All posts by John Reh

The Biggest Mistake You Can Make When Buying A Dog Walking Franchise

Dogs Love Running! - the blog for pet owners and pet professionals

The Biggest Mistake You Can Make When Buying A Dog Walking Franchise

As a dog walking franchise, we get lots of calls and emails from people inquiring about joining our team as franchisees.  Part of our job is to help guide and educate them about what this business is all about so that they know if it's really what they're looking for or not.  From that experience, we can tell you that the #1 mistake that people make in buying a dog walking franchise (or in trying to start a dog walking or pet sitting company up on their own) is:

  • They want to play with dogs all day and that's it

Now, don't get us wrong.  With our franchise, you definitely get to play with dogs for a living.  And it's a heck of a lot of fun.  But, it's also still a business.  And there are a lot of "un-fun" things that go along with being the owner of any type of business.  When you talk to us, we tell you what those "un-fun" things are so that you know what you're getting into.

If you're considering buying a dog walking franchise partly because you love dogs, that's great.  In fact, if you don't have a love for our four-legged friends, I'm not sure we'd even want to talk to you. 

But if 100% of the reason you want to start this kind of company is soley just because you're a dog fanatic, owning a business may not be for you.  You'll find out very quickly that marketing, scheduling, accounting, and hiring have nothing at all to do with dogs. 

Some people hate those things.

If that's you, we'd suggest thinking very carefully about if this is the right type of opportunity or not. 

What we look for are these types of traits, in no particular order (if you don't have all of them, that's fine, but this should give you an idea of the "right" type of person for this job):

  • You're a dog lover (and animal-lover in general)
  • You have a passion for animal welfare
  • You like working with people (it's the people, not the dogs, that are hiring you!)
  • You enjoy the outdoors
  • Living a healthy lifestyle is important to you
  • You are organized and at least somewhat detail-minded (scheduling staff to make client visits is a part of this job)
  • You understand that this is a business and that marketing, accounting, and hiring (and other related tasks) will be a part of your weekly routine

Note that we didn't exactly specify that we're looking for runners (our company name is Dogs Love Running!, afterall).  That's because your staff will be the runners/walkers/sitters, not you.  What we're just hoping to find are people that enjoy and live a healthy lifestyle.  This can come in many forms. 

Being a dog walking franchise owner can be the best job ever, as long as you know what you're getting into.  We try to be as informative as possible when talking to prospective franchisees because the worst thing that could happen to both of us is that you join our team and then realize that this isn't really for you.  We'd rather just tell you straight up what this business is all about before you commit to being a franchisee.  If it turns out you're a match, that's great.  If not, that's fine too.  Maybe we can point you in a better direction once we know what it is that you're really seeking.

If you're thinking about buying a dog walking or pet sitting franchise and want to know more about what it takes to make it, just ask us.  You can contact us about the Dogs Love Running! franchise here.

Pet Sitting vs Dog Walking Franchise Which Is Best

Dogs Love Running! - the blog for pet owners and pet professionals

Pet Sitting vs. Dog Walking Franchise: Which Is Best?

Are you investigating the pet franchise industry and wondering how a pet sitting franchise might compare to a dog walking franchise?  Are you wondering which might be best for you?

Here's a quick and easy overview on how to compare the two so you can determine which may be the best choice for your particular situation.

First of all, it's important to note that many consumers use the terms "pet sitting" and "dog walking" interchangeably.  However, from a business owner's perspective, these are actually two different types of services and often have different objectives.  Let's take a look at both of them.

Pet Sitting:

"Pet Sitting" would typically be defined as providing a service where you'd visit a client's pet(s) at the client's home while they're away.  It does not entail the client bringing their pet to you (this would be more of a "pet boarding" service).  How many times you vist the pet would depend on how long the owner is away.  If they were gone for a 24-hour period, dogs typically would receive 3 or 4 individual visits.  Cats, fish, and other similar household pets might only need 1 visit during that same amount of time.

Dog Walking:

"Dog Walking" is also a service where you'll visit the client's home.  Owners are typically away at work, school, or another place during the day that makes it difficult for them to get back home easily and quickly to tend to their dog.  So, they'll have you come and take the dog out instead.  You'll usually visit just 1 time during the day and it will probably be somewhere around the lunch hour.

So, Of The Two, Which Is The Best Type of Business?

