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 October 15, 2021 Updated on November 15, 2023
$2,000 - $5,100
$39,000 - $117,000 p.a.
Time to build
0 - 3 months
$35,000 - $47,000 p.a.
People love their dogs, but not everybody has enough time to walk their dog multiple times a day. This is why dog walking services have become big business in recent years. Some even have their own mobile app! If you’re a dog lover, you could start a dog walking business and spend more time with lovable pups while also making good money.
Starting any kind of business, however, takes a lot of work. The key is to have the knowledge you need before you start so that you avoid common mistakes. Fortunately, this step-by-step guide details everything you need to know to put yourself on the road to doggie entrepreneurship.
Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.
How much does it cost to start a dog walking business?
Start-up costs for a dog walking business range from $2,000 – $5,100. If you set up your own basic website without an online booking option at first, you can minimize your costs.
Setting up a business name and corporation
$200 - $200
Licenses and permits
$200 - $300
$100 - $500
Business cards and brochures
$200 - $300
$1,000 - $3,000
Initial marketing budget
$200 - $500
$50 - $100
Pet first aid class
$50 - $200
$2,000 - $5,100
How much can you earn from a dog walking business?
Your profit will vary depending on:
How many regular customers you can book
Whether you need to hire other dog walkers
The cost to walk a dog yourself is minimal, limited to a few treats and your fuel to get to the location, which will be an average of $2. The average price for a 30-minute dog walk in the US is $25.
In your first year or two, you might book five walks per day, six days a week. This would give you $39,000 in annual revenue and a profit of $35,000, assuming a 90% profit margin. As your brand gains recognition, you might do 15 walks per day. At this stage, you’d rent a commercial space and hire staff, reducing your profit margin to around 40%. You’d earn $117,000 in annual revenue and a tidy profit of nearly $47,000. Not bad for spending quality time with dogs!
From there, you could hire more walkers, book more clients, and build your dog walking empire.
What barriers to entry are there?
There are very few barriers to entry for a dog walking business. Your biggest challenges will be:
Standing out from the competition. The market is saturated with dog walkers, so you will need to differentiate yourself.
You will spend time and money marketing yourself before you start to make money.
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 is involved in starting a dog walking business, you need to hone your idea further in order to be able to enter a new market with tough competition.
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 walkers 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 walker who offers extended hours, from early in the morning to late in the evening.
You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as offering additional services, like training or grooming.
This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.
What? Determine your products or services
Beyond just dog walking, you could offer a variety of other services including pet sitting, dog park visits, bathing and grooming, training, pet supply pick-up, and more.
Make a list of what you can offer to your customers and consider if any of those things can allow you to offer upgraded service packages for more money, or just charge individually for each service.
How much should you charge for dog walking services?
When you are just starting out, you may have to charge a lower-than-average price until you have a track record. You might want to start at $20 per 30-minute walk and build a reputation before increasing your rate.
Research other dog walking services in your area to determine what prices are in your local market. 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. Those people visit pet stores, so you could place brochures and business cards in pet stores near you. Veterinary offices are another opportunity. You could also search Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok for people with dogs.
Where? Choose your business premises
In the early stages of your business development, you can operate your business from home to help you keep your overhead expenses in check. However, as your business grows and operations intensify, you may hire workers and rent out an office.
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 walking” or “dog walker”, boosts SEO
Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Happy Paws Dog Walking” over “Senior Pup Walks”
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 set 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 brief overview highlighting the key aspects and objectives of the dog walking business.
Business Overview: An in-depth look at the dog walking business, outlining its mission, vision, and overall purpose.
Product and Services: Description of the specific dog walking services offered, including details on duration, frequency, and any additional perks.
Market Analysis: Examination of the target market for dog walking services, identifying trends, demographics, and potential demand.
Competitive Analysis: Evaluation of other dog walking businesses in the area, highlighting strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Sales and Marketing: Strategies for promoting and selling dog walking services, encompassing advertising, pricing, and customer acquisition.
Management Team: Introduction to the key individuals responsible for managing and operating the dog walking business.
Operations Plan: Details on the day-to-day activities involved in running the business, from scheduling walks to handling emergencies.
Financial Plan: Projections of the financial aspects, including startup costs, revenue forecasts, and potential profitability.
Appendix: Supplementary materials such as additional data, charts, or documents supporting the dog walking 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 are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to dog walking.
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 walking 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 needs 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 are 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 options, other than friends and family, for funding a dog walking 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 walking 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 like Scout, TimeToPet, and Easy Busy Pets to manage your schedule, handle billing, provide real-time updates to your client, and communicate with clients through in-app messaging features.
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.
For your dog walking business, the marketing strategy should focus on showcasing your reliability, trustworthiness, and love for dogs. Emphasize the benefits of your services for pet health and well-being, your flexibility in accommodating different schedules, and any unique offerings like group walks or special care for puppies or senior dogs. The goal is to establish your business as a caring, professional, and dependable choice for busy pet owners.
