All posts by John Reh

The Advantage Your Dog Walking Service Has Over Others

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

The Advantage Your Dog Walking Service Has Over Others.

What does your dog walking service do that's different from others?  What advantage is there for a customer in using you over someone else?  To be fancy about it, what is your unique selling proposition?

If you don't have an answer to this, you should probably stop and think of an answer before you talk to a single new prospective customer.  If you don't, you might be losing that new customer needlessly.

The spark for this article was a conversation I had with a company yesterday (not related to the pet industry).  Keep in mind that this is a company that I'm contacting about being a customer of for many years to come with potentially tens of thousands of dollars that I'd be spending with them (if not a whole lot more).  After getting a few basic details from them, I asked a pretty common question:  "Why should I buy from you instead of someone else?"

The answer was:

"Well there's really no reason to go with us over the big guys". 

I literally laughed out loud and asked the guy if that was really his final answer.  He replied with "well, we're quite a bit smaller than those other guys so I guess you'll maybe get more personalized service from us."

OK, now we're at least getting somewhere.

Needless to say, this guy was not selling up a storm with me (or probably with anyone else).  It was a shame, too, because the more I talked with him, the less interested I became

All because he failed business 101:  being able to tell the customer why they should buy from you. 

In your dog walking or pet sitting business, why should customers buy from you?  Is it price?  Quality?  Convenience?  Availability?  Or something else?  We'd love to know what you think it is and why customers love you. 

How to Start a Dog Walking Company Part 1

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

How to start a dog walking company (part 1)

So you're thinking of starting a dog walking company, huh?  Well, you're probably wondering where to begin. 

The good news is that being a dog walker is not rocket science.  The bad news is that, like anything, being truly great can be really hard.  There may be a lot items that you never even thought of to do or would be necessary.  But without considering those things - and if you can't do them very well - you may have a hard time being successful.

So, with that said, let's talk about the #1 thing that you need to think of first.  Without an answer to this first question, you'll have very little direction on where to take your business and how to get there.

The first question is... drum roll please...

"What makes you special?"

Yep, that's it.  What makes you, as a dog walker, special?  This is Busines 101 and, yet, it's this first step that many people forget about.

Here are the 3 basic things that can make a company special (there are more, but this is the basic framework that you can start with for now):

  1. Are you continually the least expensive option? (Walmart)
  2. Are you continually the most reliable and "customer service" oriented? (Amazon, Zappos)
  3. Do you continually offer a unique, hard-to-get, and/or innovative product? (Apple Computer)

This should get you thinking for now. 

Subscribe to our blog feed and keep an eye out for "part 2" when we discuss why trying to be more than just one of the above 3 options doesn't work... 

Your Dog Walking Comfort Forecast

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

Your Dog Walking Comfort Forecast

Dogs are really important to a lot of people.  How important?  Well, so important that now has a "dog walking comfort forecast".  Awesome!

To check your Dog Walking Comfort Forecast, go to, add your city/state, then click on the "outdoor" tab at the far right of the page.  A drop down box should appear and you can click on "outdoor living."  Up should pop a box looking something like this:

You can see that it shows you the general weather forecast and then a bar graph of how "comfortable" your walk should be.  

If you've been wondering if you should get into the dog walking business, I think this is pretty solid proof that people love their animals and take dog walking very seriously.  


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Thinking of starting a dog walking business?  Learn about costly mistakes in our free report:  The Top 12 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting a New Pet Business.  Download it now.

Buying a Dog Walking Franchise vs Doing it Yourself a Comparison

Comparing and contrasting why you might want to join a dog walking or pet sitting franchise versus why you would "do it yourself" is a big topic.  A book could probably be written on all the things you might want to think about.  But, to keep it brief, let's look at two of the biggest things we think you'd want to consider:

  • Your pure, natural entrepreneurial drive
  • Your appetite for risk (aka: losing it all)

No matter if you invest in a pet franchise or start it up yourself, we'd consider you an entrepreneur and congratulate you for taking the road less traveled.  Where we see a difference in "levels of entrepreneurial drive" is in how much you love the challenge of facing the problems you're sure to encounter when you start something completely unique.  So...

You might want to do it on your own if:

If you have a passion to constantly reinvent the wheel, even when the wheel works perfectly fine as it is, then there isn't ANY franchise that will be a good fit for you.  You're probably born to do it on  your own.  A franchise's rules and guidelines will probably drive you crazy and make you feel constrained.

If you love running into a brick wall head first and think it's fun to figure out how to climb over it, doing it yourself is for you. 

If you dig thinking through problems and enjoy the process of always trying to build a better mousetrap, you'd be better off starting something on your own.  The process of inventing as you go is part of what makes this route fun.

Some people love finding themselves in a deep hole and having no clue how to get out.  Figuring out a solution usually takes a lot of time, money, patience, and effort.

