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What is a Dog Training Business?
Dog training involves purposefully modifying a dog’s behaviour using behaviour analysis and rewards to teach a dog specific skills and behaviours. The trainer works to change the dog’s natural or learned behaviour to stop the occurrence of undesirable behaviours. A dog trainer can also teach the dog to react to certain commands and cues or behave in a desired way independently.
Dog trainers train dogs to learn new behaviours or alter their existing behaviour. They also teach the dog’s owners how to train their dogs and reinforce any training, behaviours or skills the dogs have learned in the training session.
There are two main types of dog training that are used in different circumstances:
The most common type of dog training is obedience training. Obedience training involves teaching a dog to respond to commands, including verbal commands (such as come, sit, stay, lie down and wait) and hand signals. Obedience training is most commonly used with puppies, although it can also be beneficial for older dogs. More advanced obedience training can also be used for competition-level dogs. Obedience training also teaches dogs about boundaries, so they learn which actions or behaviours are never acceptable (e.g. never taking food off a plate or not pulling on the lead). For obedience training to be effective, the dog trainer and the owner must be consistent, so that the dog knows every time what is expected of them.
Obedience training typically involves reward-based training. This methodology builds on the idea that dogs are more likely to repeat positive behaviour if the behaviour is followed by a reward, such as:
- A treat.
- Verbal praise.
- Playing with a toy.
- Physical attention, e.g. strokes and belly rubs.
- Anything else that the dog finds rewarding.
Because this type of training creates an association in the dog’s mind between the behaviour and the reward, the dog is more likely to repeat the behaviour. Unlike other training methods, rewards-based training doesn’t punish negative behaviour. Instead, the trainer may withhold the reward or refuse to acknowledge the negative behaviour.
Behaviour training is a type of dog training that is used to address negative behaviours that the dog has developed. In many cases, behaviour training focuses on the psychology of the issue, for example, why is the dog behaving in a certain way? Is a specific situation, stimuli or emotion (such as fear or anxiety) triggering the dog’s behaviour?
Instead of teaching the dog commands, behaviour training focuses on changing the dog’s responses to triggering conditions or stimuli. Behaviour training is particularly recommended for dogs that exhibit signs of aggression, stress or anxiety or that have inappropriate or worrying habits, for example, a dog that chews furniture when left home alone or barks at visitors to the home. Behaviour training teaches the dog how to behave or respond to stimuli, even if the owner is not present.
Dog trainers use their in-depth knowledge of dogs, their knowledge of dog psychology (e.g. why the dog may be behaving in a certain way) and their tried and tested training methods to help the dog become more obedient or to support the behaviour modification.
Dog trainers use their in-depth knowledge of dogs, their knowledge of dog psychology (e.g. why the dog may be behaving in a certain way) and their tried and tested training methods to help the dog become more obedient or to support the behaviour modification.
Training therapy dogs, service dogs or emotional support dogs
This is an increasingly popular type of dog training that focuses on dogs that are specially trained to help a person with a physical or intellectual disability, a mental health condition or a specific need. These types of dogs require extensive training to teach them how to perform certain tasks (such as guiding a person who is blind, alerting someone who is deaf to a noise, retrieving items or providing comfort). The dogs must be trained to behave appropriately in public, to ignore distractions and to perform tasks. Training a therapy, service or support dog can take between six months and two years.
Training working dogs
A working dog is a type of dog that is specially trained to complete specific jobs and tasks. This can include guard dogs, rescue dogs, detection dogs (e.g. for drugs or explosives) and police dogs. Working dogs must undergo extensive training and the trainer will need to be highly experienced.
Dog agility is a type of sport where dogs must complete an obstacle course in a specific order and within a specified time limit. These obstacle courses are completed by the dog and its handler (usually the owner). It is therefore necessary for the owner to be the one training the dog to follow commands and complete the course. An agility trainer will focus on initially teaching the dogs how to complete the agility course and teaching the owners how to train the dogs in the most successful way.
