Whether you’re starting a side business to supplement your income or your dream is work with four legged animals, a dog walking business has a lot of appeal. Starting a dog walking business may seem simple, but it’s a serious business venture. You must be able to handle multiple dogs at once, and some dog walkers even offer additional services like pet grooming and boarding. Many people consider their dogs an extension of the family and may require that your business provide some form of protection. So how do you protect your business, establish your reputation and ensure customer satisfaction? Invest in dog walking insurance.
ASPCA Tips for Dog Walkers
- Use flexi-lead leashes in parks, but not in high traffic areas. These leashes allow the dog to get away from you too quickly.
- Metal leads are heavy and hard to handle, but are a good alternative if a dog likes to bite the leash.
- Avoid early morning and late evening walks if you want to avoid wildlife in the area. Some dogs can’t resist the urge to chase a small animal.
- Steer clear of grass and flower beds during warm months. Insecticides and certain flowers, like tulips, can cause health problems for the pooch if ingested.
- Always bring water, treats and extra poop bags.
The Initial Steps
Before starting your dog walking business, conduct some market research. Determine if there is a need for a dog walking business to help you avoid frustration later on. Begin by asking friends, family members and acquaintances whether they would pay for this service. You can also take an additional step of issuing a survey, which can be distributed via email or social media. If there’s a demand for a dog walker, you have an opportunity.
Make sure you register your business according to local rules and regulations, and if it’s your sole occupation, register yourself as self-employed. You’ll also need to open a business bank account. This will help you keep proper financial records and stay organized when it comes to tax time.
What Types of Insurance Are Best for Dog Walkers?
Various insurance policies available to dog walkers are not only meant to protect the dogs you’re walking, but your business as well. You face a huge liability risk when working with multiple dogs. Some dog walking liability insurance coverage will assist you if a client’s dog bites another person or damages someone else’s property while in your care. Another type can protect you if the client’s dog is injured while in your care. Purchasing liability insurance for your dog walking business protects you and the dogs and can be very helpful to improve your professional reputation.
Finding these types of insurance may be hard to do. Only certain companies offer such policies - so it pays to find good resources, ask around to colleagues, and consult with an insurance professional who can give you some unbiased advice.
Dog Walking Insurance and Bonding
Once you’ve obtained the necessary insurance for your dog walking business, be sure to find out about options for bonding in your area. Different states have different bonding requirements. It may be a good idea to apply for a fidelity bond. This type of bond is essentially another layer of protection for your business. For example, if one of your employees commits a dishonest act that results in a loss of assets of your business, your fidelity bond will help to compensate your losses.
Some states will require that you purchase a bond before you can even register your business, but if bonding is optional within your state, it’s still a good idea to apply for such a bond. It shows clients that you’re a trustworthy dog walker. If fraud occurs on your watch, clients can be assured that they will be compensated. It’s an extra cost, but well worth the peace of mind.
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How to Find Dog Walking Insurance
If you need assistance locating a reliable insurance policy and business bond, there are a few reliable sources you can contact:
- Financial advisors - typically have connections with insurance agencies; can help you set up your business financially and discuss risk
- Attorneys - can discuss risk and liability concerns with you, and give you an idea of the best way to protect yourself from lawsuits from potential clients
- Independent insurance agents - don't work for a "parent" company; have access to several insurers and can give unbiased advice and feedback
Once you've done your research, make sure you're comparing policies that are similar. Consider how much liability coverage you can afford, as this can be the most advantageous to have on hand for most dog walking businesses.
A little bit of research can go a long way when it comes to getting a great policy to protect your company.