The "best" opportunity is largely dependent on what you're looking for in a business.  Here are some things to keep in mind when determining which might work for you:

  • There are generally more internet searches going on for "pet sitting" related terms than for "dog walking".  So, there are many sitting clients to be had out there.
  • Sitting clients typically only need you 1, 2, or 3 times a year since they're not often away from their home for more than a day.  This means that you're only working for them a couple times during an entire year.
  • There are lots of peaks and valleys in pet sitting demand.  You'll be very busy a few times a year, like for holidays, but not very busy at all during other parts of the year.
  • When providing a sitting service, your activities will typically be related to pet care, such as feeding, medication, bathroom breaks, and ensuring the general safety of the pet.
  • Dog Walking clients will generally use your services all year long because whenever they're at work (or wherever they are during the day), they'll need your help.
  • Walking clients might use you 2, 3, 4, or even 5 days a week.
  • Because walking clients use you multiple times per week all year long, walking services generally provide a more stable and predictable revenue stream.  This also makes scheduling for you (and your staff) easier because you know far in advance of what visits need to be made.
  • Walking visits are typically less focused on feeding and care and more focused on letting the dog stretch their legs, providing some exercise, and breaking up an otherwise boring day with some love and attention. 
  • Some walking clients might be especially interested in the exercise aspect of things and may even prefer a dog running service.

There really is no "best" way to go because both types of businesses have their pros and cons.  For our dog walking franchise opportunity, we focus more on the walking/running service because it fits our particular business model best.  As long as you know what you're getting into and why, either can work for you.

How Much Does A Pet Franchise Cost Franchise Fee

When considering how much buying a pet or dog walking franchise will cost you, the biggest part of that expense is usually the Franchise Fee.

So, what exactly is the Franchise Fee?

In short, it's your investment in helping ensure you don't go out of business.

More specifically, any great franchisor will have years of experience in developing their systems and processes to make sure they work before they offer their business as a franchise.  Because they've already made mistakes and now know how to avoid them, they can help ensure you don't make the same ones. 

And that's what the franchise fee buys you: it's the experience of someone else who can help you succeed as quickly as possible. 

Of course, there are lots of things included in that "experience", such as

  • proven systems and processes
  • discounts or "buying power" for equipment
  • software/technology
  • manuals, forms, documentation
  • support (phone, in-person, classroom, field training, etc)
  • marketing materials (trademarked logo, print, web, etc)
  • guidance to help you avoid mistakes

For some dog walking and pet franchises, you may also get an "exclusive territory" as part of your franchise fee.  The concept of an exlusive territory is an article for another day, but basically that just means that you "own" an area and no other franchisees around you can take customers who live in the territory that belongs to you. 

So how much is the franchise fee?

This is going to vary widly depending on the industry, competition, territory size, and other factors.  For the pet franchise industry though, a typical franchise fee will be in the range of about $6,000 to $35,000. 

For the Dogs Love Running! franchise, our franchise fee is $12,000.  And you do get an exclusive territory of 250,000 people (that's really big!). 

When looking at a franchise, especially a pet-related one, check out what you're getting first.  Ask the franchisor what it is that they'll be doing for you.  Once you know that, the value of what you're paying as a franchise fee will become much clearer.

What Are the Pros and Cons of in Home Pet Sitting

Amy Mishima's Happy Dog Owner Blog

What are the Pros and Cons of In-Home Pet Sitting?

The last thing anyone wants on vacation is being stressed out.  But if you have a pet that you need to leave behind while you’re away, you understand that this feeling can be all too common.  While there is the equally popular option of boarding your cat or dog, this article is specifically about pet sitting.

Simply defined, pet sitting is the act of caring for pets in their own home while the owner is away.  And keep in mind that when I say pet sitting, I’m referring to a reputable pet care company, not a neighbor or friend.

Let’s start with the cons.  What are the reasons for finding another pet care alternative instead of pet sitting?

  • The pet sitter will need to enter your home while you’re away.  This may seem obvious, but it’s definitely a legitimate concern.  Be sure you choose a pet sitting company that thoroughly screens their sitters.

  • Another negative is that your pet will be alone for much of the day.  This may not be detrimental if you work since your pet is already used to that, but it could be stressful for pets that are used to having company throughout their normal day.

Now, the pros of pet sitting.

  • Your pet gets to stay within the comfort of their own home and can stick to their everyday routine of feeding, potty breaks, walks, and playtime.  As the owner of an Elmhurst pet care company, we make it top priority to keep detailed notes on every important detail of our clients’ pet’s normal day and will find a solution that allows them to stick to that regime.

  • Sitters can do the housesitting chores in addition to caring for Fido.  They can bring in the mail, water plants, turn the lights on or off, and ensure your house is maintained.

  • Pet sitting is more personal.  The visits will be done on your requested schedule.  And your pet is getting one-on-one attention and care.

  • There is less risk for them to be exposed to contagious illnesses that may be lurking in a kennel.

