How to Get Started with Your Pet Sitting or Dog Walking Business

One of the most popular questions that we are asked is "How do I get started with my new business?"

Starting a pet sitting business is an exciting venture, but it requires careful planning and execution. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the essential steps to launch your pet-sitting business successfully.

Deciding to leave the safety of full-time employment can be daunting and have risks, however, once you have decided that you want to run your own pet-sitting or dog-walking business, the following steps will help you to get up and running. Here is a comprehensive guide to starting a Pet Sitting Business.

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Market Research

The initial step is to investigate whether there is a demand for such services in your specific area. This research can be carried out online by examining what other existing businesses are present in your region. If there aren't many competitors, this could represent an opportunity to enter the dog walking or pet sitting industry in your area. However, if there are already established businesses, it indicates that there is a market for these services, and you could potentially capture a portion of it.

Consider identifying a Unique Selling Point (USP) to differentiate your business from competitors. For instance, offering one-to-one dog walking services, home boarding for specific breeds that you have extensive knowledge about, or adding additional services like drop off and pick up for home boarding or holiday cover like watering plants and taking in post.

It's crucial to understand the demand for pet-sitting services in your area and analyse your competition to identify opportunities to stand out.

What Services Will You Offer

In the pet sitting industry, there is a wide range of services that you can offer to cater to the needs of pet owners. Some of the common services include:

1. Dog Walking: This service involves taking dogs out for walks, providing them with exercise and mental stimulation. Dog walking can be offered on a one-to-one basis or in group walks, depending on your preference.

2. Pop-in Services: These services involve short visits to the client's home to check on their pets, feed them, and provide companionship. This could include cat sitting or dog sitting where you visit the pet at scheduled times during the day.

3. Home Dog Boarding: This service entails hosting pets in your own home overnight while their owners are away on vacation or business trips. It provides a more personalized and home-like environment for the pets compared to traditional kennels.

4. Doggy Day Care: In this service, pet owners drop off their dogs in the morning and pick them up in the late afternoon after a day of supervised play, socialization, and care. It is ideal for pet owners who are busy during the day and want their dogs to have company.

5. House Sitting: House sitting involves staying at the client's house while they are away to take care of their pets, water plants, collect mail, and ensure the security of the property. It offers peace of mind to homeowners knowing that their pets and home are being looked after.

6. Pet Taxi Service: This service involves transporting pets to vet appointments, grooming sessions, or any other destination they need to go when their owners are unable to do so themselves.

When deciding on which services to offer, consider whether you prefer group walks or one-to-one walks. Additionally, think about whether you are comfortable looking after dogs of all sizes or do you prefer smaller or larger breeds based on your experience and comfort level.

By offering a variety of services tailored to different needs and preferences of pet owners, you can attract a wider clientele base and establish yourself as a reliable and versatile pet sitter in the industry.

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Making the switch from employed to self employed

Making the switch from being employed to self-employed can be a significant transition.

"It can be daunting to leave employment and work for yourself, especially if you rely on your income. We recommend that you start advertising your new business before you are available to start taking bookings. This way, you can secure some business for when you are ready to begin and even if you cannot service a particular booking due to scheduling conflicts, it will still provide an opportunity to promote your services to local pet owners.

Learn about the legal requirements for operating a pet sitting business. If you offer home boarding or doggy day-care services, you will need to obtain a license from your local authority. Additionally, you will need pet business insurance. NarpsUK has an affiliation with a trusted insurance partner for added peace of mind."

Deciding on a Business Name

When choosing a business name, you need something unique, and something which reflects what sort of business you run.

You can check whether your proposed business name is already in use by carrying out a Google search, and we also recommend checking with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to ensure that the name has not been trademarked. We always suggest adding your area name to your business name - i.e. Barnsley Dog Walkers, or Pet Sitting Sussex which will help with Google searches.

