Monday, December 12

Start a Dog Walking Business

Start Your Own Dog
Walking Business Today!

Are you ready to put on your running shoes and be the owner of your own amazing dog walking business?

If so, you are at the right place. We will tell you ALL you need to know to start your own business! Best of all...IT IS ALL FREE!!!! That is right. We want you to have all the available, up to date information to help start you start your own dog walking business. We know how hard it is to find all the information you need. We understand the frustration and neck aches while you are browsing for this information all over the web. Now, you can find it ALL right here for free!

We will be discussing all areas of owning your own dog walking business from how to pick your business name, where to get your business license, where to get dog walking insurance, where to get dog walking business forms and much more. So, stayed tuned and check in regularly to see what we have to say.

Even if you already have your own dog walking business, we will still be providing you with very useful business advice. We will be discussing many aspects of advertising with a focus on free and low-cost advertising. So, this is even for you veterans out there.

Sunday, December 11

Job Description

What Does a Dog Walker Do?

A dog walker basically walks and cares for dogs for a living. You can walk the dog for many different reasons. Let's review the reasons why a client may require your services to help you market your dog walking business.
  • Client just bought a new puppy. Puppies can not hold their bladder for more than 4 hours. The client works longer than that and can not make it home during breaks.
  • Client works long hours (more than 8) and needs someone to let dog out for a potty break.
  • Client works an exhausting job and does not have time nor energy to walk dog.
  • Client has physical disabilities preventing them from being able to take the dog for a walk.
  • Client has a very hyper, destructive dog. A walk will tire them out and distract them from destruction.
  • Client does not want dog confined to a crate entire time they are at work.
  • Dog needs medication during the day.

There are probably many more reasons, but these are the most common.

Most dog walkers simply just take the dog for a walk or let the dog out for a potty break. Dog walkers usually take the dog for a walk around the block. It is usually just a single dog. Some will do pack walking (more than one dog at a time).

A dog walker may administer meds or give shots if qualified.

Your client may also like you to give the dog a fresh dish of water and give it some attention.

A nice upsell for a dog walker is pooper scooper. You can offer to clean up the client's yard for an extra fee. Cleaning up after what the dog does while in your care is part of your job.

These items are the norm for dog walkers.

Next time we will discuss how to pick a name for your business.

Saturday, December 10

Business Name

What Should I Name
My Dog Walking Business?

Your dog walking business name will be the first thing your potential clients will see. They will determine alot from just your name. You want your name to stand out and spell out exactly what you do. You also want your name to sound like a professional business. Think about what steps you take when you are looking through the phone book or the Internet to pick out a plumber or carpenter. What is the first thing you look at: Their Business Name.

So, what should your name entail? One thing you have to consider is will you be offering more than dog walking at some point? If you are do not add "dog walking" to the end of your business name.

Many people will just use their personal names such as "Stacy's Dog Walking". That is a good, personal choice. Even better would be using where you live in your name. Make your name hit close to home. For example, if you live in Florida, you can name your business "Orlando's Best Dog Walking Service". This name will stand out above the rest. Using your town or county is also a great way to start your name. Your clients can relate to those names and will hopefully call you before the others.

If you are going to offer more services in addition to dog walking, try ending your business name with "Pet Care Services" or something like that. This will leave you open to adding on any kind of pet care service and will not limit your business to just dog walking or just dogs.

After you have picked out your name, you want to be sure no one else is using it. Some businesses will federally trademark their name. This is to ensure no one else can legally use their name nationwide. To check the trademark database click
here and then click on search in the right hand column. Now that you have checked the federal database, you need to check your state database. There is a separate database available for each state. To find your state database, go to the Secretary of State site and click on your state. Find the area where you can do a business search. Then just type in the name you are thinking of using. If nothing comes up, that means no one is registered in your state with that name. You may also want to check the newspapers, Internet and the phone book, just in case someone is using it but is not registered with the state. You can not use a name which is in use in your state or nationally. You can't even use a variation of it. So, be sure to check all your resources before putting your business name on paper.

Friday, December 9

Rates and Services

What to Offer and What to Charge?

Now that you have the knowledge about what a dog walker does and you have chosen a business name, it is time to write down exactly what you will offer and what you will charge.

