Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Published on March 2, 2022 Updated on November 15, 2023
$1,550 - $5,600
$62,000 - $180,000 p.a.
Time to build
0 – 3 months
$45,000 - $72,000 p.a.
Dog ownership spiked in 2020 as people sought companionship while cooped up at home. This was good news for the dog training industry, which is worth over a quarter billion dollars and growing. If you’re a potential “dog whisperer”, you could start your own dog training business and cash in on a growing market. You’d be helping dogs and their owners live happier, more fulfilling lives while making a good living yourself.
While it seems like a simple business to start, you still need to understand the ins and outs of how to launch and run your own company. Luckily, you’ll find everything you need in this step-by-step guide designed to train you to be a successful business owner.
Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.
Number of businesses – In 2022, 2,333 dog training businesses were operating in the US.
Number of people employed –In 2022, the dog training industry employed 4,987 people in the US.
Trends and challenges
Trends in the dog training industry include:
Dog training is increasingly focused on training the dog parents as much as the dog itself. People need to learn more about how to treat dogs, and how to communicate with them.
Training now has more of an emphasis on improving the overall wellness of the dog, including emotional wellness, rather than just teaching them to respond to commands. Both of these trends are opportunities for entrepreneurs who are more educated in the latest dog training techniques to differentiate their business.
Challenges in the dog training industry include:
Dog training techniques are becoming more science-based, which increases the need for education for dog trainers. They need to understand the psychology of dogs and their owners.
Training to stop bad behaviors at home, rather than just teaching responses to commands, is a challenge for dog trainers.
Average level of education –The average dog trainer has a bachelor’s degree.
Average age – The average dog trainer in the US is 37.9 years old.
How much does it cost to start a dog training business?
Startup costs for a dog training business range from $1,500 to $5,500. The low end assumes that you’ll do the training at home, in a park or in a space you can rent periodically, such as a community center. The largest expense at the low end is for a website. The high end includes renting a permanent space where you can hold your classes.
A minimum of 300 hours’ experience in dog training within the last 3 years
Provide a signed attestation from a CCPDT certificant or veterinarian
Pass an exam
You can take dog training courses through places like the Karen Pryor Academy. A basic course package costs $250 while a professional course package costs $6,000.
Setting up a business name and corporation
$150 - $200
Business licenses and permits
$100 - $300
Business cards and brochures
$200 - $300
$1,000 - $3,000
$0 - $1,500
$1,550 - $5,600
How much can you earn from a dog training business?
Group dog training classes cost an average of $40 per session, while private training costs about $120 per hour. In the beginning, most of your business will probably be group classes. Your profit margin if you rent a space for a few hours at a time to hold your classes should be about 70%.
In your first year or two, you could do training 6 hours per week for 5 dogs at a time, bringing in more than $62,000 in annual revenue. This would mean nearly $45,000 in profit, assuming that 70% margin. As your business gains traction and you begin to get referrals, your training hours could climb to 15 hours per week for 5 dogs at a time. You may be able to attract some private training clients at this point for 4 hours per week. You’d probably rent a small, permanent space now, reducing your profit margin to about 40%. With annual revenue of $180,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $72,000.
What barriers to entry are there?
There are a few barriers to entry for a dog training business. Your biggest challenges will be:
Acquiring the skills required to be an effective dog trainer
Finding an inexpensive space to rent for classes
Related Business Ideas
If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
Now that you know what’s involved in starting a dog training business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.
Why? Identify an opportunity
Research dog training businesses in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a dog training business for pit bulls or abused dogs.
You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as private home behavior training.
This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.
What? Determine your products or services
Your services will depend on your skill level. You could offer just basic obedience training, home behavior training, or even service dog training.
How much should you charge for dog training?
Prices for group classes range from $30 to $50. Private dog training prices range from $100 to $140. Your ongoing costs will be for space rental and insurance. You should aim for a profit margin of 70% until you get a permanent space, and then it will be closer to 40%.
Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Who? Identify your target market
Your target market will be dog owners, which is a broad category. You should spread out your marketing to include sites like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. You could also distribute brochures to pet stores, veterinary offices, and rescue shelters.
Where? Choose your business premises
In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you may need to rent out a space for classes. Find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.
When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:
Central location accessible via public transport
Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Step 3: Brainstorm a Business Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
Including keywords, such as “dog training” or “pet training”, boosts SEO
Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Doggy Diplomas” over “Service Dog Training Services”
Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.
Step 4: Create a Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
Executive Summary: A concise summary outlining the key elements of the dog training business plan, including its purpose, mission, and key highlights.
Business Overview: A brief description of the dog training business, covering its mission, vision, values, and the problem it aims to solve in the market.
Product and Services: Clearly defined dog training services and products offered, highlighting the unique value proposition and benefits for customers.
Market Analysis: An examination of the dog training market, identifying target customers, market size, trends, and potential opportunities for business growth.
Competitive Analysis: Evaluation of competitors in the dog training industry, identifying strengths and weaknesses to position the business effectively in the market.
Sales and Marketing: Strategies and tactics for promoting and selling dog training services, including pricing, distribution, and promotional efforts to attract and retain customers.
Management Team: Introduction to key team members and their roles, emphasizing their expertise and contributions to the success of the dog training business.