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Business Planning

Create a solid business plan that outlines your goals, target market, pricing strategy, and marketing tactics, we offer a pet sitting and dog walking business plan with all of our membership packages.

Insurance

Business Insurance is a legal requirement for Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers. NarpsUK has an affiliation with Pet Business Insurance and our Silver and Gold members receive a 25% discount, prices start from £83.00.

Policies can be found on our insurance page.

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Criminal Record Check

A Basic Disclosure Criminal Record Check is required by any pet sitter or dog walker who is holding keys.

This is also a requirement by most insurance companies. A Basic Disclosure check

can be obtained for a cost of £25 from the gov.uk website. The links to this are also provided in your NarpsUK account area.

Licensing

Licences are required by your local authority if you are boarding dogs in your own home or at a commercial premise, whether this is as a part of a daycare facility or overnight.

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) Regulations 2018 provide all of the details of the requirements of the licence, but your local licensing officer can also help you with this. NarpsUK provides all of the template forms and policies that you will need as a part of your licence conditions.

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Forms and Contracts

When starting a business, it is crucial to have the necessary forms and contracts in place to safeguard both your interests as a business owner and the rights of your customers. NarpsUK offers silver and gold memberships that include all the essential forms, service agreements, and contracts required for operating a business effectively.

The service agreements provided by NarpsUK have been meticulously crafted by a Contract Solicitor. These agreements are conveniently formatted in Microsoft Word, allowing for easy customization to incorporate your specific terms and conditions. Additionally, you can personalize these documents with your company logo and other pertinent business details.

Ensuring that you have well-drafted forms and contracts is essential for establishing clear expectations between you as a business owner and your clients. By utilizing the resources offered through NarpsUK's membership packages, you can streamline the process of creating legally sound documentation tailored to your business needs.

Managing Your Bookings

A booking system is essential to ensure you are carrying out tasks efficiently and getting paid on time. The easiest way to do this is by using a pet sitting software system; this doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. Narpsuk software is only £12.00 a month and includes an app for when you are out and about. NarpsUK Gold & Bronze members get free access to our software. We offer a two-week free trial for you to give it a try. You can also choose to look at our software-only package if this is all you need.

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Client Management

Explore the benefits of efficient booking systems and software to streamline your operations and keep track of appointments and payments.

Training

Although qualifications are not legally required for dog walking and pet sitting, consider enhancing your skills with training courses. The licensing conditions for home boarding and doggy daycare stipulate a requirement for an OFQUAL or equivalent qualification. This should be discussed with your licensing officer as this can vary from one borough to another. NarpsUK offers pet sitting training courses which are discounted to its members. These cover a range of subjects from our full comprehensive Pet Sitting & Dog Walking Course to Canine and Feline First Aid to Animal Law.

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Join an Association

NarpsUK is the leading association in the UK for pet sitters and dog walkers. By joining us, you will have support, advice, and guidance whenever you need it regarding all aspects of your business, as well as access to everything that has been discussed in this article. The main benefit of joining an association is that it will give your business credibility by showing your potential customers that you are doing things right.

Advertising

Most of the clients you get will more than likely be via your online presence, platforms like Google, Social Media, Yell.com, where you can get free listings. You want to ensure that when a pet owner in your area types in "dog walker and your town name" that you show up. Free listings work best when linked to a website. NarpsUK provides a whole range of information sheets to its members about branding, marketing, and advertising to establish a strong online presence as part of our NarpsUK memberships. If you don't plan to have a website built just yet, don't worry. With our membership, you get your own 7-page profile on our website with a unique URL which can be used as a mini-website. You can use this on free listings to take prospective clients directly to your 7-page profile that is also used on our 'postcode search facility' to attract new customers too.

Establish a strong online presence through Google, social media, and other platforms. Leverage our information sheets to improve your branding, marketing, and advertising efforts.


Download printable version

Further information on the NarpsUK membership packages can be found on our website:

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We also offer a free course called Introduction to Pet Sitting and Dog Walking