There are many different responsibilities associated with running a dog training business. Although your day-to-day responsibilities can vary, depending on the type of training you specialise in and the dogs you work with, some of the responsibilities you can expect include:
- Consulting with clients to discuss any specific behavioural concerns or training needs and establish training goals.
- Developing training plans for each dog, based on their breed, personality, attributes and difficulties.
- Recording and documenting all progress.
- Identifying and overcoming behavioural issues in dogs.
- Teaching dog owners how to follow effective training techniques and how to enforce and maintain the behaviours and skills that the dogs learned during the training sessions.
- Teaching dogs to obey basic commands.
- Reinforcing positive behaviour from the dogs throughout the training.
- Teaching dogs (and their owners) how to complete an agility course.
- Implementing training programmes to address any issues related to aggression, stress, separation anxiety or hyperactivity.
- Performing on-leash and off-leash obedience training.
- Observing dogs in their home environment.
- Ensuring an up-to-date knowledge of dog behaviour, training and industry trends.
- Maintaining open communication with the dog owners.
- Training dogs for specific tasks, such as detecting drugs or assisting someone who is blind.
- Scheduling appointments, verifying bookings and handling payments and invoices.
- Interacting with all dogs using appropriate toys, equipment and activities.
- Following dog introduction techniques for new dogs to your training class.
- Assessing the overall physical health of the dogs and looking for signs of neglect or mistreatment.
- Ensuring the training areas are clean, hygienic and free from mess or clutter.
- Ensuring the safety and well-being of all dogs.
- Purchasing and maintaining equipment and managing your equipment inventory.
- Keeping up to date on health and safety regulations and ensuring your business complies with all health and safety regulations and legal guidelines.
- Completing dog incident reports when required.
- Completing business and administrative tasks.
- Marketing and advertising.
Starting up a dog training business can be both financially lucrative and personally rewarding – particularly if you love dogs. As well as a solid business plan, to help your business succeed, there are certain skills and personal qualities that can be beneficial. Most important is a love for dogs, a strong knowledge of different dog breeds, dog training techniques and animal behaviour and strong dog handling skills. You will also need patience, effective communication skills (with both humans and animals), good problem-solving skills, organisation skills and the passion and enthusiasm to make your business succeed.
Types of Customers
When setting up your business, you will likely want to identify your typical customer base. 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.
As a dog business, your typical customer base will 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.
Some of the factors that can influence your typical customer base include:
The type of dog training you specialise in
This is the most important factor in determining the type of customers that are likely to use your training services. The majority of dog training businesses specialise in a specific type of training, e.g. behaviour training, obedience training or specialist training for service dogs. Specific customers will be looking for a specific type of training. Consider the types of customers your chosen training is likely to attract when considering your typical customer base.
The location you operate in
This is another important factor in determining your typical customer base. The majority of dog owners choose a dog trainer that is conveniently located to their home and is easy for them to travel to. 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 to spend on their dog’s training:
- Budget: Price is the most important factor for this type of customer. They will likely choose the dog trainer that offers training at the lowest price, with less focus on the facilities and equipment and your qualifications and experience.
- Mid-range: 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 trainer with extensive experience and a solid reputation.
- High-end: 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 trainer that has superior facilities and equipment, offers a high level of training and has good qualifications and experience and an excellent reputation.
Your training, experience and qualifications
The more highly qualified and experienced you are, the more money you are able to charge. These factors can also impact the types of customers you attract.
Your facilities, equipment and activities
Many dog owners will likely look at the size of your facility, the equipment you use (e.g. agility equipment) and the activities you use to train the dogs. Consider all of these factors when setting up your training business and determining who is most likely to use your services.
Your reputation and customer reviews
This is another important factor that many people will look at. They may look at your customer reviews or choose a dog trainer based on recommendations.
Your reputation and reviews will likely be based on multiple factors, such as:
- How effective the training was, both short-term and long-term.
- Your treatment of the dogs and your relationship with the dogs (e.g. whether their dog likes you).
