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How To Start A Dog Walking Business

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To do dog walking as a business you must be a lover of dogs. You may be wondering who would pay for their dog or dogs to be walked. There are various reasons which range from someone being ill or injured but can’t walk long distances. Also people who are at work most of day will need to have their dog taken for a walk and there are older people who just have dogs as companions but can’t take their dogs for long walks. A friend of mine started doing dog walking part-time and she now does it full-time. She is a lover of dogs and is now basically getting paid for what she loves doing anyway. There is nothing to stop you from doing the same thing as well if you enjoy being surrounded by dogs. You’ll find a few suggestions below on starting your dog walking business.
What you'll need: 
A passion for dogs
1: 
Decide size of dog walking business. When starting out your dog walking business it’s best to think about how big or small you want your business to be. Do you want to do it part-time for a few hours a day over 3 days a week, for example? You could do it full-time from morning till early evening for 5 days week as another option and consider if you can work weekends. Also consider how many dogs you can handle walking at any one time. Do you just want to walk one dog at a time or can you handle 4 dogs at one time? But it’s best to start small and then build it up gradually. Just be honest with yourself on how many dogs you can handle and the amount of hours you can dedicate to it each day. Think about if you can handle big dogs or aggressive dogs. Remember the more dogs you can walk means the more money you can earn daily and weekly.
2: 
What you will charge. Since you are a new starter on dog walking, it’s best not to charge clients too much. When your client list grows and you have good references to back you up, you can then think about charging higher prices. It’s also best to charge for your time, for example you could charge £5 for a 30 minute walk or £8 for a 1 hour walk. Do your research and check to see what other dog walkers are charging in your area. You can also charge extra if an owner wants you to keep or feed their dog at your home while they are at work for example. Whatever you charge just make sure it’s a fair price and you deliver a good service for your clients dogs.
3: 
Getting insurance. It’s very important to get insurance for your dog walking business, you don’t want to end up with unexpected vet bills. You will need Public Liability insurance; this will cover you from a dog biting someone or another dog or if a dog runs out in the middle of the road and causes an accident. This is the minimum insurance that you will need to cover yourself. There is also Care Custody and Control cover, this will cover you if the dog gets injured or you accidently lose a dog when it's out with you. There is also Loss of Key cover, which covers you if you lose a client’s keys. The best insurance company that covers all three Insurance covers at the moment is Pet Business Insurance. They offer a total package which can be paid in monthly instalments. It’s best to cover yourself with all three covers if you can, it will definitely give you peace of mind. Also, make sure that the dog owners have insurance for the dog’s themselves.
4: 
Create a dog service or contract agreement form. Having a service or contract form will add a degree of professionalism to your business; it will also help to protect your business and your money. The basic things that should be covered in a service or contract form are your name, the name and address of the client that you are offering the service to. It should ask for information of their dog’s details, any special medical needs, details of their vets practice and the dog's likes and dislikes. Questions on whether the dog is vaccinated and wormed. Make sure that dogs you are walking are vaccinated and wormed. This will prevent any worms or disease spreading to other dogs you are walking. Also, make sure that clients sign a veterinary release form. This will allow you to take the dog to a vet to get immediate care if it gets hurt while in your care. You can get free veterinary release forms and service or contract form some sites online. I could go on and on about what you need to cover for this business. What is most important is that you cover yourself; you don’t want to be getting sued for something that wasn’t your fault. It will help if you can also talk to a solicitor who can help you draw out your service or contract form. Remember to always get clients to sign the form and you must sign as well.
5: 
Promote your business. Let people know about your business by handing out business cards to dog owners who you meet outside. You can get free business cards from Vistaprint website, which can save you a lot of money when starting out. Also consider using fridge or car door magnets to promote your business. These are less likely to be thrown away and you can get them from Vistaprint. You can design and print out leaflets to post on the notice boards of your local vet practice, library or newsagents, kennel club and pet grooming shops. Some local Tesco stores have a notice board to advertise on as well. Wherever you plan to put your ad, just ask first to get permission. Sometimes you may only have to pay a very small fee to post your ad on a notice board. You can join your local dog walking agencies online to get regular work while you build your client base. You will be paid less but it will get you started to begin with. Think about having a website which can have all the information about your dog walking service and clients can look at the information at their leisure. You can use a free websites or use sites like Go Daddy who are reasonably priced and user-friendly. Your websites doesn’t have to be flashy, just a simple and informative site will do. Ask friends and family if they can refer any potential clients your way.
6: 
Offer additional services. You can offer additional services which can make your service more attractive and value for money. For example you can offer dog grooming, sitting or feeding and dog bathing. If you are qualified you can also offer dog training, whispering or listening. You can learn some dog courses in your spare time which can add some valuable skills to your business.
7: 
Supplies you may need. When doing your dog walking you will need supplies like pooper scooper and poo bags. While the client’s dogs are under your care, it’s your responsibility to pick up any faeces that the dogs might produce. It’s also a good idea to invest in a multiple dog leash which will allow you to attach more than 2 dogs to a lead. This will also end the problems of tangled leads. Also a dog first aid kit can come in handy for minor injuries. All these items can be bought at some pet stores or online sites and you can carry them in a dog walking bag. Remember to dress appropriately for all weathers. You may have to walk a dog in the rain or snow.
Conclusion: 
Turning dog walking into a business can be a very rewarding career. You will be helping full-time workers, ill or disabled people who may not be able to walk their dog. Keep in mind if you walk more than 4 dogs at one time in certain parts of the UK, you may be required to apply for a multiple dog license. Always check with your local council if you need a licence for walking multiple dogs. Wandsworth is one area for example which this license is required to walk more than one dog. The license is free of charge and you will be asked a few questions on your business. Also remember if you employ staff later on, you will need Employers liability which you can get from Pet Business Insurance. This will cover the staff against any liability claims.
Tips: 
You can also ask your new clients for referrals and you can offer them a free walk for every referral that pays you.
Get a CRB check done, doing this will give clients confidence in you in regards to looking after their dog.
Put a small advert in your local or community newspapers and test the response back.
Taking an animal first aid course will instil confidence from your clients and it will prepare you in case there are any emergencies for any dogs in your care.
Ask your friends and family who have dogs if you can walk their dog for free in exchange for a reference.

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