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.
Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Pros and cons
Starting a dog training business has pros and cons to consider before deciding if it’s right for you.
- Fun! – Hang out with those cute fur babies
- Valuable Service – Make dogs and their owners happier
- Small Investment – Not much money needed to get started
- Aggressive Dogs – Not all dogs are easy to work with, nor do they always get along
- Training People – Sometimes the dog owners are the problem
Dog training industry trends
Industry size and growth
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.
What kind of people work in dog training?
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.
You can become a certified dog trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. You need to have:
- 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.
|Start-up Costs||Ballpark Range||Average
|Setting up a business name and corporation||$150 - $200||$175
|Business licenses and permits||$100 - $300||$200
|Business cards and brochures||$200 - $300||$250
|Website setup||$1,000 - $3,000||$2,000
|Space rental||$0 - $1,500||$750
|Total||$1,550 - $5,600||$3,575
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.
Step 2: Hone Your Idea
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.
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: “Jim’s Bakery” over “Jim’s Cookies”
- Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
- Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.
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: Brief overview of the entire business plan; should be written after the plan is complete.
- Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
- Product and Services: Describe your offerings in detail.
- Market Analysis: Assess market trends such as variations in demand and prospects for growth, and do a SWOT analysis.
- Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and create a list of the advantages of your services.
- Sales and Marketing: Examine your companies’ unique selling propositions (USPs) and develop sales, marketing, and promotional strategies.
- Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background, along with a corporate hierarchy.
- Operations Plan: Your company’s operational plan includes procurement, office location, key assets and equipment, and other logistical details.
- Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.
- Appendix: Include any additional financial or business-related documents.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist at Fiverr 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 ZenBusiness’s 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.
Step 6: Register for Taxes
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.
Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits
Starting a dog training business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.
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.
You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.
This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.
If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.
Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account
Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.
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.
Step 11: Prepare to Launch
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.
- Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero.
- 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.
Some of your business will come from the casual online visitors, but you should still invest in digital marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness.
Once your website is up and running, link it to your social media accounts and vice versa. Social media is a great tool for promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products:
- Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area.
- Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences.
- Website: SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Schedule Now”. This can sharply increase purchases.
- Google and Yelp: For businesses that rely on local clientele, getting listed on Yelp and Google My Business can be crucial to generating awareness and customers.
Take advantage of your website, social media presence and real-life activities to increase awareness of your offerings and build your brand. Some suggestions include:
- Flyering – Distribute flyers in your neighborhood and at industry events.
- In-Person Sales – Offer your dog training services at pet stores, veterinary offices, and rescue shelters.
- Post a video – Post a video about your dog training. Use humor and maybe it will go viral!
- Seek out referrals – Offer incentives to generate customer referrals to new clients.
- Paid ads on social media – Choose sites that will reach your target market and do targeted ads.
- Pay–per-click marketing – Use Google AdWords to perform better in searches. Research your keywords first.
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. 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.
You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. 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.
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: 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 much does it cost to start a dog training business?
You can start a dog training business for about $1,500. Your biggest expense will be for a website. If you rent a permanent space to hold classes, you may have to spend about $5,000 to get started.
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.
Do I need a license to start a dog training business?
How much can I charge for dog training?
Group classes cost between $30 and $50 per session. Private dog training costs between $100 and $140 per hour. Check with other dog training businesses in your area to see what they charge. You want to make sure your prices are competitive.