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Published 10 June 2024
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How to Start a Dog Walking Business

With low start up costs, no qualifications required and the chance to work outdoors with four-legged friends, a dog walking business can be a very fulfilling way to make money. Read our full guide to learn about the licences, insurance and financial arrangements you might need to get started.

Getting paid to wander around the park with some four-legged friends is a dream job for any dog lover, but it’s also a practical and low-cost business idea if you approach it in the right way.   

The United Kingdom is passionate about pooches, with more than a third of households owning at least one canine according to 2024 research from consulting firm Kantar. That’s a lot of potential customers and a lot of dogs who are going to need walking. If you want to play your part, read on to find out everything you need to know before starting a dog walking business.

Why start a dog walking business?

  • Working with animals: If you’re a dog lover, spending your working day caring for a selection of four-legged friends could be a dream job.
  • Physical and fun: With your working hours packed with walking and play, dog walking is a great way to stay fit and enjoy spending time outdoors. 
  • Be your own boss: Starting your own dog walking business means you can choose when, where and how you work. 
  • Low costs: Dog walking businesses are unlikely to be expensive to start.
  • No qualifications needed: There are no required qualifications for starting up a dog walking business, making it an accessible option for anyone looking for a new way to work for themselves.

Start a dog walking business in 5 steps

Research and choose your market

Before starting any new business, taking the time to do some market research is key. The goal of market research is to learn about your competitors and what your potential customers want. 

To find out this information, you can conduct online research, talk to customers and see what other dog walking businesses in your area offer. When looking at competitors, think about how much they charge, what areas they cover and whether they offer any additional services.

In the course of your research, remember to also consider:

  1. Is there demand for my product or service?
  2. Who is my target market?

Armed with the answers to these questions, you can start to construct your business. In doing so, remember to think about factors such as the following:

  • Your patch: What area are you offering dog walking services in? Remember that a bigger area will include more potential customers but could result in spreading yourself too thin. 
  • Additional services: Can you make your business stand out by offering more than the competition? Dog-sitting, dog training, trips to the vets and even helping overweight pets to shift a few pounds are all possible extras you might consider offering.  

Create a budget for your dog walking business

The best way to understand how viable your business ideas are is to create a business plan and budget. In addition, a business plan is normally required as part of a business loan application.

You can find out more by reading our guide on how to write a business plan.

A dog walking business has the potential to be a low-cost business, but there are still a variety of factors to consider when drawing up a budget. These might include:

  • Equipment: Every dog walker will need leashes, toys, portable feeding bowls and a backpack to carry their equipment. More in-depth businesses might require specialised equipment like beds and training aids. 
  • Supplies: Dog walkers will need to regularly replenish supplies including treats, food and dog waste bags.
  • Transport: If you are simply walking to nearby pet owners and strolling to a park with their dogs, this might not be a relevant cost. However, if you want to cover a wide area or take a big group of dogs out for country walks, you might need to use a large car or van. Remember to include the cost of petrol, insurance and vehicle maintenance into your budget.
  • Premises: This is most likely to apply as a cost if you plan to provide day care, boarding, grooming or training services.
  • Licences: Some areas of the UK require commercial dog walkers to obtain licences, while anyone looking to provide animal boarding services needs to apply for a licence through their local authority. 
  • Insurance: Taking out insurance policies can protect you against major charges down the line, but you need to factor their cost into your budget. You can find out more about what insurance dog walkers need further on in this article.

For more in-depth information, read our five-step guide to creating a small business budget.

Register your dog walking business

One of the first official steps you will take when starting up is choosing a business structure and then registering your business. You should take your time and research which business structure will best suit your needs:

  • Sole trader: A sole trader is the exclusive owner of a business and can keep all post-tax profits. It also means there is no separation between you and your business – making you personally responsible for any losses your business encounters. You will need to register for self-assessment
  • Partnership: A business partnership is when two or more people, labelled as partners, share the responsibilities, risks, profits and losses of a business. The three main types of partnerships are business partnerships, limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships.
  • Limited company: If you choose to incorporate as a limited company, you will be legally and financially distinct from your business. As a limited company, you will have shares and shareholders and can keep any post-tax profits. Register as a limited company at Gov.uk.

» MORE: Should I register as a sole trader or limited company?

Do you need a licence to start a dog walking business?

While there are no UK-wide requirements for commercial dog walkers to be licenced, some local authorities have rules and regulations. These might apply to a specific council area or use of certain public parks. The cost of any required licence may vary depending on the number of dogs you intend to walk at one time, but could amount to as much as £400.

Make sure to check with your local council to see if there are any requirements in your area. 