- How you interacted and communicated with the dog owners.
- Your pricing.
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 type of training you specialise in, the number of dogs you plan to train at one time and the services you offer.
Below is a list of equipment typically required by a dog training business:
A target training stick is a type of stick that has a clicker on one end and an object that is easily noticed by dogs (usually a colourful ball) on the other end. It is one of the most effective tools for training dogs. You will train the dogs to touch the stick with their nose and follow the stick, which can be effective in teaching tricks, training the dogs to walk on a lead without pulling or training them in basic behaviours.
Handheld clickers produce a clicking noise when pressed to mark a desired behaviour and make positive reinforcement training easier. It provides a consistent and audible response to positive behaviour that the dogs learn to associate with rewards. When the dog performs a positive behaviour, you press the clicker and immediately give the dog a treat. Clickers are most effective when training dogs individually.
Agility training is a popular way of teaching obedience and develops better leadership between the owner and the dog. It can also improve off-lead control. Agility training is also fun for the dogs and offers both mental and physical stimulation.
Some of the agility equipment you could opt for includes:
- Climbing frames and slides.
- Bridges and walkways.
- Hurdles and hoop jumps.
- Poles and jump obstacles.
- A doggy see-saw (also called a teeter).
If you are running training classes with multiple dogs, each dog owner will be expected to bring their own dog’s lead. However, if you are performing 1:1 training or working with the dog in their own environment (which can be recommended with anxious dogs) you may choose to bring your own lead that is ideal for the type of training you plan to do (e.g. a long lead with some slack).
You may request that your customers bring their own treats for their dogs to your training sessions. Alternatively, you may provide treats, most likely for situations when the owners have forgotten the treats. Some dog breeds, such as Beagles, Pugs, Rottweilers and Labradors, are particularly motivated by food so training them without the use of treats can be difficult. You may choose small treats that are specifically designed for training dogs or purchase regular-sized treats and cut them up to your preferred size.
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 small gaps that smaller dogs and puppies can slip between and it should be made from a reliable material that the dogs cannot chew or is not harmful to them.
Toys can have many uses in your training business, including as rewards, for recall purposes and for obedience training. Many breeds of dogs, including Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Border Collies and English Springer Spaniels, are motivated by playing with toys and chasing balls, making toys a great tool to incorporate into your training business.
Some of the toys you could choose include:
- Rope toys.
- Cord toys.
- Ring toys.
- Squeaking toys.
Opt for strong toys made from tough materials and ensure the dogs are properly supervised throughout.
Pet relief stations
If you run training sessions indoors, to reduce the likelihood of dogs urinating on your equipment or inside your premises, you could opt to purchase a pet relief station. This is a hygienic place for the dogs to relieve themselves indoors. 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 facility and can help your facility to stay cleaner and more hygienic.
Water bowls and drinking fountains
Dog training can be thirsty work and because the dogs 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.
Air conditioning and a dehumidifier
If you run training sessions indoors (which you most likely will in the autumn and winter months) you will need to keep your premises 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 premises at the correct temperature and a dehumidifier can remove excess moisture from the air, helping to keep your premises safe and hygienic.
An air purifier
An air purifier can help to keep the inside of your training facility 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 premises.
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 training session becomes 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 mobile phone with a good camera
Photographs and videos are one of the easiest ways of tracking the dogs’ progress. You can take pictures or videos of the dogs performing a certain behaviour and then again once you have trained them. You can also upload the photos or videos to your website or business’s social media as a form of advertising. A mobile phone can also be beneficial as a means for customers and potential customers to contact you.
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 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.
A deep sink or washing area
You will need to wash any equipment that is used during the sessions to ensure it is safe and hygienic. You will likely 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.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE is a necessary purchase, particularly because you will be handling dogs and equipment and potentially picking up dog poop. 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 dog training services. 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.
Keep in mind that if you open a dog training business that focuses on a particular speciality of dog training, such as training detection dogs to detect drugs, the equipment you require will likely differ.