Professional Branding: Your branding should convey friendliness, reliability, and a passion for dogs. This includes your logo, business cards, and any promotional materials, as well as your online presence.
Direct Outreach: Network with local pet stores, veterinarians, and dog groomers to introduce your services. Leaving brochures or business cards can help you gain referrals.
Digital Presence and Online Marketing
Professional Website and SEO: Develop a website that showcases your services, pricing, and customer testimonials. Optimize your site for local search terms related to dog walking, pet care, and dog services.
Social Media Engagement: Utilize platforms like Instagram and Facebook to post engaging content, including photos from your walks, happy client dogs, and any special outings or events.
Content Marketing and Engagement
Dog Care Blog: Share informative articles about dog health, behavior, and tips for pet owners. Regular blogging can establish you as a knowledgeable resource in pet care.
Customer Testimonials: Highlight positive reviews from clients, showcasing their satisfaction with your services and the joy their dogs experience.
Video Content: Share videos of your dog walks, highlighting fun moments and your interaction with the dogs, which can be very engaging for potential clients.
Experiential and In-Person Engagements
Meet and Greet Events: Organize meet and greet events where potential clients can meet you and see how you interact with dogs. This can also be an opportunity for pet owners to socialize their dogs.
Community Participation: Get involved in local dog-related events, charity walks, and pet expos to increase visibility and network with dog owners.
Collaborations and Community
Partnerships with Local Pet Businesses: Partner with pet-related businesses in your area for mutual referrals. For example, collaborate with a local pet store to offer discounts to mutual customers.
Sponsorship of Local Dog Events: Sponsor or participate in local dog events, like dog sports competitions or adoption fairs, to demonstrate your involvement in the dog community.
Customer Relationship and Loyalty Programs
Loyalty Discounts: Implement a loyalty program that offers discounts or free walks after a certain number of booked services.
Referral Incentives: Encourage clients to refer your business to other dog owners by offering them discounts or free services for every successful referral.
Promotions and Advertising
Local Advertising: Utilize local community boards, pet store bulletin boards, and neighborhood online forums to advertise your services.
Flyers and Brochures: Distribute flyers and brochures in local veterinary clinics, pet stores, and dog parks.
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.
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 walking service 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 walking business could be:
Your loving pup will get the TLC he deserves!
For us, a 30-minute dog walk lasts 45 minutes
Dog grooming, training, walking, and more!
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 pet store, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working with dogs 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 dogs. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. Online businesses might also consider affiliate marketing as a way to build relationships with potential partners and boost business.
Step 12: Build Your Team
You may not need to hire any employees if you are starting out small from a home-based office. However, as your business grows, you may need to recruit full-time employees for various job roles, such as:
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.
More than 56% of pet owners in the US are millennials and Gen Xers. Most of them are now returning to work onsite with the lifting of pandemic restrictions in most states. This presents more opportunities for a dog walking business so you can expect to find clients and build up your brand in no time. It’s important to provide consistently excellent service and get good customer reviews to be able to scale your business and expand your offerings.
Congratulations! You’ve done all your entrepreneurial homework, so now it’s time to nail down your plan and launch your dog walking business.
Dog Walking Business FAQs
How much should I charge to walk a dog?
Prices for a 30-minute dog walk range from $19 to $29. When you are first starting out, you should be at the lower end of the range, since you will lack experience and want to draw interest. Check the prices of other dog walking services in your local area.
Are dog walking businesses profitable?
Dog walking businesses can be very profitable! Profit margins for a dog walking business are high, particularly when you are doing it on your own and have no employees to pay. Your margin could be as high as 90%. But even more important than that is providing a great service!
Do I need a license to start a dog walking business?
You don’t need a federal license to run a dog walking business, but other licenses may be required in your area. Check with your secretary of state’s office and with your local county and municipality to see what licenses are required.
What are the risks of starting a dog walking business?
When starting any business, you are risking the money that you put in if you are not successful. For a dog walking business, other risks include injuries to the dog or to other people, so be sure to have dog walking insurance.
How do I succeed in dog walking business?
To succeed in a dog walking business, gain experience and knowledge about different dog breeds, establish a professional image with branding and an online presence, obtain necessary licenses and insurance, provide exceptional customer service, offer additional services, network and collaborate with other pet-related businesses.
Is dog walking a good side hustle?
Dog walking can be a good side hustle for those with flexibility in their schedules, but it’s important to consider availability, physical fitness, and the ability to handle different dog behaviors.
Is it hard to set up a dog walking business?
Setting up a dog walking business requires research, obtaining necessary permits or licenses, developing a business plan, establishing a professional image, and ensuring appropriate insurance coverage.
What skills do I need for a dog walking business?
Skills needed for a dog walking business include knowledge of dog behavior and basic training techniques, the ability to handle different dogs, good communication and customer service skills, physical fitness and stamina, time management and organizational skills, problem-solving skills, and flexibility.
How to Start a Dog Walking 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
Start Making Money!
Dog Walking Business FAQs
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