How Much Does It Cost to Start a Dog Daycare?

July 21, 2023
5/5 - (2 votes)

For those unfamiliar, a dog daycare provides care for dogs during normal business hours, Monday through Friday. It’s a place where dog owners can drop off their furry friends while they go to work. At the daycare, dogs are watched over, played with, and cared for until it’s time to go home.

Dog daycares have become hugely popular in recent years as pet ownership has risen across the country. According to the ASPCA, nearly 70% of American households now have at least one pet. But with both owners working full-time in most of these homes, who will take care of the dogs during the day? That’s where doggie daycares swoop in to save the day! Some entrepreneurial pet parents are even creating the Uber of dog walking, offering on-demand dog walking and pet sitter services through apps.

Running a doggy daycare business can be an incredibly fun, engaging, and rewarding business for true animal lovers. You get to spend your days hanging out with adorable pups! There are so many great reasons to open your own dog daycare:

  • You set your own schedule and are your own boss
  • Each day is different and full of joyful chaos
  • Strong demand from busy pet owners
  • Recession-resistant business model
  • Dog daycares have high success rates when done right
  • You’re providing a much-needed service in your community

However, turning your petcare dreams into reality also takes considerable work and planning. This is a big investment requiring significant upfront capital. You need an appropriate physical facility, extensive supplies, a solid business plan, trained staff, and more.

But don’t let the startup costs scare you off! If you systematically plan out every expense, seek financing, and take things one step at a time, you can absolutely launch a thriving dog daycare business. Keep reading this guide for step-by-step advice.

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Estimating Startup Costs: What You Need to Budget For

Let’s start by looking at the major costs involved with getting a new dog daycare off the ground. Forecasting expenses accurately is critical, so take your time on this step.

The Physical Dog Daycare Facility

First and foremost, you need an appropriate physical facility to house the daycare. This will likely be one of your biggest startup costs. You have two main options:

Renting Commercial Space

The most flexible option is renting pre-existing commercial space. Look for vacant storefronts, warehouses, or industrial spaces ranging from 2,000 to 7,000 square feet in size. They need to be zoned properly for a dog business. Expect to pay $15 to $40 per square foot annually.

Renting gives you flexibility as you test out the business before committing to a long mortgage. You also avoid major renovation costs. The downside is you have no equity and costs are ongoing.

Buying Your Own Building

Alternatively, you could purchase your own commercial building or land to construct a new daycare facility. While this requires major capital upfront, mortgage payments will cost less than renting long-term. And you build equity as you pay down the loan.

You’ll likely need industrial or agricultural-zoned land of at least one acre. The purchase price varies hugely based on location. Expect to pay at least 20% as a down payment and secure bank financing. Renovation costs add up quickly as well.

Other Facility Considerations

Whether renting or buying, your dog daycare facility needs:

  • Indoor space for sleeping/napping areas, play areas, washing/grooming stations, and office/reception.
  • Outdoor space for play, exercise, and potty breaks. At least 20 square feet per dog is recommended. The area must be 100% securely fenced in.
  • Proper ventilation, cooling, and heating for dog comfort.
  • Concrete or other easily cleanable flooring throughout the facility. No carpeting.
  • Planning for noise reduction. Groups of barking dogs can create a ruckus!
  • Adequate parking space is a must for convenient drop-off and pickup.

Equipment and Supply Costs

In addition to the physical facility, you need to outfit the daycare with all the necessary equipment and supplies. These include:

Dog Housing & Containment

  • Crates, kennels, and dog beds – $50+ per crate/kennel, more for premium options
  • Baby gates – $20 – $150 depending on size
  • Exercise pens – $60 – $500+ depending on size

Dog Toys & Furniture

  • Rope toys, rubber chew toys, balls, Frisbees – At least $200-500 worth
  • Agility equipment like tunnels, weave poles and jumps – $50 – $200 per piece
  • Dog sofas/cots for lounging – $100 – $300 each

Cleaning & Waste Management

  • Poop scoopers, disinfectant spray, stain removers, air fresheners
  • Waste bags – At least $50/month supply
  • Trash cans with lids – $25+ each

Dog Grooming & Medical

  • Grooming tables and supplies – $500+
  • Dog washing tubs – $400+
  • Pet first aid kits – $50 – $150

Office & Administrative

  • Computer, phone, printer, filing cabinets
  • Accounting software
  • Collars, leashes, ID tags
  • Educational posters & signage

Other Miscellaneous Supplies

  • Commercial fans, heaters, air conditioners
  • Fire extinguishers, fire alarms, security camera system
  • Commercial kitchen equipment if offering food

As you can see, costs add up quickly! Aim to have at least $10,000 set aside just for daycare gear and supplies.

Staffing Expenses

Your staff will be one of your biggest ongoing expenses. Quality care and supervision is critical for both dog safety and owner peace of mind.

Dog Handlers

You need sufficient staff on hand to properly supervise and care for all dogs. Industry experts recommend:

  • 1 dog handler per 10-15 dogs
  • At least 2 handlers minimum regardless of dogs present

To start, plan to hire 2-3 full-time handlers earning $15 – $18 per hour. Offer competitive pay to attract quality candidates. You may also need part-time handlers during peak drop-off/pickup windows.

