The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Dog Daycare Business

For animal lovers, the idea of opening a dog daycare in their community seems like a dream come true.  At first glance you will think only about the best aspects of running your own dog daycare business; adorable dogs playing, running, sniffing, jumping, digging, and tail wagging.  However, it’s important that as you build your business plan for opening your own dog daycare business you dig a little deeper and understand that while it has a ton of benefits to do what you love, it’s also just like starting any other small business and has a ton of challenges and barriers to building a business that is profitable and can be a pillar in your local community.

If you’re among the many new entrepreneurs venturing into the world of dog daycare, you’ve likely invested considerable time and effort into selecting the perfect location, navigating permits, securing financing, and refurbishing your facility to launch your business.

The purpose of this article is to provide a step-by-step guide on how to start a successful dog daycare business.  At Kennel Connection, we have helped hundreds of dog daycare businesses open their doors with 35+ dogs on day 1.  We have built a dog daycare software platform that is designed to streamline the pet care operations of your facility, deliver amazing customer experiences, and automate marketing and customer communication while driving revenue and profits to make it easier for you to deliver the highest quality of pet care in your area.

The Growing Demand for Dog Daycare Services

Over the last decade, dog daycare businesses have been opening at a rapid pace across both the US and Canada.  As of 2022, there were over 25,000 dog daycare business locations in the United States serving over 65 million households

The average facility will deliver dog daycare services for around 40 dogs per day, but the market is filled with profitable dog daycare businesses that operate in their home for 5-10 dogs per day as well as large-scale facilities that are doing 200+ dogs per day in daycare. As a new dog daycare business owner you need to decide what size business you want to build.

Market Research & Planning for Your Dog Daycare Business

One of the most challenging aspects of opening a dog daycare is finding a location that is zoned correctly, applying for permits, and determining if the market has the appropriate demographics to support a profitable dog daycare business.  You want to look at population size, income levels, registered dog owners, age of residents, education level, and health coverage.  Sites like https://data.census.gov/ will provide detailed demographic information and when you filter the data by county, you can get some very detailed level indicators to help you determine if the community would support your dream of opening a dog daycare business.  

Key Considerations in Dog Daycare Market Analysis

As you evaluate the market, the one key factor to consider is that the average dog daycare customer will only travel 7 miles to attend your dog daycare business regularly.  So you should be on the lookout for a building that is 5,000 to 10,000 square feet (depending on your access to capital) that also has outdoor space of at least 1,000 square feet.  Location is key in selecting the right area for your business, but finding a location that is zoned properly that is also easy to find can be time-consuming and might prove difficult. 

Estimating Your Dog Daycare Startup Costs

As in all things, the cost of what you buy and build is going to vary greatly on the location you are looking, the square footage of the building, the number of private runs you build, and what type of improvements are going to be needed.  I have met dog daycare business owners who were able to open a 5000 square foot dog daycare business with less than $50,000 and I’ve also met dog daycare owners who have 25,000 square feet and spent $4,000,000.  As you start to dig a bit deeper into your dream of owning and operating a dog daycare facility, below are some of the things that you should consider. 

Runs/Rooms/Kennels

There are several main options in the pet industry for places where your dogs will rest between social play.  Mason Kennels is one of the largest providers of kennels, but I prefer a small company called Gator Kennels out of Texas.  The key to making this investment last is using the right type of cleaning solutions.  But if you are handy or know someone who can help, I have also walked through beautiful facilities that use cement cylinders that are filled and stacked 8 feet high (you want the walls to be high to dampen the noise, provide privacy for each pet, but also because some dogs are amazing escape artists.

Floors

You have a lot of options when choosing the flooring type for your dog daycare.  I’ve seen some beautiful facilities use just sealed concrete, I’ve seen others spend tens of thousands on Permatek flooring, and even seen rubber floors.  If budget is not an issue, luxury resorts across the US typically install Permatek flooring because it’s easy to clean, will last a lifetime, and does not get slippery when wet.

Drainage

One thing that you will find out quickly if you have never worked at a dog daycare is that you are ALWAYS cleaning.  Your staff will be using a variety of tools and a lot of water to keep your dog daycare smelling its best and eliminate diseases and bacteria.  Because of the necessary cleaning protocols, you want to make sure that you have drainage in every run, in main play areas, and that the slope of the flooring is helping you get everything into the drain vs making your life more difficult.

