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Does anyone here run a dog walking/dog day care/home boarding business and make a decent living from it?

(18 Posts)
kitsmummy Thu 30-Jun-11 11:55:38

Very grateful for advice, info from anyone who has any experience of this. The background is that I currently work 3 days a week but I'm likely to be made redundant in 6 months time. We have 2 children (aged 7 and 3), 1 dog (very sociable), 1 cat and we live in the countryside with a good sized house and a massive garden.

My lovely pug Betty currently goes to Doggy Day Care on one of my working days (she's with my mum the other 2 days) and basically I'm thinking that maybe this could be a good business option for me once my job goes. I/We love animals, we're in a great location and I think I could earn money and do the school runs/look after my daughter whilst earning money. And I then won't be in the position of a million other mums looking for that elusive part time job (probably minimum wage, or not a lot more), trying to juggle children/school/holidays with a job (if I manage to beat off all the competition and land the job in the first place!) and having to pay childcare for my youngest.

My only concern is that my current job pays a very healthy wage and whilst I'm happy to accept a drop in salary, I really can't afford to drop too much. This needs to be a decent income for me (rock bottom of £600 per month, preferably more like £800), rather than a bit of pocket money.

I live in rural Somerset and the price of local dog companies seems to be a lot less than the Bristol prices that I'm currently paying for my dog.

Can anyone reassure me that they earn a healthy enough living doing this? Preferably in a rural area? Or am I expecting too much of this?

Will probably post this in employment section too.

thanks so much in advance

Scuttlebutter Thu 30-Jun-11 12:01:49

Why not set up an Excel spreadsheet and do some financial modelling based on the charges that apply in your local area, versus a certain number of clients? You could try out a number of scenarios, and work out the likely income streams and see if they meet your requirements.

kitsmummy Thu 30-Jun-11 12:16:47

I've kind of done the maths in that I know it's very possible to earn what I need to earn - eg 3 dog walks and 1 day care each day would earn enough, anything over that would be a bonus, but it's more a case of wondering if those kind of stats are likely in rural areas?

I know my dog lady in Bristol has so much business that she's just had to employ someone to help her and her prices are more than rural prices. But I've no idea what sort of levels of business I could expect in the countryside. I might call local businesses and see if they have space (pretend I'm looking for a place for my dog) but I'm wondering if anyone has any direct experience of this? I'd want to set up with a good website etc and they don't come cheap.

thanks for the advice Scuttlebutter!

Scuttlebutter Thu 30-Jun-11 12:29:13

Actually, you can do a good website very cheaply especially as you are not going to be needing to do online sales. Basic costs for good hosting and your domain name will be around £100 pa - if you haven't already got something like ECDL then get yourself to local adult education centre who do loads of free or cheap courses in website design, there are also lots of good websites(!) and books offering advice and ideas on good design, most of which is common sense.

Really, what you are looking for is a very specific type of customer - essentially one who is time poor but cash rich (actually quite similar to people needing cleaners). So you need to be characterising your local area - rural areas can often be pockets of marked poverty or very affluent so you need to better understand your target market, and then find out where they are. Your local rural development board/commission will probably be able to point you at some help and support (maybe even some free website design) and can help you find stats on local demographics which will give you detailed pictures of income, age and working status. You will be looking for high income areas with large numbers of working people. If you are going for the home boarding market, then a bit different as you will be attracting people from a further radius so are you close to the airport or near good transport/road links for instance?

kitsmummy Thu 30-Jun-11 12:54:51

Blimey, lots of good points. Is it really that straightforward to build your own website, the thought scares me! I will look into it though :-)

Our area is definitely affluent, but what I'm not so sure about is the large numbers of working people. It does seem to be mostly SAHM at my son's school - the total opposite of where we used to live in Bristol. I think generally there could be less call for it here in terms of less working people, although I'm sure that there will be a lot more dogs where I live now, so maybe that will balance out?

We're about 40 mins from the airport and 50 mins from Bristol. Thanks for all the pointers, I hadn't thought about it in such a detailed way before. If I could get a website up and running cheaply (before I actually get made redundant) I could try to get a business going on Mon/Tues (my non working days) to see how much interest I get before I'm relying on it full time.