Get out a piece of paper and start writing. What do you want to offer? Do you want to start out with just single dog walking? Will you offer pack walking? Will you offer pooper scooper? Will you offer puppy care? Will you be administering meds? The more diverse you are, the more money you will make and the larger you will grow.

Now that you have written down what you are going to offer, it is time to determine what you will charge.

In my opinion, it is best to charge for your time. Have time slots set up with a rate for each. For example, a 15 minute visit is $15; a 30 minute visit is $18 and so on. This is for as many dogs they have in a single household. I don't think it is wise to charge extra fees for more than 1 dog (such as $1 per additional dog). It turns out being a turnoff for your client when you start to add on more and more fees. If your client has more than 2 dogs, they would end up purchasing a longer time slot since you would not be able to get the job done as quickly.

Many dog walkers will charge a small fee for administering meds. This is fine and recommended. A nice up sell is to add on Pooper Scooping. Cleaning up what the dog does while you are there is included if asked. However, you can offer to clean the remaining yard for another small fee. Basically, what is included in your visit is walking the dog, refreshing the water and cleaning up after the dog. Anything else can be an upsell.

Thursday, December 8

Business License

Do I Need a Business License?

Most people are very confused about this. Dog Walking does not require a "trade" business license, but most states will require you to register your business with the state. To find out what your state licensing agency requires, click here. Just enter your state, zip code or city and choose general licensing. This will take you right to the link to register your business. It is usually fairly easy to find this information online, but if you are having trouble finding it, just find a phone number and give them a call. They will be able to tell you all you need to do to become a legal business entity.

Toronto will soon be requiring all walkers to obtain a permit for dog walking.

In the UK, some areas will require you to hold a license if you walk more than 4 dogs. The license is free of charge. Visit http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/Home/EnvironmentandTransport/Dogs/dogwalking.htm for more information.

When you register for your business license, they will ask you what sort of business entity you will want to register under. There are a few options: Sole Proprietor, Partnership, Limited Liability Company and C or S Corporation.

In the next installment, we will talk about what each of these mean and which is the best for you.

Business Forms for your Dog Walking Business

Wednesday, December 7

Business Structure

What Type of Business Structure
Should You Set Up?


There are 5 different business structures in which you can set up your business as.

These are:
  1. Sole Proprietor (most common)
  2. Partnership
  3. Corporation (Inc. or Ltd.)
  4. S Corporation
  5. Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Let's talk about the Sole Proprietor first: The sole proprietorship is the most common structure to form amongst dog walkers. It is inexpensive to form. It is usually owned by a single person or a married couple. The owner is personally liable for all business debts and may file on their personal income tax.

Next is the Partnership: Partnerships are also inexpensive to form. They usually require an agreement between two or more individuals to jointly own and operate the business. The partners share all aspects of the business (good and bad) in accordance to the agreement. It could be a 50/50 partnership or anything else agreed to in writing. Partnerships do not pay taxes, but must file an informational return. Individual partners would then report their share of profits and losses on their personal return.

Next is a Limited Liability Corporation or LLC: This is very common amongst dog walkers. It is advantageous for small businesses because it reduces the risk of losing all your personal assets should you be faced with a law suit. It separates your business and personal assets. You can also elect to be taxed like a corporation which saves you at tax time.

Next is a C Corporation: This is a complex business structure with more start up costs than many other forms. This is not a very common structure amongst dog walkers since there are shares of stocks involved. Profits are taxed both at the corporate level and again when distributed to shareholders. Lawyers are usually involved at this level.

And Finally is a S Corporation: This is more common than the C Corporation since it avoids double taxation. It is taxed like a Partnership. A business must be approved to be classified as such, so it is not a very common entity amongst dog walkers.

There are also other structures which are specific to certain states. Some of these include Limited Partnership and Limited Liability Partnership. It is a good idea to get advice from your accountant as to which would be more advantageous to your business.

Next we will talk about where to purchase insurance and bonding.

Business Forms for your Dog Walking Business

Tuesday, December 6

Insurance

Dog Walking Insurance


In this section we will discuss the different types of dog walking insurance companies available for your dog walking business.

Insurance is very important for your business. Insurance will cover you from damage you may cause to the home such as knocking over an expensive vase. It will also cover you if you lose grip of the dog's leash and it attacks another dog or person. Most clients will expect you to have insurance to protect themselves and their pet while in your care.

