Americans adore their pets, and it shows! From dog grooming to treats to doggy daycare, the pet industry thrives. In fact, the doggy daycare sector alone falls into $8.1 billion of the overall pet parent spend!
So how do you - a future doggy daycare business owner - get started? You've come to the right place. If you're thinking of how to start a doggy daycare, there's a lot to consider, from the type of daycare you want to have to developing a business plan for your dog daycare.
Here's an overview.
The Business Building Blocks for Your Dog Daycare
- Define your type of doggie daycare
- Find a location
- Get any necessary training and/or certifications
- Establish your legal structure
- Map out a business plan
- Choose a name / logo
- Set pricing
- Choose your software and establish procedures
- Get the word out (aka market)
- Customer Retention
- Think about branding
Define Your Doggy Daycare
All doggy daycares are not the same. Some offer group play indoors and out for a mix of puppies. Others focus on small dogs only and keep them indoors. I've even spoken with a doggy daycare owner who doesn't do any doggy playgroups and instead offers 1:1 enrichment. In other words, the people play with the dogs 1:1.
The type of activities you'll offer depends on your background and the physical space of your daycare. For example, one doggy daycare is all indoors and specializes in small dogs who need less exercise. That's a distinct advantage. People with smaller dogs often prefer their small puppy play with other little dogs.
As you think about the types of activities you want to offer, you can scout locations with that in mind.
Find a Location
Maybe you already have the perfect spot for your doggy daycare. But if not, the physical location can dictate whether or not you have room for outdoor agility activities and dog runs. It can also impact your advertising costs.
For instance, if you're in a shopping center with a lot of foot traffic, you'll find it easier to get seen by pet parents in your area. If you're in a less busy spot, you'll have to spend more to let people know you exist and where you're located. It can be worth paying a higher rent for visibility.
Training and Certifications
Many people who open a doggy daycare are dog trainers or maybe groomers who're looking to expand their businesses. You may already have a range of certifications connected to your core work, and there is no specific doggy daycare certification.
However, Pet CPR, canine communication, COVID-related sanitation protocols, and other related training could be useful in your new enterprise. An industry resource like the ASPCA can be a good place to start. See what's available and what you would like to learn more about or have your staff learn.
Set Up Your Legal Structure
Does it make sense for your business to be an LLC, or an S corp, or some other legal structure? This depends on your circumstances and maybe even where you're setting up your business. The best approach is to get reputable advice from an accountant or legal entity. Across the U.S., there's a volunteer organization known as SCORE
. It offers business mentors and reputable workshops related to running a small business, and you can likely find the answers to your questions.
Map Out a Business Plan
What should your business plan for a dog daycare business include? The basics include the reason for your doggy daycare. What sets it apart from the competition? You'll also want to think through your marketing strategy
, your operating costs, your revenue projections, and how much you'll have leftover, aka, your profit.
For example, if you already have a building in mind, what are the costs for the rent or mortgage? What about your insurance, business licenses, startup costs, staff. Add a bit extra for unforeseen expenses because they have a way of cropping up.
Choose a Name and Logo
This is a fun part of establishing a business. Do you already have a name in mind? Some doggy daycare owners aim to play on words like Bed 'N Biscuit (if you offer dog boarding.) Others are more straightforward. Here are a few ideas to stimulate your thinking.
- The Puppy Resort
- Sit, Stay, Play
- Big Paw Playtime
You can write out an extensive list, consult with friends and family, and check to see if the domain is available before you commit.
Once you have a name, you'll want to buy the domain. Next comes getting a logo. You may have a graphic designer friend who wants to help, or you can ask around on social media. If you want a starter logo, you can try Fiverr or Upwork for something inexpensive.
How much should you charge? That's an age-old question and one you're best equipped to answer. While it's helpful to look at what other doggy daycare facilities charge, it depends on your background and costs.
What are your costs? Your location, staff if you have them, continuing education, insurance, marketing, etc. There are a lot of things that go into your doggy daycare. You'll map them out in your business plan.
Choose Your Business Management Software and Establish Procedures
As a dog daycare provider, you'll want a systematic approach to responding to potential customers and getting their information.
With the right software tools
, you can set this up at the beginning. You can build a short pre-screening questionnaire, automate appointment times for meet and greets, have an intake form for vaccination records and emergency contact information and even let your clients pay online.
Setting these up will save you hours every week and help your new business get off on the right foot.
How Will You Market Your Business?
I've heard of people opening a doggy daycare and being busy right from the beginning because the facility was on a busy road, there was a need in the community, and their sign was large and eye-catching.
Besides relying on an eye-catching location, what can you do? Social media is always a good choice, build out your social media profiles on Facebook and Instagram and make a relevant, engaging post daily. Not sure what to post? Images or videos of your facility, introductions of you and any staff, and of course, cute dogs having fun are all good bets.
Keep Your Customers Coming Back
As the saying goes, it's cheaper to retain an existing customer than attract a new one. What can you do to keep your customers coming back? Some ideas include offering packages where people can buy several daycare days or a month in exchange for a discount.
You can also offer loyalty cards where people get a free day or free ½ day after a certain number of visits.
Better yet, offer such exceptional customer service that there's no reason someone would go elsewhere.
Think About Branding
Branding is often misunderstood as colors and logos when it's so much more. It's your mission. It's the fact that your doggy daycare has a high level of cleanliness and doesn't smell. It's in your doggie cams in the play area or offering Facetime for customers.
Branding is how your business makes people feel. You want people to feel happy and confident about leaving their dog with you. How can you make them feel that from their first impression?
As you can see, starting a business of any type takes a lot of thought. When it comes to how to start a doggy daycare, there are some practical elements such as your physical location and how you'll take payments, but there are also less tangible components such as establishing a "feeling" to your pup facility. Running a business of any kind is rewarding. Maybe you already offer dog training or boarding and want to expand, if so, doggy daycare can be an excellent choice.