I was recently telling someone about my new adventure into the world of dog walking and her response was "Oh I've been thinking about doing that. It's dead easy isn't it? All you need is a van". I smiled politely and moved the conversation onto a different subject.
The reason for my polite smile was simple....NO, a van is absolutely not all you need to become a successful dog walker. No I wouldn't class myself as a successful dog walker by any means. In fact I'm only a beginner but I am hoping one day that I will be a well-established and successful dog walker.
The idea of becoming a dog walker first came to me earlier on this year. I was desperately unhappy at work and felt like I never got to see my kids. I love dogs and enjoy spending time outside so the idea made complete sense to me. It is going to mean some massive changes for our family but I genuinely believe they will be for the best in the long run.
Now back to the idea of only needing a van.... If only it was that simple! I suppose there would be some people who would set up a dog walking business and only get a van but I'm not one of those people. I want to do it right. I want this business to still be around in ten years and I believe, in order for that to happen I have to do things properly.
We've done so much to prepare in the last few months that I'm not even sure I could list all the things we have done. The first step was to do some training. I might have 20 years of experience as a dog owner but I want potential clients to know that they can trust me with their precious animals. I signed up for a pet sitting diploma and a canine behaviour diploma. As part of this I also got animal first aid training. The next step was a little harder. We began to draw up a business plan and one of the decisions we had to make was the name of our company. With help from my sister in law the name Cheshire Creature Comforts was born.
After that there was so much more to do: financial advice on how to set up a company, purchasing a domain name, creating a website, ordering business cards and flyers, buying all the various equipment I would need, signing up to NARPS, getting business and key holder insurance. The list is endless!
Somewhere in the middle of that we also found a van. Not just any old van but an ex-police dog van fitted with proper cages, an air vent and escape hatches. We've seen a few companies using fold down cages or just putting the dogs in the boot but, again, we didn't want to do that because we wanted to do things properly. If our van was to be in a crash the dogs would stand a much better chance of survival than they would in one of the other vans. We have found a company to do the art work for the van and as soon as it comes back we are ready to go. Well I say ready to go, but of course in order to be a successful dog walker and pet sitter, the main things I need are dogs to walk and pets to sit.
That is something we have no control over. We will have to advertise and get our name out there and hope that potential customers realise that we are going to do this right and we are going to do this well. So in answer to the lady who said all you need is a van, I would have to say no, there's a little more to it than that!