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What is a Dog Kennel Business?
The UK is a nation of dog lovers, with approximately 33% of households having a pet dog. This amounts to more than 12.5 million pet dogs across the country.
Many people consider dogs to be treasured members of their families. When people go on holiday, are admitted to hospital, or are unable to take care of their dog for a short time, it is, therefore, no surprise that they want their pet to have the best possible care while they are away.
A dog kennel is a professional, licensed establishment run by trained staff that offers a safe environment for your dog. A kennel can care for your dog for a few hours or even a few weeks.
A dog kennel business usually looks after multiple dogs at one time. The dogs will usually be housed in their own individual area, although some kennel businesses choose to house the dogs all together.
A dog kennel business may also offer:
- An indoor and outdoor pen.
- An exercise area.
- A grooming service.
- Insulated and heated sleeping areas.
- A covered outdoor area.
A dog kennel business does not merely provide a safe space for the dogs to sleep, but it should also provide them with daily interactions and exercise, such as walks or playtime.
The individual kennel area that the dogs stay in should have their food and water bowls, a bed and bedding, and toys for the dog to play with. Many kennel businesses allow dog owners to bring their dogs’ favourite items from their homes to make them more comfortable and settled in the kennels.
Depending on your facilities and the staff you have available, you may also offer boarding for dogs with health ailments. You will need to ensure your staff are trained in the dog’s condition and that the owner provides any necessary medication and supplies.
You can choose to set up:
- A standard dog kennel.
- A luxury kennel.
- A doggy hotel.
- Kennels that also cater for cats and other small animals.
As so many people across the UK are such huge pet lovers, kennel businesses continue to be in high demand. This can make it more achievable that your kennel business will be both successful and financially rewarding.
If you are an animal lover who has experience caring for dogs, starting up a dog kennel business could be a great option for you. Running a kennel business can be time-consuming and requires commitment, meaning it is best suited to those who are passionate about animals and their care.
Types of Customers
When considering the types of customers you will target, the most obvious answer is pet owners. However, different types of dog kennels attract different types of pet owners.
Identifying your target market is an important aspect of creating your business plan and identifying your customer base.
- Budget Market – A budget kennel will attract customers who are looking to spend the least amount of money. You will likely have fewer facilities, a smaller outdoor space, and no special extras available. The budget market is less popular than it once was, as many pet owners want their dogs to have the best possible treatment. However, if you offer a safe and comfortable service for a lower price, you are still likely to attract customers from the budget market.
- Mid-Market – Mid-market kennels will likely have larger premises with better facilities. You may also offer outdoor areas that are appealing to customers. Some mid-market kennels will also offer some extra services and better equipment that encourage customers to spend a little bit extra.
- Luxury – A luxury kennel business is comparable to a five-star dog hotel. A luxury business may offer spa treatments such as doggy pedicures, premium facilities, toys, accessories, food, services and luxury sleeping areas. They may also have more staff, so the dogs get extra time and attention.
When deciding the type of dog kennel you are going to open and your target customer base, ensure you consider the types of dog owners that live in your area, how much they are likely to spend, and your local competition.
Equipment You Will Need
Your dog kennel business will have many different equipment requirements. Below is a list of general equipment you are likely to need. If you set up a specialist kennel business or a luxury business, you may need to purchase additional equipment.
This is one of the main things you will need to invest in when starting up a dog kennel business. The kennels will be used for sleeping and eating and some dogs may choose to spend the majority of their time in their kennel. You may choose different sized kennels for different dog breeds or choose to have identical kennels. You can also choose whether to have kennels or cabins. The price can vary significantly from £3,000 to £10,000 for 10 kennels or cabins.
A CCTV system
This helps dog owners to feel more secure and comfortable leaving their dogs at your kennel. A CCTV system can cost between £300 and £5,000 depending on the specification of the equipment, how many cameras you require, and the installation costs.
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. A room divider can be purchased for as little as £70, depending on the size and material of the divider.
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 dryer
You will have to supply beds, bedding, blankets, and even soft toys for the dogs you care for. You will need to wash these items every time a dog finishes their stay with you, so having a large reliable washing machine and dryer is recommended. Prices can range from £500 to £3,000.
This helps to keep your kennels fresh and hygienic. It can also prevent the kennels from smelling bad, which is a common problem with dogs. An air purification system can cost between £300 and £2,000 depending on the specification.
Air conditioning and dehumidifier
Air conditioning can help you to keep the kennels at a safe temperature and a dehumidifier can remove excess moisture from the air. This can help you to keep your premises safe and hygienic.