Ventilation System

When you are evaluating air exchanges & proper ventilation in your dog daycare facility design, you want to understand how many air changes happen per hour.  You must balance the need for fresh air with the need for an energy-efficient system. Without proper air circulation, you’ll run into issues with odor, bacteria, and disease transmission.  The most efficient systems will set up different zones (for larger facilities) so you can optimize the efficiency of the system.

Air Purification

The health and safety of the dogs in your care is key because if you have an outbreak of a dog illness, you might have to close your doors for a week or two.  If you are serious about safety, then Pet Areapy has the best UV disinfection tools available in the market. 

Outdoor Turf

Turf is a definite investment that I believe pays for itself.  It looks beautiful when you are doing tours of your facility, it’s fairly low maintenance and it eliminates mud and dirt which makes sending home dogs clean one less thing you have to worry about.  There are a few keys to turf and it all starts with the install.  You need to have a few layers of rock, sand, and soil between the turf to allow for proper drainage.  If you fail to prepare the group for a turf install, you will be plagued with a nasty odor from eliminations, and the turf won’t hold up.  If you want to go 100% turf, the leader in the space is K9 Grass.  The thatching on the bottom of their turf design allows for amazing drainage and you can expect it to last 10-15 years.  If you don’t have the $30,000+ for installing turf, some new products came into the market that allow grass to grow through a barrier that improves the quality of your grass and can also drastically reduce the mud factor. 

Navigating Legal & Regulatory Requirements

The legal and regulatory requirements to open a dog daycare business will vary significantly depending on the city & county you are looking at.

Most locations will require you to register your business, obtain a dog daycare and/or dog boarding license & special use permits based upon the zoning of your location as well as secure business insurance.  I would suggest looking at The Hartfordas they insure a ton of dog daycare businesses that are currently using the Kennel Connection dog daycare software. 

You will need 3 types of insurance coverage to ensure you are covered. 

  • Commercial Liability Insurance: This insurance covers your business if an accident were to occur in the day-to-day operations of your dog daycare. For example, a customer might slip and get injured within your daycare, or a pipe could burst in your facility and damage nearby businesses. 
  • Property Insurance: Property insurance covers your physical daycare facilities and equipment if something like a natural disaster, robbery, or fire occurs. 
  • Professional Liability Insurance: This insurance type relates to any accidents or injuries that directly relate to the activities of your dog daycare. For example, two dogs could get in a fight, or a dog could break free and run away. Your professional liability insurance can protect you and your business from fault in these instances. 

How to Price Your Dog Daycare Services Effectively

The appropriate pricing for your dog daycare is NOT based on what competitors in your area are pricing.  The pricing for your daycare services, packages, and enrichment should be based upon a model of your fixed and variable expenses, the capacity of your playgroups, employee pay, and your dog-to-staff ratios.  The average price across the US for a day of dog daycare is $35/per day.  If you are focused on enrichment daycare, the average rate is closer to $48/per day.  The price per day of daycare will vary by location with it being higher on the coasts and major metro areas and a little lower in rural areas where there is less demand for dog daycare services. The main goal when setting pricing is that your labor expense will be 30% of revenue for every category of service (including manager and owner salaries).  If your expenses are higher, which require higher prices, then you will need to ensure you are marketing your staff training protocols, certifications, the different services you are offering, and your approach to sending a dog home the best version of themselves. 

Variable Expenses

Below are the most common variable expenses you will encounter when operating your dog daycare business. 

  • Labor for Services
  • Food Costs
  • Grooming Supplies (scissors, shampoos, clippers, outfits, 
  • Pet Assurance Costs
  • Gas for Pick-up & Drop-off 

Fixed Expenses

Below is a list of the most common fixed expenses you will encounter when operating your dog daycare business.