  • This corresponds to the first pro above, but if you have an anxious pet, it will definitely be easier for them to relax at home rather than being in a kennel where there is very rarely quiet time.  The constant barks of other dogs may make it harder for certain pets to settle down if they aren’t used to a constant level of noise.

  • As the pet parent, you won’t have the hassle of dropping off and picking up your pet from anyone or anywhere.  

Should you decide that hiring a pet sitter is the best way for your beloved pet to remain as comfortable and happy as possible while you’re away, make sure to thoroughly check into whatever pet sitting company you choose.  Go with your gut.  If you don’t feel comfortable with the sitter you’re meeting, on to the next! 

Believe me, there are plenty of pet care companies out there and it’s important to find the right one for you and your pet.  

Feeling 100% secure with the decision you make will allow you to spend your vacation stress free and as relaxed as a vacation should be.

What to do With Your Dog When Kids go Back to School

Amy Mishima's Happy Dog Owner Blog

What To Do With Your Dog When Kids Go Back To School.

Can you believe that in less than one week it’s back to school time for the kids of Elmhurst?

Back-to-school inevitably signals changes in our routines and everyone is most likely away from home for much longer periods of time. These changes can be especially hard on our family pet which can ultimately lead to depression or behavior problems.

Here are a few things you can do to help your pet's transition when the kids go back to school.

  1. Ease them into change. If there’s still time, have the entire family leave the house for increasingly longer periods so your dog is familiar with being alone. If your dog does struggle with separation anxiety at a high level, start getting the lunch boxes and book bags out throughout the day to help desensitize them to these objects that they will otherwise associate with being left alone. 
  2. Establish a routine. Dogs are creatures of habit and changes in their routine can be the biggest cause of stress. While your scheduling carpools and after-school activities, it’s important to establish Fido’s new routine. Be sure to set regular feeding, walking, and play times for them. 
  3. Increase your dog’s exercise. Many studies show that increasing your pet’s aerobic activity by only 30-minutes a day will help to eliminate separation anxiety. Just like humans, dogs are best equipped to relieve stress through physical outlets. Hiring a dog walker or dog runner to visit them midday will not only break up their day and give them a potty break, but it will allow them to burn off energy and relieve any boredom. You may even want to consider taking them to doggy daycare on days where you will be away for a prolonged period of time. 
  4. Have a variety of mentally stimulating toys to play with. Puzzle toys that encourage your dog to look for hidden treats or Kong toys with a bit of peanut butter or other fillers will entertain your dog. 
  5. Break out some tunes. It’s a common practice in dog shelters to play certain types of calming music to help the dogs relax at night. While it’s not a guarantee, I’ve found that playing classical music eases my dogs into a relaxed state. 
  6. Quality (time) over quantity. Now that schedules are full, your dog may not get as much playtime or attention as they did during summer. Make sure you make the most of the time you spend with them. Long walks, trips to the park, lounging around on the couch, fetch in the backyard – do whatever you know makes them the happiest. Chances are, getting attention from you will make them happy so be sure your setting aside time for your pooch every day.

Naperville Dogs Get New Walking Partner with Dogs Love Running Franchise

Dogs Love Running! - the blog for pet owners and pet professionals

Naperville Dogs Get New Walking Partner With Dogs Love Running! Franchise

Lisle, Illinois, September 20, 2011 -- Dogs in Naperville, Bolingbrook, and Plainfield, Illinois have something new to bark about: Dogs Love Running!, the nation’s most exciting home-based pet franchise, has opened a new location with owners Scott and Sandy Patton.  

As of September, 2011, the Pattons will be offering dog running and walking services as well as providing pet sitting for all types of pets in the Naperville, Bolingbrook, and Plainfield areas.  And, for a limited time, they’re offering a free trial so you can check them out with absolutely no cost to you.  

Dogs Love Running! is the only dog walking franchise in the nation that specializes in dog running and pet exercise.  “As life-long pet owners and runners ourselves, we have experienced the benefits of proper exercise for both us as well as our pets”, says Sandy Patton, the new co-owner.

By offering customers the unique and valuable service of actually running with their dogs, the Pattons can give clients’ pets a way to burn off excess energy.  With high-mileage runs of up to an hour in length, even the most energetic dogs will come back tired and happy.  

It’s hard to find a veterinarian or dog trainer who wouldn’t agree that giving your dog the proper amount of exercise is one of the best things you can do for your four-legged friend.  “But with crazy work schedules, long commutes, endless family activities, and the hectic events of life the way it is today, we realize that not everyone can provide their dog with a regular walking or running routine.  That’s where we can help”, Scott adds.

