We might be a nation of dog lovers but people’s increasingly busy lifestyles mean that they often just don’t have the time to take their best pooch friends out for walks. If you’re good with animals and enjoy spending time outdoors then starting a dog walking business could allow you to turn your passion for pooches into a serious moneymaker.

Why start a dog-walking business?

Despite the recession, which has meant that people generally have less money to spend on things such as their pets, dog-walking services are very much in demand as people spend more and more time working in the office, leaving their dogs at home all day. It’s possible to set up a dog-walking business with very little outlay and it’s not just a business that is suitable for people looking to earn a little extra money on the side – many dog-walking businesses are highly profitable and have developed into large companies who employ staff. If it has been your lifelong ambition to work with animals then now could be the perfect time to start a dog walking business and earn around £10 per hour, per dog for your services.

What skills will I need?

Naturally you will enjoy working with animals, and it also helps if you have some previous experience of looking after dogs. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in a professional role; it could just be that you have a dog as a pet or have had one in the past. If you have little experience or want to develop your skills further then there are dog training and animal care courses available at colleges. It also helps if you enjoy working outdoors and possess good communication skills.

Start-up costs

Start-up costs for a dog walking business are amongst the lowest of any business. As with many other businesses it’s a good idea to take out public liability insurance and get a CRB check done. If you become a member of the National Association of Registered Petsitters your membership includes insurance and many other things that you might need to get your business going such as client forms and advice on the best places to advertise. Perhaps your biggest start-up cost will be marketing your business, although even this can be done relatively cheaply. Consider getting flyers printed and then distributing these in your target areas to drum up some initial business. The internet can also provide a good way to advertise your services, so register yourself on pet-sitting directory websites and get your own website online to promote your services.

Insurance and compliance

It’s a good idea to take out public liability insurance for your dog-walking business to cover against damage that dogs can cause to property, humans and other animals. Aside from that there are very few formal requirements for starting a dog-walking business. Remember however that as a dog-walker your clients are putting a high level of trust in you, so it’s a good idea to get a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check done on yourself and any members of staff as this will act as a way of reassuring your clients that your company can be trusted to look after their pets and property (you will often be going into their homes to collect dogs when the owner is not there).

Should I consider a franchise?

There are a number of dog-walking companies that offer the opportunity to become a franchisee but remember that the start-up costs will be much higher than if you were starting on your own because you are paying for their business support and branding. If you decide to look into franchise opportunities make sure you take the time to investigate exactly what you are getting for your money. How much support do they provide you with in terms of marketing and lead generation? These are two areas which are especially important in determining the success of your business.

Your next steps

A good place to start is by conducting some market research in your local area to gauge potential interest in your services. Ask any pet owners you know of if they would be interested in using a dog-walking service and consider offering them a discount to get them to trial you.