How to start a dog boarding business from home part one: Is this the right business for you?

In home dog boarding is a popular and potentially profitable business for the 2020’s, but is it right for you? Here are some important things to consider before starting your new venture.

1) Motivation

Why does this kind of business interest you? Do you love dogs? Are you looking for work you can conduct from home? Does it seem like a good money making opportunity? Every entrepreneur needs motivation to start and run a business. Without it, you’re better off getting a job in someone else’s company. Let’s examine some of the most common motivations and how they can help you be successful

You love dogs

This is a great place to start. A true love for dogs will shine through in your work. Clients will see that you care about their pets and they won’t worry when going out of town. As a dog sitter you will be spending all day and night with them, so this had better be something you enjoy or it will get old.

Work from home

The lockdown of 2020 forced many people to get creative and find ways to work from home. From animal behaviorists to artists to software engineers, individuals set up offices in the house and conducted business remotely. Even before 2020, folks wanting to spend more time with children or just not waste time commuting to an office founds jobs they could do without having to go out.

Dog boarding is a viable career choice for those preferring to stay home. In fact, you’ll need to spend a lot of time there to provide good care for the dogs, so you should be comfortable not going out very often. While the dogs require supervision and attention, throughout the day you will have the time and space to care for children or pursue other interests like writing.

Making money

Let’s face it, people start businesses to make money. Unless you’re a CEO, it can be challenging to make a good living working for someone else. Dedicated entrepreneurs can make six figures if they are both passionate and smart about their ventures.

It takes dedication to make good money. I have seen folks start pet care businesses and quickly lose interest when there is something else they’d rather be doing. If you don’t work weekends and holidays when pet owners most need help, you won’t earn in the high levels of income. If you are inconsistently available, clients will look elsewhere. Focus and quality service will convert into income in a well-run business.

2) Ability

Running a dog boarding business from home may sound great, but do you have any relevant experience? If your only answer is owning your own dog, you may want to seek training or internship with an established company before starting your own. Here are some of the most important areas of experience for this type of career.

Dog handling

In an in-home boarding facility you will be handling dogs of all sizes, breeds, and personalities. Knowing how to do so safely and humanely can mean the difference between a successful business and a disaster. Things can go wrong quickly in groups of dogs and you will need to intervene.

Putting leashes and collars on and off, moving dogs from one area to another, and supervising playgroups requires more wherewithal than you might think. If you have no experience at all, consider working in a traditional kennel or daycare center for a while. These facilities house hundreds of dogs and often run huge playgroups, so it will be a crash course in dog handling.

Dog breeds and behavior

While every dog is an individual, there are breed characteristics that cannot be ignored. One of the most obvious is size. In an in-home boarding or daycare, dogs of different sizes should be segregated. There are tragic stories in the news of smaller dogs being killed by larger dogs in a group. Some breeds like Huskies can be predatory towards smaller animals, so should not be housed with smaller dogs or cats.

The Frenchie is a very popular breed today with some significant risk factors. First, BULLDOGS CAN’T SWIM. There is more than one story in the news of a Frenchie dying at a sitter’s house by drowning in the pool. Pools should be fenced in any case, and no dog should be unsupervised around a pool, but these kinds of dogs should be nowhere near them. Frenchies also have a hard time breathing because of their pinched nostrils and flat faces, so they can overheat easily.

There are many books and videos on dog breeds and behavior. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the kinds of dogs you may take into your home. If you know other pet sitters or dog boarders, ask them about their experiences.

Feeding and medications

As a provider of in-home dog boarding, you will of course be feeding the animals and providing medications as necessary. The more dogs you have in your care, the more complicated this will be. Dog owners should be providing you with their dog’s food for the time they are away, preferably in pre-measured amounts as this saves time and negates any confusion about amounts. All of this food will need to be labeled and stored securely, and given as requested.

Knowing a dog’s usual eating habits is key to monitoring their health and wellness. Some dogs are picky eaters and won’t finish, while others are ravenous and would eat the whole bag if you left it out. Ask the owner what their dog’s usual habits are so you will know what is normal and what isn’t.

Some dogs may be on medication. If possible, ask the owner to show you how they give the dog their meds. Some dogs are easy and will swallow any pill in a piece of cheese, while others will do all they can to avoid it. Diabetic dogs will need insulin shots. This is critical in terms of timing and dosage, so be sure you understand what to do before taking this on. If ever in doubt, call the client’s veterinarian or your own for guidance.

3) Lifestyle

Will this kind of business fit into your lifestyle? Many ideas can seem great at a distance, but lose their appeal up close day-to-day. It is smart to sort this all out ahead of time rather than dealing with problems after the fact. Here are some of the most important lifestyle considerations before starting a dog boarding business in your home.

Family and house mates

If you have a spouse or partner living with you, they have a say in what goes on in the home. They may be happy with the extra money earned by your business venture, but do they understand all the implications? A house full of dogs can be overwhelming. Will the dogs be loose in the house? Will there be an outbuilding or part of the house dedicated to dog care so the rest of the house can be off-limits?

Discuss all aspects of the business with your partner or other house mates ahead of time and make sure all are in agreement. If you have children or unrelated roommates make sure they have their own spaces away from dogs for both safety and sanity.

Living situation

If you rent, it is advisable to get permission from the property owner before bringing dogs in or starting an at-home business of any kind. Dogs can cause noise and odor issues for neighbors and they can cause damage to a house and yard. If you go ahead without permission then get a complaint, you will have to abruptly cease doing business.

Consider the space you have to work with. If you live in an apartment or condo, you will be making many trips outside with dogs to go potty. Unless you have a patio or small yard, dog boarding probably won’t be feasible. A small home is fine for smaller dogs, but if you are caring for one or more large dogs you will need space both indoors and outdoors.

Personal time

In home dog boarding is in high demand in the 2020’s and business owners can quickly fill their schedules. This is great on one level, but on another it can be easy to overbook and overwork. Do you like to travel, take vacations, visit friends and family? Do you like to go fishing, hiking, or to live shows? How will you block out time for these leisure activities?

Whatever kind of business you run, it will be more successful if you maintain a healthy work-life balance. That said, the majority of entrepreneurs will work long hours the first 1-2 years while becoming established. If you’re planning a wedding or have extensive summer and Christmas vacation plans this year, this might not be the best time to start a business. Availability is key to building up a solid client base.

Read part two in this series, Should you use Rover?