A dog walking business can be a great business to start.
What I like about this business is that it’s virtually impossible to lose money and it’s really simple to market.
- Potential Annual Revenue: £33-37,000
- Startup Cost: £300-£3,000
- Time To Revenue: 2-3+ months
- Annual Market Growth Rate: 7.4%
- Best for: Self-motivated, independent, and outdoorsy entrepreneurs
It doesn’t need to cost a great deal of money to set up and using the marketing hacks below you can grow your business quickly and easily.
It’s a scalable business too, which means it’s possible to reinvest and expand over time into other related areas of animal care that are more costly/complex to set up, perhaps because they require premises (such as a kennels).
5 Great Reasons to Start a Dog Walking Business!
- Low startup cost.
- Easy to start.
- Very profitable.
- Scale/cross sell into other businesses.
- Very difficult to lose money.
4 Common Challenges when Starting a Dog Walking Business
- Revenue can be “patchy” at the start, especially without nailing your marketing.
- Requires persistence and dedication to make successful.
- Without a growth strategy turnover may not reach a level where utilising a limited company is economically viable.
- Tricky to fit in with other commitments if you’re looking for a profitable side hack.
How big is the dog walking marketplace?
According to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA), as of 2021 there were approximately 9.9 million dogs kept as pets in the United Kingdom.
We just love our dogs and they all need walking!
Obviously the amount of exercise each dog needs differs depending on the age, breed and even the personality of the dog itself. But clearly there is a huge potentially addressable marketplace.
With estimates that 1 in 40 dog owners regularly use a dog walking service that’s over 1.75 million dog walks every week!
Who is the target customer for a dog walking business?
The target market is for people who are unable to walk their own dog (perhaps due to ill health/injury), or maybe they don’t have the time (busy with their career/own business) or perhaps they just don’t want to walk the dog themselves.
How much can you charge for dog walking?
How much you can charge varies widely depending on your location. However, fees have been increasing sharply over the last few years.
An inner London 45-60 minute dog walk can be charged anywhere between £14-25.
Outside London rates drop but might typically be in the £9 – 16 region.
How much can you make from a full time dog walking business?
As a solopreneur, without taking on employees or scaling the business into other related business activities, there is a ceiling on earnings due to the number of hours you can work. However it is possible to earn £33-37,000 per annum.
At this level of turnover you can start to think about using a limited company so that you can minimise your tax liabilities and plan your future wealth.
The real beauty of this business of course is the cross selling opportunities once you have built a customer base. The quicker you can build your customer base, the faster you will be able to scale up to offer related services.
Other related areas of dog care you can expand and scale your services to include dog grooming (either mobile or from a fixed location), pet sitting, dog training and setting up dog kennels.
If you go down the scaling route, the sky really is the limit but it would certainly be achievable to grow your turnover rapidly to the £100,000 – £150,000+ required to maximise your wealth generation potential.
The easy way to Set Up a Dog Walking Business.
So do you think this sounds like the business for you?
Here’s how I’d make sure to hit the ground running.
Choice of business structure
I’d also strongly consider a hybrid startup structure where you can reap the benefits of both structures with minimal cost and risk.
This could enable you to start trading with the simplicity of a sole trader but also have secured the limited company for marketing hacks and saving tax later if you decide to incorporate your business.
If you are unsure what to do at this point I recommend seeking professional advice from an accountant or reach out to my team.
How to market a dog walking business.
This is a business that I would definitely want to fast-track from the beginning for growth. You want to get busy as quickly as possible and there is only one real way to achieve this.
Most buyers/potential clients for this service are going to find a dog walker for their pooch using a Google search. Sure some will use an app, some might ask for a recommendation on social media but MOST will look on Google.
Google knows that when someone is looking for a dog walking service, they want to see results close to where they are located.
This usually means that Google will show a maps listing at the top of the search results like the image below.
If your business shows up here then you are right at the top of the search results, under the nose of people who want to find a dog walker.
For any type of business/search term where Google shows a maps listing like this , I describe these businesses as having “high local marketability”.
High local marketability means if you know what you are doing and tick the right boxes with Google you can get a lot of business enquiries very easily.
So if potential customers can’t find you on Google, they won’t be calling you. And guess what? That means someone else is picking up that client and you’re missing out!
So how do you dominate Google search results for this business?
You have to optimise for the Google maps listing.
How do you do that? Follow these 10 simple steps.
10 great steps to marketing a dog walking business:
- Get a website. Make sure it complies with Google’s best practice guidelines.
- Get your new website in Google so clients find YOU.
