How To Start A Dog Day Care Business

By Sarah Donovan

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How To Start A Dog Day Care Business

The popularity of the dog day care business has risen nowadays, thanks to people’s renewed interest in adopting pets. Starting a doggie daycare business is no walk in the park. If you think this business is for you, we listed down steps to guide you along the way with your own doggie daycare. Good luck!

I really love dogs, sometimes more than people.

Okay, so basically always more than people.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not antisocial or anything like that, but when was the last time a dog lied to you?It’s actually part of the reason I moved to Austin, TX.

Austin is a major no-kill city. Pretty much everywhere is dog-friendly, and there are parks all over the city. There’s even a bar for adults based on dogs! We go have drinks and food while the dogs play and are monitored by bark rangers.

It’s a perfect city for me and a perfect place to have a doggy daycare business!

How To Start A Dog Day Care Business: 12 Quick and Easy Steps

Honestly, I came here for a job that ended up not panning out. But that was the best thing that could have happened to me! I never even thought about making a career of playing with dogs.

I was too busy trying to make ends meet go-go dancing and bartending when a friend asked me if I could watch her dogs while she was gone for a few weeks.

I would have done it for free (her bulldogs are so adorable!) but she offered to pay me. Then she tagged me in a Facebook post of one of her friends who was looking for a dog sitter. And that guy asked me my rates.

Rates? I had no clue! But I was being PAID to play with little fluffy balls of love!

That guy tagged me in a post of one of his friends who needed a dog sitter, and all of a sudden I realized “hey, maybe I can actually do this for a living!”

I doubt it was what my parents had in mind when they paid for four years of college, but I have to tell you that I LOVE my life and running a doggy day care! If I had a tail, it would never stop wagging!

So if you’re anything like me and you get overly happy whenever you see a dog walking your way, maybe you’re in the wrong business and need to get into the doggy daycare industry!

I’m about to tell you what I did to create (and maintain) my dog daycare business and also what I did that you should avoid (hint: there’s some legal stuff involved).

So sit back and welcome to the world of getting paid to play with fur babies!

Step 1: Learn How a Dog Day Care Business Works

I know I told you how I got into this business, but it’s pretty safe to say I fell into the business without ever actually doing any research. That’s one thing I would have done differently.

It pays to prepare. Or in my case, it costs money to not prepare. Apparently, the city frowns on a business operating without a permit — regardless of how much I love dogs!

So that’s step one. Figure out what you need to get started.

I ended up getting fined for running a business out of my home in a non-commercial business area. Now I have a great space in the Bee Caves area with way more space and green than I did at home. So, we’ll call it a good and a bad thing!

But you should avoid that from the start and figure out if you’re allowed to run a business out of your home before spending money on it.

Then you have to understand the actual work involved. It’s not all playtime and treats. Some dogs can’t be together. What do you do there? How about exercise? Walks? Cleanup?

Insurance is a big one. And having a vet on call is a big one. So talk to the city, to other daycare people and to rescue organizations to find out what you need to know to run a doggy daycare business!

Step 2: Create a Plan

I didn’t have a plan when I started out, so I’m really lucky to still have my business. But I wouldn’t roll the dice if I were you. Have a plan to start up your company. Figure out what you need as far as space and supplies.

  • How much money does it take to get going?
  • What permits do you need?
  • Where will you be located?
  • What are your rates?
  • What kind of daycare are you?
  • What about supplies?

Speaking from personal experience, you can never have too many poop bags on hand.

It’s also important to understand what liability you have and what insurance you might need. Plus if you need any training like dog CPR (yes it’s a thing!) or first aid.

And what about marketing? I got really lucky in that a friend would use me and recommend me to another friend, but you can’t base a business off of hoping for referrals.

Fill out an actual business plan and if you still want to move forward with your own company, then you’ll have everything laid out in front of you and ready to go.

Your life will be so much easier if you know how you’re actually going to take your business from teacup poodle size to a great dane of a company.

Step 3: Discover the Earning Potential

This part is kind of tricky.

You want to know how much a doggy daycare owner makes per year, but I can only speak for myself.

I’m not going to go travel the world or anything, but I do pretty great for myself. I make six figures a year and have a team of employees who all seem pretty happy, too!

To figure out your earnings potential, you have to price your services. I offer daily pricing of $30 from morning to night for daycare which includes food, exercise and constant supervision (and lots of loving!).

cash | How To Start A Dog Day Care Business

I also offer monthly and yearly memberships, and even dog sitting services for my members whenever they need to leave town. I even offer a grooming package.

But when I started? Nope, I had no rates. I made up prices as I went. “Watch your dog for a week? Sure! Is $100 okay?”

The thing is, people LOVE their pets. And they will pay whatever it takes to make sure their fur babies are in good hands. So don’t be scared to get paid what you’re worth!

I definitely worked my way up, but you can skip that process and make more right off the bat by building out your rates to plan how much you can earn.

Step 4: Set a Budget

Super important! Budgets let me know when I’m spending too much on dog treats. And do I really need another dog bed? Technically no, but my budget tells me I can afford it — and the dogs love it — so yes!

Thanks to my memberships, I don’t have to guess how much I’ll make each month. And because my clients stick with me pretty regularly, I know about how much I can expect to make. So I take those numbers and I subtract my costs. My costs include things like:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Employee salaries
  • Taxes (make sure you’re always paying attention to taxes or things can get ruff)
  • Marketing
  • Events
  • Dog food (multiple varieties for pups and seniors, and dietary restrictions)
  • Puppy pads (do NOT skimp on the puppy pads!)
  • Cleaning supplies (a must have)
  • Dog toys
  • Dog beds
  • Dog kennels

set a budget | How To Start A Dog Day Care Business

There’s more, but that’s enough to give you an idea of what to think about when planning a budget.