When you are creating your business plan, an important consideration you will need to make is your expected start-up costs and running costs. Calculating your expected costs allows you to determine your initial investment requirements, your pricing strategy and your profit goals.
There are multiple costs associated with setting up and running a dog training business. Some of these costs will be one-off initial costs that you will need to pay when you are setting up your business. Other costs will be ongoing costs you will need to pay regularly – usually weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually.
Some of the typical costs associated with a dog training business are:
Your premises will be your biggest expenditure, particularly because you will require a large facility with substantial indoor or outdoor space to accommodate the amount of equipment you will need and to ensure the dogs have enough space for their training. Rental prices can vary significantly, depending on the location and the size of the premises. Rental costs are often calculated per square metre. They can range significantly, from £500 to £15,000 per square metre annually. Your rental costs may also be higher if you are renting an already established or equipped training facility. Alternatively, you could opt to purchase your premises upfront or take out a mortgage. Keep in mind that your premises costs are likely to be higher if you also have outdoor space (including an area for training the dogs and a car park).
Refurbishment and installation costs
Unless your premises previously operated as a dog training business, you will need to refurbish or convert your facility to install the equipment you need for your business and to make your space fit for purpose. Depending on the size and layout of your facility, you may need to make changes, such as laying grass and creating an open indoor space. Reconfiguration costs can also include installing fences, creating a car park and installing secure doors. Refurbishment costs can vary significantly, depending on the amount of work you require and the scale of the work.
Your equipment is an important purchase. Consult the list above to determine the type of equipment you require. The cost of your equipment can vary significantly, depending on the specification of your equipment and how much equipment you need. The bigger your premises and the more dogs you plan to train at one time, the more equipment you will likely require. You may opt to purchase less equipment initially and then expand your equipment as your business grows. Equipment for a dog training business typically costs between £1,000 and £20,000.
Maintaining, repairing and replacing equipment
Repairs, maintenance and replacements are ongoing costs you will need to factor into your budget. Although some of your equipment will come with warranties, repairs and replacements are inevitable – particularly because your equipment will experience heavy usage and dogs are renowned for chewing, eating and scratching furniture, toys and other equipment. Regularly cleaning and maintaining equipment and ensuring it is used correctly can extend its lifespan, but potential repairs and replacements should still be factored into your budget. Some pieces of equipment, such as poop bags, treats and cleaning equipment, will also need to be replenished regularly.
These are the day-to-day costs associated with running your dog training business. Some running costs are paid monthly, and others are paid quarterly or annually. Your running costs can include electricity, gas, water, council tax and insurance. To maximise your profits, try to keep your running costs as low as possible.
You could operate your business as the sole dog trainer or hire staff to help you expand your business. You will need to pay any staff you employ at least the national minimum wage and account for other expenses such as holiday pay, sick pay, maternity/paternity pay, National Insurance and any company pension contributions. Keep in mind that more experienced and more highly qualified dog trainers may expect higher pay.
When creating your brand identity, consider how you want your business to be perceived and what your brand story is. Consider the type of dog training you will specialise in and the customers you hope to attract. Branding can include creating your business’s visual identity, design and aesthetic, your business name and logo and your website. You could hire a professional to help you with branding or do some or all of the work yourself. Branding can cost between £500 and £10,000, depending on the level of work required.
Advertising and marketing
Advertising is an essential practice to ensure the success of your business. Advertising and marketing help your business to attract customers and can help you to maximise your profits. It is recommended that you spend between 1%-3% of your annual turnover on marketing. For example, if your annual turnover (or your desired annual turnover) is £90,000, you should spend between £900 and £2,700 on advertising and marketing. You may need to invest more money when you initially set up your dog training business or when you are trying to grow your business.
There are multiple coverage options available for a dog training business. Some types of coverage are optional, whereas others are mandatory.
Your coverage options include:
- Public Liability Insurance.
- Professional Indemnity Insurance.
- Pet Behaviourist Cover.
- Care, Custody and Control of Animals.
