How to Start a Dog Daycare in 10 Steps: Checklist

Do you want to start your own dog daycare? With a total market size of $8.24 billion by 2024 and 16,000 dog daycare businesses across the US, the average daycare earns an annual turnover of $500,000..!

Yet the industry is also very competitive. So if you’re planning to start a dog daycare, you must start with a solid business plan and execution. From preparing your business plan, acquiring the equipment to hiring & training staff, there is a lot you must do.

So if you are feeling lost and need some guidance on where to start, this post goes through the 10 steps you need to follow to start and run a successful dog daycare. Let’s dive in!

For more information about how to start a dog daycare, make sure to read our guide below:
How to Write a Dog Daycare Business Plan

1. Get Dog Training

You need to get proper training before you start a dog daycare, especially aid you don’t have any dog-related experience.

For example, you should be familiar with dog behavior, dog CPR and first aid treatment, as they are required for running your dog daycare. In order to get the necessary training, you can enrol for a certification or work / volunteer in a vet clinic or dog rescue group.

2. Research the Dog Daycare Market

You should conduct thorough market research before you can start your own dog daycare. You can’t just step into the waters without prior information, which can only be gotten by research. What do you need to research? 

  • Competition: Who are your competitors? What makes their dog daycare stand out? What market strategies do they use to drive sales and relevance? What is their business model? The Pet Daycare industry is projected to grow by $8.24 billion by 2024, with the dog daycare sector having a significant share. To get a slice of this, you must have the necessary facts and figures to beat the competition.
  • Customer demand: According to a recent survey, 69 million families in the US own a dog. You can be sure that there is a market for dog daycare. However, consider the demand in the location. For example, customer demand will be low, where most people have no dogs.
  • Business model: The success of your dog daycare partly depends on your business model. Do you want to offer a subscription service or have different packages? Remember, the preferences of your target audience will largely determine your business model.
  • Costs: Before you start your dog daycare, you’ll likely need to get funding from investors (or a bank like an SBA loan). This will require you to produce a business plan and financial projections (your expected sales and expenses at a minimum). By doing so, you’ll have to extensively research the different startup expenses you can expect to run a dog daycare.
  • Choose your services: What services will you offer to set you apart from the competition? You can’t beat the competition by sticking with the basics only. For example, if you provide dog training services, your daycare would have the edge over other dog daycares that don’t. 

3. Incorporate your Dog Daycare

The next important thing after research is to choose a structure for your dog daycare.

Your business structure determines your operations, so you should consider the benefits and responsibilities before settling for any type. The different options include:

  • Sole proprietorship: Although it may be simpler to establish a sole proprietorship, this structure has the drawback that you are personally responsible for any legal actions and debts your business incurs. In other words, if something goes wrong, your liability is unlimited, and you might have to give up personal assets to compensate for a loss.
  • General partnership: The simplest type of partnership, a general partnership, is automatically formed whenever two or more people embark on a business venture for profit. State filing is not necessary
  • LLC: The limited liability company (LLC) is one of the most widely used business entities for startups and small enterprises. An LLC provides pass-through taxation and limited liability protection, which insulates your private assets from the debts and obligations of the business
  • Corporations: Because they are separate legal entities owned by their shareholders, corporations shield their owners from personal blame for the debts and liabilities of the business

4. Prepare a Dog Daycare Business plan

Like any other business, you need a business plan for your dog daycare. A business plan is a document that describes your objectives, ambitions, business potentials, marketing and funding strategies, and financial projections. It serves as a roadmap for your business growth. Your business plan should contain the following :

  • Executive summary: This is a 2-page summary of the basic information about your business, such as your services, key factors, number of employees, financial projections, etc.
  • Business overview: This is a brief introduction of your business, the legal entity form, the type of model (subscription vs. prepaid packages), the services, location, the size of your target market, what niche of the dog daycare business you are focused on, your product prices and your present successes.
  • Market analysis: You detail the market size, customers, demography, market trends, competition, and pricing strategies.
  • Sales & marketing strategy: In this section, you need to consider your unique selling point (USP). What makes your product different? Why should people choose your dog daycare over others? How will you attract your customers? What marketing channels are the best for your business? 
  • Management & people: This is where you introduce the personnel in your business, using two to three sentences to describe each person’s experiences and qualifications. Also, include your hiring plans – the skill and capability level you need, the teams you need to put in place for your business success, the gaps in your business, and how you intend to fill them. 
  • Financial plan: This section details your expected revenue for the next five years, including your gross and net profits and break-even points. You can include a chart showing the major financials in your business.
  • Funding ask: You have to determine whether it’s a loan, grant, or investment you want and the type. For example, if you want to be the only decision maker in your business, going for investment won’t suit you. Also, how much do you need to expand your business? How long does this last?

Download the Dog Daycare financial model template

  • Lender & investor-friendly
  • Easy-to-use Excel template
  • CPA-developed financials
  • 30+ charts and metrics

5. Get Funding for your Dog Daycare

It will be easier to know the type of funding you need once you have calculated startup costs and penned your business plan. The available funding options are:

  • Startup business loans and grants 

Many grants and loans are available for small business owners who want complete control of their startups but with insufficient capital. Loans are refundable; grants are not. Carefully read the terms and conditions of the loan before you sign, as most loan sharks are exploitative.

  • Crowdfunding 

You can use social media and crowdfunding websites to gather funds for your business. However, you need a high level of charisma and a really attractive business idea to achieve this. 

  • Bootstrapping

This involves funding your business with personal resources or money from friends and families. Bootstrapping isn’t entirely rosy as you might not have enough to self-fund your business. Also, your relationships with friends and families who funded your daycare are at stake if things go south. 