  • Rent/Mortgage Payments
  • Insurance
  • Property Taxes
  • Utilities (Gas, Electric, Water)
  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Support Staff
  • Facility Manager
  • Marketing Expenses
  • Technology

Packages & Memberships

The other consideration when building your daycare program is to design the right types of packages and membership plans.  New dog daycare business owners should try to NOT discount a daycare package; instead, they should include free enrichment services based on how many days they purchase.  By including ‘near zero labor’ enrichment services you are going to help boost the adoption of the enrichment across daycare, boarding, and even grooming services. For every 10 dog daycare days that they purchase in the package, the pet parent should receive 1 free enrichment service.   Below are some of the best-selling ‘near zero labor’ enrichment services. 

  • K9 IQ Puzzles
  • Snuffle Mats
  • Lick Mats
  • Small Group Bacon Bubbles
  • Report Cards
  • Small Group Sniff Walks
  • Bedding Upgrades

Build a Forecast Model

The key to building any profitable business is making sure that you know your numbers inside and out.  You need to be realistic and detailed in understanding your estimates of building costs, fixed and variable expenses, growth in acquiring customers, the required labor costs, and having a plan for the unexpected issues that will arise. For your dog daycare business, you will want to focus on several key metrics. 

Break Even Point

This is how many daycare dogs you need each day to cover all expenses (fixed & variable)

Profit per Pet

This number will fluctuate but should be used as a guide to know when it makes financial sense to cap the number of dogs per day based on the dog-to-staff ratios you have set.

Average Revenue per Pet Day (benchmark is $45)

With a baseline rate of $35/day, you will hit this benchmark by focusing on enrichment services and departure baths. 

Percentage of Daycare with Enrichment Activity (benchmark is 60%)

Enrichment services that are near zero labor will help reduce your overall labor as a percentage of revenue and ultimately drive profitability.  It’s key here that you train staff on how to make these personalized recommendations to send the dog home the best version of themselves.

Daycare Evaluations per Week (benchmark is 10)

You will need a minimum of 5 per week to have any growth based upon customer churn of 20% annually. 

Daycare Conversions (benchmark is 90%)

The ideal conversion is going to purchase a package and the goal is 90%, but if they don’t buy a package the secondary goal is to at least book their next daycare day. 

Labor as a Percentage of Revenue (benchmark is 35%)

While the benchmark is 35%, the smaller the percentage the higher your profits.  I have seen large-scale facilities (200+ dogs per day) have a labor percentage of 25%, but I must warn you that this is extremely difficult.  It’s very helpful to have clients pre-book so you know how many dogs to expect each day and as you might guess, these facilities are not operating at a 10 to 1 dog-to-staff ratio. 

Average Dogs Per Day (no benchmark on this; it will depend on square footage & labor)

Every dog daycare will have a typical ‘slow day’ that is consistently on the same day of the week.  The goal for you as a business owner is to create an Enrichment Calendar that will incentivize dog owners to come to daycare on these days to make them less slow.  Any time a customer purchases enrichment, be sure to send them a report card to include the pet parent in the experience. 

Active Daycare Clients

This number should be calculated monthly and is reflective of how many dogs came in at least 1 time in the past 30 days.  As you think about growth for your business, the goal is to get each level of client to come in 1x more week/month than they did the previous month.  These small gains will add up to a large growth month over month. 

At-Risk Daycare Dogs

The at-risk daycare dogs should be looked at every two weeks and it’s ideal if you build in a communication plan to re-engage customers who have not used daycare within the past two weeks.  This is where it’s helpful to use dog daycare software, as you can automate this process of reporting and create automated email triggers to reach out to those customers.  The other way to ensure you reduce the “at-risk” clients is by creating a monthly free enrichment schedule.  This will incentivize clients to come in and enjoy a day of fun. 

Daycare Package Sales

Daycare packages are a great tool to reward clients who come in often, but it’s also a way to ensure you are building up cash flow.  I typically recommend that you do not discount the daily rate for a package, but instead offer a free enrichment service for every 10 days a client purchases. I would also recommend that all packages have a 30 to 60-day expiration date to encourage clients to come in multiple times per month. 

