How to Start a Dog Boarding Business
The American Pet Products Association reports that the category of “pet services” is one of the fastest-growing segments of the pet industry, and boarding services represent a key component of this growth. You can start your own profitable dog boarding business by following a few simple steps.
If you plan to open a boarding kennel, you should gain experience working for an established operation if possible. You should also have a good knowledge of animal behavior, animal health, and facility maintenance (or hire qualified individuals who have these skills). Prior study in an animal-related field or experience as a veterinary technician, pet sitter, dog walker, or animal shelter volunteer is desirable.
There are also membership groups for kennel owners (such as the International Boarding and Pet Services Association) that offer industry-specific training and education programs.
Before opening your boarding facility, you must take into consideration business and legal matters. The first step is to speak with your attorney or accountant about the advantages and disadvantages of forming your business as a sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), or other entity. You should also contact your local government to check on zoning regulations and inquire about any permits or licenses that could be necessary to operate the business legally.
Be sure to take out a liability insurance policy, draft official boarding contracts for clients to sign. And make sure to establish a protocol for emergency veterinary care if an animal suffers a medical emergency.
Find a Facility
It may be necessary to build a facility from scratch if an existing kennel (or similar business) is not available for purchase. Location can be a key factor, like proximity to an airport or densely populated area will bring a greater volume of business.
Kennel facilities generally include a mix of cages, runs, and large play areas where the dogs may interact and exercise. Splash pools and agility courses are becoming popular features. Kennel facilities are expected to be heated and air-conditioned to maintain a comfortable temperature, and enclosures must be continually cleaned. Some high-end boarding facilities offer small “suites” with human beds, televisions, and live streaming webcams so owners can check on their animals while traveling.
Most boarding kennels have multiple employees. Larger operations may include a kennel manager, kennel attendants, a receptionist, and possibly additional service providers such as a groomer or a trainer. Smaller kennels may have just a few attendants. In any case, all employees should have experience working with animals, administering medication, and providing general care. Most kennels offer 24-hour supervision of the animals, so the facility must be adequately staffed to provide this continual coverage.
Define Your Services
Most boarding kennels focus primarily on dogs and cats (with the cats being kept in a separate room away from the noise of the dog area). Some kennels also reserve space for birds or small animals. The kennel may offer a variety of services such as bathing, grooming, and obedience training services. Some sell pet products and food in the front office. The kennel may also offer doggie daycare services, where owners may drop their dogs off in the morning and pick them up in the evening.
A kennel will normally open for drop off service at 7 a.m. and remain open until 7 p.m. for pickups on weekdays. Weekend hours tend to vary, and some kennels offer to pick up and drop off services by appointment or during limited hours. A few kennels even offer a shuttle that will pick up or drop off a pet for an additional fee.
Price Your Services
The most effective way to determine a pricing structure is to call your competition and see what rates they are currently charging for similar kennel services. The cost varies widely based on what part of the country a daycare is located in, the type of boarding enclosure requested, and the specific services offered as part of the package. Premium services (such as training and professional grooming) tend to be available at an additional cost when requested.
You may also consider offering multiple animal discounts, reduced rates for your “frequent flyers” who visit every month, and referral bonus programs (giving established customers a free day of boarding or other incentives when they refer a new client).
There are many advertising options for a boarding kennel, including web pages, social media accounts, phone book ads, newspaper or magazine ads, mass mailings, vehicle decals, local media coverage, and more. It is always smart to leave flyers and business cards at veterinary clinics, pet supply stores, dog parks, office complexes, supermarkets, and other areas where pet owners may congregate.