A van or other vehicle
If you offer a collection or drop-off service as part of your business, you will need a van or other vehicle. Your vehicle will need to have space to safely transport dogs, for example, by having a crate or boot gate in the back, or space for a pet carrier. The cost of a vehicle can vary, depending on whether it is new or used, and the make and model of the vehicle.
A dog first aid kit
A pet 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 sting relief, alcohol pads, adhesives for cuts and wounds, a rubber tourniquet, bandages of different sizes and tape. You can buy a first aid kit already prepared for approximately £25.
A human first aid kit
This is also essential in case an employee or visitor to your kennel becomes injured. For more information on what is required in a first aid kit, consult our knowledge base. A first aid kit can be purchased for as little as £12.
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.
A phone with a good camera
Many dog owners will want regular updates on their pets while they are away. 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. A camera phone can cost between £100 and £1,000, depending on the make and specification.
A laptop or desktop computer
This can be used for making appointments, tracking your business accounts and marketing and advertising. You can expect to spend at least £400 on a quality device.
Other equipment requirements
There are several other equipment requirements your dog grooming business may have, including:
- Dog beds, bedding and blankets.
- Dog toys and balls.
- A till and POS (Point of Sales) system.
- A bin with a closed lid.
- Poo bags.
- Food and water bowls (for each individual kennel).
- Dog towels.
- Dog cleaning and maintenance items.
When you create your business plan, you will need to create a budget including the typical start-up costs and running costs associated with your dog kennel business.
Some essential items you may need include:
Your premises will be your most expensive expenditure. You will need a site that is in a good location, preferably away from residential areas so that you don’t receive any noise complaints. You will also need to make sure you have a good outdoor area for the dogs to exercise and play, and plenty of space to build the kennels. The cost of your site can vary significantly, depending on the location, square footage, and existing infrastructure.
As the list above shows, your dog kennel business will require a large amount of equipment. You can expect to spend between £5,000 and £50,000 on equipment.
Replacing or maintaining equipment
This is an ongoing cost you will need to factor into your budget. You may need to maintain or repair equipment frequently and if your equipment is no longer functional, you will need to pay to replace it. As your doggy guests may bite or chew your equipment and it is likely to be heavily used, you may have to repair or replace equipment more often.
Creating your brand identity can include creating your business’s visual identity, a logo, business name, your business website and creating your brand message. You can hire a professional to help you with branding or do some of the work yourself. Branding can cost between £500 and £10,000.
Advertising and marketing
Advertising for your business may seem costly, however, it is an important expenditure for ensuring the success of your dog kennel business, especially when your business is in its first year of operation. It is recommended that you spend no more than 10% of your annual revenue on advertising costs. For example, if your annual revenue is £70,000, your maximum advertising costs should be £7,000. It can be more difficult to plan your advertising strategy in the first year when you don’t yet know your annual revenue.
Running costs are the costs associated with running your dog kennel business. Most of these costs will be paid monthly, although some will be paid quarterly or annually. Your running costs could include your overhead costs such as electricity, gas, water, petrol and council tax.
As a dog kennel business operates 24 hours a day, you will need to employ staff. When calculating the costs associated with employing staff you should consider the number of staff and their hourly wage. You will also need to account for holiday pay, sick pay and maternity/paternity pay.
A dog kennel business will have several insurance requirements including Employers’ Liability Insurance, Public Liability Insurance, Professional Indemnity, Care, Custody and Control of Animals Coverage, Custodial Responsibility, Property Damage, and Building and Contents Insurance. Insurance costs can range from £10 to £150 a month depending on your insurance provider and the level of coverage.
Typical Pricing for Customers
On average, dog kennel businesses typically charge between £15 and £25 per day
However, this price can vary based on several factors:
- Your location – Middle-class and upper-class areas will likely have dog owners who are willing to pay higher prices for your service. If you are located in the centre of a big city, such as London, you may also charge higher prices.
- How many dogs you are boarding at the kennel – You may offer a discount for customers who are boarding multiple pets at the same time.
- How long the booking is for – You may offer a discount if customers book longer stays or multiple stays at one time.
- The time of year – Certain times of the year, such as Christmas and the Summer months, are considered as peak times. This could mean you charge higher prices, compared to other times of the year.
- Whether optional extras are provided – If you provide extra services such as food, grooming, extra care or the administering of medication, you can charge higher prices. You may also offer a service where you collect and return the dog to the owner’s home.
Your typical pricing will also depend on your target market. For example, if you are targeting the luxury market your prices are likely to be higher.
Safely Running a Dog Kennel Business
Safely running your dog kennel business will be one of your top considerations. It will help you to ensure the health and safety of the animals, your staff, and any visitors to your business.