WhereTheWildThingsWere Thu 30-Jun-11 13:17:46

I do a bit of home boarding and have done a fair bit of walking.

Walking can be fairly profitable, I charge £8 for a 90 minute walk and would walk up to six dogs at the same time, so the money is okay, but is very binding, obviously owners are totally reliant on you to turn up every day, which can be hard with young children.

You need to be quite good at being in charge of dogs if you are going to walk a few, though I have never had any problems, if you have some training experience it will help alot. In fact I think it probably essential.

Home boaring is a total labour of love imo, I have just two regular clients but one I probably have for 6-8 weeks out of the year, I have a small house and garden and a dog of my own so I wouldn't take more that one dog at a time. I usually charge £10 a day, though one of my two regulars is £12 as he is super high maintenance. It is handy pocket money for me, but no way to make a living.

Personally I wouldn't want to do day care or boarding with several dogs in my house as it would be mayhem, the first couple of days with just my dog and a boarder is just non-stop playing/chasing/humping and with another dog in the mix it would be crazy. I think to do several you need premises.

It is also a big commitment and can sometimes seem like a huge responsibility, having another persons dog is almost as bad as having someones baby grin.

Also you would be in the same position as me as you would only be able to take dogs that are rock solid with both other dogs and children and even then you would have to be super careful with the kids, (your children are exactly the same ages as mine btw). Even when dogs are good with children, when they first come they are often stressed and the kids excited at having a newcomer, I have never had a problem but I do find it hard to get much else done. I would never leave my children alone with a boarder. I also always do a free afternooon 'test' to make sure everyone gets on.

Be prepared for the fact that quite alot of people want to home board their dog as it cannot be left ie suffers from some degree of seperation anxiety, this being the reason why they don't want it to go to kennels, I have had a fair bit of damage done by dogs while I have done the school run (takes 7 minutes).

Also be prepared for the fact that the client will quite possibly want the dog to sleep in you room, (this has been the case with all but one of all the dogs I have ever boarded) and in some cases (my high maintenance dog) in your bed! Though actually he sleeps in a basket now, but the clients don't know grin they insist he won't sleep anywhere but a bed with a person in it.

All in all it is quite an upheaval, for the duration your house is often covered in hair and slobber and flying dogs.

Sorry for the huge ramble, hope some of it might be of use, feel free to ask anything specific smile

Jaynerae Thu 30-Jun-11 13:36:50

Local advertising will also help, leave cards and leaflets (with permission of course) in
Pet shops
Train stations
newsagents or other shops that have high traffic

We are using doggy day care when we go camping - so if there are any local campsistes see if they will let you advertise there or link to their websites, or indeed other holiday places - dog friendly hotels in area etc.

We are taking dogs camping witgh us for two weeks but have booked them into day care for 4 of those days to do dog free a\ctivities with DC's.

SO loacal tourist attractions as well would be worth advertising at.


Good luck!

kitsmummy Thu 30-Jun-11 13:44:31

Thanks WTWTW, that is very very helpful. Your boarding rates seem very cheap! Is that the going rate in your area? I'd only plan to have 1 or 2 max boarders (if they were from the same household) at any time. It's more that I know how much money I need to earn, and if I can reach that level that's fine, rather than going all out to earn the maximum possible.

Do you live rurally or in the city and did you find that there was a lot of demand for your services?

I'm planning it to be mainly dog walking/day care, with just a bit of boarding on the side. I know my children's ages aren't ideal (well the older one will be fine, I'll just need to be even more vigilent with my little one), but by the time she starts school I imagine it would all become a lot easier.

But my god, I wasn't expecting that people would want their dog to sleep in my bedroom!!! I definitely wouldn't do that, so I guess that would put a lot of people off

kitsmummy Thu 30-Jun-11 13:45:16

Thank you JayneRae, great ideas!

