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What is a Dog Day Care Business?
With approximately 34% of UK households having a pet dog (equating to approximately 13 million pet dogs across the country), the UK is a country of dog lovers. On average, a dog owner in the UK spends £240 per month on their pet, equating to an impressive industry total of £10 billion a year.
Gone are the days when dogs used to sleep in a kennel in the garden; instead, the majority of people now consider their dogs to be treasured members of their families. With many people not wanting to leave their dogs home alone every day, it is no surprise that the doggy day care industry in the UK is booming.
With the majority of people working from home or being furloughed during the Covid-19 pandemic and many dogs getting used to their owners being home most of the time and not being left home alone for extended periods, it is no surprise that dog day care is more popular than ever.
Dog day care, more commonly known as doggy day care, is the short-term daytime care of dogs. It shares many similarities with day care for children. Dogs get dropped off at day care in the morning (usually when their owners are on the way to work) and they get picked up again in the afternoon or the evening.
Dogs often get bored, hyperactive, stressed or depressed if they are at home alone for extended periods of time. Similar to humans, dogs can experience separation anxiety and an anxious or bored dog can cause damage to your home (for example, by ripping or chewing wallpaper, sofas and belongings and scratching walls), can cause harm to themselves or can bark or howl excessively, which can cause issues with your neighbours. It can also be distressing to the owners to see their beloved dog unhappy or distressed.
During their time at day care, the dogs get plenty of attention from workers, can socialise with other dogs and can engage in activities that have been specifically designed to suit each dog’s specific needs and temperament. The dogs usually have the opportunity to spend time indoors and outdoors, playing with toys and resting or sleeping if they choose. Dog day care provides both mental and physical stimulation and activity for the dogs.
There are two main types of dog day care businesses:
- Providing a safe, clean and comfortable environment.
- Ensuring the safety and well-being of all dogs.
- Interacting with all dogs using appropriate toys, equipment and activities.
- Maintaining visual observation and supervising play areas and all dogs to ensure pet safety.
- Ensuring all dogs have enough water throughout the day.
- Providing mental stimulation to dogs.
- Ensuring the dogs are engaged in physical activity and exercise.
- Using proper dog handling techniques, behaviour management and control procedures.
- Providing training to the dogs (e.g. to reduce negative or destructive behaviours or increase obedience).
- Following dog introduction techniques for new dogs visiting your day care.
- Minimising the stress levels of all dogs.
- Striving to give every dog equal attention and care.
- Regularly checking the areas for hazards.
- Regularly cleaning the day care area and any equipment.
- Having a clear understanding of animal welfare.
- Monitoring the behaviour of the dogs.
- Assessing the overall physical health of the dogs and looking for signs of neglect or mistreatment.
- Purchasing and maintaining equipment and managing your equipment inventory.
- Sending daily updates to each dog’s owner (usually including photographs).
- Keeping up to date on health and safety regulations and ensuring your business complies with all health and safety regulations and legal guidelines.
- Reporting any unusual behaviour, injuries or concerns you have.
- Completing dog incident reports when required.
- Pricing your services, handling payments and providing receipts or invoices.
- Tracking dog attendance.
- Completing business and administrative tasks.
- Marketing and advertising.
If you are thinking of starting up a dog day care business, there are certain qualities, skills and areas of knowledge that will be beneficial. A love of animals, a familiarity with various dog breeds and how to handle them and a passion for taking care of animals are essential. You will also need good communication skills, the ability to work in a team environment and the ability to be flexible. Good physical skills (so you can handle the dogs) is also recommended. A thorough understanding of health and safety regulations is also required. If you have a passion for dogs and a solid business plan, running a doggy day care can be both financially and personally rewarding.
Types of Customers
When setting up your business, an important step is determining your typical customer base. As a doggy day care, your customer base will, of course, be made up of dogs and their owners. However, there are specific factors that can influence the types of customers that are more likely to choose your business.
Defining your target market makes it easier to focus on the specific customers who are most likely to pay for your services and determine exactly where and how to market your business.
Some of the factors that can influence your typical customer base include:
The location you operate in
This is one of the most important factors in determining your typical customer base, as the majority of dog owners choose a day care that is conveniently located to their home or place of work. The types of customers that use your business will, therefore, be primarily made up of people who live or work in the local area.
This is another important factor. Dog owners can typically be separated into three pricing categories, determined by how much money they are willing (or able) to spend on their pets.
- Budget customers: Price is the most important factor for this type of customer. They will likely choose the doggy day care that offers the lowest price, regardless of the services they offer. They are more likely to be satisfied with more basic facilities and equipment.
- Mid-range customers: Mid-market customers are usually looking for a combination of quality and affordability. Although price is important to them, it won’t be the only factor they consider. They will likely have a budget in mind but will still be looking for a doggy day care that offers a higher service.
- Luxury customers: This type of customer is willing to pay higher prices for the best possible service and the best equipment and facilities for their pet. They will likely look for a dog day care that has superior facilities and equipment, additional services (such as training and grooming), an excellent reputation and strong branding.
