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How to start a dog boarding business

Turn your passion for pooches into a money-making venture.

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For many people, caring for dogs as a day job sounds like a dream come true. While there's plenty of joy in long walks and belly rubs to be had, running a dog boarding business takes some careful planning.

We will guide you through the requirements for setting up a dog boarding business and what you need to do to give it the best chance of succeeding. From legal templates to business plans, read on to find out more.

What is a dog boarding business?

A dog boarding business is a service which offers short-term accommodation for dogs while their owners are away. The dogs are provided with food, exercise, care and shelter in the form of kennels, private homes or, at the upscale end, pet hotels.

How to start a dog boarding business

There's a lot to consider when starting a business, but breaking the process down into steps can make it less overwhelming. Check out this step-by-step guide on how to proceed:

  1. Choose your niche. To stand out from the competition, it's worth considering a specific niche for your dog boarding business. Take a look around at what else is being offered in your area and think about how you can meet a need. You may like to focus on a particular type of dog, such as small pooches, offer luxury kennels or include dog grooming services in your packages.
  2. Develop a business plan. Think about your overall vision for your business and write a business plan that factors in the types of services you'll offer, an estimate of your income and expenses, and your pricing structure.
  3. Create your brand identity. Think of a business name and logo that uniquely reflects what you offer. You'll then need to choose a business structure, apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN) through the Australian Business Register (ABR) and register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). A logo will help make you recognisable. You could either hire a graphic designer to do this through an online service like Fiverr or create your own with one of these graphic design tools and services.
  4. Decide on your dog boarding location. Once you know what services you want to provide, you'll need to think about a dog boarding facility to operate from. Whether you revamp an existing facility, build one from scratch or provide dog sitting services from your home, you'll need to make sure you have enough space and that the location is convenient for your customers.
  5. Compare loan options. If you need the funds to get your business up and running, you may want to consider applying for a loan. You could apply for a small business loan, but if that's not possible, you could try for a personal loan.
  6. Fulfil your legal requirements. It's worth putting together a Service Agreement before you open for business, as well as Cancellation Policies in case a customer cancels a booking. If you're renting a commercial space to run your dog boarding business, it may also be a good idea to speak to a commercial lease lawyer.
  7. Consider your insurance. Public Liability Insurance is necessary by law in Australia to run a dog boarding or pet sitting business. Pets are considered property, so you'll need to make sure you are covered in the case of injury or death. Insurance will also protect you if a dog causes an accident or injures someone.
  8. Market your business. Marketing will be a key aspect in the success of your business. Aside from word of mouth in your local community, it's a good idea to get some business cards, posters and flyers printed out to distribute in your area. To build an online presence, you might consider setting up a website, and creating regular and useful content, such as a blog which will help drive more traffic to your site.

man with three dogs

Skills needed to start a dog boarding business

While you don't need any formal training to run a dog boarding business, experience handling a wide range of dog breeds and a passion for animals will hold you in good stead.

Some skills you may want to consider to run your dog boarding business successfully include:

  • Experience with dogs. It goes without saying that being comfortable around dogs and having an understanding of dog behaviour will help put your customers at ease. Additional skills such as dog grooming or training, could also add weight to your business with extra services to offer.
  • Customer service and organisational skills. A background in customer service will be beneficial. Good communication skills can help establish strong relationships with your customers and organisational skills will enable you to stay on top of administrative tasks.
  • Business skills. To ensure your business runs effectively and is profitable, you'll need to stay ahead of your bookkeeping and marketing. It's well worth having a clear vision from the start with a business plan that sets out how you will manage your ongoing costs and your marketing strategy.

Courses and qualifications

Though prior experience and qualifications in the world of animal care or veterinarian studies is a great thing to have, it is not a legal requirement for a dog boarding business.

If you have a passion for caring for dogs but lack the know-how, there are a number of informal online courses on dog care that can set you on the right path. These courses cost around $400-$700, but the vital information you gain from them will be indispensable in a dog boarding environment.

Read more about online courses if you're looking to start a new line of work.


Dog Care Certificate

A dog care and dog training certificate from training.com.au could help start your dog boarding business.

Equipment and software needed to start a dog boarding business

Equipment is one of the biggest expenditures you'll need to fork out for initially. Some equipment will be a one-off purchase, whereas others will require constant renewing.