These same people are also generally OK with the possiblity that they won't figure out a solution.  Or, at least won't figure out a solution before they run out of money or time.  They are willing to accept the fact that they might lose everything they put into the business.  They're willing to lose it all.  Yes, all of it. 

Now, on the other hand...

You might want to join a franchise if:

If you don't have the time, money, inclination, or patience to make lots of expensive mistakes and learn as you go, then joining a dog walking franchise could be a much better option for you. 

Any GREAT franchise, no matter what industry they're in, gives you the proven processes and procedures to get you rolling in the right direction on day one.  A GREAT franchise gives you the templates to avoid mistakes and do the right thing immediately.

Now, before we go any further, we have to mention that we're not going to generalize about all pet franchises.  There are lots of them and they're all different.  Some may be a fit for you and some might not.  Instead, we're going to stick to what we know and give you details specifically about how Dogs Love Running! works.

So, assuming the franchise route sounds better to you than the risk of reinventing the wheel, then what can we specifically give you?

To begin with, this business is not rocket science.  However, it's WAY, WAY, WAY more sophisticated than most people would expect.  If you're looking to build a full-time business with lots of clients and a full roster of staff members, then our sophistication will come in very handy. 

Not only do we help in getting you started in the right direction, but you'll also get continual support.  Inevitably, you'll have questions on what to do in certain situations.  That's when you call us.  That's when being with our franchise is worth it.  One of those situations is when to do certain types of marketing and the biggest marketing question we hear is:

"how do you get clients?"

We have the answer to that.  And our marketing knowledge is another reason to join our franchise.

On marketing "experiments" alone (before we were a franchise company and were just doing it by ourselves), we wasted a ton more money just on things that didn't work than what our entire franchise fee is.  We can save you thousands in trial and error.  Even if you're a marketing person yourself already, do you know specifically what works for this type of business?  We do.  That's what we can help you with. 

Don't forget about all the money you will cost yourself in lost time trying to figure things out in all areas of the business, not just marketing.  There's a lot to know.

So, in summary:

If you already know how to run a pet business or would enjoy taking the time to figure out what you don't know, starting on your own might be the way to go. 

But, if you don't have a few years and tens of thousands of dollars to play around with while you figure out how to scale things up beyond yourself and 1 or 2 staff members, we could be the right choice instead.

There's a lot more we think you'd want to know about the differences in starting on your own vs. joining up with us.  Contact us and we can talk about it.  

How to Finance Fund and Pay for a Dog Walking Pet Franchise

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

How To Finance, Fund, And Pay For A Dog Walking Pet Franchise

Congratulations, you've found a great dog walking franchise that you'd like to join!  You've investigated everything and are ready to commit to it.  Only one thing remains...

how to finance and pay for your new pet franchise?

Let's first clarify that this article will talk about how to pay for a lower-cost franchise such as a dog walking and/or pet sitting or a dog training business.  What we're NOT talking about is a doggy daycare, pooper-scooper, or pet retail store where you'll typically have a higher investment to cover vehicles and/or physical property and inventory.

A typical dog running/walking/sitting franchise is generally going to require an investment of somewhere between about $12,000 and $25,000 to get started and cover operational costs for a few months.  Even if you needed to get 100% of those funds from someone else, this is considered a relatively small loan for a business, especially for a legitimate franchise (there are plenty of "business opportunities" that cost less, but many of these are suspect at best and outright scams at worst).

So for that amount of money, what's the best place to get your initial investment?  Answer:  Your own wallet.

Yep, that may not be the answer a lot of people want to hear, but your own funds are really the best place to find your start-up capital.

But what if you don't have it (or not all of it, anyway)?  The next best place is...

Friends and Family. 

With a loan from friends or family, you're probably going to get a better "deal" than you would from a lending institution.  You should expect to still pay interest on your loan, but hopefully you'll get a better rate and more flexible repayment terms.  Getting money from them (assuming they have it and want to lend it) is also going to be a lot easier than going through the whole application and interview process with a bank.  On the downside, what happens if something goes wrong and you're having difficulty making payments?  Are you willing to cloud your personal relationship with this person over money?

Next up... an Angel Investor.

An "angel investor" is generally a person (or group of people) who makes investments in start-up companies with hopes of getting a return when that business takes off.  That return might be 15, 20, 25%, or more.  Generally speaking, an angel investor is probably going to be looking at bigger companies than what you want to start, but it never hurts to ask around and see if you can find someone who's interested in helping you.  Look for connections to these investors at the business department of local universities, at your local chamber of commerce, your local SCORE chapter, and through business networking groups.

How about a Home Equity Loan?

These loans are based on the the equity you have in your home.  It's basically the difference between what you owe and what the house is worth.  Rates are generally pretty good for this type of loan.  It's also a very flexible option because you have more control about when and how much money you take out.  The potential downside here is that you're putting your house on the line.  Now, if we were talking about a doggy daycare franchise that was going to cost you $300,000 to start up, we would not recommend a home equity loan because it would probably be too much risk in losing your home.  But, for a relatively small $10,000 - $20,000 loan, a home equity loan can be a good option for many people. 