Your facilities, equipment and activities
Many dog owners tour the day care facilities or sign their pet up for a trial session before committing to one day care. When visiting your day care, they will likely look at the size of your facilities (including any outdoor space), the various equipment you have, the number of staff you have supervising the dogs at one time and the activities and services you offer. Consider all of these factors when setting up your day care and determining who is most likely to use your services.
There are also some other factors that can influence your typical customer base, including:
- Your training and qualifications.
- Your branding and business’s aesthetic.
- Your staff.
- Your safety procedures.
- Your marketing and advertising.
- Your customer reviews.
Equipment You Will Need
Equipment is an essential purchase, as without it you will not be able to run your business. The type and amount of equipment you need will depend on your premises, the number of dogs you plan to look after at one time and the services you offer.
Below is a list of equipment typically required by a doggy day care business:
Day Care Equipment
Playground and agility equipment
Dogs love to climb and play, particularly when they have other dogs to socialise with. Playground and agility equipment can ensure that dogs have plenty of areas to exercise and can offer both mental and physical stimulation.
Some of the equipment you could opt for includes:
- Climbing frames and slides.
- A ball pit.
- Bridges and walkways.
- Hurdles and hoop jumps.
- A doggy see-saw (also called a teeter).
A swimming pool
Swimming pools are a popular choice for many doggy day cares, particularly those that plan to charge higher prices. You could opt for a full-sized swimming pool that the dogs are able to swim in or smaller pools or water equipment that are designed for paddling.
Mobile room dividers allow you to keep groups of dogs separate if needed. If you have a communal area for dogs to play or socialise, room dividers can help you to monitor playtime more easily or separate the room into different sections. Room dividers are available in different sizes and heights and can be made of different materials.
If you have an outdoor area, you must ensure it is fully enclosed using reliable fencing. Your fencing will need to be high enough that no dogs can jump over, it should be without any small gaps that smaller dogs and puppies can slip between and should be made from a reliable material that the dogs cannot chew or is not harmful to them.
Balls and other chasing toys
Many breeds of dogs, including Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, English Springer Spaniels and Whippets, love to chase balls and other toys. If there is an enclosed field or other outdoor space where you can safely allow the dogs to run around, dog-chasing toys are a great way to keep the dogs entertained and ensure they get enough exercise. Choose different-sized balls to suit different breeds and ensure they are strong and sturdy and do not pose a health risk.
Other dog toys
There are many different types of dog toys you can purchase. To ensure the dogs are safe (e.g. not eating or swallowing parts of the toys), they would need to be heavily supervised when using toys. You should also opt for strong toys, made from tough materials.
Some of the toys you can opt for include:
- Rope toys.
- Cord toys.
- Ring toys.
- Squeaking toys.
Pet relief stations
Many doggy day cares opt to use pet relief stations so that the dogs in their care have a hygienic place to relieve themselves without needing to go outside every time. A pet relief station is a small area covered in artificial grass (that dogs are naturally attracted to) that also features a pop-up sprinkler system (usually shaped like an object such as a fire hydrant) that washes away any dog urine into the drain. A pet relief station can significantly reduce the number of urine-related incidents that occur in your day care and can help your facility to stay cleaner and more hygienic. Depending on the size of your facility, you may require multiple stations.
You will likely have a designated area of your day care where the dogs can go to rest or sleep. Adult dogs typically sleep for 12 hours a day and puppies and senior dogs sleep for up to 20 hours a day. Although dogs often choose to sleep on the floor, it is important that they also have specific areas and equipment that can help them to rest.
This could include:
- Dog beds.
- Blankets and pillows.
- A sofa.
- Sleeping mats.
Water bowls and drinking fountains
Because the dogs in your day care will be so active, it is essential that you ensure they have constant access to water. You will need multiple water bowls stationed around your facility. Alternatively, you could opt for water fountains and water dispensers so that the dogs always have access to fresh water.
These are a must-have for every dog business. As you will be using numerous bags a day, purchasing biodegradable bags helps your business to be more environmentally friendly.
Treats can be useful if one of the dogs you look after needs a little extra encouragement to follow your instructions or if you are training the dogs. Choose healthier treats and make sure the dogs you look after don’t have any allergies.
Other Equipment Requirements
Air conditioning and a dehumidifier
You will need to keep your day care at a constant temperature that is safe and comfortable for the dogs (particularly as they are likely to be very active). Air conditioning can help you to keep your day care at the correct temperature and a dehumidifier can remove excess moisture from the air. This can help you to keep your premises safe and hygienic.
An air purifier
An air purifier can help to keep the air in your day care fresh and hygienic and remove any harmful bacteria and unwanted particles from the air. It can also prevent your facility from smelling bad and can ensure purified air is continually circulating around your facilities.
A buzzer system and automatic closing doors
To ensure that your facility is secure and that no random people can enter your premises without your permission, it is recommended that you install a buzzer system on your front door. This helps to protect your business from potential dog thefts. Your front doors should also feature automatically closing doors to prevent any dogs from escaping from day care. It is also recommended that your front door and reception area are separated from the day care area by another set of doors so that visitors to your business don’t come into contact with the dogs.