Hiring the Right Staff for Your Dog Daycare Business

One of the biggest challenges in the dog daycare industry is finding staff that is responsible, dependable, and loves doing the hard work needed to operate a successful dog daycare.  Playing with dogs all day seems like a dream to any pet lover, however, you must set expectations from the first conversation with potential staff members that only a fraction of their time is playing with dogs.  You will want to prepare new staff members for the cleaning requirements, picking up dog poop, and documenting everything from feedings to medications to incidents and injuries.  Dog daycare staff can’t only be ‘dog people’, they need to have good communication skills, be team players, be hard workers, be dependable, and be flexible. To ensure that you only hire the best, you will want to do a mix of phone screenings, in-person interviews, and paid trial days.  Once you are both sure that they are a good fit for the position, you will want to create a training program so that every staff member understands dog body language, how to break up a scuffle, how to deal with difficult clients, and complete their daily responsibilities.  Several companies have designed dog daycare staff training, but I always recommend PackPro.  They are owners/operators of a large-scale facility that does over 200 dogs per day; they have cultivated a company culture that staff love being a part of, they are profitable and have created the right processes and policies to ensure daycare is both safe and fun for staff and the dogs. 

The other key to being successful as a dog daycare business is making sure that you include your staff in your vision for the business.  This type of company culture allows your team to take responsibility (and action when appropriate) to ensure you are always delivering the highest levels of customer service.  As a leader of your business, you need to understand what motivates staff, how they want to be praised, preferred rewards, and what their aspirations are.  When you invest in the people they will build your business. Below is a sample staff survey I ask all staff to fill out.

https://pawloyalty.formstack.com/forms/staff_survey

How to Create a Dog Daycare Business Website

Selecting the Best Website Platform for Your Dog Daycare Business

If you are not super technical and you don’t want your website to be an ongoing expense for updating content, uploading pictures, and other maintenance to keep it fresh; then I would recommend using one of the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) sites like Wix or Weebly. These tools will allow you to register your domain name, host your website, and provide templates that are pre-configured for a dog daycare business and will cost less than $250 per year. If you are ok with spending a bit more to build a site that is going to be more robust and customizable, then I would recommend using WordPress

Key Elements of a Successful Dog Daycare Website

The modern pet parent is looking for a safe and fun environment for their dogs to socialize, play, jump, chase, and sniff around. They will start their quest for the perfect dog daycare for their furry family member by using Google to find “dog daycare businesses in their town” (typically within 7 miles of their home).  Be sure that your website provides the following items. 

  1. Clearly state what services you offer.
  2. Includes a video that shows pet parents what a “day in the life” of a dog is at your daycare facility.
  3. Includes social proof that the community loves you (using reviews and video testimonials).
  4. Includes a clear CTA (call to action) for pet parents to schedule their dog daycare evaluation (this should be powered by the dog daycare software solution that you choose to integrate into your website).
  5. Provides a way for them to ask questions via live chat or a text number (be sure to respond to these as quickly as possible).

SEO Strategies for Dog Daycare Websites

While it’s easy to get a website built using pre-built templates, you need to be sure to optimize the site so that people who are looking for dog daycare services in your area are going to find you in the top 10 results of their Google search. Even as you read through this article, you will notice that I use keywords multiple times so that Google will recognize that my site contains information for people who are searching for specific keywords. (can you guess the 2 keywords that I’m trying to optimize for?)

For a dog daycare business, you want to consider the words that a pet parent would type into Google to find your business.  Once you have identified a few keywords/phrases that you want to rank high for search results, you will then want to start adding content to your website that contains those keywords.  In addition to the content, you will want to update URLs, make sure headers on the page have those keywords, and that your website is mobile-friendly and easily readable.  The one thing I can’t stress enough is that SEO (search engine optimization) is a long-game task.  It requires you to consistently publish content and refresh your website to stay at the top page of Google search results. 

Another way to build authority for your website is to make sure that you register your business listing on all of the free listing sites.  The basics are Google listing, Bing listing, and Yelp, but if you dig a bit deeper you will find that there are over 50 different websites that are appropriate for your dog daycare business to be listed.