- Provide LOCAL PROOF. Use a local phone number to tell clients and Google you are definitely a local business.
- Provide SOCIAL PROOF. Show reviews from real customers on your site. This is called “social proof”and turns browsers into buyers!
- Use LANDING PAGES. A landing page is optimised for a specific search term making it rank higher than your competitors. Landing pages are for people who want to buy your service now. They show the client what they want to see
- Provide great CTA’s (CTA =call to action). Make it super easy on your website for clients to get in touch with you by including features such as a messaging/chat app and CTA’s that show clients exactly how to contact you.
- Share FEEDBACK. Go the extra mile to provide an outstanding service and you are sure to collect plenty of positive feedback from clients. Ensure you harness this by collecting reviews from every new customer.
- AUTOMATE – You won’t have time to be manually updating your website. Make sure you automatically show the new reviews on your website, driving more clients to your business.
- PROMOTE – Regular updates to your website and using Google tools will give your website an extra edge.
- MAINTAIN – From time to time websites need technical maintenance to the software they run on to keep peak performance.
Most businesses in this sector DO NOT invest enough time and money to execute this simple marketing strategy providing you with the opportunity to step in and DOMINATE in the local search engine results.
This is great as it gives your potential customers a “one click method” to message you straight from your websites – you get the messages on your usual messenger account, this is probably something that your competitors won’t have and we’ve had clients getting great success using this tactic.
Make it easy for your potential clients to get in touch with you.
Other great marketing tactics
Use wearable advertising.
Running a dog walking business will mean you are outside a lot of the time, often where there are other people exercising their pets.
Dog owners are a really social bunch and will often stop to socialise. This is a perfect opportunity for some wearable advertising.
A t shirt or sweatshirt with “Dog walker – Ask me!” written on it is guaranteed to see other people doing just that. Free referral business!
Register with dog walking apps
Other methods for getting started include registration with one of the number of dog walking apps. These apps allow dog owners to search for walkers in their area and some include the benefit of providing a way for the owner to track their pooch as it is being walked. The dog walker can even upload snaps of the dog walk, both as proof the service is being provided and reassurance to the dog owner that all is well with their beloved pet whilst they are in your care.
Dog walking apps we’ve seen include:
Gowalkies – Walkers keep 100% of their earnings. Has dog tracking feature, photo updates, 24hr online support, all bookings are insured (GoWalkies is available anywhere in the UK, and is the premier dog walking app for owners who want to track their dog’s walks in real time using our GPS technology.)
Rover – Founded in 2011, the Rover app and website connect dog and cat parents with loving pet sitters and dog walkers in neighbourhoods across the US, Canada, the UK and Europe. Largest network.
Pawshake.co.uk – More a dog sitting service, although sitters do offer dog walking services.
Petbacker.com – International company, can send photos videos, route tracking etc. PetBacker does not charge any upfront or ongoing fees – only a set percentage from the amount quoted will be charged after you win and complete the request.
Mypetwalker.co.uk – £15/month (1 person) More finance and business orientated app Management software was built to help pet service providers removing the need for you to carry out time wasting and repetitive tasks such as bookings, invoicing and chasing payments.
uk.holidog.com Pet sitters and dog walking. Walkers keep 100% of earnings. (Their customers pay a monthly fee)
There are other formalities that you will need to complete before you can start trading.
Start by formulating a business plan. This will help to focus on delivering a clear message to your potential customers.
There are different types of business plan. But you can use my 1 page business plan here. It’s designed to cut the waffle but has enough detail to make it a meaningful tool so that you remain laser focused on what needs to be done when you set up this business.
Open a bank account
You need a separate business bank account for your business whether it’s a sole trader or limited company.
You need to pick a bank which integrate well with your accounts package. [Take a look at my business banking guide.]
One of the startup costs that you can’t avoid is insurance.
Anyone trusting their pet to your care will expect you to demonstrate that you have comprehensive business insurance cover.
Luckily there are plenty of providers for specialised dog walking insurance so premiums are competitively priced if you shop around.
What are some of the risks you are protecting yourself against?
Petbusinessinsurance.co.uk are specialists in this sector and claims they’ve seen include the following:
- Dog in collision with a car £9128.36
- Dog bitten by snake £76.89
- Dog Bit a Cyclist £6212.18
- Dog cut ear in woods £342.59
- Shut dogs tail in car door £778.55
- Dog cut on barbed wire £446.74
- Lost dog £2,052.00
An easy, low cost and highly profitable business with potential to scale rapidly.
Consider a hybrid business structure (take advice) – Talk to my team about this on 0800 0828 727.
Use a local marketing strategy to dominate online