Dog walking and pet sitting business(11 Posts)
I am considering starting a pet sitting and dog walking service.
It is something I have been thinking of doing for a few years now and a small inheritance I will be getting shortly would enable me to start such a venture.
I have worked in an office environment for 20 years, but studied animal care at college and used to work in a boarding kennels many years ago. I have also more recently, volunteered at a local community farm.
I plan to offer dog walking, pet sitting and possibly holiday equine care (I had a horse on loan until I had to give her up because of crazy work commitments).
I would be interested to hear from others who offer these services. How long did it take you to get a good customer base and how did you go about it?
Also would you say it would be worth buying a franchise or setting up alone?
I run a dog walking/pet sitting business and it’s hard work but I’m so pleased I set up!
It took me about a year to have a decent enough salary, about 6 months to survive! So much of the business is word of mouth. The good thing is that once you have the clients, you have them, they don’t tend to move. So that means you get bigger month by month.
Make sure you check out how much competition there is in the area. Our area has had loads of new start ups and so they’re struggling a bit as there’s too many dog walkers covering the area. Many come and go quite quickly.
Don’t underestimate how long pick up/drop off takes when planning your walks! I thought I’d pack a lot more into my day than I can do. I would probably not look at equine services if I was you because time will be tight.
Don’t just take on all of the dogs that you get approached with. For example, one of the first enquiries I got was a solo walk at lunchtime. This is prime group dog walking time which is far more profitable. You just have to stay strong and trust the clients will come!
Good luck with your new venture if you do choose to go down the dog walking path!
Make sure you get adequate insurance. I can’t remember their name off hand but you can specifically get dog walking/house sitting insurance. From memory it was about £150 per annum. Also, very very important get all clients to sign a contract - I haven’t got time but I can send you an example if you PM me. A contract saved me 100% when some bloke decided not to pay me the balance of looking after his two 4 month old puppies for 3 weeks. I took it to small claims and won (easily) but the whole case was only based on the contract I got him to sign.
Thanks, both of you.
I did think that about the equine service SC91, so might knock that on the head for now.
Do you mind me asking how you got your first customers? What sort of advertising did you use?
I will pm you blodplod, as a example contract would be really useful, thanks.
I would have thought that the equine service would fit in nicely around the dog walking. The prime time for dog walking is lunchtime and horses normally need done morning and evening.
Good point Brenna. Although it maybe more lucrative and less time consuming to do house calls to feed cats, rabbits etc whilst people are on holiday.
I might offer it as an option and see how I go.
Sorry, another question! Did you buy a van at the start, or just use dog cages in the back of your car to begin with before investing in a van?
I have seen a few ex police dog vans for sale. These are obviously already fitted out and I figure, having belonged to the police, will have been regularly serviced.
Whilst dog walking at lunchtime is the busiest time, I have quite a few morning clients now and am about to start offering the slot as a group walk in order to increase the profit.
It’s easy to underestimate how tiring the job is, and the time spent between jobs travelling. If you’re looking after a strange horse and it kicks you, you could be put out of action for the rest of your income. I’m not anti-horses at all as I have my own and I did consider offering it in the beginning but I’m so glad I didn’t because it stretches you too thin really.
Another thing I made a mistake with was listing a time for my cat sits - often cats don’t want to see you on the first couple of visits so half an hour sat in somebody’s house when you’ve done all the jobs can feel a loooong time. I now charge per visit and explain that the visit time varies depending on how the animal has taken to me being in their home.
I got my first clients from Facebook advertising. Often they cross reference with my website, so that was definitely worth investing in. A regularly updated Facebook page has got me a lot of business as it shows I’m busy and people love seeing their dogs out and about. I also advertise on community groups as well as pay for some targeted adverts so people get used to seeing my business name. I’ve not done a leaflet drop but I’m thinking about trying this just in order to test the results as people seem to get varied success.
What car do you have? I bought a 7 seater with blacked out windows and converted it with crates and seatbelts for the one seat left for dogs that prefer to travel in a seat with harness. I prefer it to a van although it is probably more expensive to run, but it’s more spacious, the dogs are in the same space as me so I know how hot/cold it is, it’s light and airy and I can see them all and also it’s more comfortable/less noisy in the back for them.
Looking back, I didn’t actually need to buy a vehicle straight away. I’ve done the odd walk with my little car with crates and seatbelts and that’s worked just fine, the owners just care they’re secured. A few walkers use estate cars or crossover cars and they work just fine.
That's so helpful SC.
I have a Ford Fusion at the moment so would maybe need something slightly bigger.
How many crates/cages do you have in your car? Good point about the doggy seat belts too.
I wouldn't look into equine services, unless you're willing to work for someone at a yard? The bigger livery yards usually look for morning shifts 7-11 (or similar) or afternoon shifts 4-6 (or similar).
Most people wanting holiday care for their horses employ someone with a great deal of experience, myself included.
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