Banks, Credit Unions, and the SBA, Oh My!

Don't forget about banks, credit unions, and the Small Business Administration.  Of these three, banks are typically thought of first, but may actually be your lowest chance for success.  They're often the most stringent in their review process, can be very picky, and have the worst "deal" for you.  Check out the SBA first.  They have a variety of loans and grants that you might be able to use for your franchise.  If nothing else, they have a ton of useful business information you can get for free.  And, if you're not familiar with Credit Unions, this may be a good alternative for you as opposed to a bank.  These are not-for-profit institutions that typically have a high focus on community development through business ventures.  They want to see businesses succeed in the community and sometimes have very attractive loan programs. 

Last, and probably least, Credit Cards.

Broadly speaking, we wouldn't endorse using credit cards to start up a business.  But because a dog walking/sitting franchise can be a very low-risk business to start, we'll add them to this list.  Don't put your franchise fee on a card that's costing you 24% interest because that's just dumb.  But, if you just need a few thousand dollars for supplies, marketing, or something like that (and don't have a high interest rate!), that magic plastic card could get you through.  Again, it's not our recommendation to use one, but in the right circumstance, it wouldn't be the end of the world to charge it. 

Starting your new dog walking franchise can be a ton of fun.  Don't let the lack of money hold you back because there ARE options out there to get funding.  Your commitment, combined with the relatively low risk of this type of business, can lead to a quick repayment of the loan, not to mention a lifetime of doing what you love for a living.

If you have any questions on getting the money to start a franchise, just contact us.  

What s an Exclusive Franchise Territory

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

What's An Exclusive Franchise Territory?

"Location, location, location." 

You've probably heard that phrase a lot and that's because picking the right location is the first rule in determining the potential success of many businesses.  And, when it comes to buying a franchise, this rule is no different.

Any great franchisor should help you figure out the best location for your business.  For example, our dog walking franchise does an extensive demographic research study of your local market to determine if your market has the "right" type of customers (some do and some don't) and, if so, where most of them are located.

An exclusive territory guarantees and entitles you to customers in a specific area. 

For example, a fast-food franchise that has non-exclusive territories may open 3 franchised locations all within a few square miles and potentially cannibalize sales from one another.  The franchisor benefits because all three locations are making sales.  However, each individual franchisee may be at a disadvantage due to losing customers who may go to another nearby location that they don't own.

A franchisor, like Dogs Love Running!, with exclusive territories wouldn't allow this to happen.  The "exclusive territory" is what protects the franchisee by prohibiting another location to open too close by or, as in the case of a service business like a dog walking franchise, prohibit customers from buying from certain franchisees that don't "own" the territory in which they live.

A common approach is for franchisees to own certain zip codes.  So, if two franchiees owned adjacent territories where one side of the street is one zip code and the other side of the street is another zip code, it makes it very easy to determine which franchisee gets which customer.  In fact, in a franchise with exclusive territories, it would typically be required that a franchisee refer over to another local franchisee an inquiry that came from a customer in that other franchisee's territory, even if the customer didn't contact that other franchisee first. 

Overall, the benefit to this type of "exclusive territory" system is that franchisees can develop a cooperative environment between themselves because they're not worried about an agressive franchisee that may be back-stabbing them just to get a customer, as could happen in a non-exclusive territory system.

If you're investigating franchises and want to know more about choosing a location, just contact us and we can give you some ideas. 

How to Prevent Your Pet Sitting Staff From Stealing Your Clients

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

How To Prevent Your Pet Sitting Staff From Stealing Your Clients

New (and experienced) pet sitting business owners often ask us:

  • How do we make sure our pet sitting staff doesn't steal our clients from us?
  • Is it risky to let our dog walking staff pick up the money our clients leave us?

The answer to both of these questions is:

Hire the right people, treat them nicely, and you won't have any problems. 

I know that's probably not the type of answer you might have been looking for, but it really is the most bullet-proof plan.  (how you hire the right people and treat them nicely will be future blog article topics)

So let's say that you've done this part already but still want some extra reassurance.  In that case, we'd suggest keeping the relationship between you and the customer instead of the customer and your staff.  That means that you are the one doing any/all customer service.  You're the one that does the scheduling with the clients.  You're the one that is the real heart and soul of the business.  And you're the one that collects payment.

f you're the one that the real relationship is with, your customers shouldn't leave you even if they're being wooed by one of your staff members.  In fact, they'd probably be so loyal that they'd be calling you and telling you that Jane Doe is trying to lure them away behind your back. 

In regards to money, the easiest way to bypass having your clients pay your staff is to do some type of automated credit card billing.  This isn't necessarily the cheapest route, but it's typically going to be the most efficient and trustworthy.  Paypal can help you with this or you can go to any one of the gazillion-and-one credit card processing merchants you'll find on the internet.  Set it up so your clients pay you directly on a regular schedule and you'll make their lives and yours a whole lot easier.