So you fancy dogs, you’re looking at a career change, and you’re thinking about having a go at boarding dogs or providing doggy day care from home. Brilliant! Instead of guessing at what all is needed to start a dog business, let us be your guide. Home boarding and dog day care have become rather regulated fields in recent years in the UK, so there may be more to do than you think to be considered official and operating lawfully, even if you want a small-scale business. But fear not! We at Dog Business School are a group of dog business professionals who run licensed and established dog businesses in the UK ourselves and help ambitious but unsure-of-where-to-start newbies like you find their way. So let’s dive in! We’ll give you some guidance on how to start a dog business from home in the UK, and the forms and paperwork you’ll need.
Laying the Groundwork
You should have at least some form of a rudimentary business plan for your dog business. Meaning, what services will you offer, what kinds of animals (and customers!) do you want to work with, how much do you want to charge, and how much do you want to work.
And then, what will be your sweet spot of how many jobs you need to take on per week or month to make what you want to be making? Will you be available weekends and holidays? Is dog walking and pet pop-ins something you’d like to offer as a service too, and if so, can you tend to the other pets under your care while doing so?
Establishing Your Online Presence and Attracting Your First Clients
Finding clients by word of mouth or referral only may be doable for a lucky few, but more likely than not, your best shot at business will come via the web. Get some kind of website up and running (it can be basic initially, and fine-tuned as you go along). You can hire a professional web designer, do it yourself on a platform like Squarespace or WordPress, or have our team do it for you!
Having Instagram and Facebook profiles for your business is often helpful, as is a Google My Business profile. Put yourself in online directories, consider placing local adverts, and, just gin up business initially the old-fashioned way—do it for friends and family, and introduce yourself to local dog businesses like veterinarians, pet stores, and even fellow home boarding and pet sitting pros to ask for referrals.
Following recent new regulations in England, all dog boarding and day care businesses must be officially licensed to be recognised as a lawful businesses, and taking an Ofqual regulated dog course is a great way to meet some of the key critieria for your licence. Dog Business School offers a few that will get the job done:
- Canine Care, Behaviour & Welfare Ofqual Level 3 Award covers care of dogs in kennels, day care and boarding environments, plus an intro to canine behaviour, and meets the Animal Activities Licensing Higher Standard requirements
- Canine Care & Welfare is also an option, though that one’s Ofqual Level 2
- Commercial Daycare including Ofqual Level 3 in Canine Care, Behaviour & Welfare meets the Animal Activities Licensing Higher Standard requirements, and also includes an immersion in the Day Care legislation and local authority guidance
- Home Boarding including Ofqual Level 3 in Canine Care, Behaviour & Welfare also meets the Animal Activities Licensing Higher Standard requirements, and includes an immersion in Home Boarding legislation and local authority guidance
Successful completion of any of these courses will provide you with the certification needed to demonstrate sufficient knowledge to obtain your license when your local council comes to perform an inspection and award the license.
And if you’re looking for something that’s not Ofqual regulated, but will provide you with some terribly helpful takeaways for this point in your dog business journey, Dog Business School also offers a course called “Start Your Own Dog Walking And Pet Sitting Business” that covers what you need to set up your business, including:
- Evaluating your business’ potential
- Creating documents
- Insurance requirements
- Understanding relevant legislation
- Researching your market
- How to set your prices
- Naming your business
- Accounting and insurance
- What equipment you’ll need
- Laws that apply to dog walkers
- Practical day to day matters like managing group walks and behaviour, and minimising the spread of disease
The course costs £99, but there’s also the option to pay £125, and have included pretty much all the templates and documentation one could need, including:
- Initial booking enquiry form
- Pet Information form
- Terms and conditions
- Dog meet and greet trial assessment checklist
- Veterinary release form
- End of stay report
- Transport log
The courses are online and self-paced, and can take from 20-130 hours to complete, depending on which you select. You’ll have access to a tutor, and will receive a certificate of achievement, and you’ll be chock full of knowledge and forms to get off on the right foot!
Further Forms and Guidance
Whichever pet care course you choose, if you find yourself still in need of pet forms, paperwork and templates, and your licensing application, Dog Business School’s sister site, dogbusiness.co.uk, has practically any customised template you’d need. Peruse them here.
And do check out Dog Business School Principal Randle Stonier’s very handy book, “How to Start Your ‘Home from Home’ Dog Business: The Kickstarter’s Survival Guide to Doggy Bliss.” It’s available as a paperback or on Kindle.
Finally, please reach out to Dog Business School at any point with questions on your dog business journey. Good luck!