Here is a key equipment list for setting up your dog boarding business:

  • Dog kennels
  • Dog beds/blankets
  • Feeding bowls
  • Dog food
  • Dog brushes
  • Leashes
  • Fencing and locks
  • Cleaning equipment such as mops, buckets, brooms, cloths and dustpans
  • Kennel disinfectant and window cleaner
  • Poop scoops and bags
  • Canine first aid kits
  • Dog washing products, including flea and tick shampoo
  • Collars
  • Dog toys
  • Dog treats
  • Alarm systems
  • Storage bins to keep dog leashes, collars and luggage

To help run your business efficiently, you'll need some basic computer equipment, but you may also want to consider some software to help with administrative tasks.

  • A business website
  • Accounting software such as QuickBooks
  • Booking software such as Acuity Scheduling
  • A digital camera to capture images of dogs for your website and the owners

For a dog boarding business, there are a number of streamlined, all-in-one software programs that will manage everything from your bookings and payments to pet birthday tracking and photo management. Some options include:

  • Revelation Pets
  • KennelBooker
  • Pet Manager

Choose a business structure

Before you register your dog boarding business, you need to decide on a business structure. This will depend on your longer-term vision for your venture. Your business structure determines how you'll pay taxes and who is responsible for debts and losses. The following are common business models that you may want to consider for your dog boarding business:

  • Sole Trader. A Sole Trading business model is built around one person. As a Sole Trader, every aspect of the business is solely on your shoulders. This doesn't mean you can't work alongside someone else, but it does mean you are singularly responsible for things such as debt, losses and any legal action.
  • Partnership. A Partnership business model is where two people are responsible for both legal responsibilities and the direction the business takes. If you are setting up your dog boarding business with a fellow family member or friend, a Partnership business model can be a great option.

When you are starting any type of business, it is essential to have all legal documentation in place, both to protect you and to prove you're qualified to offer this service. When setting up a dog boarding business, a number of essential documents are needed. These typically include:

  • A Service Agreement will be needed for every dog owner that leaves their pet to board with you. This will set out a contractual agreement between you and the dog owner, stating how long their dog will stay and what other services you will provide.
  • You will most likely need to qualify for a vendor's licence and kennel licence before you are permitted to open as a dog boarder. Kennel licences and their requirements will differ from state to state, so be sure to check with your local legislation beforehand.
  • If you are employing staff to work at your dog boarding business, an Employment Agreement document is needed for each employee.

It is easy to find many of these legal templates online for free, or for a minor fee. If you need some more in-depth legal services, you can find these on websites such as Lawpath and LegalVision.

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How to find customers

There are many different ways to build up your customer base, from modern approaches like social media channels to more traditional methods such as word of mouth.

Along with your own website, you can utilise online marketplace platforms to promote your business and bring new customers straight to you. These marketplaces include:

  • hipages will link customers to needed services in their area. Promoting your dog boarding business here will match you with those looking for this particular service.
  • Oneflare is also another great marketplace that links up potential customers to your business.

Getting your business listed on business directories is another way of building your potential customer base. Top sites include True Local, Yellow Pages and White Pages.

How much should I charge my customers?

Dog boarding is usually charged by the day and by the numbers of dogs boarding at one time. Let's take a look at current rate examples:

  • $20-$40 per night for simple dog boarding services
  • $40-$80 per night for more luxurious and highly attentive stays

Pricing up your services can be a difficult task for any startup business, yet taking a few factors into consideration will help you come up with a viable number. These factors include:

  • The rates charged by similar businesses in your area.
  • The cost of your own overheads and the materials you need to run the business.
  • Quality of services – offering luxury packages or discounted packages for frequent users of the service.
Get your business moving with payment terminals, QR code ordering, invoices and more.

Frequently asked questions

Can I make money from boarding dogs?

Though it is possible to make money from boarding dogs, like any business it will take a lot of investment and time before you turn a profit. Money must be spent on licences, facilities and promotion before a dollar is made. Dog boarding can be profitable, but it is not quick cash.

Is dog boarding a good business?

Dog boarding is a great business for the right person. It's important to start the business with a love of dogs in mind, not just the intention of purely making money. Although a business exists to sell itself, a dog boarding business will only succeed if it is run with the welfare of the dogs as a priority.

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