Below is a list of all the insurance companies I could find in select countries. I have provided you with a link to each company website and some pricing information. Please visit each insurance company in your country to compare deductibles, premiums, coverage amounts, etc. to be sure you are receiving the correct coverage for your business.

US insurance carriers:

Canadian Insurance Carriers:

UK Insurance Carriers:
Australian Insurance Carriers:
You can also purchase insurance through local carriers. It is best to compare all carriers and decide which is best for you.

Below is more detailed information on each provider.

United States Pet and Dog Walker Insurance Providers:

In the US, you can find PSA, LLC at http://www.petsitllc.com/. This organization is different because their insurance fee is included in the annual membership fee. The membership dues are a low fee of $174 per year! This is for membership AND Insurance. You can also purchase special property coverage and surety bond for an additional $100 per year! This works similar to bonding (only better) and will cover your business against personal property damage, care, custody and control and theft. Visit http://www.petsitllc.com/ for more information or to fill out and application.

Business Insurers of the Carolinas is contracted with PSI and NAPPS. This means you must be a member of either organization in order to purchase their insurance.

Pet Sitters International (PSI) can be found at http://www.petsit.com/. The cost of their membership starts at $140.

National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) can be found at http://www.petsitters.org/. The cost of their membership starts at $160.

Once you pay for membership to either PSI or NAPPS, you can then purchase insurance. The insurance with this company starts at $470. You can find more information about this company by visiting http://www.petsitterinsurance.com/.

Canadian Pet and Dog Walking Insurance Providers:

Canadian Pet Pro offers insurance for $600 per year. You do not need to belong to any organizations. You can also make monthly payments. You can find Verge at

Horizon Insurance offers dog walking insurance to members of All Canadian Pet Services Network (ACPSN) located at http://www.acpsn.com/. The cost of membership to ACPSN is $70 CDN. Insurance through this company is $575 per year.

Binks offers insurance to Canadian members of PSI. The cost of the insurance starts at $600 plus membership to PSI. You can find Binks at http://www.binks.ca/index.cfml?fuseaction=content.view&id=9

Schofield-Aker Insurance offers insurance coverage to members of the International Association of Canine Professionals. You can find them located at http://www.dogpro.org/. IACP membership dues start at $50 for an associate membership and goes up to $100 for a professional membership. Insurance with this company is $765. You can pay in full or make 2-4 installments per year.

United Kingdom Pet and Dog Walking Insurance Providers:

Pet Secure offers insurance for dog walkers on an individual basis. For more information, visit http://www.petsecure.co.uk/Index.aspx or call 0117 9556835.

Pet Business Insurance provides insurance starting at £109.00 for care, custody and control. You can also add on employee coverage, equipment coverage and more. For more information and a free quote, go to http://www.petbusinessinsurance.co.uk/dog_walker_business_insurance.aspx.

Cliverton insurance can be found at http://www.cliverton.co.uk/pages/dog_walking.php. Their premium starts at £136.50.

National Pet Sitters is located at http://www.dogsit.com/. Insurance is included in the membership fee. For new members, membership is £120 plus a one time registration fee of £370.

Park Insurance can be found at http://www.parkinsurance.co.uk/. Their premium starts at £58.01, this does not include coverage for the pet and is based on a £1,000,000 PL for third parties only. To include coverage for the pet, it is an additional premium starting at £98.00.

Australian Pet and Dog Walking Insurance Carriers:

Barker Meier Insurance Brokers Pty Ltd can be found at http://www.barkermeier.com.au/page/products__services.html#pets. Insurance from this company is also offered for members of Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA) located at http://www.piaa.net.au/index.html. Insurance premiums start at $330 and go up from there depending on where you live.

If you know of an insurance company not listed above, please let us know so that we can update our information. Click here to send an email.

Business Forms for your Dog Walking Business

Monday, December 5

Dog Walking Business Forms

Protect Your Business with a Signed Contract

You have done all the basic necessities to start your business, now it is time to get ready for clients. The first step is to get your paperwork in order. This is essential to your organization.
The essential business forms you will need are:

These are what I would consider the bare necessities, but there are many more that will contribute to making your business much easier and much more organized.