Additionally, if you are planning to offer additional pet-sitting services at your home or another place of business, you will need to obtain an animal boarding licence. In England, you can apply for a licence valid for up to three years through your local council following an inspection to ensure animals will be well cared for. Similar licences in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland require renewal every year.

Fund your dog walking business

Dog walking might be a low-cost business idea but, depending on your plans, you may still need some funding in order to start. With a budget and business plan in hand, you will be ready to work out how to fund your new business. Below is a list of funding sources which you can rely on or combine in order to ensure you have the money you need to start your dog walking business.

  • Personal savings: Using your own money to start a business can help you to stay in control, as you will retain full ownership. However, be careful not to sink too much of your own cash into it; be careful not to endanger your financial health.
  • Friends and family: Friends and family may be willing to lend you the money to start your business. However, this can lead to future disagreements with your loved ones, so make sure to consider it carefully and ensure all parties understand the terms of the deal beforehand. 
  • Small business grants: Your business might be eligible for one of the many non-repayable and partially repayable start up business grants across the UK. There are also some specific grants for businesses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Government business loans: Different government business loans may be available to your organisation depending on where you are in the UK.
  • Business loans: Getting a business loan from a lender can secure the funds you need, but it could be challenging if you have poor credit.
  • Angel investors: Some businesses receive funding from so-called angel investors. These are generally wealthy individuals who invest in exchange for equity or convertible debt.
  • Crowdfunding: Appealing to many individuals for small investments or donations is a route some new businesses go down. This is called crowdfunding, and often takes place through an online campaign. 

» MORE: Top 6 crowdfunding sites in the UK

Of course, this funding will need to go somewhere once you receive it. This is where a business bank account can come in handy. Most types of businesses will need a business bank account to operate, though sole traders can choose to use a personal account if they so wish. However, it can still be helpful to keep business and personal funds and transactions separate, so many sole traders will still opt to open a business account.

» COMPARE: Best business bank accounts

Find your first customers

With all of these steps complete, it’s finally time to attract some customers. Here are a few ways to fill your dog walking schedule with new clients:

  • Word of mouth: Tell your friends, family and neighbours about your dog walking business and urge them to recommend your services to any dog owners they know. 
  • Business cards and flyers: Making some simple business cards and flyers and posting them through local letterboxes can land you some new customers. Also consider pinning them to local noticeboards.
  • Get online: Register with websites like Bark, Rover and Pawshake. These platforms match customers and dog walkers in a local area and can be key in building up a customer base.
  • Ask for reviews: If people are pleased with how you care for their dogs, request that they leave you a positive review on any site they used to match with you, or on Google Reviews.
  • Social media: You can use a Facebook page to build an online presence and interact with customers directly. Meanwhile, some professional dog walkers have had success in using platforms like TikTok, Instagram or YouTube to attract thousands of views and followers. Attempting this will require a lot of effort, but if your videos are well produced and interesting, it could lead to more customers.

How much do dog walking businesses charge?

Dog walkers tend to charge between £10 and £20 to walk a dog for an hour. However, there are several factors that can affect price. For example, walkers might charge less if they are walking multiple dogs at once, while they could charge more for walks scheduled over weekends or longer walks.

Safety advice for dog walkers

Keeping dogs and members of the public safe should be a top priority for dog walkers. One thing that makes dogs so lovable is their individual personalities and it’s best to know something about the dogs you walk before you strap on their lead and take them to the park. It might be wise to request some information from the owner, such as:

  • if the dog gets scared or jumpy around people, vehicles or other dogs
  • whether the dog has a history of aggression
  • how much exercise or attention the dog needs
  • any medical needs or allergies the dog has

Obtaining this information will not only help with safety but will also demonstrate to customers how much you care about treating their pup properly.

In the interest of keeping the pooches in your care safe and under control, the RSPCA recommends that a maximum of four dogs can be walked at any one time. In addition, dog walkers should make sure not to venture out with more dogs than are covered by their insurance policy. 

It’s also important to think about each dog’s temperament before conducting a group walk. Pairing a nervous Whippet with a boisterous German Shepherd could be a recipe for disaster.

What insurance do dog walkers need?

There are several key types of insurance for dog walkers to consider. 

First is public liability insurance, which will cover you if a member of the public is hurt as a result of your business. As loveable as dogs are, they can be unpredictable and have the capacity to hurt people either by attacking or simply colliding with them. That’s why public liability is so important for dog walkers.

You might also want to protect yourself against any medical costs and loss of income you might incur due to workplace injuries, in which case a personal accident cover policy could be a good idea.

An accidents and injuries policy can protect you against any harm that comes to the dogs your business is looking after while they are in your care. 

You should also remember that employing another person will make it a legal requirement to take out employer’s liability insurance

Image source: Getty Images

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