What’s left after that is profit. I set aside a certain amount for myself and invest some of it back into my business. As long as I’m sticking to my numbers for everything, I know what I can and can’t do. Don’t try and do this without a budget or you might find your daycare in trouble.

Step 5: Decide Which Products/Service to Offer

I have a ton of repeat business because people trust me with their dogs. But to get them in the door for that first time, I have to offer services they actually want and need.

Obviously, I have the daycare, which includes food and exercise and always someone around. The dogs spend very little time in kennels and get to play with other dogs and humans all the time. I have a daily rate for that, but I offer packages and memberships, too. But maybe you want to do an hourly rate.

When my clients have to go out of town, they can always hire my company to dogsit, too.

I had home dog walking for a while, but it wasn’t working out well. I thought it was a great idea and people liked it, but getting from one customer’s home to another just didn’t work out well.

But we do grooming and dog walking at the daycare.

I started adding on services based on what people would tell me they needed when I was volunteering at events and talking about my business.

So when you’re starting your own daycare, feel free to copy my services — but also ask prospective clients not just what they’d be interested in seeing, but what they’d pay for. You might be surprised at what you end up offering.

Step 6: Decide on a Location

I know a lot of businesses want to be in malls or busy places with lots of traffic, but I absolutely love our daycare.

We’re not far off mopac in Austin, making us easy to get to.

We’ve got a big space and we’re right next to lots of outdoor trails which is important to me because we take the dogs for walks to wear them out and let them run. Thanks to our spacious backyard, our daycare turned into our own dog park.

And best of all, the rent and utilities fit right into our budget.

It’s a nice area and a lot of our clients live pretty close to us, which I think is one reason they love to join our daycare! So you should think about that, too.

Are you a bargain or an expensive service? Your space will tell your customers that before you even open your mouth, so pick a place that represents you and your daycare in the right light.

Step 7: Find Suppliers

Having suppliers is critical, otherwise, you’re going to send your employees out without notice to get more paper towels.

Once you make a list of everything you need, you can start to shop for it. One option is to get a membership to Costco or Sam’s Club and buy everything in bulk once a week. They have great prices and offer most everything you need.

I actually use Amazon Prime for a lot of my stuff since they have a subscription setting that lets me set it and forget it.

As for having too many supplies, that’s not really a problem in the doggy daycare business. You will use all those paper towels!

But having supplies lined up saves you a lot of trouble in the long run. You’ll have what you need when you need it instead of running to the store every couple of days when you can spend your time doing more important things like puppy pets!

Step 8: Promote Your Dog Day Care Business

It wasn’t until I started promoting my business that I really started making good money.

I mean, I was doing okay based on referrals, but I knew I could be doing more.

And then one of the local organizations I work with asked me if I wanted to set up a table at one of their adoption events. I signed up a handful of new clients there and realized that if I want to grow, I have to let people know I’m here.

So I got on Yelp and created a Facebook page and had business cards made. Now I hand out my cards at local events and get so much feedback from just that alone.

But I have a friend who runs ads for me on Google and Facebook, and that brings in new customers pretty regularly.

In the dog community, you need to go where the dog owners are. Go to parks and events and puppy socials! Get involved in the rescue community, since people always go to them for advice.

But no matter how much marketing you do, it won’t matter if you don’t do a great job, so make sure you take great care of the pooches.

Step 9: Create a Staffing Plan

When I started, it was just little ol’ me. Then all of a sudden, I had more dogs than I could handle and I realized I needed help. So I texted a friend of mine from volunteering to see if she could help me out and before long, I hired her on as my first employee.

Now I have eight employees, all trained in canine first aid and CPR, and all wonderful, loving dog people.

Fortunately, with dogs, it’s easy to find the right people. There’s no wondering. Either the dogs love them or hate them. And if the dogs don’t trust you, then neither do I!

But I didn’t really have a plan, I just got lucky. You need a plan.

  • How many people do you want to hire?
  • Where are you hiring them from?
  • How much are you paying them?
  • How many hours a week can you offer them?

Figure all that out before you start, and have a plan to move forward. Say, “I need two people to help me get going right from the start. Then once I have $10,000 a month coming in, I want to hire two more”.

You can’t do everything yourself. No one can clean up that much poop alone, so be ready to bring on help.

Step 11: Create an Accounting Plan

This is really helpful for tax purposes and also to track how your business is growing.

I started off with Quickbooks but now I have an accountant who meets with me regularly to review.

I’m actually thinking about opening another location in The Domain area (fancy) because I’m doing well enough to support that. But the only reason I know that is because of my accounting plan. It shows me how many new clients I have, my turnover and if everything matches up. So I know that no one is stealing from me (other than Bentley, the Saint Bernard who keeps getting into the treats somehow).

Your accounting plan should track everything so you know how your budget is doing and how your business is progressing.

Step 12: Get Into the Dog Day Care Community

Get into the dog community in general. Volunteer and work with local organizations. Get involved on Facebook and Instagram with rescue groups and dog companies. Go to local meetups. Spend time at dog parks.

The point is, go where the dogs are. Make friends — the two and four-legged kinds. The more you put yourself out there and have fun, the better off your business is. People will remember you and eventually send others your way.

Plus, you’ll have fun.

Check out this cute dog dancing when his owner arrives.

The Bottom Line

Bottom line: Opening (and running) a dog day care business is a lot of work. But it’s so great! You’re surrounded by love and wagging tails all day, and if you’re ever feeling down, the dogs know it and will cheer you up. I could see myself doing this forever!

Hopefully, you put this guide to use. If this was helpful for you and you want to learn more about starting a doggie daycare, has a 21-point checklist for starting your new business.

Make sure you download this if you’re serious about getting started. Simply click here to download this checklist now.

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