Choosing the Best Dog Daycare Software for Your Business

In the pet care industry, the dog daycare software you choose will help run your entire business and will cost anywhere from $100 to $300 per month.  65% of the leading dog daycare software solutions are very similar, so as you evaluate which software is going to be the best fit for your dog daycare business, you will want to dig into what is different.  Dog daycare business owners should look for a software solution that is going to provide the following baseline functionality, however, the key differences in most of the leading solutions are around online reservation requests, customer support, financial reporting, and client marketing.  These core areas of dog daycare software can save you hundreds of labor hours, improve your customer experience, and streamline daily pet care operations allowing your team to deliver the highest quality of care and safety. 

CRM: Customer & Pet Profile Management

This should manage all their contact information, appointment history, notes on each dog, history of texts they’ve received, dog daycare package usage and balance, vaccination, feedings, and medications.

Schedule Management

Regardless of the size of your dog daycare business, you will want to make sure that you know who is in-house, who is arriving, and who is leaving.  You will need to choose your dog-to-staff ratio, create playgroups with dogs who play well together, rotate the dogs who have chosen to personalize their pet’s stay with enrichment activities, and deliver feedings (for some not all) and medications.

POS Payment Integration

Your dog daycare software should provide a way to take payments (cash, check, Venmo, credit cards, debit cards, gift cards, etc).  These payments will integrate directly into the software so you can store credit cards on file, prompt pet parents to tip your staff, take deposits for appointment requests made through your website, and purchase dog daycare packages through your website.  The Kennel Connection dog daycare software solution also includes the ability to “Text to Pay” by sending a link directly to their cell phone.

Financial, Operational & Performance Reporting

As the owner of a dog daycare business, you need to know your numbers inside and out.  There are key performance indicators that you should be looking at weekly to understand the growth of your dog daycare, to understand the profitability, and to uncover the opportunities.  When you are evaluating which dog daycare software is the best fit for your business, be sure to do a deep dive and make sure you can easily get the numbers you need.  If you want to understand what metrics matter most check out this other article on metrics that matter for pet care businesses.

Online Reservation Request Integration

Pet parents doing research into a new dog daycare business should have the ability to take action and book a dog daycare evaluation.  When you use the best dog daycare software you can configure the pet parent customer experience so that they can select their enrichment activities, upload copies of their dog’s vaccinations, digitally sign your liability waivers, and pay a deposit. 

Marketing Automation

After you have worked in the industry as long as I have, you realize that most pet parents have no idea about what happens after they drop off their dog for daycare.  They have no idea how much cleaning occurs, the rotation schedules for the dogs, and the million moving parts to ensure that you foster safe playgroups for both staff and the furry guests they are caring for.  The right dog daycare software solution will have integrated marketing tools that allow you to easily communicate with pet parents through email and text.  They will support your ability to send marketing text messages to improve your average revenue per pet through departure baths and dog daycare enrichment activities and they will drive 5-star reviews with automated check-out texts. 

Employee Management

The right dog daycare software will allow you to customize the access rights for employees to view financial reports, respond to clients via two-way text messaging, update client and pet profiles, and update/manage invoices and payments.  There should also be a built-in time clock for tracking pay for hourly employees and managing commissions for dog groomers and dog trainers. When you leverage a cloud-based dog daycare software you can also restrict employees to only access information within the software when they are onsite at your dog daycare facility and logged into your network. 

Preparing for Your Dog Daycare Business Launch

Before you open the doors to your dog daycare business, you will want to make sure that you have designed an amazing customer and staff experience.  To be successful, you will want to define policies and processes, set standards for how the phone is answered, empower staff to do the “right thing” when something doesn’t go right, and find a pricing & services model that is profitable and differentiates you from the other dog daycare businesses in your area. 

Policies & Processes for a Dog Daycare Business

When a pet care business designs the right processes & policies you can reduce the stress for staff, improve profitability, and ensure you are creating a safe and fun environment for both staff and pets. 

Dog Daycare Rules:

To ensure that you focus on safety first, you will want to decide on the rules for accepting a dog into your dog daycare playgroups.  The most common rules for your dog daycare are age restrictions, vaccination requirements, and having the appropriate dog daycare evaluation process.  The key to remember is that it is “ok” to let a client know that the dog is not a good fit for socialization and offer an alternative solution like a day board when the dog won’t thrive in a social environment. 