A dog first aid kit
A dog first aid kit allows you to provide pre-vet first aid if one of the dogs in your care is injured or ill. Your first aid kit should contain essential items such as alcohol pads, adhesives for cuts and wounds, a rubber tourniquet, bandages of different sizes (including patch bandages), tape and a foil blanket.
A human first aid kit
This is also essential in case you, an employee or a visitor to your business becomes injured. Ensure your first aid kit is replenished regularly. Your first aid kit for humans should include plasters of different sizes, different types of bandages, gauze dressings, cleansing wipes, distilled water, antiseptic cream, eye wash and sticky tape.
A phone with a good camera
Many dog owners will want regular updates on their pets while they are at your day care. You can send daily updates and take photos of the dogs and send them to the owners. This offers peace of mind and is a service that many dog owners will appreciate. You can also upload your photos to your website or business’s social media as a form of advertising.
Rubbish bins and a waste disposal system
You will need rubbish bins in different areas of your facility. You will also need different bins for different items to ensure you are disposing of rubbish correctly and following recycling guidelines. Colour-coded bins are the easiest way to ensure your waste disposal system is operating correctly. Ensure your bins are secure and kept away from dogs.
A deep sink or washing area
You will need to install a deep sink or washing area that allows you to wash a lot of equipment at one time. This will help you to save time overall.
A washing machine and tumble dryer
You will need to wash dog beds, blankets, pillows, towels, cloths and any other materials regularly. A large reliable washing machine and dryer are recommended to ensure you can run your business hygienically.
A CCTV system
Because you will be storing expensive equipment and stock and will have beloved pets on your premises, CCTV can protect your business from potential break-ins and theft. CCTV can also protect your business in the event of an injury or accident and can provide vital footage to the police or a vet if an incident occurs. You can choose the specification of the equipment and how many cameras you require.
If you accept cash payments, you will need a safe as a way of safely storing the cash from your till at the end of the day. You can also keep extra change in your safe in case your cash register runs out of change during the working day.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE is a necessary purchase, particularly because you will be picking up dog poop and handling dogs. PPE can also help to keep you and your staff members safe. Some PPE you could choose includes gloves, aprons and anti-slip footwear.
Some of the cleaning supplies you may require include a sweeping brush, a mop and bucket, kennel cleaner, bleach, window cleaner, sanitiser, cloths, sponges and other cleaning supplies. You should also supply hand sanitiser and handwashing facilities for staff and any visitors to your business.
Reception and admin equipment
Some of the equipment you may require for your reception are:
- A phone – for customers to make appointments.
- An appointment book or scheduling software – to keep track of appointments and cancellations.
- A reception desk and chair.
- Pricing signs and opening hours signs.
- Shelving for displaying products.
A computer/laptop and a Wi-Fi system
A computer can be used for running your business’s website and social media. You can also manage your online bookings, communicate with customers and market and advertise your day care. A computer can also be used for business and administrative tasks, such as ordering equipment and doing your accounts. You will also need a Wi-Fi system to enable you to use your computer or laptop online.
A website is useful for advertising your business. It should contain photographs and descriptions of your business and the services you offer. It should also list your qualifications and experience, your customer reviews and your contact information. Your website could also feature a booking system for customers to make an appointment or book a session. Design your website to include your business logo and to reflect your branding.
A payment system
The type of payment system you require will depend on your primary payment strategy. For example, if you accept in-person sales, you will likely require a transportable Point of Sale (POS) system (e.g. a card machine) and a cash register. If you accept online payments, you may require an online payment system or a way to track payments to your business bank account.
Leaflets and business cards
These items are essential to your marketing and advertising strategies. These items should look professional, be made using high-quality materials and fit the design and aesthetic of your business. Ensure all of these items feature your contact information so potential customers can get in touch with you.
Typical Pricing for Customers
Once you have calculated the typical costs associated with setting up and running a doggy day care, you can then create your pricing strategy.
You could choose to charge per house, per day or per half a day.
Many doggy day care businesses offer discounts to customers who:
- Have multiple dogs attending the day care.
- Attend full-time.
- Pay for a block of sessions at one time (e.g. they pay for a whole month at one time).
Prices can vary significantly, based on multiple factors. However, on average, customers can expect to spend between £20 and £30 per day for one dog.
Some factors that can impact your pricing include:
- Your location.
- Your competition and the demand for your services.
- Your facilities and equipment.
- Your training and qualifications.
- The size of your day care.
- The staff-to-dog ratio.
Safely Running a Dog Day Care Business
Safe practices in your doggy day care can help you to protect the health, safety and well-being of the dogs, your employees, and any visitors to your day care.
Some ways you can safely run your dog day care business are:
Consider other factors when calculating your staffing ratio
Although government guidelines state that the staff-to-dog ratio should not exceed 1:10, there are other factors you should consider when calculating the ratio that could cause you to require more staff.
These can include:
- The breed, age, health and needs of each dog.
- The qualifications and experience of the staff members.
- Other services that are offered by your business and how this could affect your employees’ time and their ability to look after the dogs (e.g. training or grooming services).
- Whether the staff are full-time or part-time and whether they are fully employed or work as volunteers.
Consider the flooring and interior surfaces
To protect dogs and staff members from slipping, falling or obtaining an injury, it is recommended that all interior flooring and surfaces are smooth and waterproof. They should also be easy to clean.