Sandy states that “our visits can last 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes so it’s easy for a client to find just the right amount of time for their particular situation.  If you need a quick pet sitting bathroom break, we can do that.  If you need an hour of hard-core running, we can do that, too.”

Mr. Patton is also aware that not every single dog needs a running routine.  So, they offer dog walking alongside the running.  And for those people heading out of the house for a day or longer, their pet sitting option is a great way for pets to get 3 or 4 private visits per day in their own home.

Sandy states that “we joined the Dogs Love Running! team and opened a franchise because it’s a unique business that focuses on helping pets live longer and behave better through exercise.  We want to make pets happy and giving them the gift of exercise is something that will certainly do that.”

For more information on Dogs Love Running! and their Naperville dog walking and running and pet sitting service, call Scott and Sandy at 630-544-9680 or email them.

About Dogs Love Running!: We’re a fun and exciting home-based opportunity where our franchisees can make a real business out of combining their passions for working with animals, living a healthy lifestyle, and making a worthwhile difference in the world.  For more information, visit, email us, or call John Reh at 630-776-5545.



Know Your Dog Walking Target Market

Dogs Love Running! - the blog for pet owners and pet professionals

Know Your Dog Walking Target Market

I had the TV on in the background recently and a commercial caught my attention.  Actually, it wasn't really the commercial itself, but rather an interesting change to the commercial that I noticed.

Not that I really pay all that much attention to peanut butter TV ads, but I've become accustomed to hearing the tag line "choosy moms choose Jif" in Jif ads.  However, the other day, I saw this commercial (sorry, couldn't find a way to embed the video here, so the link is the best I could do) and heard something very different in the tag line.

This tag line was "choosy moms and dads choose Jif."  Hmmm, "dads" are now mentioned.  Kinda interesting.

I did some basic research and found a few "dads' rights" groups that have been put off by the omission of the word "dad" in the Jif commercial.  Perhaps Jif is now trying to be more inclusive in their marketing.

This is a good lesson to consider in your dog walking company's marketing:

  • are you accidentally (or purposefully) omitting a certain group(s) of people in your dog walking marketing strategy?  
  • are you serving a dog niche market effectively?
  • are you making people mad by not "including" them in your pet sitting marketing approach?
  • are there dog owners that would buy from you, but don't because you're not addressing them in your marketing?

You'll never make everyone happy, so don't try.  But consider who your target market is and how you're addressing them in your advertising.  Are you reaching everyone you can as effectively as you can?

The Secret to Growing a Huge Dog Walking Business

Dogs Love Running! - the blog for pet owners and pet professionals

The Secret To Growing A HUGE Dog Walking Business

There's one big secret to growing your dog walking (or pet sitting) business to MAMMOTH size.  It also happens to be the same secret that helps you from "burning out" of this industry.  The secret is this:

  • Get staff members to help you.

Yep, that's it.

Pretty simple, right?  Sure, there's a learning curve to figuring out how to recruit, interview, weed out the weirdos, and manage your staff.  But, once you've got even just 2 or 3 trustworthy people you can depend on, your life as a dog walking business owner will become infinitely better!

We see people getting "burned out" after doing this business for a while because they're the ones doing all the visits.  They're working 7 days a week with crazy hours morning, afternoon, and evening. 

But if they just had people to help them, they'd like their business better and, because of that, probably be more enthusiastic and do a better job, too. 

Steps to finding people to help you:

  1. Get clear on what you want: is it to work fewer hours, have fewer hassles, not work on certain days, etc?
  2. Once you know what you want, write it all down.  Write out exactly what you want, why you want it that way and then memorize it.  
  3. With that in your head, go out and open your eyes and start looking for people.  Always be on the lookout for potential staff members when you're making pet visits, at the grocery store, at the gas station, visiting your local pet boutique, and everywhere else you go. 
  4. Make it so people can find you (and save you the work of having to find them):  make a page on your website where people can learn about your openings and apply, make flyers and post them around town at all the pet-related businesses, put an ad out on craig's list, and put the word out at the local humane society/shelter.
  5. Don't avoid hiring someone.  Instead, think of it as a way to make your life better. 

Having a few dependable staff members will be one of the best things you ever did for your business.  You may not get it exactly right with the first person you bring on, but stick with it.  It will be worth it in the long run.

With the Dogs Love Running! franchise, we show you exactly how to find, interview, and manage staff members that will be a loving and dependable part of your team. 

What Price Should I Charge for My Dog Walking Business Part 2

Dogs Love Running! - the blog for pet owners and pet professionals

What Price Should I Charge For My Dog Walking Business? (part 2)

ou're wondering what price you should charge for your dog walking and pet sitting business, right?  Well, you've come to a great place.

