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A Guide to Starting a Dog Walking Business in 2024

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A Guide to Starting a Dog Walking Business in 2024
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Wanting a career where ruff days are a thing of the past? Starting a dog walking business could be what you’re looking for - walking dogs and getting paid for it sounds like the best of both worlds to us!


There are many benefits to becoming a dog walker: from being in charge of your own workload, to keeping active as you embrace the great outdoors. If you’re passionate about pooches and want a career that is sure to leave you feeling paws-itive, starting a dog walking business could be life changing. But, as with any new venture, there can be risks to consider before you start, which we’ll cover in this guide.


So here it is: our tips and tricks on how to start a dog walking business in the UK, so you can feel fully prepared for your next adventure.


Is dog walking really for you?


Between July 2020 and June 2021, over 79,000 people in the UK were employed as dog walkers, and it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular profession. If you’re a natural with pups of all shapes and sizes, and love spending time outdoors, starting a dog walking business may tick all your boxes. But there is more to dog walking than meets the eye.


While you aren’t legally required to have a licence, qualification or certification to run a dog walking business in the UK, there are certain laws to be aware of, including: 


  • The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005: If you fail to pick up faeces, fail to keep a dog on a lead, fail to put it on a lead when told to do so, or allow a dog to enter land they’re excluded from, you could be fined up to £1,000.

  • The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991: It’s against the law for a dog to be ‘dangerously out of control’ in a public place. Someone could make a complaint against you if your dog chases them, barks at them or jumps up at them, so make sure you know how to keep the dogs in your care under control.

  • The Road Traffic Act 1988: You must keep dogs on a lead at all times on roads. If you’re walking a dog and it gets injured in a car accident, it’s up to the driver to stop and give you their details. 


As mentioned, there are no legal requirements to start a dog walking business, other than the legal requirements you’d expect from any other business. But if you choose to include dog boarding - overnight stays - as part of your service, you’ll need a licence from your local council. While a love of dogs comes top of the list when becoming a professional dog walker, it’s important to factor in all responsibilities, from dog training and house-sitting, to keeping dogs under control when out and about.


What skills and qualifications do you need to start this business?


As mentioned above, there aren’t any qualifications you’re legally required to have to start a dog walking business, but having experience caring for or owning dogs could stand you in good stead. If you're looking to stand out from the crowd and improve your skills, you can take a course or undergo some training. Doing so can help you legitimise your business and build trust with potential clients.


City and Guilds offer several courses in animal care including  the Level 2 Certificate of Technical Competence in Dog Walking. You’ll learn numerous useful skills, including how to handle different breeds and their behaviours, how to control dogs on walks and how to deal with injuries and emergencies. 


What costs are associated with starting a dog walking business?


As a professional dog walker, the cost of renting an office space is unlikely to affect you, however, there are several costs to consider when starting a dog walking business, including:


  • Dog walking insurance: Having the right insurance in place can give both you and the dogs’ owners peace of mind. Look for a policy that includes public liability cover, as well as covering your equipment and any costs should a dog face injury or death, or get lost while under your care.

  • Equipment: While the dog’s owner may supply their own lead and dog waste bags, you may prefer to kit your business out with the best equipment. For instance, you might want to invest in a dog car seat, or different sizes of harness for different breeds. 

  • Website: If you’re looking to establish a professional image and get your business’ name out there, you may choose to set up a website. Be sure to factor in the cost of a domain name and any hosting costs to get your website up and running. The cost of creating your website can range from around £100 to over £10,000 - usually on the lower end for small, new businesses.


Learn more about the costs of starting a business here.


How to start your dog walking business


If you’re feeling ready to make your business dreams a reality, we’ve put together the steps you need to take for starting a dog walking business.


Research your area and find your market niche


If you’re looking to make your mark in the dog walking world, you’ll need to find your market niche. Research what competitors in your area are doing so you can strive to offer something special that sets your new business apart. Perhaps you’ll look to specialise in handling larger dogs, or dogs with behavioural problems. Maybe you’ll host dog walking groups where dog owners can meet and walk their pups together. Try to look for services that those in your area would jump on and appreciate, to boost your chances of success.


Check legal rules and regulations 


Whilst it isn’t necessary to have a dog walking licence in the UK, it’s worth brushing up on your knowledge around dog walking regulations so you’re fully prepared. If you’re looking to incorporate dog boarding into your new business, you’ll need a licence from your local council, for example.


Looking to walk dogs in the beautiful countryside? Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, landowners and farmers may hold the power to shoot dogs that come onto their land, if they feel their livestock is under threat. While it’s unlikely to happen, it’s important to avoid these situations and only walk your clients’ pets in safe and legal areas. Make sure to check the rules of your local area before you start your new, exciting venture.