Ensure the dogs do not overheat or are too cold
Although you are legally required to ensure your day care is at a safe temperature (between 10°C and 26°C) there are other ways you can ensure the dogs are at a safe temperature, including:
- Keep the dogs away from direct sources of heat.
- Keep all inside areas well-ventilated./li>
- If a dog shows signs of discomfort, steps should be taken to increase or reduce their body temperature.
Implement cleaning procedures
Having effective cleaning procedures is essential for your business. A cleaning schedule and cleaning policies should be in place that cover the cleaning of equipment, surfaces and indoor and outdoor areas. All furnishings and equipment should be inspected daily, and you should document your cleaning and disinfection procedures. Dog faeces should be removed as frequently as necessary. Dogs should be removed from the area while any cleaning is taking place. You should also implement handwashing procedures for staff and visitors.
Flea and tick prevention
To prevent an outbreak of fleas, ticks, or lice in your day care, ensure all the dogs are up to date in their flea and tick treatments. You could request proof that the dogs are up to date in their treatment, or request that the owners treat their dogs before they bring them to the day care.
Be aware of any health conditions, illnesses, injuries or allergies
This is essential for protecting the health and safety of the dogs you care for. Ask your clients to document any conditions you need to be aware of when you first begin working together and then ask them to update you if there are any changes to their dog’s health.
Correctly label food and treats
Dogs have allergies and intolerances as well as people. Ensuring any food or treats are correctly labelled with the ingredients and allergen information is important for protecting the health and safety of the dogs.
Carry out risk assessments
Risk assessments are a legal requirement for businesses with more than five employees. However, even if your business has fewer than five employees, risk assessments are still recommended to ensure the safety of the dogs, your staff and any visitors to your business. Risk assessments can help you to identify any potential hazards and risks in your business and how these can be reduced or eliminated.
As part of your risk assessment, you should:
- Identify hazards.
- Determine who could be at risk.
- Evaluate any potential risks.
- Implement relevant safety measures.
- Record the results of the risk assessment.
- Review the risk assessment regularly.
Implement security measures
Safety measures can help to protect your business, your employees, your customers and your equipment.
Some safety measures you should implement include:
- Install a CCTV system.
- Install an alarm system and secure and reliable locks.
- Ensure doors and gates self-lock.
Ensure the dogs are properly supervised
You must ensure that all dogs are properly supervised at all times, particularly during high-risk activities, such as when the dogs are socialising or when they are playing with toys or using the equipment. Particular attention should be placed on younger dogs, senior dogs and dogs that have previously demonstrated behavioural issues.
Complying with legal guidelines is essential when setting up and running your doggy day care business.
Some of the legal requirements you should be aware of include:
Acquire a licence
The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 require you to obtain a licence before providing day care to dogs. The type of licence you require (and the associated cost) will depend on whether you run your business from your home or from a dedicated facility and the number of dogs you care for at one time. You will be expected to meet and maintain minimum standards in your business and ensure you comply with all regulations. You will also be inspected by your local authority. Licences are valid for between 1 and 3 years.
Display your licence
A copy of your licence must be clearly and prominently displayed on your premises (in a public-facing area, such as the entrance or reception area) and on your website. You must ensure the copy includes the name of the licence holder and the licence number.
Comply with the Animal Welfare Act (2006)
The Animal Welfare Act provides legislation that applies to any animal being cared for and supervised by people. As the owner of a dog day care, you will be responsible for the welfare of any dogs you care for. Failure to comply with the Act or committing an offence under the Act could result in prosecution.
Comply with staffing requirements
You must ensure that each member of staff has 10 or fewer dogs to care for at one time. You should also ensure that all staff are competent and are able to provide the level of care that is required to ensure the welfare needs of all animals are being met. This includes the competence to identify normal behaviours in dogs and particular breeds of dogs and to recognise signs of pain, suffering, injury, disease or abnormal behaviour.
Comply with space requirements
Each dog must have at least 6 square metres of space available to them on the premises. This can include both indoor and outdoor spaces. Calculate the size and layout of your premises (e.g. do not include reception areas and staff-only areas) to determine how much space is available to the dogs and how many dogs you are able to accommodate. For example, if your premises has 84 square metres available to the dogs, the maximum number of dogs you can accommodate is 14.
Ensure staff training
You and any staff that work in your business must receive appropriate training on matters such as:
- Animal welfare.
- Animal handling.
- Animal behaviour.
- Cleanliness and hygiene.
- Feeding dogs and preparing food (if relevant).
- Preventing and controlling diseases.
- Recognising sick or injured animals.
- Animal first aid.
You must keep accurate records of all staff training (this will likely be inspected when applying for or renewing your licence).
Your staff must also:
- Complete a formal qualification appropriate to their role (e.g. a qualification regulated by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual)).
- OR show they have the relevant knowledge and experience via industry-generated training courses.
As the licence holder, you must implement a written training policy for all staff that is reviewed and updated every year. It must include an annual appraisal, any planned continued professional development (CPD) and recognition of any knowledge gaps.