  • Investment 

With a well-prepared business plan and realistic financial projectors, you can get venture capitalists or angel investors to fund your business. However, this option isn’t for you if you want complete ownership.

  • Incubator and accelerator programs

These are mentorship-based programs that provide the necessary education to build thriving businesses. Usually, there’s some money available at the end of the program for business owners. Incubators focus on idea or early-stage businesses, while accelerators deal with already established businesses. However, it might be difficult getting into one as these programs are more invested in heavy-tech businesses.

6. Get Dog Daycare Licenses & Insurance

Licenses

You need to get the necessary licenses and permits before opening any business. Here are some of the permits and licenses you need :

  • General business license
  • A pharmaceutical trash license 
  • Daycare license 
  • Grooming license
  • Seller’s Permit
  • USDA license
  • Animal transfer license 

There will be regular inspection checks from health and agricultural officers too. Also, the regulations guarding licenses and permits vary from state to state. As such, you need to be familiar with the rules that guide dog daycare in your state. 

Business insurance

Asides that, you need to get business insurance for your dog daycare:

  • Property insurance: This covers your facilities and equipment in cases of fire outbreak, robbery, etc.
  • General liability insurance: This covers accidents that occur in the daily operations of your business.
  • Professional liability insurance: This covers accidents directly tied to your dog daycare activities, such as a dog hurting another dog.

7. Choose a Location for your Dog Daycare

Your dog daycare must be in the right location if you want a steady stream of customers. To choose a location, you must consider 

  • Proximity to your target audience: If you can, get a facility close to commercial centers or busy places such as schools, beaches, events centers, etc.
  • Accessibility: Customers will return to a shop they can easily reach by car or foot. It’s an advantage if there’s a parking lot around your dog daycare.
  • The demand for dog daycare: You won’t make many sales in a place where most people don’t have dogs. The best location is a place with an existing market.
  • Rules & regulations: Every place has guiding rules. You want to check if you can abide by the rules before you acquire the space. 
  • Space: Your dog daycare facility shouldn’t be stuffy. If you plan to have more than four dogs, you can’t run the daycare in your home. As recommended by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty, a dog daycare faculty should have 75 to 100 square feet per dog. If you plan to keep 50 dogs, you need at least a 5,000-square-foot space. Asides that, there should be enough space for your employees to function effectively. Besides, the size of your daycare is yardstick dog owners use to measure the suitability of your daycare for their dogs.
  • Rent & renovations: Another thing you should consider is the affordability of the space. You can buy or lease, depending on how much capital you have. Remember that you have to pay maintenance fees anyway.  Most likely, you also have to renovate the space, except if you rent an already prepared dog daycare facility. Go for a space that you can easily renovate to your taste and at a cheaper cost. 
  • Competition: You would make more sales in an area with little competition than in a place where you have to struggle for customers with ten other daycares. If you can, get a place with no dog daycare to have the pioneer advantage.

Download the Dog Daycare financial model template

  • Lender & investor-friendly
  • Easy-to-use Excel template
  • CPA-developed financials
  • 30+ charts and metrics

8. Get Dog Daycare Equipment & Supplies

Next on the list is to get the necessary equipment and supplies to run your dog daycare. In addition to mandatory equipment (fire extinguishers, smoke detectors), here are a few examples of what you will need to buy:

  • Playground equipment
  • Waste bags
  • Refrigerator 
  • Balls and toys
  • Water and food bowls
  • Crates
  • Kennels 

You’ll probably need about $1,500 – $5,000 to acquire this equipment and supplies. However, the cost will be higher if you provide unique services like dog training and pick-up-and-drop-off. 

Budget around $1,500 to $5,000 for all the basic equipment to run a dog daycare

9. Advertise your Dog Daycare

You won’t have a steady income stream if you don’t advertise your dog daycare. Dog owners will only patronize you if they know what you do. 

  • Word-of-mouth advertising

Look out for dog owners in your location and sell your services to them. Also, encourage satisfied customers to share their experiences with their family and friends, which, in turn, leads to more customers. 

  • Digital advertising

The first thing is to build a website and optimize it to rank on search engines. You can share stories about your dogs with unique perspectives to draw traffic. Having an online presence makes your business more discoverable. Also, use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to sell your services.

  • Referral programs

Rewarding loyalty and referrals will go a long way in advertising your business. People love to cut costs, and once you provide that opportunity, they will sing your praises.

Google listing (and reviews) still is one of the most effective marketing channel for dog daycare businesses

10. Hire your Dog Daycare Staff

The last step before you can start your dog daycare is to hire a team. Logically, the number of employees and their roles will depend on the type of services you offer, as well as the size of your daycare. For example, whilst you can take care of 4 -5 dogs alone, you’ll likely need 4 – 5 employees if you have 50 dogs in your care.

Here is a list of the different roles you may need for your dog daycare :

  • Dog attendant
  • Veterinary staff
  • Kennel manager
  • Dog walker
  • Dog trainer
  • Accountant
  • Driver (if you offer pick-up-and-drop-off services).

Ensure you consider factors such as personality, willingness to learn, emotional intelligence, technical knowledge, enthusiasm for the job, etc., before you hire anyone. 

Also, spend time training your staff. Show them how to do what needs to be done. It’s always good practice to hire your first employees a few days before opening so you can train them. Later, you may even allow them to shadow you for a couple of days before you hand operations over to them.

Download the Dog Daycare financial model template

  • Lender & investor-friendly
  • Easy-to-use Excel template
  • CPA-developed financials
  • 30+ charts and metrics