Legal and medical responsibility for the pets you care for


If you’re looking to include pet sitting as a service, there may be legal and medical responsibilities you’ll need to follow. The welfare of the pet you’re taking care of will be your responsibility, meaning if they become sick or injured you’ll need to make sure you find them the right care or treatment. 


As a professional dog walker or pet sitter, having public liability insurance in place should be a priority. Public liability insurance can give you the peace of mind that if the general public or a client makes a claim against you, you’ll be protected. For example, if you’re walking a dog and they attack an individual or damage their property, you may be liable. Public liability claims can be extremely expensive, so having the right cover in place can protect both your business’ reputation and your bank balance. 


Form your dog walking company


So, you’ve got your business idea and the drive and determination to get you where you want to be. Next, you’ll need to officially form your company so your business is ready to go.


We know it can take significant time and money to make your business come to life. That’s why we made our company formation service completely free. Instead of forming your company directly through Companies House, by forming your company through SUAZ we’ll cover the £50 incorporation fee for you. You’ll also get a helping hand to support you every step of the way. After all, too many businesses fail from a lack of support and knowledge and we want to give you the best possible chance of success.


We offer several company formation packages, from free company formation to our Company Pro package which covers everything from unlimited digital post forwarding to one year of Trilogy Banking to take care of your business’ finances.


Our packages can take some weight off your shoulders, as you’ll know everything is taken care of. 


Decide your offering and pricing


Next, you’ll need to decide how much you’ll charge for your dog walking service. Here are some factors to bear in mind when setting your prices:


  • Your travel costs

  • Equipment costs

  • The amount of profit you need to keep your business running smoothly

  • How much competitors are charging

  • How much your customers are willing to pay - is there a high demand for your service in your area? 

  • Your living costs and outgoings


Make sure not to undersell yourself and your hard work while also not charging too much and putting customers off. Remember you can always raise your prices at a later stage once you’ve built up experience and a good reputation.


Consider what to put in your service agreement


Your service agreement will outline what is expected of you as a dog walker. In simple terms, the service agreement will outline exactly what your clients pay you to do when taking care of their pup. From how far the dog’s walks should be to how often, a service agreement is your chance to ask a client exactly what they expect from your service. Be sure to ask the owner all the important details about the dog. Including its breed, temperament and any medical conditions it may have. It’s also worth confirming the price the client will pay you at this stage too to avoid any confrontation later down the line should a client be billed more than they expected.


Consider how many dogs you can walk


While there isn’t a nationwide limit on the number of dogs you’re able to walk, the RSPCA recommends that no more than four dogs are walked at once. After all, the more pups you have with you, the less control you’re likely to have over them. Imagine crossing a busy road with several large alsatians - not the best idea! Also, the more dogs you have to attend to at once, the less likely you’ll be able to bond with each of them individually. It’s important you get to know the dogs you’re walking so you know how to control them and how they behave in certain situations (such as around children or other dogs). 


It’s also worth figuring out how many dogs you can walk per week so you meet each of your clients’ expectations. Each of your customers deserves top quality service - they’re trusting you to take care of their dog and give it the best care, so don’t take on more work than you can manage.


Invest in the right equipment


As Benjamin Franklin once said ‘the best investment is the tools of one’s own trade’. Investing in the best equipment for the job can help you deliver top quality service and make your job more comfortable and enjoyable. 


We’ve put together a list of just some of the equipment you may want to invest in for your dog walking business:


  • Comfortable shoes - make sure you have waterproof shoes that are suitable for all weather conditions

  • Leads - you may choose to have different lengths/types of lead for different dogs

  • Training equipment - muzzles, treats, a clicker

  • Dog waste bags

  • Portable water bowl and water bottle for those hot days

  • Old towels - perfect to lie on car seats after muddy walks!


Marketing your dog business locally


Your business won’t get the attention it deserves if potential customers don’t know it exists! Advertising your service can be easier and cheaper than you may assume. You could make some flyers that detail your expertise, share your service on Facebook groups and even ask the local cafe to pin your business card to their notice board. You’ll be surprised just how quickly the word will spread.


Ready for your new chapter?


Starting your own business can be a life changing experience. With a bit of self belief you can open the door to a world of new opportunities as you become your own boss.


We’re not going to downplay it - starting your own company is a big deal. With so much to think about, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. That’s where we come in. Our professional company formation service can take care of the complicated stuff so you have one less thing to think about. Apply to form your company today - we’ve given you one less reason to wait.


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