First, you may want to read part one on how much to charge for your dog walking services where we discussed a pretty broad set of items you should think about.  After you've read that, come back to this article because it's a little more specific than that one because here we're going to talk specifically about considerations when charging by TIME (not by the service).

So, you've decided to charge by your TIME spent.  That means that regardless of what service you're doing, you're just charging by how much time you're spending with the client's pet.  Probably a good choice.

Consideration number one:

  • What are the "time" options your dog walking clients can choose from?

For example, how much time are you willing to offer to a client?  And are you going to have multiple options they can pick from?  Let's say you're willing to have a 15-minute block of time that someone can buy.  Will this block suit all your customer's needs?  Will some need more time or less?  If so, what other increments of time will you offer?  Maybe 10-minute increments (so you'll offer 15 minutes, 25, 35, 45, etc) or maybe 15-minute increments could be better (15, 30, 45, 60, etc)?  You probably want to consider what your actual service is that you're performing and how long it takes you to accomplish that task before you decide on the time blocks you'll offer people. 

Consideration number two:

  • Are you going to charge a flat fee for your time or will the price vary? 

For example, will you have higher prices for weekend and super early/late visits or will all your visits be exactly the same price?  You can make more by charging for "premium" times (which are those times that you probably don't want to work) although perhaps clients may get confused by your pricing chart if there are a gazillion different prices for all times of the day.  If you're going to charge different prices for different times of the day, make sure to keep it easy for a potential client to understand.  Ever gone to a website and couldn't figure out how much the product cost so you just left and bought it elsewhere?  That could happen to you if customers can't easily understand how much your walking and sitting services are.   

Consideration number three:

  • Will you have "holiday" rates for your time?

Aside from weekend or morning/evening premiums, will you charge more on holidays?  You can probably get away with this pretty easily because most people understand that they're going to have to pay a little more for someone to come on Christmas Day or Thanksgiving.

Consideration number four:

  • Where are you spending your time that you're charging for? 

Do your clients live in a crowded city or a sprawling suburb?  The answer to that can have a big impact on how much you want to charge.  If you live in a big city and lots of your clients are all near each other (or maybe even in the same building), you're spending your time a lot more efficiently than someone in a suburb ever could.  If all it takes you to get from one client to another is a 90 second elevator ride, you can fit in a lot more clients than if it's taking you a 15-minute drive to get from one client to the next on the other side of that suburban town.  If you can get from one client to the next in a matter of seconds, perhaps you can play the price game a little more and charge less because you can make it up in volume.  On the other hand, a suburban dog walker might not be able to have low prices because they just don't have the ability to fit in enough dogs in a day to make the lower prices work.

Consideration number 5:

  • What's your time worth?

If all you're charging is $10 for an hour of your time, think about all the things you could be doing in that hour.  Is $10 worth it (or $15 or $25 or whatever it is you're charging for that time)?  Could you be making better use of your time in the office building the business?  In which case, you could/should hire some staff.  Or, perhaps you're perfectly content with what you're doing and it's working great.  Or, maybe your time is worth more than you're making and you need to get a job somewhere else.

What price to charge for your dog walking and sitting business is impossible to say without factoring these 5 items in (as well as many other variables).  So, think about it and let us know what you ended up charging via the comment boxes below.  We'd love to know what you decided and how you got to that decision.

Goals for Dog Walkers

Dogs Love Running! - the blog for pet owners and pet professionals

Goals For Dog Walkers

Happy 2011!

Can you believe it's here already?  Time flies, huh?

If you're a dog walker or pet sitter, now (yes, right now) is the time to get your plans for the new year in order.  Yes, it's going to take a little time to figure out what you want for this year, but that time will be worth it.

Unfortunately, a lot of people spend the time and effort to figure out their goals, but then forget what they thought of.

That's why the #1 thing you should do now (yes, right now) is:

  • write your goals down.  on paper.  so you can see them.  every day.

I know, I know - you've heard this all before. 

But, have you actually done it?  If not, give it a try.

Ask yourself about these goals:

  • Am I doing what I want each day, week, month?
  • How happy am I doing what I'm doing?
  • What can I learn that would help me the most?
  • What do I know I need to improve and how can I take action on getting better?
  • Are my finances the way I want them?
  • Are my clients as happy as they could be?
  • Are my team members as engaged as they should be?
  • What's the #1 biggest thing I want to change in 2011?

That quick list should get you started on thinking about your goals.  Put in even just a little time thinking about these questions and then make sure to write down your answers.

You may just find that it actually helps you.