If you love spending time with dogs but don't want the hassle of having to set up kennels and plan for overnight canine guests, you may want to consider starting up your own doggy daycare. These are specialized businesses, often run out of a dog friendly house or acreage, that cater to taking care of your dog while you can't be home during the day.
One of the first things to consider is how much of a client base you can develop in your area. If you live in a smaller town or a rural setting you may not have as large of a potential market, however if you live close to a mid to large sized city you may be surprised at the amount of interest that you will have. In addition to looking into your prospective target client base you also need to consider and check into any zoning regulations or ordinances that may prohibit you from operating a doggy daycare. In some cities there may be a maximum number of pets that may be allowed in any one house and there may be restrictions on boarding or caring for animals or for having a business within residential neighborhoods. Checking with the city planning department and licensing department for businesses is important before getting started with your venture.
The supplies or specialized equipment and space needed to start a doggy daycare will vary depending on the number of dogs you are considering as well as the size of the dogs. Keep in mind you can select small or large breeds or even choose to only provide day care services for toy breeds; it is really up to you. If you are going to provide doggy daycare services for a wide range of dog breeds and sizes you will need to have separate areas for the larger and smaller dogs, especially for group play activities. Remember the areas have to be clean and easy to sanitize and should not be full of objects that could potentially cause any sort of health concerns for dogs. Not all dogs will be well mannered and some might chew on furniture or even not be well housetrained, so you will want to have some separation between your actual house or living space and where you are keeping the dogs.
Basic supplies you will require in addition to physical space for the dogs include a good selection of toys that are easy to clean and sterilize. Rubber toys that can go through a dishwasher or a sterilizer are a good choice. Anything that is fabric and cannot be disinfected should be avoided whenever possible. Other supplies will include bedding for kennel areas and rest areas, a clean and easily accessible water source for the dogs as well as a securely fenced yard or play area. Ideally a privacy fence that is at least six feet high is recommended as this will prevent the dogs trying to dig or jump out of the fenced area. An area to use as a toileting station will also be required that is separate from the open play areas. There will also be the need for a good selection of healthy dog snacks and even a good selection of dog food. Even if you are only caring for someone else's pet during the day you may still need to provide food, plus a few treats are certainly going to help ensure cooperation and good behavior. You may want to make your own healthy and nutritious snacks that could also be sold to the owners for a bit of extra income. If you don't want to go that far having a selection of commercially available treats on hand is still a great idea. Since some dogs may have very specific food allergies consider having some that are natural and holistic as well as the more common store type brands.
The next step after you have your permits, business license and space is to start looking for insurance. You will need at least some type of liability insurance to protect yourself in the case of an injury or accident to one of the dog's you are caring for or one of the owners. Talking to business insurance companies as well as your home insurance company is important so you know exactly what you have to be insured for. It may be a good idea to consider taking out the comprehensive types of insurance that boarding kennels have just in case you do decide to allow for some overnight stays or decide to add a boarding kennel component to your services.
Once you have everything in place your next to last step is to look for some assistance in the form of staff. The people you hire should enjoy being around dogs, understand basic dog handling and training, know some animal first aid and also be willing to work with a variety of different dogs. It is highly recommended that at least one person on the premises be trained in pet first aid as well as having a good working relationship with a local vet that offers emergency service and house visits.
Choosing staff is very important since they will be representing your business and its philosophy as it comes to taking care of dogs. They should be true "dog people" not just people that want a job. Often groomers, breeders, trainers or vets have people that they could recommend as staff members without requiring you to spend a great deal of time training them. If you are going to offer grooming or training services as part of your doggy daycare these individuals can be really valuable both in providing those services as well as referring customers your way.
Advertising and getting your business started will be the next step. Taking out ads in newspapers, getting on Craigs List, developing a website, talking to local pet stores, vets and groomers are all important parts of marketing your new business. Consider inviting breeders and trainers in for an open house to allow them to see your facilities and make a strong network for referrals. Remember that word of mouth advertising is often the most effective so go out of your way to keep all your customers happy and making referrals to your service.