- Property Insurance.
- Personal Accident Insurance.
- Legal Protection.
- Employers’ Liability Insurance (if relevant).
The cost of business insurance can vary, depending on the level of coverage you choose and your insurance provider. Prices typically start at £10 per month.
Typical Pricing for Customers
Once you have calculated the typical costs associated with setting up and running a dog training business you can then create your pricing strategy.
You may choose to charge per training session or for a training course (for example, once a week for 10 weeks).
The price of dog training can vary significantly, based on multiple factors, such as:
- The type of training you specialise in (this will likely be the most significant factor in determining your pricing).
- The amount of training that is required.
- Whether the training occurs in a group or on a 1:1 basis.
- The demand for your services.
- Your training, qualifications and experience.
- Your location.
- Your competitors’ pricing.
- Your facilities and equipment.
On average, dog training in the UK costs between £30 and £90 per session.
Safely Running a Dog Training Business
Safe practices in your dog training business can help to protect the health, safety and well-being of the dogs, their owners, your employees (if relevant) and any other visitors to your business.
Some safe practices you can implement in your dog training business are:
Flea and tick prevention
To prevent an outbreak of fleas, ticks or lice among the dogs you train, 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 ask each dog’s owner to sign a document confirming their dog has had appropriate prevention treatment.
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. The majority of cleaning should take place when dogs are not present (e.g. before and after training sessions).
Be aware of any health conditions, illnesses, injuries or allergies
This is essential for protecting the health and safety of the dogs you train. 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. This can include physical conditions or previous injuries that could affect the physical training you are able to do, allergies to certain foods or treats and anything else you should be aware of, such as anxiety or aggression.
Ensure safe distances between dogs
Although the dogs will want to socialise with each other, you should encourage their owners to maintain safe distances between the dogs (ideally at least 4-6 feet), particularly when you want the dogs to concentrate or they are trying to learn a new skill. You should also ensure any new dogs are introduced safely and that all the dogs are comfortable with each other. You should also watch the dogs carefully for any signs of stress or agitation.
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
Even though the dogs’ owners or handlers will be on site with them, it is still your responsibility to ensure all dogs are properly supervised (by you or another staff member) at all times. This is particularly important when the dogs are socialising together, when the dogs are using any equipment (such as toys or agility equipment) and during any high-risk activities.
Although formal qualifications and certifications are not required, they can help your business to appear more professional and attractive to clients, can make you aware of any legal guidelines you should follow and teach you how to run your business with the lowest possible risk.
Some of the training courses you could consider include:
- Kennel Club Accredited Instructors.
- Dog Training Level 3 CPD.
- Accredited Dog Behaviourist Course.
Health and safety training courses can help to ensure that your business follows safe practices at all times and that you and your employees are aware of health and safety guidelines.
Some training courses you could complete include:
- Assessing Risk.
- First Aid.
- Workplace Health and Safety.
- Manual Handling.
Ensure you are knowledgeable on different dog breeds and behavioural issues
Different breeds of dogs have different needs when it comes to training, will react to training in different ways and will have different behavioural difficulties. Different dog breeds are also motivated by different rewards, e.g. treats, toys or attention. You will need to ensure you have a high level of knowledge of different dog breeds before you begin operating. You will also need to have a high level of knowledge regarding different behavioural concerns, what could be causing negative behaviours (e.g. anxiety, stress, external triggers, previous neglect or abuse) and how best to address the issues. Ensuring you have a high level of knowledge can help to protect the well-being of the dogs, keep everyone in your sessions safe and make your training more successful.
Complying with legal guidelines is essential when setting up and running your dog training business.
Some of the legal requirements you should be aware of include:
Comply with the Animal Welfare Act 2006
Under the Animal Welfare Act, you are responsible for any animal that you look after or work with as part of your business. An incorrect training programme can negatively affect a dog’s welfare (e.g. using training techniques based on negative reinforcement), so ensure you are aware of current research and advice regarding training and consider the individual needs of each dog. You should also ensure that all the dogs you work with are safe. If you fail to meet a dog’s welfare or cause it unnecessary suffering, you may be prosecuted under this act.