Ensure the environment is suitable
There are multiple regulations you must comply with when creating your day care environment, including:
- All areas, equipment and appliances (accessible to animals) must present minimal risks of injury, illness and escape.
- Any equipment should be robust, safe, well-maintained and in a good state of repair.
- Outdoor exercise areas, gardens and paths must be kept in a clean, presentable condition.
- Hazards, such as sharp or rough edges, should be removed.
- There should be no standing water (e.g. from cleaning or urine) and any drains must be kept unblocked.
- Drain covers should be designed to prevent the dogs’ paws or nails from becoming caught.
- Interior surfaces should be cleaned regularly and maintained in good order.
- Doors, gates and windows should be escape-proof, able to be secured and locked and be resistant to impact and scratching.
- There should be at least two secure barriers between the dogs and any entrance or exit to your day care.
- Fencing should be strong and in good repair and should be a sufficient height and dig-proof.
- Electrical sockets or appliances in dog-accessible rooms should be secure and protected from potential damage.
- Noise levels, light levels and ventilation should be safe and suitable for different dog breeds.
- The dogs should have access to areas where they can interact safely with other dogs, toys and people.
Provide opportunities for toileting
All dogs should be provided with regular opportunities for toileting throughout the day. You should also take each individual dog’s needs into account when providing opportunities for toileting. Toileting can be indoor or outdoor toileting.
Dispose of waste appropriately
Some of your business’s waste, such as animal faeces, will be classed as hazardous waste. This waste must be disposed of by a registered, authorised waste carrier. Contact your local environmental health department for more details.
Create a written programme
You must create and update a written programme that demonstrates how you provide an enriching environment and effectively monitor behaviour and training. This includes physical activity, mental stimulation, socialisation and play. The behaviour of each dog should be monitored daily and any changes in behaviour should be recorded and reported to the owner.
Check up-to-date veterinary vaccination records
All dogs must have up-to-date veterinary vaccination records that show they are vaccinated against:
- Canine parvovirus.
- Canine distemper.
- Infectious canine hepatitis.
- Any other relevant disease.
Register with a vet
Your business should be registered with a vet that can be contacted in the event of an emergency. The contact details of the vet should be clearly displayed and easily accessible to all staff members.
The information should include:
- The vet’s name.
- The vet’s address and telephone number.
- An out-of-hours telephone number.
The dogs’ owners should also be informed of which vet your business uses and must be in agreement.
Create an emergency plan
Your business must have a written emergency plan in place that is known and available to all employees and volunteers. Your plan should also be approved by the local authority and should also feature an emergency drill programme that is tested annually. Your emergency plan should also feature details of how you extract the animals in the event of an emergency.
Comply with fire regulations
As the business owner, you are responsible for fire safety measures on your premises.
There are multiple fire regulations you must ensure you comply with, including:
- Conducting a fire risk assessment.
- Complying with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
- Implementing any necessary fire safety measures.
- Implementing emergency procedures and ensuring these are clearly displayed.
Implement safety measures
Safety measures can help to protect your business, your employees, your customers and your equipment.
Some safety measures you should implement include:
- Suitable fire prevention, fire detection and firefighting equipment should be provided and maintained.
- Entrances and fire exits must be kept clear of obstructions.
- A first aid kit suitable for dogs must be kept on site.
- An emergency contact name and number must be displayed outside the premises.
Comply with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013
RIDDOR states that you must report all injuries, diseases and dangerous events that occur in your business. Reports must be made to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) using an appropriate recording document. These regulations apply to any incidents that involve a dog, an employee or a visitor to your business.
Comply with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998
PUWER regulations apply to you and any employees you hire. You must ensure any equipment in your dog day care is fit for purpose and is maintained and inspected regularly. You must also ensure that health and safety risks are minimised to an acceptable level, that you have the correct knowledge and training to use the equipment, and that protective measures are put into place. Equipment should also be used under appropriate conditions.
Comply with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
Manual handling regulations can help to protect you and your employees from sustaining an injury or illness as a result of manual handling tasks. The regulations apply to the lifting or moving of any objects, bending down and reaching high and repetitive movements. You will likely be performing manual handling activities when carrying out tasks such as handling the dogs, moving equipment or throwing balls.
Appoint a competent person
A competent person should be appointed to help your business meet your health and safety legal duties. You can act in this role yourself or appoint another person to fulfil this role. The competent person should have the skills, knowledge and experience to identify any hazards in your business and put controls in place to protect people from harm.
Prepare a health and safety policy
The law states that every business in the UK must have a specific policy for managing health and safety. Your policy should state exactly how you will manage health and safety in your day care and state who is responsible for specific tasks and how and when these tasks are completed. Follow the recommended tips from the Health and Safety Executive when creating your health and safety policy. You should make your policy easily visible to any visitors to your business.
Comply with employment legislation
If you employ any staff, you must ensure you follow employment legislation, including the Employment Rights Act (1996) and the National Minimum Wage Act (1998). You must also comply with legislation relating to recruitment, working hours, sickness, discrimination, dismissals, and maternity or paternity pay.
Comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (DPA)
You must comply with both pieces of legislation when storing or sharing personal information, such as your customers’ personal information, contact details and banking information. You must also apply for a Notification to Process Personal Data Licence. You will also need to apply for a licence with the Information Commissioner’s Office and renew your registration every year.
