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starting a dog day care business Start a Dog Day Care Business at Home
by staff writer

I recently moved to a house in the country with nine acres, along with my two dogs, Phoebe and Willy. I had hoped to start an additional business that I could run from my home. While thinking over the possibilities of small business ideas, a neighbor asked if I could take her dog while she attended a conference, and said she would be glad to pay me for the service. I’ve been a dog-owner and dog-lover all my life: this was just the business I had been hoping for and it fell into my lap.

Many people come up with sound small business ideas, but fail to research their market. First, I knew that my area was populated with many dog owners. I checked on-line for dog-sitting services in my area and found the nearest was an hour’s drive away. I also checked the prices charged for services and what services were provided. I then visited the local Job Opportunities Office. Here the staff assists people with small business ideas to set up and implement their plans. If you have a Job Opportunities office in your area, they're a great resource. They can help you determine items to consider like who your customers are, who your competition is, what your expenses will be, and what your projected sales need to be to off-set expenses.

As advised by the office, my next step was advertising, and I was able to design my own brochure with the help of Microsoft Office on my laptop. Again, many people come up with great small business ideas, but in addition to failing to research the market, they fail to take into account all possible liabilities. In dog sitting, I had to consider the health, safety and well-being of dogs in my care. How would I ensure this to the best of my ability? I would require owners to bring vet certification that the dog is healthy and up-to-date on vaccines. And in my brochure I printed this headline:

    Dogs Who Are Welcome
    • are spayed or neutered
    • do not mark in the home
    • get along well with male and female dogs
    • have no food- or toy-guarding problems
    • have absolutely no aggression
    • enjoy the company of all humans

Having a policy like this one protects you from unplanned pregnancies while dogs are in your care, protects your flooring, and protects you against dog injury. You have the right to turn away any dog. I chose to offer the option of a half-hour meet-and-greet to clients prior to an extended stay. This allows the owner to meet you, ensure your location is good for their dog(s), and allows you to access the new arrival.

Including the following information in your brochure will cover the bases and ease your mind as well as your clients’.

    Please Bring:
    • Proof of up-to-date vaccinations of yearly boosters as well as bordetella/kennel cough. A flea-free dog is necessary.
    • Contact information: a phone number where you can be reached and your vet’s phone number.
    • Your dog’s normal food for the duration of stay.
    • Your dog’s favorite blanket or pillow with the scent of home. If your dog prefers to sleep and rest in a crate, please bring crate and a leash.

    Please Do Not Bring:
    • Dishes -- our stainless bowls are washed after every meal.
    • Stuffed toys: Phoebe loves to unstuff stuffed toys. I have Phoebe-proof toys she is happy to share.

Many small business ideas require a substantial investment; however, I found dog-sitting costs were minimal. These included: a business records book, a receipt book, new stainless steel bowls, rawhide chews and two new dog beds. I designed my own brochure using Microsoft Office and printed out fifty copies. I distributed these copies to local vets and posted them in area pet shops. Within a week, I had booked three overnights with a West Highland Terrier, a Nova Scotia Duck Toller, and a loveable mutt.

If you are considering small business ideas and you love dogs, you may want to consider starting a dog daycare—it’s a doggone good business.