Daycare Evaluation Screening & Check-out Experience:

The average dog daycare will lose about 20% of their customers on an annual basis due to behavior changes, customers moving, changes in financial situations, and the unfortunate death of a dog.  To ensure your dog daycare sees the appropriate growth, you need to focus on targeted marketing campaigns to drive a minimum of 25 dog daycare evaluations per month.  The goal of every dog daycare evaluation is to end with a package purchase.  Each business should design an automated email campaign that explains the evaluation process, what makes an ideal daycare candidate, and a special “intro to daycare” package offer at the end of the evaluation.  I believe the ideal package will include 6 days of daycare for the price of 3 with the expectation of the dog coming into daycare 2x per week for the next 3 weeks. 

Check-in Experience:

As a pet parent walks through the front doors of your dog daycare, the ‘look’ of your front desk staff is going to be their first impression.  Having your staff look like they work for a safe and professional dog daycare is key to your brand.  At the bare minimum, every single employee should wear a company shirt (both front desk and daycare attendants).  But the check-in experience is so much more than just a company uniform; it also includes front desk staff coming out from behind the desk to greet the dog and point out the special enrichment activity for the day (ideally written on a chalkboard). 

Drop-off & Pick-up Policies:

 If you are opening your doors with limited staff, then a key to reducing labor and improving profitability is to limit the times clients can pick up and drop off for dog boarding and dog daycare services.  You want to ensure you are somewhat flexible, however, typically I would recommend a drop-off window of 7 am to 10 am and a pick-up window of 3 pm to 7 pm.  This allows you to reallocate front-desk staff hours to cleaning, go-home prep, and other key operational tasks. The other benefit is that your staff can better manage the level of energy of the dogs who are playing to ensure you don’t introduce an overstimulated dog with dogs who have already been playing for a few hours and are ready to be rotated for rest and enrichment. 

Dog to Staff Ratio:

The dog-to-staff ratio can vary greatly from region to region.  In some states like Colorado and North Carolina, these ratios are regulated and can be 10:1 or 12:1, while other states like Texas are allowed to operate 25:1 or higher based on personal preference.  The main factor in determining your personal approach to dog-to-staff ratio should be safety and that will depend upon the training and background of your daycare attendants.  When you operate at a higher dog-to-staff ratio you are reducing your labor as a percentage of revenue (with a target of 30%), but it is a careful balance because safety should be your number one priority. 

Departure Bath Requirements:

As you evaluate your policy around departure baths, each pet care business should consider the potential negative impacts to your brand should you send a dog home after multiple days of playing, covered in their best friend’s slobber and not smelling fresh.  The ideal schedule would be that every regular dog daycare customer would get a bath every two weeks and any dogs that are staying for 3 nights of boarding or more would depart with a bath as well.  Not only does this protect your brand, but it will also improve your average revenue per pet day/night.  The benchmark for success is that 90% of boarding appointments should have a departure bath and 50% of regular daycare clients would be on a regular bath schedule.  To optimize this process your staff should recommend a departure bath at the time of booking, 7 days before check-in as well as at the time of check-in.  In certain cases, it’s also important to give your team authority to provide a free departure bath for dogs who really need it (but be sure to let the customer know and build “goodwill”). 

Deposit and Cancellation Policy:

When you are accepting online reservation requests through your dog daycare software platform, collecting deposits is simple and automated.  Most dog daycare businesses do not require a deposit for daycare services, but it is very common to collect a deposit for dog boarding and pet grooming services.  Deposits can range from $50 per appointment to 50% of the estimated cost.  When you are evaluating the right cancellation policy, I think it should be based on how long you expect it to take to find a replacement for the cancellation.  If you have enough demand to fill a last-minute cancellation within 3 days, then deposits canceled 4 days or more in advance will be refunded.  

Dog Daycare Rotation Schedule: 

The ideal schedule for a dog will include a mix of socialization, mental stimulation, food enrichment, sensory enrichment, and rest.  The rotation schedule you design will allow your staff to deliver enrichment services that will ensure you are sending every dog home the best version of themselves and provide a more enjoyable structured experience for your staff.  I see some of the top-performing facilities using 2-hour rotation schedules. 