Some safety considerations you should make include:
Consider your vaccination requirements
To ensure the safety of all the dogs in your care, it is recommended that you check the vaccination status of all the dogs who enter your kennel. You may ask dog owners to provide paper or electronic proof that their dogs are up to date with all vaccines. Taking a copy of the dogs’ vaccination statuses or asking clients to sign a document can help to protect your business if an outbreak does happen.
Flea and tick prevention
To prevent an outbreak of fleas, ticks or lice in your kennel, ensure all the dogs are up to date with 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 kennels.
Ensure you have the correct staff ratio
Having the correct staff to dog ratio can help to protect both the animals and staff and ensure safety procedures are followed at all times. Having an incorrect ratio can also make it difficult for staff to deal with emergency situations. A staff ratio of 1:5 is recommended.
Employ staff with relevant training or qualifications
Although this is not a legal requirement, it is recommended to ensure the health and safety of the dogs. Having qualified staff can also help you to attract customers and improve your rating on your Boarding for Cats or Dogs Licence.
Have a vet on call
As you will be working with so many animals, it is inevitable that you will be dealing with health issues, illnesses or injuries at some point. Having a local vet that you are connected with can be extremely beneficial and help you run your business more safely. You can call this vet if you have any questions or concerns and arrange appointments if necessary. You could also arrange for the vet to make visits to your premises if an animal requires it.
Conduct risk assessments
Risk assessments should be carried out before starting up a dog kennel business and at any other time you require them. If your business has five or more employees, risk assessments are a legal requirement. Your risk assessments could refer to any manual handling activities and risks associated with having physical contact with the dogs.
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, sleeping areas, beds, and food preparation and storage areas. You should also implement handwashing procedures for staff and visitors.
Ensure you have fully stocked first aid kits
You will need a fully stocked first aid kit for dogs and a separate one for humans. The first aid kits should be checked and replenished regularly and be easily accessible for all staff.
Ensure the security of your doggy guests
This is essential for safely running your dog kennel business. There are several ways you can secure your facility including installing a CCTV system and locking the kennels and premises securely.
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.
There are certain legal requirements you must ensure you comply with when setting up and running your dog kennel business.
Apply for a Boarding for Cats or Dogs Licence
You will need to apply for this licence before your dog kennel business begins operating. Before you are granted a licence, your premises will be inspected by someone from your local council. They will check the suitability of the accommodation, the food, drink and bedding, whether the animals are protected, visited and exercised, and whether staff are trained to look after animals. Your local council will grant you either a one-, two-, or three-year licence. They will also determine the cost. As part of your inspection, you will be granted a star rating between 1 and 5 stars.
Apply for planning permission
If you need to build a main building, erect kennels or make any changes to existing infrastructure, you will likely need to apply for planning permission. To apply for planning permission, you will need to contact your local planning authority (LPA) via your local council.
Display your licence number and licence
Your licence needs to be clearly displayed on your premises and your licence number must be displayed on any advertising. You should also display your star rating for customers to see.
Ensure your paperwork and records are in order
If these are not in order, your licence application may be declined, or you may have your licence revoked. You should keep up-to-date records of your clients, the cleaning schedules, risk assessments, health and safety policies, temperature checks in the kennels, and health records.
Implement health and safety policies
This is legally required for all businesses in the UK. You should have policies in place that protect the animals, staff and any visitors to your business. If you have five or more employees, your health and safety policies should be recorded. Your policies should also include fire safety procedures and emergency procedures.
Register as self-employed with HMRC
Running a dog kennel business as an individual or as a self-employed person requires you to register with HMRC. You will need to register your business name and keep records of all your income, profits and expenses.
Certain types of insurance will be legally required, whereas others are only recommended. Contact your local council to enquire which insurance types you must have before starting up a dog kennel business.
Comply with employment legislation
As you will be employing staff, you must ensure you follow employment legislation. You must comply with legislation relating to recruitment, working hours, pay, sickness, discrimination, dismissals, and maternity or paternity pay.
Apply for a Notification to Process Personal Data Licence
You can apply for this licence with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). If your kennels have a CCTV system or process personal information such as payroll information or accounts and records, you will need to apply for a licence with the ICO and renew your registration every year.
Positives of Owning a Dog Kennel Business
Running a dog kennel business is rewarding in many ways. Some of the biggest positives of owning a dog kennel business include:
You can spend your days with dogs
Many animal lovers will think of this as their dream job. You can spend your days walking and feeding them, playing with them and getting lots of doggy attention. Animals, and especially dogs, are considered to be therapeutic and spending time with them can have emotional and health benefits.
High customer retention
Once many dog owners find a kennel that they know and trust and their dog is comfortable in, they are highly unlikely to change to a different one. You will likely get return custom and even client recommendations.