Comply with receipt or invoice requirements
You may make it standard that you provide all customers with a receipt or invoice. Even if you do not make this standard practice, many of your customers will request a receipt.
There are certain pieces of information you should include:
- The word ‘invoice’ or ‘receipt’ and a unique invoice number.
- Your business name and address.
- The client’s name and address.
- A brief description of your work.
- The total you are charging the client and when the payment is due.
- The payment method.
Register your business
You must register your business with HMRC before you begin operating. You can register as a sole trader or as a limited company. You will need to register your business name and any other relevant information.
Register for self-assessment tax
This allows you to calculate and pay your own taxes each year. You will need to track your finances every month and submit any expenses as part of your tax assessment.
As part of your tax responsibilities, you must:
- Record all forms of income and expenses.
- Complete an annual self-assessment tax return.
- Register for VAT if you earn above the threshold (currently £85,000).
- Pay National Insurance contributions.
- Keep a record of your business accounts for the previous five years.
Positives of Owning a Dog Day Care Business
Starting up a dog day care business can be rewarding in many ways.
Some of the main pros associated with this type of business include:
Working with dogs
If you are an animal lover, working with dogs every day can sound like a dream job. You can spend time with different types of dogs, take care of them, play with them and ensure they are mentally and physically stimulated and are happy and safe. Working with animals can be very therapeutic as well as enjoyable.
Mental health benefits
There are multiple mental health benefits associated with spending time with animals. Studies have found that something as simple as stroking a dog can have a positive impact on a person’s mental health.
Some of the benefits you may experience include:
- Lower cortisol levels, resulting in lower overall stress.
- Reduction in anxiety and depression.
- Increased oxytocin levels and mood-boosting endorphins.
- Reduces feelings of loneliness.
Physical health benefits
Working in a doggy day care is very active as you will be playing with the dogs every day, walking around a lot to supervise and you will generally have high levels of physical activity.
Some of the physical health benefits of this profession can include:
- Increased physical activity and improved physical health.
- Reduced blood pressure (related to lower cortisol levels).
- Lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
With more pet dogs than ever in the UK and people willing to spend more money on their pooches, the demand for doggy day care is higher than ever. High demand makes it more likely that your business will succeed and will allow you to earn a higher profit margin.
Every day is different
Running a day care business will never get boring. Every day will be different and will present new challenges and different activities. You will be working with different dogs, supervising different activities, managing different staff every day and taking responsibility for different tasks. A varied workday helps to keep your job interesting.
A rewarding career choice
Running a doggy day care business can be rewarding in many ways. You can have a positive impact on your community, connect with other people and see your business grow and succeed. If you love animals and are passionate about working with dogs, running a successful business will not only be financially rewarding but also personally rewarding.
Opportunities for new businesses
Unlike many other industries, the doggy day care industry is not dominated by major companies or popular franchises. The majority of day care businesses are small, independent businesses that operate in the local community. This results in more opportunities for small businesses and opens up gaps in the market for new businesses to succeed.
Be part of your local community
You will most likely operate your business in your local area. This allows you to connect with other dog owners and animal lovers in your community, both personally and professionally. You can develop positive relationships, partner with other businesses (e.g. groomers and kennels) and even get involved in community events and fundraisers.
A scalable business
A doggy day care business can have a simple business model, making it easy to set up this type of business. If you want to grow your business, this type of business is highly scalable, as you will already have established strong business relationships and a solid business plan. You can extend your premises, hire more staff, increase the services you offer and open additional day cares in other locations. High demand for your business and high scalability gives you great opportunities for growth.
Unlimited income potential
There is no fixed income or limit on how much money your day care business can make. If you operate at maximum capacity, this allows you to increase your profits. As your business grows in popularity, you can also raise your prices, extend your premises and scale up your business. A doggy day care business has a high income potential and, with a solid business plan, can be extremely lucrative.
Customer loyalty and recommendations
Dog owners tend to use the same day care throughout their dogs’ lives, particularly if their dog is settled there and they have a positive relationship with the staff. Customer loyalty provides you with consistent business and allows you to develop positive relationships with the dogs and their families for many years. Loyal customers are also more likely to recommend your business to other dog owners, increasing your customer base and your profits.
Create a positive work environment
You will be responsible for hiring staff and creating staff policies. This gives you the opportunity to create a positive work environment. You could hire staff that you know will bring positivity to your business, will work well with the dogs and other staff and will be an asset to your business. Your staff will also likely be like-minded people who are also passionate about animals.
Pick and choose the dogs you accept
You can choose to take on as many or as few dogs as you want. If a dog attends your day care that has behavioural issues, doesn’t socialise well with the other dogs, poses a risk to others or you think is not well suited to day care, you can cease working with them whenever you want, as a fixed contract will not apply.
Be as involved as you want
Once your business is established, you can choose to be as involved as you want in the day-to-day running of your day care. You can choose to hire additional staff who handle the vast majority of the care or hire administrative staff to handle the overall running of your business and any business and administrative tasks. You can be as involved as you want.