Dog Daycare Cleaning Protocols:

As customers enter your facility, you want them to be delighted with the scent of your brand (and that scent should not be “stinky dog”).  Having the correct cleaning protocol for all different service types is going to be a key to brand reputation, as well as the wellness of all the furry guests. While I wish that I could share the ideal cleaning protocols for, Permatek floorsk9 grasspuppy playground equipment, Gator kennelsKuranda beds, and the dozens of other optional surfaces, that is one aspect of operating a dog daycare that I do not have expertise in.   But what I can tell you is that the experts over at Animal Health Technologies have created hospital-level cleaning protocols for every surface that are not only for the health of the dogs but also to ensure your equipment will last for decades. 

Phone Call Scripts:

Creating a phone script for the different types of calls that come into your dog daycare business is key to optimizing the adoption of enrichment services, converting new customers into loyal customers, selling daycare packages, and differentiating your business from the competitors in your area.  Below are the key phone calls that you need to a call script/guide.  

  • New Customer Calls: These calls need to be focused on a mix of telling your company story and capturing the necessary information to nurture these leads into loyal customers. 
  •  
  • Reservation Calls: The goal of these calls is to educate customers on the value of enrichment services and how those services will ensure you can send their dog home the best version of themselves. 
  •  
  • Pet Parents Check-in Calls: When you use a dog daycare software that includes digital charting, it will streamline communication between daycare attendants and the front desk staff.  This allows you to skip transferring a call and or using your walkie-talkie to get a pet update.  Instead, the digital charting makes all the details available so that, in real-time, you can share a happy update with the pet parents. 

Pet Assurance:

Pet business owners can think of pet assurance as a product that guarantees the pet parents that you will do the right thing, should an injury happen during their time at your facility.  I’ve seen “pet assurance” implemented as a daily rate of $1-3/per day, while other facilities charge $5 per appointment for the assurance.  What I like about “pet assurance” is that it can be used as a marketing tool in conjunction with touting the training process of your pet care team. When implemented along with appropriate safety protocols, pet assurance will become a profit center for your dog daycare business. 

Dog Daycare Supplies & Equipment

The supplies you purchase are going to vary based on the services that you are offering and the budget you have to spend.  The saying ‘you get what you pay for’ is also true for equipment and supplies in the industry.  

Equipment purchases that require a significant investment are Gator Kennels, puppy playground equipment, iDog CamerasPet Aerapy UV Disinfection System, cleaning equipment, washers, and dryers (make sure you get commercial grade equipment like speed queens), as well as grooming dryers and adjustable tables.  These products should last a decade or longer and require intentional maintenance and care. 

The less expensive supplies to run your dog daycare business are going to be toys & balls, food & water bowls (I really like KINN products), leashes, agility equipment, flirt poles, pooper scoopers, and bags, first aid kits, laundry supplies, kitchen supplies and the right cleaning supplies based upon the surfaces and equipment you are needing to keep clean. 

Grand Opening Marketing Plan

Most dog daycare owners are investing significantly in the building of their dream facility, however many are skipping the critical point of creating a solid grand opening marketing plan to ensure their dog daycare business opens its doors with 35+ dogs on day one.  As you build your plan, you will want to ensure it incorporates a mixture of digital marketing, flyers left on cars, media coverage, mailers, partnering with local businesses, and social media.  The best marketers will start promoting their business anywhere from 90 to 120 days before their scheduled opening. 

Digital Marketing

When you think of digital marketing for your dog daycare business, you should be thinking of Google ads with very specific keywords that your ideal customers are looking for; “Dog Daycare in _____ (your town)”.  These are highly specific search terms the dog owners who are actively searching for care for their four-legged family members. You can expect that each lead that is generated is going to cost around $10.  When you are paying for paid keywords, your ad will show up in the top 4 ‘sponsored’ results for those keywords.   The key to optimizing your conversions of these leads is to have a website that allows dog owners to book a daycare evaluation (I like to call them “discovery day”) or make sure that you answer your business line EVERY time it rings.  If you start marketing your grand opening 120 days before opening, I would start with a budget of $500/month for the first 2 months and then $1000 a month for the last two.  With these leads, the goal is to make sure that 90% of the discovery days turn into a purchase of your “Grand Opening Special Package”.  