Pick and choose who you want to work with
As the business owner, you will be responsible for hiring employees. You can choose to hire staff that you think will be beneficial to your business, genuinely care about animals, and will work well in your team. You hopefully won’t have to worry about dealing with bad co-workers ever again.
Control your own workload
Once your business is established and you have hired employees, you can begin to control your own workload. You can choose to work as little or as often as you like and also decide whether you want to take a hands-on or hands-off approach.
Unlimited income potential
A dog kennel business can be extremely lucrative, especially if you operate at high occupancy. You will also have the opportunity to expand your premises or open additional kennels in another location. This gives you the opportunity to earn an unlimited income.
Not only can a kennel business be emotionally, mentally and financially rewarding, but it also allows you to help animals in need. Many kennels offer any extra kennel space to dogs who need shelter or provide animals in need with food, toys and bedding. Being able to help animals is a major benefit to many animal lovers.
Be involved with your local community
You will likely operate your dog kennel business in your local community. This allows you to connect with other dog lovers close to you and become an important part of the community.
Create the business you want
You can design your business exactly as you want. You can decide the type of kennel business you are going to run, the design and aesthetic, and the facilities, equipment and service that will be available. You can create your dream business, while still making money.
Negatives of Owning a Dog Kennel Business
However, there are some negative aspects of owning a dog kennel business you should be aware of:
High start-up costs
You will need to purchase or rent a large amount of land, as well as fund the cost of building the kennels. Your start-up costs are likely to be high, meaning you may need to source outside investment. It may also take you longer to begin making a profit.
It can be time-consuming
Starting up and running a dog kennel business requires a big time commitment, particularly when you first open your business. Your business will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and you could be responsible for a lot of tasks, including marketing, organisation, business accounts, taking care of the animals, ordering and maintaining equipment, and cleaning.
Work can be inconsistent
If you are not operating at full capacity, you are reducing your profits. Unfortunately, work can be inconsistent and there may be certain times of the year when you have low occupancy.
It can be stressful
Not only are you responsible for the success of your business, but you are also responsible for the safety and wellbeing of the animals and your employees. Running a dog kennel business can be demanding and extremely stressful.
Making your business succeed can be difficult
If your area already has an established kennel business, 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 kennel that they have used previously or that already has a lot of positive customer reviews.
Planning Your Dog Kennel Business
An effective and well-designed business plan is imperative to the success of your dog kennel business.
There are some key considerations you should make when planning your business and creating your business plan:
What type of dog kennel business are you going to run and who are your target customers?
This is the first consideration you should make when planning your business, as it will influence your prices, facilities, equipment requirements, and branding. You need to decide whether you will set up a budget, mid-range or luxury dog kennel business and what services you are going to offer.
What is your local competition?
Being aware of any competition in your area is imperative. If there are already successful dog kennel businesses, you will need to consider how to make your business stand out. If the local kennel is geared towards budget customers, you may want to consider opening a luxury dog kennel to target a different customer base.
What are your premises options?
You will need to consider whether you are buying an existing dog kennel business, land that already has existing infrastructure that can be converted, or land where you will need to build the kennels and other buildings from scratch. This will heavily influence your start-up costs and initial investment requirements.
Where will you be located?
As mentioned earlier, the location of your business is important. Ideally, it should be easily accessible for your target customer base, but far enough away from residential areas that the dog barking won’t be an issue.
What are your equipment requirements?
Budget, mid-range, and luxury dog kennels will have different equipment requirements and facilities as they will offer different services. Consult the equipment list above to plan your requirements and calculate how much this is likely to cost. You should also determine whether you are going to purchase all of your equipment or whether some will be rented.
Can you finance the business yourself or will you need outside investment?
Calculate your start-up costs, running costs, and expected profits to determine your investment requirements. If you need outside investment, you could obtain this from a bank, another financial institution, a private investor, other businesses, or from family or friends.
Will you require your staff to undergo training or obtain qualifications?
Although this is not a legal requirement, qualified staff can make your business more attractive to potential customers, help to keep the animals safe and help you to obtain a higher score on your inspection.
What are your business objectives?
Determining your business objectives can be a great way to attract investments for your dog kennel business and can help you to grow your business. They also help you to create your business plan.
Your business objectives should be SMART:
- S = Specific
- M = Measurable
- A = Achievable
- R = Realistic
- T = Time-bound
Have you complied with all legal requirements?
Ensure you have filed all your paperwork and are complying with all legal requirements before opening your dog kennel business. Consult the list above to check you have followed all guidelines and applied for the necessary licences. Legal requirements are designed to help protect your business and protect the health and safety of the dogs, your employees and any visitors to your business.