Comply with space requirements
Whether you run training sessions indoors or outdoors, you must ensure that each dog has at least 6 square metres of space available to them on the premises. 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 train at one time. For example, if your premises has 60 square metres available to the dogs, the maximum number of dogs you can accommodate is 10. However, the more space you have available per dog the better, particularly because each dog will likely have at least one person attending the sessions with them.
Ensure the environment is suitable
There are multiple regulations you must comply with when creating your training 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 areas 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.
- Fencing should be strong and in good repair and should be a sufficient height and dig-proof.
- Electrical sockets or appliances in dog-accessible areas should be secure and protected from potential damage.
- Noise levels, light levels and ventilation should be safe and suitable for different dog breeds.
Comply with the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018
If you plan to train dogs for exhibition (e.g. training the dogs for educational or entertainment purposes) you will need to apply for a licence under these regulations. The licence will last for three years, at which time you will need to renew it. You don’t need to apply for a licence if you are providing other types of dog training (e.g. obedience or behavioural training).
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. If your business transports waste or arranges for someone else to dispose of waste, you will need to apply for a waste carrier registration.
You can apply for your registration with the following governing bodies:
- England: The Environment Agency.
- Wales: Natural Resources.
- Scotland: The Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
- Northern Ireland: The Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
Check up-to-date veterinary vaccination records
To ensure the health and safety of all dogs who attend your training sessions, you should request up-to-date veterinary vaccination records that show they are vaccinated against:
- Canine parvovirus.
- Canine distemper.
- Infectious canine hepatitis.
- Any other relevant disease.
This reduces the likelihood of diseases and illnesses spreading between dogs. It is particularly important you request these records if you run group sessions or if there is any possibility of dogs coming into contact with each other.
Create an emergency plan
Your business must have a written emergency plan in place that is known and available to all employees and is visible on your premises. Your plan should also be approved by the local authority and should feature an emergency drill programme that is tested every year. Your emergency plan should also feature details of how you safely extract the animals from your premises 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, the dogs and any visitors to your premises.
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.
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 dogs or humans.
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 performing tasks such as handling the dogs, bending down to pick up dog faeces and moving agility equipment.
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 training business 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 only be used under appropriate conditions. PUWER applies to equipment used with the dogs (such as agility equipment, toys and target sticks) and equipment that is solely used by you and your employees (such as laptops, chairs and rubbish bins).
Comply with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
The Electricity at Work Regulations state that any workplaces that use electricals must construct electrical systems in a way that prevents danger, maintain electrical systems to ensure they are safe, ensure electrical equipment is checked by a competent person annually and conduct Portable Appliance Tests (PAT). This includes electrical equipment such as your lighting system and your computer.
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 business and 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 customers or visitors to your business.
Appoint a first-aider
All workplaces in the UK must have an appointed first-aider. In the event of an accident or injury, you will then be able to administer the necessary first aid. Although a first aid qualification or certificate is not legally required, it is the easiest way to demonstrate your first aid training.
Comply with receipt or invoice requirements
You may make it standard that you provide all customers with a receipt or invoice for your services. 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.
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.
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 Training Business
Running a dog training business can be rewarding in many ways.
Some of the main pros associated with this type of business include:
Improve the bond between dogs and their owners
Dog training can have a significant impact on the bond between a dog and its owner. Dog training is a mentally enriching activity that deepens the connection between dog and human. The dog and owner can learn to better understand each other and learning to respond to their owner’s commands can make the dog more attentive to them and create a strong relationship. Being an integral part of this process can be very rewarding.
Improve the mental well-being of the dogs
Many people think the sole purpose of dog training is to make better-behaved dogs. However, there is usually a reason why dogs are displaying behavioural difficulties, and, in many cases, the behavioural issues are as a result of anxiety, stress or fear (for example, fear that arises because of previous neglect or abuse). By identifying the cause of the behaviours and working with the owners to address not only the negative behaviour but also the underlying cause, you can help to improve the mental well-being of the dog and see a happier dog and owner.
