How to Start a Doggy Daycare: Your Guide to a Successful Business

Pet ownership has been steadily increasing and accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic. An increase in the need for doggy daycare services has also increased, and here’s why:

  • Pets are often treated as family members, which has increased spending on pet services like doggie daycare.
  • With more people living in urban areas and having busy work schedules, there’s a rising demand for pet care services.
  • As the economy has grown, so has disposable income, increasing spending on pet care services.
  • Many pet owners realize the benefits of daycare for their dogs’ health and socialization and are willing to spend money on it.

However, like any business, doggie daycare also faces challenges, such as overhead costs, regulations, potential liability issues, and the need for highly trained staff. Before you open the doggy door, you’ll need a well-thought-out plan. Here’s a guide on how to start a doggy daycare business.

Understanding Your Role as a Doggy Daycare Owner

Doggy daycare is one of the top small business ideas in the pet industry. As an owner, you’re in charge of the overall operations. And that includes many responsibilities:

  1. Business Management: The owner oversees the overall operation of the business. This includes setting the business strategy, creating a business plan, managing finances, and dealing with marketing and advertising.
  2. Customer Service: As the face of the business, the owner often interacts with customers (the dog owners) directly. They need to establish strong relationships, address concerns or complaints, and ensure overall customer satisfaction.
  3. Staff Management: The owner is responsible for hiring, training, scheduling, and managing staff. This includes setting expectations, monitoring performance, and handling any issues or disputes.
  4. Animal Care: This includes creating and maintaining a safe and healthy dog environment. It involves setting rules for dog behavior, monitoring the dogs for any health or behavior issues, arranging play and rest times, and ensuring all dogs are well cared for.
  5. Health and Safety Compliance: Owners must ensure the daycare complies with all local and state animal care, safety, and business operations regulations. This might include obtaining necessary licenses, inspections, and insurance.
  6. Supply Management: The owner is responsible for ensuring the business has all the necessary supplies, from food and toys to cleaning supplies.
  7. Facility Maintenance: This involves keeping the premises clean, safe, and inviting for both the dogs and their owners. It may also involve scheduling and overseeing any necessary repairs or improvements.
  8. Emergency Preparedness: The owner should have plans in place for handling emergencies, such as dog fights, illness, or natural disasters. This may also involve having first-aid skills and a working relationship with a local vet.
  9. Record Keeping: Keeping detailed records of each dog (including their behavior, any health issues, and their vaccination records), as well as records for the business, such as financial, employment, and customer records.

Preparing to Open Your Dog Daycare

Your number one concern is finding a property that has proper zoning. A doggy daycare business is often considered a boarding kennel. Getting approval to operate a doggy daycare may involve making an application to a county and/or local zoning hearing board.

A second concern is finding the proper location. It should be in a convenient place for dog owners to drop off and pick up their pets.

Once you’ve gotten the zoning approval and location, keep moving forward:

Research the Market and Competition

how to start a doggy daycare

How many dogs are licensed in your county? That information is readily available through your state or county licensing agency.

Are there other doggy daycare services in the area? Are they thriving? Are they turning customers away?

Develop a Solid Dog Daycare Business Plan

how to start a doggy daycare

You should have a business plan in place. A good business plan includes a mission statement, information about the business organization structure (such as Limited Liability Corporation or Partnership), financial projections, and plans for growth.

Many owners start small when starting a dog daycare, taking in the number of dogs they can personally care for during the day. However, additional staff is needed to cover the owner for breaks, vacations, or sick days.

Legal Requirements and Regulations for a Dog Daycare Business

how to start a doggy daycare

Once you’ve complied with local zoning regulations, you must obtain a business license through your secretary of state. Additional licensing and permits may be required locally.

For example, you may be required to provide a certain number of parking places based on the number of customers you have.

In some states, you may have to obtain a kennel license. There may be differing requirements based on the size of the kennel license; for example, a license for a facility for up to ten dogs will have different requirements than a facility that accepts 25 dogs.

Setting Up Your Doggy Daycare Facility

Starting a dog daycare takes careful planning:

Choosing the Right Location

how to start a doggy daycare

The location should be convenient for commuters who are dropping off or picking up their pet or pets. Many thriving dog daycares are located on the outskirts of urban areas.

Designing the Perfect Dog Daycare Space

how to start a doggy daycare

Dogs are very different in size and temperament. Some are small, and some are large. Some are playful, and some are more relaxed. Some may be youngsters, and some may be senior citizens.

Your daycare should have different spaces to accommodate these different needs. For example, some doggy daycare facilities can be mainly outdoor business ideas, with lots of space for pups to roam outside. But you should still provide comfortable indoor spaces for pets to relax, especially during bad weather. Having different play areas for small and large dogs can prevent accidents and make all the dogs more comfortable.