Flyers on Cars

The average daycare client will travel no more than 7 miles from their home to your new dog daycare business.  You will want to put on your shoes (or hire someone) and make sure that you are delivering these to all cars that are near your business.  The key to a successful flyer is including a QR code on the flyer to make it easy for dog owners to take action and book their ‘discovery day’.  I personally use Canva to design beautiful flyers because they have tons of templates and images that can perfectly match your brand with a QR code that links directly to your dog daycare software online booking page. 

Mailers

There are likely thousands of homes within 7 miles of your business, which could be very costly if you do not refine the delivery list.  The key to mailers is finding the registered dog owners in your area which is available through public records.  I would recommend using the same flyers you designed using Canva

Media Coverage

Media coverage is designed to boost brand exposure and foot traffic to your neighborhood business.  Local TV is surprisingly watched by 75% of adults and finding the right way to get free coverage will be key to a successful launch of your dog daycare business.  Depending on the date you are anticipating opening the business, you will want to craft your pitch to maximize the chances of being featured. Below are the 4 steps necessary to maximize the coverage. 

  1. Tune into the program you want to be featured on. One of the biggest mistakes in finding the right media coverage is pitching your grand opening to the wrong producer.  The average segment will last about 3 minutes and will be on-location and can either be a demo or an interview.  
  2. Keep in mind that media is a visual medium so you want to have a planned activity in the background during your interview that catches the viewer’s attention. 
  3. Package your idea for the segment into a pitch-perfect email.  You are likely going to find it challenging to get a producer on the phone so crafting the perfect email will increase your odds of getting a featured segment.
    • Subject Line
    • Introduce your idea
    • Share your credentials
    • Describe the visuals
    • Call to action
    • Provide your follow-up contact information

Partnering with Local Businesses

There are two types of local business partnerships that you are going to want to explore.  The most obvious is going to be businesses that are also focused on providing products and services that are complimentary to your dog daycare business (vets, pet retailers, dog trainers, groomers, etc).  Go into these businesses and introduce yourself, ask if you can leave behind your flyers, and ideally come up with a way to incentivize the cashiers to include a flyer in every bag or receipt they provide.  

The less obvious option for partnerships is finding large local employers and building an “employee perks” program.  You will want to reach out to the Human Resources contact (you can find their name on LinkedIn). The ideal solution will not require you to pay for anything but rather offer a special package for their staff to use your services.  Ideally, they would send out a company-wide email 1x per quarter and include either a flyer or welcome packet for all new hires.  

Social Media Marketing

Once your website is up and running, you will want to immediately create a Facebook & Instagram page for your business. Most dog daycare business owners will post cute pictures, announce special activities, and share other educational information for dog owners.  If you connect both accounts, you can have a single post that is automatically shared on both platforms.  Initially, you should post here frequently to build the expectation and drive traffic to your page; I’d recommend daily if not multiple times per day once you are open and have tons of cute pictures to share. 

Other than Facebook and Instagram, I recommend getting on Nextdoor as that has grown into a great local community platform.  I don’t think the paid ads work, however posting on Nextdoor a few times per week to boost the community awareness of your new facility will help drive traffic to your website.  If you can get your customers to also comment on your posts about their experience and how much fun their dog has, that will be great social proof for community members to trust your business with their four-legged family members. 

Find Mentors & Subject Matter Experts

Building a business doing what you love is going to require long hours, working holidays, and having hard conversations.  However, with the right plan, the rewards of doing what you love will outweigh all the hard work.  As you embark on the journey as an entrepreneur, you should find several mentors and subject matter experts who can help you along the way.  I have always found it very helpful to also have an ‘accountability partner’; this is someone who you meet with each month to review your numbers and to share your action plan to continue to improve all aspects of your business.  

If you don’t know where to start looking for the right people to help you along the way; in the dog daycare world, Facebook groups can provide both a community and expertise.  The Dog Daycare & Boarding Best Practices group, comprising over 6,000 dog daycare experts, is highly engaged.  Members can address a wide array of inquiries and offer extensive insights spanning marketing, financial analysis, pet care operations, safe conflict resolution techniques, and meticulous cleaning protocols.