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How to Start a Doggie Day Care Business

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Young woman hugs Morkie breed dog
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The popularity of doggie day care businesses has skyrocketed in recent years. By following a few simple steps you can successfully start your own doggie day care.

Experience

If you are interested in opening a doggy day care 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, pet sitter, dog walker, or 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 doggie day care 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, limited liability company, or other entity. You should also be in touch with your local government with regard to any permits or zoning considerations for your intended business location.

If you are opening a small day care operation you may be the sole employee, but most doggie day cares have a few full or part time employees. Be sure to hire people with experience or certifications in animal careers. They should also 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 the day care, and establishing a veterinary contingency plan with a nearby veterinarian for potential emergencies.

Facility

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

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

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

Above all, it is important to provide a clean and safe environment for the dogs and for the humans taking care of them.

Advertise

There are many way to advertise your doggie day care. You can take out an ad in the phone directory, post on Craigslist, create a personalized web page, or take advantage of advertising opportunities with local newspapers and magazines. You can apply large logo magnets to the sides of your vehicle. You can 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, as many potentially interested office workers may see your information.

Define Your Services

A doggie day care will generally open for drop off service at 7am and remain open until 7pm for pick ups, Monday through Friday. Some offer weekend day care service as well, though weekend hours usually begin mid-morning and require pick up in the late afternoon. A few day cares even offer a shuttle that will pick up or drop off a pet for an additional fee.

Some doggie day cares offer overnight or weekend boarding services, or at least have an “emergency option” for boarding if an owner is unable to pick up their dog as scheduled. Some day care facilities also offer bathing, grooming, or obedience training services. Some offer pet supplies or pet food for sale.

Most day cares require vaccinations such as rabies, distemper, parvo, and bordetella. A copy of current vaccination records is kept in a dog’s file. Also, most day cares do not accept adult dogs that have not been spayed or neutered.

Price Your Services

The best way to figure out a pricing structure is to call around town and see what the competition is charging for similar services. Generally doggie day cares charge between $18 and $32 per dog, per day. The cost varies widely based on what part of the country a day care is located in and the specific services offered.

You may also 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 should also be an option.

Consider “Interviews” For New Clients

When accepting a new dog to the group, it is advisable to make sure they are well socialized and can interact positively with other dogs. Many facilities conduct an interview with pet and owner. During this time the pet owner should complete a contact sheet that includes their address, phone number, email, and emergency contact numbers. The sheet should also include dog breed, color, date of birth, health history (allergies, previous injuries), veterinarian’s name and clinic contact information.

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