How to Start a Doggy Day Care Business

Young woman hugs Morkie breed dog

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Households with dogs are more common than households with children, and that has helped increase the popularity of doggy daycare businesses. The American Pet Products Association reported that more than 63 million U.S. households have dogs, as of 2019, compared to a 2018 Statista report that 52.8 million households in the U.S. have children. By following a few simple steps, you can take advantage of these numbers and successfully start your own doggy daycare.

Canine Experience

If you are interested in opening a doggy daycare business, you should be knowledgeable in the areas of animal behavior, canine CPR, and canine first aid.

Prior study in an animal-related field or experience as a veterinary technician, a pet sitter, a dog walker, or an animal shelter volunteer is desirable. If you do not have prior experience, try to find an animal rescue group or vet clinic where you can volunteer.

Business Considerations

Before opening your doggy daycare, you must deal with various business and legal considerations. Consult your accountant regarding the advantages and disadvantages of forming your business as a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company, or other entity. You also should be in touch with your local government with regard to any permits or zoning considerations for running a business with animals at your desired location.

If you are opening a small daycare operation, you may be the sole employee, but most doggy daycares have a few full- or part-time employees. Be sure to hire people with experience or certifications in animal careers. They also should become certified in pet CPR and first aid as a part of their training.

Additional items to consider include obtaining an insurance policy, drafting release forms to prevent legal repercussions if dogs are injured while at daycare, and establishing a contingency plan with a nearby veterinarian for potential emergencies.

Fantastic Facilities

The trend in today’s doggy daycare industry is toward cage-free facilities, where dogs are kept in groups for the majority of the day. Most daycares separate dogs by size during playtime. It also is common for puppies to be separated from adult dogs. Kennel areas should be available for feeding the dogs separately, or for a scheduled break time from the pack environment.

Many facilities are now wired for live-streaming webcams so owners can log in and check on their dogs throughout the day. This is a popular feature and should be heavily promoted in your advertising materials if you are able to offer it.

The facility should offer play areas, rest areas, outdoor areas, and kennels for potential overnight boarding. Splash pools are becoming a common feature. Water for drinking also needs to be freely available to the dogs so that they can stay hydrated while they play. Air conditioning is an expected feature.

Above all, provide a clean and safe environment for the dogs and for the people taking care of them.

Cost-Effective Advertisement

Create a personalized web page or take advantage of advertising opportunities with local newspapers, magazines, and websites. You also can apply large logo magnets to the sides of your vehicle and leave flyers and business cards at pet supply shops, veterinary clinics, supermarkets, and office complexes.

Advertising in large office complexes is a particularly good idea because many potentially interested office workers—people who by nature are gone from their pets all day long—may see your information.

Define Your Services

A doggy daycare business generally opens for drop-off service at about 7 a.m. and remains open until about 7 p.m. for pickups, Monday through Friday. Some offer weekend daycare service as well, though weekend hours usually begin mid-morning and require a pickup in the late afternoon. A few daycares even offer a shuttle that will pick up or drop off pets for an additional fee.

Some doggy daycares offer overnight or weekend boarding services or at least have an emergency option for boarding if an owner is unable to pick up a dog as scheduled. Some daycare facilities also offer bathing, grooming, or obedience training services in addition to pet supplies or pet food for sale.

Dogs need to be fully up to date on vaccinations such as rabies, distemper, parvo, and bordetella. Keep a copy of current vaccination records in a dog’s file.

Some daycares do not accept adult dogs that have not been spayed or neutered.

Price Your Services

The best way to establish a pricing structure is to call around town and see what the competition is charging for similar services. Generally, doggy daycares charge between $18 and $32 per dog, per day. The cost varies widely based on where in the country a daycare is located and the specific services offered.

You also may consider offering different rates for daily and monthly membership plans. For families that board multiple dogs, consider offering a discounted rate for each additional pet. Full- and half-day pricing also should be an option.

Consider Interviews for New Clients

When accepting a new dog to the group, it is advisable to make sure the dog is socialized and can interact positively with other dogs. By bringing in dogs for a visit, potential problems can be identified early, and in extreme cases, potential clients can be turned away.

Having an experienced dog trainer or groomer on staff can boost revenue by enabling you to offer additional services.

Many facilities conduct an interview with pet and owner. During this time, the pet owner should complete a contact sheet that includes an address, phone number, email address, and emergency contact numbers. The sheet also should include dog breed, color, date of birth, health history (allergies, previous injuries), veterinarian’s name, and clinic contact information.