Scuttlebutter Thu 30-Jun-11 13:56:29

As you're in Somerset, have you thought about linking up with local holiday cottage companies? Even if dogs are allowed in a cottage, it's often handy to have a local doggy day care for non doggy days out e.g theme parks etc and of course if cottages don't allow woofs. You've got Exmoor/Qantocks hotspots for tourism near you? What about big camps at Minehead?

kitsmummy Thu 30-Jun-11 14:16:57

Yes, fab idea ref the holiday cottages and campsites! That would be ideal wouldn't it? We're taking our dog to a holiday cottage next month and I'd been thinking myself that it was going to be a bit restrictive. Doggy day care is ideal in that situation.

So it's sounding like there are probably a few good opportunities out there if I'm quite open minded about where I look for the business! Feeling quite hopeful about it all now!!!

Howdoesjuliancope Thu 30-Jun-11 16:36:34

If you live in a tourist area there might also be a market for overnight stays where people have booked into accommodation that doesn't allow dogs - we are doing this in Cornwall later in the year because we enjoy staying in a smart hotel and eating out in the evening but want our pup with us during the day.

WhereTheWildThingsWere Thu 30-Jun-11 18:20:01

kitsmummy yes, is local going rate and I am inner city in large city in the Midlands.

Yes, quite a lot of demand, though far more for holidays than 'day care' the only enquires I have had for day care were twice for dogs than were not reliable with children and once for a dog that was not reliable with other dogs so were all non-starters.

I have never advertised, all has been word of mouth, but I am quite active in doggy places, I do alot of walking with different groups and train in several different clubs.

Day care clients are better imo (if you can find them!) as I would charge the same daily rate, but it is less of a disruption and a responsibility than having someone elses dog 24-7. I don't think I would spend more than 4 months of the year with full time boarders here, it is too much to take on.

chickchickchicken Thu 30-Jun-11 21:23:22

£10 per day is the going rate in glos too. its the same price whether dog sleeps over or not. my home boarder allows dogs to sleep in her bedroom, i wouldnt have left my dog otherwise because i was worried about him being anxious away from home. as it turned out he decided to sleep in the kitchen with other dogs but the doors were left open so he could access human company if he needed to.

she is very busy but we do live on the edge of a city

MothershipG Sat 02-Jul-11 20:15:54

The other thing that struck me is how are you going to manage to walk several dogs, in all weathers with your 2 kids in tow? Most dog owners will want you to take their dogs out for at least an hour around the middle of the day, will your kids be up for this?

What about the holidays? Won't you want to take go for day trips, visits to friends, etc? Again this won't be possible if you have walking commitments in the middle of the day.

I don't want to sound negative but this is what scuppered my plans to earn some extra with dog walking! Pesky kids! wink

LeonardNimoy Sat 02-Jul-11 21:49:58

I have a friend who runs a dog boarding/day care and dog grooming business from her home. The boarding side makes her pin money, I think secretly she does it just becase she likes being surrounded by dogs smile However where she makes better money is by the grooming. £35+ per dog. She has a small child sos doesnlt do it full time, but if he really went for it she could make enough for a fairly good living out of it.

kitsmummy Sun 03-Jul-11 15:53:12

thank you everyone for all your ideas and comments. Leonard - that's interesting what you say about the dog grooming, I've heard that before too, maybe it's something I should look into. Mothership G - my son's at school so I'll only have my daughter with me. She's pretty good at going out for walks and if necessary I can put her in the buggy. Ref holidays etc, there will be things that I'd rather be doing, but I have to earn a living really, that's all there is to it. If I had a regular job in an office I'd still have these problems around holiday time. If I'm dog walking/day care, then at least I'm able to have my children with me, instead of having to somehow find someone to look after them in the hols. thanks again everyone, I'm going to go for it!

herladyship Mon 04-Jul-11 20:37:46

We live in rural Lincolnshire, our dog trainer does day care £15 for odd days, £10 if 10 or more days booked per month. He is always full & employs an assistant. They also offer walking, home boarding & a 'social Friday' where it is open house between 5 & 7 for dogs to play & owners to have a cuppa... Bit like a toddler group grin

He had lots of land/space, and does 1:1 & group training as well, but I know the daycare is booming.

Good luck smile

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