everything from bodily injury and resultant medical costs, property damage, and even court fees for libel, slander, and defamation lawsuits.
You may also consider getting professional liability and errors and omissions insurance. Again, you’re dealing with dogs that people think family members. You could be liable if something happens to one of them while in your care. Professional liability and errors and omissions insurance protects your business should the unthinkable happen.
Also, consider where you conduct your business. For example, most dog walkers use a home-based office to maintain their operations. And you may think your homeowners’ or renters’ policy covers your office and its contents, but you’d be wrong. You’ll need commercial property insurance to protect your assets if your home office suffers from a natural disaster, fire, or other emergencies.
The same thing goes for the vehicle(s) you use for your business. Just having a standard auto insurance policy won’t protect your truck if it gets caught up in a flood or an angry pup destroys the interior. So make sure you get commercial auto insurance to cover the vehicle you use for work.
One final thing you should know about insurance in Texas is that businesses, even ones with employees, aren’t required to get workers’ compensation insurance. However, if your company grows and you hire staff, you should consider this coverage. Workers’ compensation insurance protects you and your employees if they get injured on the job by reimbursing for medical care, lost wages, retraining, and even providing survivor benefits.
Step 3: Register your dog walking business
This is a simple step. But, first, you must go to the Texas Secretary of State’s website to register your company.
Before you do, you’ll need to be sure of your business name, which you should’ve determined at this point. You’ll also need to provide information about the business structure. Most dog walking businesses should register as sole proprietorships, but if you’re unsure, check out this helpful video about business structure and registration in Texas.
Step 4: Setup tax collection
OK, pay attention here because this step isn’t a step at all. Texas doesn’t require dog walking providers to collect sales or service taxes. Furthermore, Texas doesn’t collect business tax, a sole proprietor fee, or personal income tax. This means that your tax liability and prep are minimal, at best.
You may be subject to local taxes and can find information about that by visiting the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts website. You’ll also need to pay federal income tax every year.
There are neither special licenses nor permits for dog walking businesses in Texas.
Step 5: Market your business
Now the fun begins. Establish a social media presence for your dog walking business on Facebook and Instagram (at a minimum). Also, set up your Google Business Profile so locals can easily find your company.
You should also consider listing your business on local directories, many of which are free. Nextdoor is another valuable tool to reach locals. It’s a neighborhood-based social media platform many communities use to share important information and updates.
And don’t forget to ask for referrals and reviews. These can be some of the most powerful promotional tools to get your dog walking business off the ground.
Owning a dog walking business, or any pet-based business, is a great way to monetize your love of animals. Set up your business the right way to enjoy success for many years.