How to Start a Profitable Local Dog Walking Business

Last year I joined and gym, and for the first 30 days it was hell on earth dragging my butt out of bed to stand on a treadmill three times a week, but I eventually got into a routine and now I even enjoy it. Well, kind of.

Starting anything new is difficult, but when you are a first time business owner you really can’t afford to make mistakes, especially if you don’t want to be eating beans from a tin for the next year while your business builds.

So, how can you successfully start a dog walking business that is sustainable, profitable and enjoyable?

Good question, settle in and I’ll share the step by step process you need to follow.

Starting a dog walking business is actually very similar way to how to launch any other kind of business. You first look at the market and decide if there is any demand for the service you want to offer. Then, you look at what the competition are currently offering, and you find a way to differentiate your offering from theirs, so you stand out like a dog fart in a lift.  A sweet smelling dog fart, obviously…

With my son Alex in the family business

Start with the market.

This sounds like an obvious business strategy, but you’d be surprised how many people start a business simply because they have a passion for ‘the thing’ they do, but they fail to research if anyone in their town is actually interested in buying their services.

So, lets deal with a business basic you cannot avoid. Simply offering a great service and being passionate about dogs will not guarantee you success.

In fact, passion on its own is worth about the same as a bucket of spit.

This why you see loads of new pubs, café’s, knitting shops, wedding dress makers, and all kinds of pet businesses opening up in your town, only to close down again within six months.

Without a viable market you will struggle to turn your passion into profits.

Is there a demand for dogs services?

You are lucky because pet industry is a little different. If you live in the western world there will be a huge percentage of the population in your town who own a dog. Up to 40%. This means there will be a massive demand for almost any dog related services.

However, this also means there will also be lots of other people offering the same kind of service you are thinking about offering.

I’m talking about, *que dramatic music*, dun, dun duuuuuun!

The competition.

You can rest assured, no matter what pet business you are starting, there will be LOTS of other pet businesses in your town already competing for the clients you want. And if you are lucky enough to live somewhere that hasn’t been saturated yet, then don’t get too cocky because as soon as they see you making money with your pet sevice, someone will try to copy you.

This is simply how business works.

Coca cola has Pepsi challenging them for fridge space.

Macdonalds has Burger King trying to take a bite out of their market share.

Even the mighty Amazon fears the competition.

So, how do you create a pet business that is different and better than anything anyone else can offer either now, or in the future?

You do that by following the seven golden rules I will share with you in this book. But, before we dive into those, let me tell you how my business journey began and how I dealt with the competition.

My early mutt crew

Dom’s dog walking story…

When I started my business 8 years ago there was a lot less dog walkers around than there are today, but there was still some competition. 

This was my first business. I did bring some marketing experience from my previous sales job, so I knew I needed to have some kind of U.S.P (unique selling proposition) which made my new business stand out.

Your U.S.P is the thing that differentiates you from the competition. This is a key factor that will determine how successful your business is in the future.

I looked at the competition and wasn’t too impressed with what I saw. Everyone was offering 30 minute, or one hour ‘walks’. I looked at the market and saw that people were moving away from getting a traditional ‘heinze 57 mongrel’ and instead buying or adopting pedigree dogs, especially high-energy working and gun dogs.

What I did might sound really obvious now, but you’d be surprised how many people start a pet business and simply look at what the competition are doing then copy their services almost exactly. They clone their competitors’ prices and services, then they struggle to figure out why their business doesn’t stand out.

The answer is to look for a gap in the market that your specialised service can fill. I’m talking about having a ‘niche’ offering which instantly makes you look like a specialist, instead of a generalist.

As part of my research into the market I noticed a lot of people owned working and pedigree dogs these days, but because they worked or just didn’t have time, they weren’t able to give their ‘high energy’ dogs the exercise and stimulation they needed.

I had immediately a target breed for my services – Working and hunting dogs.

My working and gundog crew

Action point – Take some time to research what your local dog population looks like in your town. These are the people who will be your customers and clients. Are there already lots of dog walkers, trainers, groomers or daycares in your town? Then you will need to think very carefully about how you are going to make your service ‘stand out’ from the more established businesses. The more creative you are the easier it will be to get your message out there.

Here’s a few examples; Are you located slap bang in the middle of a city centre where there are lots of frustrated and yappy Chihuahuas and pugs?  Then maybe it’s worth niching as a small dog specialist whose service turns handbag yappers into backpack aventure hounds.  

Are you a dog trainer in a city centre who sees lots of off leash and out of control working breeds? You could position yourself as the dog employment officer who mission is to give a job and a purpose to all the bored and destructive ‘dogs on the dole’.

Generally, the bigger the city you live in the more crucial it is that you niche down and carve a slice of the market which you can claim as your own.

How to make your business different to the competition

Next up I looked at what dog walkers were offering in my town, across the U.K and U.S.A, and I came up with a new service which hadn’t been offered in my town. Everyone else was offering a standard 30 minute or 60 minute walks at the time so I chose to offer an enhanced exercise service with a 1.5 hour ‘dog adventure’.

I started by offering dog running services but they didn’t catch on. I think if I’d been based in LA then it might have been more popular, but the people of Sunderland weren’t ready for that, yet… This turned out to be a blessing in disguise though as I quickly switched away from running, and ‘adventures’ became my specialised service.

So, Pack Leader Dog Adventures was born. I had a stand out service which was different to anything else my competitors offered, and my marketing message was perfectly matched to the market I was targeting.

Target market – Wealthier pedigree dog owners who loved their dogs dearly but because of work, business or other commitments were unable to give the dogs the exercise and stimulation they needed.

Follow the formula of researching the market and come up with a niched offering that makes you stand out from the established competition is a the first step to starting a profitable, local dog walking business.

If you want to discover how to successfully market your pet businesses so you can make more money with less stress and fewer headaches, then there are a number of ways I can help you…

Next you can grab a FREE copy of the ‘Ultimate Pet Business Plan’ Audiobook from me by clicking here.

In 2011 Dom Hodgson revolutionised the pet service industry with his first business Pack Leader Dog Adventures, the UK’s first, award winning ‘dog adventure’ company. Now a respected dog trainer, author, speaker and mentor to pet business owners, Dom’s calling is to help dog walkers, trainers and groomers to excel with their marketing, so they can help change the lives of more dog owners with their amazing skills.

Take that leap today. You won’t regret it.