Operations Plan: Details on the day-to-day operations of the business, including location, facilities, equipment, and processes involved in delivering dog training services.
Financial Plan: Financial projections, including startup costs, revenue forecasts, and profit margins, providing a comprehensive overview of the financial viability and sustainability of the dog training business.
Appendix: Supplementary materials such as additional data, charts, graphs, or supporting documents that provide further insight into the dog training business plan.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to dog training businesses.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your dog training business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
Limited Liability Company(LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.
Step 7: Fund your Business
Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:
Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.
Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a dog training business.
Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.
You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your dog training business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.
Here are some types of insurance to consider:
General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.
You may want to use industry-specific software, such as HoneyBook, Pawfinity, or SuperSaas, to manage your scheduling, classes, billing, and payments.
If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Develop your website
Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.
You can create your own website using website builders. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.
They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.
For your dog training business, the marketing strategy should focus on showcasing your expertise in dog behavior, the success stories of dogs you’ve trained, and the variety of training services you offer. Emphasize your commitment to using positive, effective training methods and your ability to tailor training to meet the individual needs of each dog and owner. The goal is to establish your business as a knowledgeable, compassionate, and results-driven solution for dog owners seeking guidance and training.
Professional Branding: Your branding should convey a sense of professionalism, trust, and friendliness. This includes your logo, business cards, and promotional materials, as well as the design and tone of your website and social media profiles.
Direct Outreach: Network with local veterinarians, pet stores, and dog clubs to introduce your services. Attending pet-related events and offering free workshops or demonstrations can also be effective.
Digital Presence and Online Marketing
Professional Website and SEO: Develop a website that showcases your training services, client testimonials, and information about your training philosophy. Use SEO best practices to optimize your site for search terms related to dog training, puppy classes, and behavior modification.
Social Media Engagement: Utilize platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube to share success stories, training tips, and videos that demonstrate your training methods.
Content Marketing and Engagement
Dog Training Blog: Share informative articles on dog training, behavior tips, and advice for dog owners. This content helps establish your expertise and provides value to your audience.
Email Newsletters: Keep your clients and prospects informed about upcoming classes, dog training tips, and business updates through regular email communication.
Video Tutorials and Client Testimonials: Post video tutorials of basic training exercises and client testimonials to engage your audience and showcase your success stories.
Experiential and In-Person Engagements
Free Introductory Workshops: Offer free or discounted introductory training sessions or workshops to attract potential clients and give them a taste of your training style.
Community Dog Training Events: Participate in or host community events focused on dog training and education, such as local fairs or pet expos.
Collaborations and Community
Collaborations with Pet Businesses: Partner with local pet stores, vets, and groomers to offer referral discounts or package deals.
Community Involvement: Engage in local community projects or charity events that involve pets, offering your expertise or services for a good cause.
Customer Relationship and Loyalty Programs
Referral Programs: Implement a program that rewards clients for referring new customers to your training services.
Loyalty Discounts for Repeat Clients: Offer discounts or special packages for clients who enroll in multiple training sessions or classes.
Promotions and Advertising
Targeted Local Advertising: Use local newspapers, community bulletin boards, pet store advertising, and online local groups to reach potential clients in your area.
Partnerships with Local Veterinarians and Pet Stores: Build relationships with local veterinarians and pet stores who can refer clients to your services.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your dog training business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your dog training business could be:
Private training in your home for your precious pup
Dog training classes for the well-being of your best friend
In-home dog behavioral training – you’ll have an obedient pup in no time!
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a dog training business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in dog training for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in dog training. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership.
Step 12: Build Your Team
If your business grows to the point where you can’t handle the load, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a dog training business include:
Dog Trainers – teach dog training classes
General Manager – scheduling, staff management, accounting
Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media
At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
Step 13: Run a Dog Training Business – Start Making Money!
People love their dogs, but they are not always easy to control. As a dog trainer, you have the opportunity to make life better for dogs and their owners and make surprisingly good money while you’re at it. With the increasing number of dog owners, your services will be in demand, so you should never have a shortage of customers. Now that you know what’s involved, go ahead and start training your way to success!
Dog Training Business FAQs
How profitable is a dog training business?
A dog training business can be very profitable. You can make a good hourly rate and you’ll have very few ongoing expenses. Better yet, you can use your skills to improve the lives of dogs.
How do I get more clients for my dog training business?
You can invest in digital marketing or pass out flyers in your neighborhood. You can also ask your current clients for referrals.
What is the most popular dog training method?
Positive reinforcement training is the most highly recommended dog training method. It involves rewarding dogs for good behavior.
How do I differentiate my dog training business from competitors?
You need to do good quality training and good results to differentiate your dog training business. You could also offer convenient training hours.
At what age is a dog hardest to train?
Around 8 to 9 months is the hardest age to train a dog. They’ve grown and have often developed a pattern of bad behaviors.
How to Start a Dog Training Business
Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Hone Your Idea
Brainstorm a Business Name
Create a Business Plan
Register Your Business
Register for Taxes
Fund your Business
Apply for Licenses/Permits
Open a Business Bank Account
Get Business Insurance
Prepare to Launch
Build Your Team
Run a Dog Training Business - Start Making Money!
Dog Training Business FAQs
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