Be your own boss
You can make all key decisions yourself and steer your business in whichever direction you choose. You can choose how involved you want to be, the type of day care you open, the services you offer and how you want to run your business. You can make the best decisions for you and your business.
Negatives of Owning a Dog Day Care Business
Although owning a doggy day care can be rewarding in many ways, there are some potentially negative aspects to this type of business that you should be aware of:
It can be physically demanding
Although working in a doggy day care can positively impact your physical health, it’s also important to keep in mind that it can be physically demanding. You will be on your feet for hours at a time, handling large heavy dogs, handling equipment, throwing toys and bending down to stroke the dogs or clean. A physically demanding job can result in pain or strain or could even cause an injury. You are also at risk of scratches or bites from dogs.
Anxious or aggressive dogs
Some of the dogs who attend your day care could be extremely anxious or become aggressive, particularly when they first start. Not only can this be stressful for both you and the dog, but it can also be scary dealing with an aggressive dog – especially if they are large and have the potential to cause an injury to you or another dog.
More people working from home
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, more businesses and individuals have recognised the advantages of working from home. With people working from home able to look after their dogs themselves and not requiring the services of day care, this could have a negative effect on your business, particularly if the work-from-home trend continues.
Complying with legislation
There are many different pieces of legislation and legal guidelines you will need to comply with. Not only can this be complicated and time-consuming, but any non-compliance (even if this is accidental) can be punished with a fine or the forced closure of your business. Some types of legislation also require you to go through specific training and/or gain a qualification, which can be costly and arduous. A dog day care business can have high liability which can be a lot of stress and pressure on a business owner.
You will be responsible for the health and safety of the dogs in your day care. If they become injured, bite a person or another dog, run away from you or cause damage, you will be responsible. As dogs are much-loved members of their families, you could be dealing with angry owners or even receive a visit from the police.
A lot of skill, knowledge and experience is required
To run a successful dog day care business, you will need to be highly proficient in a variety of skills and have a high level of knowledge and experience working with different breeds of dogs. It can be time-consuming to gain the appropriate skills and experience.
Long working hours
Doggy day cares are often open 11 or 12 hours a day, to fit around the owners’ working hours. Some day cares also open at the weekend, to accommodate workers who don’t follow a Monday-Friday shift pattern. This can result in long working hours and few days off. As the business owner, you will have additional responsibilities outside of the day-to-day running of the day care, such as marketing, advertising and administrative tasks. Long working hours can be tiring and can have a negative impact on your personal life, particularly when your business is in the first couple of years of operation.
Work can be inconsistent
If you are not operating at full capacity, you will see a reduction in your profits. Unfortunately, work can be inconsistent and there may be certain times of the year when you are less busy, for example, in the summer when more people take time off work. Inconsistent business can make it difficult to plan your staffing requirements and predict your profits.
It can be stressful
Not only are you responsible for the success of your business, but you are also responsible for the safety and well-being of the dogs and any employees or visitors to your business. You will also have a lot of tasks and responsibilities. Running a dog day care business can be stressful.
It can be difficult to make your business succeed
If there are already established doggy day cares operating in your area, this can make it extremely difficult to grow your own business and make a success of it. Dog owners are more likely to choose a day care that they have used previously, that has been recommended to them or that already has a lot of positive customer reviews.
You have to clean up after the dogs
Picking up dog poop and cleaning urine is one of the worst things about working in a doggy day care. If you are looking after multiple dogs at once, that means you could be cleaning up a lot of mess.
High start-up costs
The equipment needed for a day care business can be expensive, particularly when you consider your premises’ rental and renovation costs. The high start-up costs mean you may need to source outside investment. It will also take longer for you to begin turning a profit. High start-up costs also make your business high risk, as you could potentially lose your investment if the business fails.
There are many staffing challenges you could face, such as a lack of staff motivation, customer complaints about staff and staff not fulfilling their expected duties. It can be difficult to create and maintain a positive work environment when working in such a busy environment. You will also have lots of responsibilities related to your staff, such as the hiring process, staff training, day-to-day management, staff rotas and staff payroll. While your business and your profits are growing, you may have to undertake many of these responsibilities yourself. You could also have a high staff turnover rate, which can result in a lot of time spent hiring and training staff.
As you are self-employed, you won’t receive benefits such as pension contributions. You will also be responsible for doing your own taxes and organising your National Insurance contributions. You will also have a lack of job security.
Planning Your Dog Day Care Business
An effective and well-designed business plan is essential to the success of your dog day care business. A business plan can help you to focus on the specific steps that will help your business succeed, plan your short-term and long-term goals, determine your financial needs and help your business to grow.
When creating your business plan, ensure it contains information such as:
- Your company information.
- Your company description.
- The services you will provide.
- Your branding, marketing and advertising plan.
- The structure of your business.
- The operational plan for your business.
- The financial plan for your business.
Some of the factors you will need to consider when creating your business plan are:
The size and capacity of your doggy day care
This is an important consideration you will need to make when planning your business.
The size of your business and your capacity limits will depend on multiple factors, such as:
- How big your premises is (in square metres).
- How many employees will be working at one time.
- The skills, training and qualifications of your employees.