Let's talk about what should be in your service contract first. Firstly, I don't like to call the contract a "contract". I like to call it a service agreement. It is essentially the same thing just with different terminology. Contracts have been given a bad name and therefore scare people off. Service agreement sounds nicer and less binding although it is just as binding. The contract should include the name and address of the home you will be working in as well as your name to show it is an agreement between yourself and the homeowner. This allows you to be in the home. It should then lay out what you will be doing there. You should have all your business policies spelt out and a place for your client to agree to them. Some of your business policies should include liability issues such as damage, aggression, illnesses, accidents, etc. You should also list your cancellation policy, payment policy, etc. There is a lot of thought that should go into a service contract and it should not be taken lightly. The contract is there to protect your business and your pocket.

The next item is your dog information sheet. This sheet will have all the dog's information such as breed, color, microchip number, shot record, birthday, etc. Then it will ask questions about how the client wants you to take care of the dog. This sheet should be pre-filled with all the questions so you will not forget to ask the client any important questions. When I first started my business, I did not have a sheet and just came with pencil and paper. I found upon returning to the office, that I was notorious for forgetting something which would result in me making a phone call. I then made an information sheet to help guide me in these questions. You can even give the information sheet to your client to fill out, but I would recommend you doing it with your client so you are both on the same page. You would then save this form for each future visit.

The next form is the veterinarian release. This is used to allow you to take the dog to the vet without baring the responsibility of the payment. It will list who the dog's normal vet is and gives permission to take to another vet if necessary.

The last essential form is the report card. This is left behind after each visit to document what you did and how the dog did on your visit. The client's like to read about their dog's day.

There are many other forms which will aid you in simplifying your business such as the medication permission slip which will give you permission to administer meds and give med instructions, the telephone reservation form will help in those phone inquiries and the satisfaction survey will help you get some feedback on your services.

All of these forms and more are offered in the dog walking package located on the Home Business Forms website. This package includes 16 dog walking business forms which come personalized with all of your business information for a low price of $39.99!

Once you have done all the above steps, it is time to start getting some clients.

Sunday, December 4

Getting Clients

How do you Market your
Dog Walking Business?

Now that you have your business set up, it is time to get clients. In this installment we will discuss your many options and what options have been proven most valuable.

Some of your marketing options include:

  • Flyers
  • Phone Book
  • Website
  • Online Advertising
  • Newspaper
  • Magazine
  • Car Magnets
  • Veterinarian Referrals
  • Business Card Distribution
  • Valupak
  • Word of Mouth


Flyers: Flyers are a great, cheap way of advertising your business. I don't recommend printing up mass quantities and distributing them door to door. This has been proven to be very uneffective and time-consuming. It is illegal to put them in mailboxes, so you are going to have to walk door to door. People also do not like to have people walking on their property placing advertisements so that may be a turnoff for your potential clients. You can print up a mass quantity and put them on cars in a parking lot, but you have to get a permit for that. Make sure you conduct your business legally to show you are a professional.

The best thing to do with those flyers is to print up a bunch of them and leave them in your car. Anytime you go to a store and notice a bulletin board, place your flyer there. Some of the best places are post offices, pet stores and coffee shops.

Phone Books: Phone books are becoming a thing of the past and are being replaced with the internet. However, phone book advertising still remains very expensive. If you have the expendable income, I would recommend trying it out for a year and see what kind of response you get. If not, I would pass it up. There are so many other ways you can advertise for much cheaper.

Websites: A website will be your BEST advertising tool next to word of mouth. Most of your clients will search for what they need on the internet while they are at work. I definitely recommend a website above anything else. Your website does not have to be fancy, just professional looking and informative. You don't have to spend a fortune on it, you can even make one for free.

If you want to design a website yourself, I recommend using the services of Homestead or GoDaddy. Both of those have very user-friendly applications to help you complete a very nice website easily.

Before you start your website, you need to purchase a domain name. This is your www address. Try to pick one with your business name. For example, if you are Florida's Best Pet Care, see if www.floridasbestpetcare.com or .net is available. If it isn't, find something close to it. To purchase a domain name, I recommend using Go Daddy. They are cheap and easy to use. You can also use them to build your website. If you have started your website and need help finishing it or are stuck on the design, Home Business Forms can also help with that. Click here to email them with your problem.

Online Advertising: Once you have your website ready, you can advertise it online for free at many places. Even if you don't have a website, there are many places online to advertise. Some of those places are Craigslist, MerchantCircle, Backpage, Superpages, Google Maps, Yahoo Local and more. I have created a tutorial on how and where to advertise your website. You can find it at http://www.businessformsstore.com/website_packages.

