5 hurdles to starting a dog walking business – and what you can do

5 hurdles to starting a dog walking business – and what you can do

by Lindsay Stordahl

Hurdles to starting a dog walking business and how to overcome them

I owned a dog walking business in North Dakota for five years, and I recently started a small dog walking business in California. Having recently moved, I am aware of the challenges new dog walkers face.

The following are a few hurdles you might run into if you’re starting a dog walking business, as well as how to overcome them.

Hurdle #1 – Your town is too small to support a dog walking business

This may be true. Some areas may not have enough potential customers, and you may have to consider walking dogs on only a part-time basis. I’m personally getting my business established in a town of 13,000 people, so I can relate.

If you’re in a rural area, you may face even more difficulty because people there may not even think to hire a “dog walker.” On the other hand, you only need about 20 clients or so to make it work. If your town only has 5,000 people, you should still be able to find 20 who could use a dog walker. You’ll just have to work a lot harder to find them.

What you can do:

  • Accept customers in nearby towns. You can always narrow your service area in the future.
  • Offer more services such as a pet taxi service, dog training, dog boarding in your home, pet sitting at clients’ homes, house sitting for people who travel in the winter, etc.
  • Ask your friends to hang one of your fliers in their breakrooms at work and to hand out your business cards to their co-workers. Schools and hospitals are great places for fliers.
  • Consider expanding your services to rural areas, but charge an extra fee for gas and travel time.
  • Get to know local business owners such as veterinarians, groomers and trainers.
  • Put a classified ad in your local newspaper and any other local publications.

How to overcome hurdles to starting a dog walking company

Hurdle #2 – Your area is saturated with dog walkers

I went from an area where I was the only dog walker to an area where there are several, so I hear ya.

What you can do:

  • Offer something unique to your area such as dog running, dog fieldtrips, off-leash runs, a pet taxi service or loose-leash training. Are all these services offered already? Then get more creative, and come up with something different.
  • Focus your marketing on whatever it is that makes your business unique.
  • Invest in higher-quality business cards so yours stand out among the others. Hire a designer to help you – it’s worth it.
  • Hire the designer to create you some simple brochures, which you can ask local veterinarians and other businesses to display. You could also hand these out at local events.
  • Get your butt out there every day meeting other business owners and handing out your information at community events such as humane society fundraisers, street fairs and so on.
  • Make sure you have a presence in search engines (see below).
  • Network with established dog walkers and pet sitters.
  • Make sure you have dog walking insurance set up and your dog walking business forms ready to go so you’re not scrambling to do this when you get your first client.

Hurdle #3 – Your dog walking business is not ranking in Google

When you’re wondering how to start a dog walking service, one of the best ways to gain customers is to rank in online searches for terms involving your town or area’s name. For example, “Solana Beach dog walking” or “dog walkers Fargo.” But this can be tough if there’s a lot of competition in your area, especially if you have a new web site.

What you can do:

  • Set up a Yelp profile for your business, and fill out all the info on there as well. Ask your friends and clients to leave reviews.
  • Do the same with a Facebook fan page, making sure to include the services you offer as well as the areas you serve.
  • Consider advertising your business using Google Adwords for a few months. These are the ads that appear at the top of listings and on the side of search results.

Hurdle #4 – You’re worried you won’t make enough money

It does take time to build up some solid clients.

What you can do:

  • Keep your job for now, but start advertising your dog walking business a good three months before you consider leaving your other job.
  • Create a waiting list now so you can contact these potential clients once you quit your job.
  • Start walking dogs on your days off.
  • Consider working part-time at your current job while you transition.
  • See if you can arrange your schedule at your current job so you work four days instead of five.

Hurdle #5 – Your friends think starting a dog walking business is crazy

I ran into this quite a bit the first time I started a dog walking business. People thought I was nuts to quite my “secure” job. Excuse me? I was working at a newspaper!

What you can do:

  • Ignore the downers. Spend time with positive, supportive people.
  • If your spouse or partner is the one concerned, try to listen to his concerns, but let him know how serious you are about the idea.
  • Know that dog walking can definitely be a serious career if you are passionate and smart about it. Sometimes it helps to hear from someone who’s been there. Read my post: how can I start a dog walking business?

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