Help to reduce the occurrence of dog attacks
Although dog attacks are relatively rare, when they do occur they can cause significant physical and mental harm (and in some cases even death). Dogs that attack are usually untrained and attack because of fear or unaddressed aggression. Training dogs can increase obedience, eliminate negative behaviours and address any psychological issues, such as fear, anxiety and aggression. Dog training drastically reduces the likelihood of the dog becoming aggressive or attacking a person or another dog.
Work closely with dogs every day
If you are an animal lover, working with dogs every day will likely sound like a dream job. You can spend time with different types of dogs, form a bond with them (which is crucial to dog training), play with them, train them, spend extended periods of time with them and ensure they are happy and safe. If you love dogs, working with them every day can be extremely rewarding and make your business feel less like work and more like a vocation.
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.
- Reduced feelings of loneliness.
Physical health benefits
Working as a dog trainer means you will be very active as you will be moving around a lot to conduct training, handling the dogs, walking around 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.
Choose your dog training speciality
As the business owner, you can choose whether to specialise in a specific type of dog training (such as obedience training), whether to focus on a niche (such as training emotional support dogs) or whether to offer a variety of different dog training classes.
With more pet dogs than ever in the UK and people willing to spend more money on their pets, the demand for dog training is higher than ever. Many people have realised the importance of properly training their dogs but don’t have the training, knowledge or time to complete training themselves. Instead, they usually look for an experienced dog trainer to help them. High demand makes it more likely that your business will succeed and will allow you to earn a higher profit margin.
See progress in real time
During every session, you will see the huge progress the dogs are making. As they learn new commands and tricks, learn obedience skills and improve their behaviour, you will see a physical and psychological change in the dogs. You will also witness the bond between dog and human grow stronger with every session.
Every day is different
Working as a dog trainer will never get boring. Every day will be different as you will be working with different dogs and humans, running different types of training at different levels (e.g. puppies vs. competition-level dogs) and running different activities. A varied workday helps to keep your job interesting and enjoyable.
A rewarding career choice
Running a dog training business can be rewarding in many ways. You can have a positive impact on dogs and their families, 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 dog training industry is not dominated by major companies or popular franchises. The majority of dog training businesses are small, independent businesses that operate in their local communities. 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 dog training business has 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 training facilities 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 dog training 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 dog training business has a high-income potential and, with a solid business plan, can be extremely lucrative.
Pick and choose the dogs you accept
You can choose to take on as many or as few dogs as you want. If an owner requests your training services for a dog that has severe behavioural issues that you don’t think you can help or that you think is not well suited to your classes, you can decline to work with them or cease working with them whenever you want, as a fixed contract will not apply. Instead, you can recommend another dog trainer that you think will be better suited.
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.
Be as involved as you want
Once your business is established, you can choose to hire staff who can take over the day-to-day running of your business. You can then choose to be as involved as you want in the running of your business. You can allocate the vast majority of the training to your staff 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.
Negatives of Owning a Dog Training Business
Although owning a dog training business can be rewarding, there are some potentially negative aspects of this type of business you should be aware of:
It can be physically demanding
Although working as a dog trainer 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 to guide them as part of their training. 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.
Dealing with anxious, stressed, scared or aggressive dogs
Although you will have the relevant skills and knowledge to deal with these types of dogs, it can also be stressful and at times scary (particularly if the dog is large or heavy). Behavioural training when there is an underlying psychological cause of the dog’s behaviour can be much more difficult and time-consuming. You may also have to hear about what caused the dog’s difficulties, such as previous abuse or neglect, which can be upsetting for someone who loves dogs.
Difficult (human) clients
This can be one of the most frustrating aspects of running a dog training business. As hard as you work to train a dog, if their human isn’t putting in the same effort or isn’t being consistent with the training at home, the dog is unlikely to make progress. The client can then become annoyed that their dog isn’t becoming more obedient and may demand more of your time or even review your business negatively. Difficult clients can be stressful to deal with and can have a detrimental effect on your business.