Ensuring the Safety and Well Being of Dogs

how to start a doggy daycare

The safety of the dogs should be your number one concern. All areas should be fenced securely. You should also have a quarantine area for dogs that become ill or overly aggressive. The floors should be non-slip and easy to clean. Avoid any small objects that could be swallowed and cause choking.

All dogs should be fully vaccinated against communicable diseases, including kennel cough and influenza, which are highly contagious and spread by nose-to-nose contact.

Dogs need downtime as well. Ensure there are comfortable resting areas where dogs can take a nap or have some quiet time. These areas should be separate from the play areas to ensure quiet and peace.

Dogs can make a mess, so you need to have a plan for keeping your daycare clean. You should have plenty of cleaning supplies and pet waste removal tools on hand, including pet-safe cleaning products. Regularly clean all areas to prevent the spread of diseases.

If you plan to provide food, you’ll need a clean area where you can serve meals. Some dogs may have special dietary requirements, so be prepared to accommodate these needs.

Consider installing play equipment such as tunnels, slides, and toys to keep the dogs entertained. Exercise equipment like treadmills designed for dogs can also be a great addition.

The comfort of dogs should be paramount. The daycare should have adequate heating for cold days and air conditioning for hot days. Consider also having a shaded outdoor space for hot weather. You should have a generator system so that you can maintain temperatures in case of a power outage.

You should have an emergency plan in case you should have to vacate the building. If you have 25 dog daycare clients, you need to plan to transport 25 dogs in crates to another location.

Marketing and Promoting Your Dog Daycare Business

Spend a lot of time choosing a great name. Use a search engine and/or brainstorm with family and friends.

Building a Strong Online Presence

how to start a doggy daycare

You’ll definitely need an informative webpage and FB page. Pictures should be attractive and engaging – you may want to hire a professional photographer to showcase the daycare facilities.

Many dog daycare businesses provide some online streaming. Pet owners can “look in” on their pets during the day.

Networking with Local Dog Owners and Professionals

how to start a doggy daycare

Network with veterinarians and boarding facilities that provide overnight lodging for pets. Also, network with dog groomers and trainers.

Creating Attractive Service Packages

how to start a doggy daycare

You can provide various packages that may best fit certain dogs’ needs. For example, elderly dogs may need more quiet, restful time than their younger, more active buddies. The package for senior dogs may be less expensive.

The younger, active dogs may be playing (supervised) on the agility equipment, chasing toys and balls and sometimes having a swim. The “active dog” package may cost more.

Similarly, the “puppy” package may involve housetraining and crate training – which would have its own cost.

You can consider bringing in a groomer or trainer; of course, the cost for those services would be additional. Some dog daycare businesses provide transportation to grooming or veterinarian appointments, of course, at an additional fee.

Managing and Growing Your Dog Daycare Business

In any service-oriented business, staff is extremely important. One bad review can spread and be harmful.

Hiring and Training Staff

how to start a doggy daycare

New staff members should be closely supervised until you, as the owner, are satisfied with their performance. The staff should be dog lovers and experienced in noticing not only nuances of dog behavior but signs of illness, fatigue or aggression.

Implementing Efficient Operational Procedures

how to start a doggy daycare

Scheduling and billing can be accomplished with software.

Dog intake must be efficient and friendly. The staff member should interact with the customer and the pet at intake. This is a good time to assess the general well-being of the dog.

Continuously Improving and Expanding Your Dog Daycare Facilities

how to start a doggy daycare

Adding mobile services definitely grows the business. You can offer pickup and delivery of pets. In addition, you can chauffer pets to appointments at a veterinarian or groomer.

Dog Daycare Software: Streamlining Your Business Operations

Here is a sampling of the most popular software programs:

  1. PawLoyalty: This software is tailored specifically for dog daycare, grooming, boarding, and training businesses. It offers features like online booking, customer relationship management (CRM), a point of sale (POS) system, and kennel software.
  2. ProPet: ProPet is a cloud-based kennel management solution that offers customer communication capabilities, online booking, point of sale, online payments, and more. It is designed for small to midsize pet care companies.
  3. 123Pet Software: This is a more versatile software that can handle a variety of pet services businesses, including daycares, groomers, and boarding services. It offers scheduling, online booking, marketing tools, and reporting.
  4. Gingr: Gingr offers an array of features like online reservations, automated reminders, marketing tools, and integrated payment processing. It’s aimed specifically at pet care businesses, including boarding, grooming, training, and retail services.
  5. DogBizPro: This software is designed for dog businesses of all kinds. It includes features such as scheduling, customer and dog information tracking, vaccination tracking, and a photo gallery where you can share photos with clients.
  6. PetExec: PetExec is designed to manage pet daycare, boarding, grooming, training, retail, and pet-sitting services. The software provides a secure way to manage and automate your pet business completely.
SoftwareTarget BusinessKey FeaturesSpecific Focus
PawLoyaltyDog daycare, grooming, boarding, etcOnline booking, CRM, POS, kennel softwareTailored specifically for dog-related services
ProPetSmall to midsize pet care companiesCloud-based, customer communication, online booking, POS, online paymentsDesigned for smaller to midsize businesses, includes customer communication
123Pet SoftwareVarious pet servicesScheduling, online booking, marketing tools, reportingVersatile option for various pet services, including marketing tools
GingrBoarding, grooming, training, retailOnline reservations, automated reminders, marketing tools, integrated payment processingAimed specifically at pet care businesses, includes automated reminders
DogBizProAll dog businessesScheduling, customer/dog tracking, vaccination tracking, photo galleryComprehensive solution, includes features for tracking vaccinations and photos
PetExecDaycare, boarding, grooming, etcSecure management, automation for pet businessComplete management and automation, suitable for various pet care services

FAQs: How to Start a Doggy Daycare

What are the initial costs of starting a doggy daycare?

The cost of starting a dog daycare business can vary significantly depending on a number of factors, including your location, the size of your facility, your staff size, and the specific services you intend to offer. As an estimate, it will cost from $10,000 to $50,000 to get started.

How do I determine the pricing for my dog daycare services?

Here are some tips to help you price your doggy daycare services:

  • Research Your Market: Understand the pricing of similar services in your local area.
  • Evaluate Your Costs: Calculate all expenses to determine the minimum price you need to cover costs and make a profit.
  • Pricing Structure: Decide whether you will charge by the hour, half-day, full day, or offer package deals.
  • Special Services: Set prices for additional services like grooming, training, or boarding.
  • Discounts: Consider offering discounts for multiple dogs from the same family or for referral customers.
  • Pricing Reviews: Regularly review and adjust your prices as necessary to remain competitive and profitable.

What kind of insurance do dog daycare businesses need?

General Liability Insurance: This is your starting point. It covers damages you may have to pay if your business is responsible for harm to a third party. For a dog daycare, this could cover situations where a dog injures a person or damages someone’s property.

In addition you may need:

  1. Professional Liability Insurance: Also known as errors and omissions insurance, this covers claims of negligence in the services you provide. For example, if a dog were to get sick or injured while in your care, and the owner claimed it was due to your negligence, professional liability insurance could cover the costs of the claim.
  2. Animal Bailee’s Coverage: This is a special type of coverage for businesses that take in clients’ animals for care or transport. It covers damage to animals that are in your care, custody, or control. If a dog were to get injured or become sick while at your daycare, animal bailee’s coverage could cover the costs.
  3. Workers Compensation Insurance: If you have employees, most states require you to have this type of insurance. It covers medical expenses and lost wages if an employee is injured on the job. Considering that working with dogs can sometimes lead to injuries, this is an important coverage to have.
  4. Property Insurance: This covers damage to your business property from causes like fire, storms, and vandalism. It can cover not only your building, but also the contents like equipment and supplies.
  5. Business Interruption Insurance: If a covered event (like a fire) forces you to temporarily close your business, this insurance can cover your lost income during that period.
  6. Commercial Auto Insurance: If you offer services like pet transportation or pick-up and drop-off services, commercial auto insurance can cover damages related to any vehicles used for business purposes.

How can I attract pet parents to my doggy daycare business?

Network with veterinarians, groomers, dog trainers and others in the dog industry. Maintain an upbeat webpage and social media presence.

Do I need any specific certifications or training to run a doggy daycare?

No. But you should supervise staff members and provide ongoing training and meetings.

What are the best ways to market my doggy daycare business to the local community?

In addition to networking, you can hold special events, especially a grand opening. You can host seminars by professionals, such as a veterinarian speaking about proper nutrition or a groomer talking about “between appointments” coat and nail care. You can even start a side gig that gets you out into the community to meet other dog owners. Here’s how to start a dog walking business to do just that.

What are the most important factors to consider when starting a dog daycare business?

Before you start, research the zoning regulations in your area. Make sure you could get permitted to operate such a business in that location.

You should also consider location. Your dog daycare business should be easy to locate, enter and exit for busy pet owners.

Image: Depositphotos

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Lisa Price Lisa Price is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 4 years. She has a B.A. in English with a minor in journalism from Shippensburg State College (Pennsylvania). She is also a freelance writer and previously worked as a newspaper circulation district manager and radio station commercial writer. In 2019, Lisa received the (Pennsylvania) Keystone Award.