Although the size of your business and the number of dogs you care for can change as your business grows and evolves, you will need to consider your available capital (as this will determine the size of your premises). You should also consider your local market to see how high the demand is likely to be for your day care.
The services you will offer
As well as providing day care services, there may be other services you choose to provide, such as obedience training, dog walking, drop-off and pick-up and feeding. Consider your own skills, training and experience and how profitable different services are likely to be when making your decision.
Your business location
Your location will have a significant impact on the types of customers you are likely to attract. It will also impact your premises’ rental costs. If your business is located in a place popular with your target market or is easily accessible to customers, the increased custom and higher profits will be extremely beneficial to your business. Consider your rental budget and your size requirements when choosing your premises.
Your staffing requirements
Your staffing is another important consideration you will need to make. If you run an at-home business, you may be the sole worker, whereas if you open a business premises, you will likely need to hire employees. Remember that each employee on shift can only look after a maximum of 10 dogs at one time. When hiring your staff, consider their qualifications and experience. Keep in mind that your staffing requirements could change as your business grows and evolves.
Your target market
Determining your target market is a key step in helping your business succeed. Different types of doggy day care businesses and different services will attract different customers. Some other factors that can influence your target market are your premises and equipment, your qualifications and experience, your location, your reputation and your pricing strategy. Once you have identified your target market, you can then focus on how to attract these customers to your business.
Your local competition
Being aware of your competition is an important step to ensuring the success of your business. Analysing your competition allows you to look at what they do well and what you think can be improved upon. Look at your competitors’ facilities and equipment, the services they offer, their pricing, their target market and the number of employees they have. Analysing your competition also identifies whether there is space in the market for your business.
Your brand and your unique selling point (USP)
Creating your brand is a key way to ensure you stand out from your competition. Branding can help you to focus your target audience, attract customers and concentrate your marketing and advertising strategies. Some ways you can create your brand are by focusing on your business’s visual identity, designing your premises and website and creating a brand story. Your USP can also be part of your brand and can help your business stand out from your competitors. Consider what makes your business special and how this fits into what defines your business.
Your marketing and advertising strategies
Marketing and advertising are especially important when you first open your dog day care business. Your marketing strategy needs to be effective and budget friendly. Consider your target customers and the best way to reach them.
Some ways you can market and advertise your business are:
- Build a functional and attractive website.
- Advertise in your local community e.g. in dog parks.
- Offer special deals and introductory offers to build your customer base.
- Post leaflets in your local area.
- Partner with local businesses, e.g. dog groomers and pet product shops.
Your equipment requirements
Consult the list above to determine your equipment requirements. The equipment you require will depend on the type of day care business you set up and how big your premises is. Once you have determined your equipment requirements, you can then calculate the initial costs of purchasing the equipment and the monthly replenishment costs (e.g. for dog treats and poo bags).
Your start-up costs and running costs
Consult the list above to help you calculate the approximate costs of setting up and running your business. Determine what equipment you need and the amount of equipment, as well as the cost of your premises, to help you determine your start-up costs and what your initial investment requirements will be. You can then calculate whether you can finance your business yourself or whether you need to source outside investment, for example from a bank or an independent investor. Determining your start-up costs and running costs can also help you to create a budget and predict when you will begin to turn a profit.
Financing your business
Consult the list of start-up costs and running costs above to determine what capital you will require. Can you finance the business yourself or will you need to source outside investment? You will also need to calculate when you are likely to begin turning a profit. If you require outside investment, you could consider a bank or other financial institution, a business loan or an investment partner.
Your pricing policy
How will you price your services? Will you price per hour, per day or per week? Will additional services be priced individually? Will you offer discounts to customers with multiple dogs? Consider the pricing of your competitors and your running costs when setting your own prices.
Your sales forecast
How many dogs can you take care of at one time? Are there certain times of the year that are likely to be busier than others? What are your weekly, monthly and annual sales forecasts? You can analyse the sales forecasts of similar businesses and look at how sales vary throughout the year to estimate demand. As your business grows, your sales forecast is likely to change.
Your strategy for growth
Your strategy for growth is the actions you will take to realise your goals for expansion and any potential challenges your business could face and how you will avoid or overcome them. This can help to make your business more successful.
Potential challenges could include:
- High local competition.
- Not running at full capacity.
- Lack of long-term customers.
Some potential strategies for growth include:
- Hire more employees.
- Expand your premises.
- Offer discounts to new customers.
Your business summary
Your business plan should include a detailed overview of your business, including the type of doggy day care you are setting up, the services you will offer, your typical customer base, your staffing and equipment requirements and your business goals.
Your business goals
Your business goals or objectives are an essential part of creating your business plan. Your business objectives highlight the targets and goals of your dog day care business and help you to create a one-year, three-year and five-year business plan.
Your business objectives should be SMART:
- S = Specific
- M = Measurable
- A = Achievable
- R = Realistic
- T = Time-bound
Check you have complied with all legal requirements
Consult the list of legal requirements above to check you have complied with all requirements and regulations and that all your paperwork is accurate. Failure to comply with legal requirements could have a detrimental effect on your business or could result in a fine, the forced closure of your business or, in serious cases, prosecution.