Some of your customers may expect you to create instant results and want their dogs to be immediately obedient, even after attending only one session. They may be disappointed when they don’t immediately see improvements and may stop working with you or leave negative reviews, which can have a detrimental effect on your reputation and income.
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 training business can have high liability which can be a lot of stress and pressure on a business owner.
Even though the owners may be present, you will still be responsible for the health and safety of the dogs in your training sessions. 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 face prosecution.
A lot of skill, knowledge and experience is required
To run a successful dog training 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 with different behavioural issues. It can be time-consuming to gain the appropriate skills and experience. You will also need to ensure your knowledge is consistently up to date and you are refreshing your skills.
Irregular working hours
Because you will need to be available for training sessions when the dogs’ owners are available, you may find that the majority of your sessions take place in the evening and at the weekend. Irregular working hours can impact your personal life and make it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
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 and are running fewer training sessions. Inconsistent business can make it difficult to plan your staffing requirements and predict your profits.
It can be difficult to make your business succeed
If there are already established dog trainers 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 trainer they have used previously (e.g. with other pets) who has been recommended to them or who already has a lot of positive customer reviews.
High start-up costs
The equipment needed for a dog training 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.
It can be stressful
Not only is there a lot of pressure to make every customer happy, but as the business owner, you will face the additional pressure of being responsible for your business’s success. You will have a lot of important responsibilities, such as ensuring health and safety, marketing and advertising, managing business and administrative tasks and dealing with customers. Handling all of these responsibilities can be stressful.
Although the majority of customers leave honest reviews, some customers are difficult to please and will leave a negative review because of the smallest complaint (even if it is something outside of your control, such as your classes having no availability). Sometimes a fake customer also leaves a fake review, which can be extremely difficult to disprove and remove. Negative reviews can be extremely damaging to your business, particularly if your business is new or you’ve had relatively few reviews.
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.
Your business could fail
Starting up your own business can be risky. Many new businesses fail which could result in you losing money or getting into debt. Your business could fail for several reasons, such as high local competition, an ineffective business plan or if the UK encounters another recession or a period of financial difficulty. If you have invested a lot of money and time into your business, this can be extremely disheartening and can result in you losing a lot of money.
Planning Your Dog Training Business
An effective and well-designed business plan is essential to the success of your dog training 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 type of training you will specialise in
This is one of the first considerations you will need to make when planning your business. You could choose to specialise in a particular type of dog training or a dog training niche (e.g. training detection dogs or obedience training for puppies). Alternatively, you could choose not to specialise and instead offer a wide range of dog training for different needs. When deciding whether to specialise your business and which speciality to choose, consider your skills, knowledge and experience, the demand for different training services, your competition and your desired income.
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 target market
Determining your target market is a key step in helping your business succeed. Different types of dog training businesses and different types of training 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 staffing requirements
Your staffing is another important consideration you will need to make. You can choose to run your business as the sole dog trainer or hire employees, e.g. other dog trainers or training assistants, to help you run your business and take on more clients. Calculate the costs associated with hiring staff and compare this with the potential benefits to your business. 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 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 customer base, 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, considering the dog training you will specialise in 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 training 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 dog training business you set up, how big your premises is and how many dogs you want to work with at one time. Once you have determined your equipment requirements, you can then calculate the initial costs of purchasing the equipment.
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. 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 session or per training course? Will different types of training be priced differently? Will you offer 1:1 training and what will the associated costs be? 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 realistically accept into one training class? 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.
- Difficulties finding new clients.
- Customers signing up for individual sessions rather than training courses.
Some potential strategies for growth could include:
- Improve your marketing and advertising strategies.
- Offer discounts for signing up for a course.
- Target higher-value clients.
Your business summary
Your business plan should include a detailed overview of your business, including the type of dog training business 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 training 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.