Newspapers and Magazines: Newspapers are a good option to try out. Some areas do well with newspaper advertising and some do not. The only way you will know is to give it a try. You can advertising in your county paper or you can advertising in the community papers. Magazines are more expensive and do not focus on a certain area in which your service area lies. Magazines may not be a good option to advertise this sort of business.

Car Magnets: Car magnets are a great advertising option. They are a cheap, one time cost, so it doesn't hurt to try it out. You can get a car magnet at VistaPrint.

Veterinarian Referrals: This may be a great option for you. It has proven to be quite effective. Go to your local veterinarians and ask if you can display your business cards or flyer there. Many times, business owners will bring along a nice treat for them to try to win them over such as a basket of muffins or dog treats. A nice suggestion would be to bring a business card holder with a flyer insert to display them in a neat and organized manner. You can buy that at your local office supply store.

Business Card Distribution: Handing out business cards to everyone you see is not very cost effective. I don't recommend this form of advertising. However, always have your cards available should you see an opportunity to hand one out or display it. You can get your business cards at VistaPrint. They have some nice pet related ones and have some great deals such as 250 free cards.

Valupak: Valupak is, in my opinion, not a good option for this sort of business. For one thing, it is distributed to a large area most of which you may not be covering. Second, it is very expensive. If you have the money to try this form of advertising out, give it a try.

Word of Mouth: This will be your best form of advertising. If you have happy customers, they will tell all their friends and family about you. Always be sure to conduct your business and yourself professionally in order to get those referrals. Leave your clients will plenty of business cards so they can hand them out to their friends and family. It is also a great idea to offer a referral bonus such as one free walk for every paid referral. This is a nice incentive to get them to hand out those referrals.

These are the most common types of advertising methods people use for their dog walking business. I recommend trying out what you can to see what works and what does not. In the beginning, you will spend a lot more money until you are busy enough to stop advertising. Once you hit a slow spot and think you need to advertise again, hopefully, by then you will know what worked and will only need to spend money on that.


Business Forms for your Dog Walking Business

Wednesday, March 16

Hiring IC's?

So, you have started your business, done all your advertising and now your phone is ringing so much that you can't keep up with it.


The next question is should I hire?

Then it's "Should I hire an IC (sub contractor) or an employee?

We will use this section to talk about hiring IC's for your dog walking business.

There are many tax advantages to using IC's. You don't have to pay the employers part of federal withholdings, social security and medicare. You don't have to purchase workman's comp. You also save on insurance since your IC's must carry their own insurance.

For these reasons and others, many people choose to go the route of hiring IC's.

Before you go there, make sure you do your research! Many states have very specific rules about the classification of an IC. All states differ with this, so you want to make sure you are following the rules of your state.

IC Restrictions:

IC's run their own business. You can not tell an IC what to do, where, when or how. This is only for employees. You can tell the IC you have a job for them, what it is, where and what times the client wants them there, but that is all. You have no control over an IC and this is one of the major disadvantages.

Many states do not allow you to use an IC for services you offer your clients normally. This will vary from state to state. For example, if you offer dog walking as your primary service, you can not subcontract out dog walking jobs. However, if you have a client ask for pet sitting services, you can subcontract for that.

IC Rules:

An IC carries their own insurance and business license. You can also carry supplemental insurance that will cover IC's just in case their coverage is not enough.

An IC is responsible for reporting their own income. You will provide the IC with a 1099 at the end of the year reporting their income.

An IC is not entitled to any benefits (medical, unemployment, workman's comp.)

An IC should keep your client's information and your business information private. For this, you should have your IC sign a non-solicit agreement.

All IC's should sign an IC agreement. This is to show the IRS you are using an IC and the IC has agreed to the rules of being classified as an IC.

If the IRS feels you have an employee that you are classifying as an IC, they will impose fines on you and you will also be responsible for backtaxes. So, you want to be sure you are doing this properly.

I would highly recommend purchasing the IC toolbox if you are seriously considering using IC's. It is very informative and will tell you all you need to know about using an IC in your dog walking business. This IC Toolbox was created by someone in the pet care industry who uses many IC's. So, it is very specific towards your business!