The days are getting shorter and the weather’s getting colder, which can only mean one thing: It’s the perfect season to start a dog walking business!
Think about it. In the summer, it’s easy—even enjoyable—for pet owners to give their own furry friends the exercise they need.
But now, when it’s nearly dark by the time people get home from work and they just want to curl up in sweatpants once they get there, busy dog owners are fully primed and ready to hear what your dog walking business has to offer.
Why a Dog Walking Business?
If you love animals and you don’t shudder at the thought of bundling up, walking dogs for a living is a no-brainer!
You make exactly what you earn.
Charge what you want to charge, work when you want to work (provided you can find the clients). Give yourself vacations, set your own rates, and take on as many clients as you can handle when you need a financial boost!
Entrepreneur.com does the math: 8 visits at $16/visit = $128/day—that’s $640/week!
Your days are flexible.
If someone needs you to stop by to walk a dog sometime between 3 and 5 every Wednesday, you have incredible flexibility with the rest of your day. Want to stop at the store before rush hour? No problem! Need to get an early start so you can get out of town? No problem! As long as you show up within the hours you’re expected to, your schedule is completely under your own control.
You get to paid to hang out with dogs.
I mean. Enough said.
Ready to take this show to the road? Let’s take a look:
Steps to Starting a Dog Walking Business
1. Decide how to organize your business.
There are two common ways that dog walkers organize their businesses: sole proprietorships and LLCs. (Corporations, while valid business entities in all other respects, are not as common among dog walking businesses.)
This type of business is easy: If you don’t file any paperwork at all, you’re considered a sole proprietorship. (You can either use your own legal name, or you can file a DBA and use an assumed name that you make up—the choice is yours!)
Why a sole proprietorship? It’s cheap (or free!) to start, and taxes are simple: you pay a federal self-employment tax of 13.3% of your earnings (as of 2011; down 2% from 2010).
But dog-walkers should know something else about sole proprietorships: they don’t provide liability protection. If a client sues you for something that happened to a dog under your watch, there’s no legal protection between the business and you—legally, the business is you.
LLC (Limited Liability Company)
An LLC, on the other hand, does provide limited liability protection in the case of a lawsuit. In this case, the disgruntled client would be suing your business, not you personally, and the courts cannot seize your own personal funds to pay for debts or settlements your dog walking business owes.
Of course, you’ll pay for this protection. An LLC can cost anywhere from $50 to $300 more than a sole proprietorship, depending on your state. But you do have tax choices: the IRS does not actually recognize “LLC” as a tax classification, so you’ll be able to select whether to be taxed as an individual or as a corporation.
Important: If you’re not sure which is best for you, it’s always best to talk to a lawyer or financial advisor so you can determine which business organization is right for your situation.
2. Obey local rules and regulations.
Your dog walking business may need additional business licenses and permits beyond the business registration. Your specific needs will depend on your state, county, and city rules and regulations; you’ll need to determine what the license requirements are in your area.
For example, in San Francisco, dog walkers must send an “agreement form” to the city’s Animal Care & Control, as well as adhere to standard practices (clean up waste, keep dogs on leash, and so forth). San Francisco also bars a single person from walking more than 6 dogs at a time.
Check with your city and county for their requirements, and make sure you adhere to them.
3. Consider insurance.
While your liability will depend on whether or not you’re a sole proprietorship or other type of business, you may want to look into liability insurance that could cover you in the event that something unexpected occurs.
Depending on where you do your walking, there are cars, other dogs, and countless other potential dangers you might encounter on your walk. If an owner should sue you over something that happened to your dog, insurance could help you weather the blow.
4. Pay your taxes.
Regardless of how your dog walking business is organized, you’ll need to report your earnings to the IRS. If you’re a sole proprietorship, you can use your social security number; if you’re an LLC or corporation, you’ll need an EIN (employer identification number) so that you can report your business’s earnings.[Ready to start walking dogs? Register your business with Click&Inc!]