Don’t forget payroll taxes, workers comp insurance, and benefits costs on top of wages.

Supplementary Staff

In addition to dog handlers, also budget for:

  • 1-2 customer service reps to handle front desk duties like intake, payments, and customer service.
  • 1 dedicated facility/operations manager.
  • Part-time janitorial staff.
  • A certified vet tech if offering ancillary services like exams or vaccines on-site.


Include costs for initial and ongoing staff training on dog behavior, health/safety, company policies, and more. Plan to invest at least $2,000 – $5,000 for comprehensive training.

Ongoing costs like wages, payroll taxes, insurance, and training add up quickly. Budget at least $100,000 annually for staffing needs.

Insurance Needs

Running a dog daycare comes with considerable risks that need proper insurance coverage:

Business Liability Insurance

This is essential coverage in case a dog gets injured or hurts another dog while in your care. It also covers slip-and-fall type incidents on your premises. Expect to pay $2,000 – $10,000+ per year based on location, size, and claim history.

Pet Business Insurance

Specialized pet business insurance provides coverage for things like medical expenses if a dog gets injured, damages caused by dogs, loss of income due to closure, and liability for injuries off-premises during walks or transport. Premiums typically run $900 – $4,000 annually depending on revenue size and claims history.

Medical Insurance

You must provide affordable health insurance options for your employees. Average costs for employers run $5,000 – $15,000 per employee annually.

Don’t operate a daycare without proper business, pet, and medical insurance policies in place.

Licensing, Permits, & Other Expenses

There are a variety of other startup costs to consider:

Business Licensing Fees

Register your dog daycare as an official business entity and obtain necessary state and local business licenses. This typically costs a few hundred dollars.

Special Use Permits

Many locations require special approval or permits to operate a dog-related business. Check municipal codes. Permits often cost a few hundred dollars annually.

Facilities & Zoning

Ensure your facility meets all zoning requirements and passes inspections for things like fire safety, HVAC, plumbing, accessibility, and signage. Unexpected upgrades could be required.

Pet Transportation

If providing pickup/dropoff services, obtain proper pet taxi licensing and commercial auto insurance. Vehicles may require modifications to be dog-friendly.

Initial Marketing

Don’t forget marketing costs in your initial budget! Quality branding, a website, promotional materials, and advertising helps get the word out and attract clients. Budget at least $3,000 – $5,000 to start.

Recommended Operating Capital

On top of one-time startup costs, the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends having 6-12 months of operating capital available when launching a new business. This provides a financial cushion as you ramp up operations. For a daycare, aim for at least $25,000 – $50,000 in working capital at the opening. This gives you breathing room while revenue builds.

Funding Your Doggy Daycare: Financing Options to Cover Costs

Okay, so you’ve mapped out your startup costs. But where exactly does the funding come from to cover it all? Running a doggie daycare takes some serious capital! Here are your financing options to get the ball rolling.

Dipping Into Personal Savings

First up is putting some skin in the game with your own capital. Any spare cash you’ve saved up from previous jobs or investments can be a huge help. Be careful not to wipe out your emergency fund though! Only invest what you can afford to risk.

Securing Small Business Financing

One of the most common startup funding sources is small business loans. Banks and the SBA offer financing with decent terms for entrepreneurs. You’ll need good credit and a solid business plan. Interest rates typically range from 5-8%.

Joining Forces with Business Partners

Teaming up with business partners allows you to pool financial resources together. Instead of shouldering 100% of costs alone, they’re split across partners. Just be sure to draft a partnership agreement upfront that outlines equity stakes, roles, and decision-making powers.

Exploring Crowdfunding Options

Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter allow you to raise smaller chunks of capital from a large group of supporters. You’ll need to offer great perks and sell people on your vision. It can provide supplemental funding but usually not the full amount.

Getting Creative

You might need to combine different options – like putting in some personal funds, getting a business loan, bringing on an investor, and doing a crowdfunding campaign. Explore all your options and get creative!

Tips for Minimizing Initial Costs When Starting a Dog Daycare

While the investment may seem big, there are ways to minimize expenses in the beginning if you get strategic. Here are some great tips for controlling initial costs:

  • Consider operating as a home-based business at first if zoning laws in your area permit it. Running the daycare out of your own home lets you get started with very little overhead. You can still take on a few dogs this way while testing your services.
  • Buy used when outfitting your facility! Check places like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and thrift stores for gently used crates, pens, toys, furniture, and other dog daycare gear at hugely discounted prices.
  • Start with limited capacity in those early days rather than trying to handle a huge pack. Begin with just 5-10 dogs while you get the process smooth. You can always scale up over time.
  • Handle basic marketing and promotional tasks yourself like making flyers or social media posts rather than hiring an agency. This saves thousands at first.
  • Bring on workers as independent contractors rather than official employees. This can lower your labor costs substantially by avoiding taxes and benefits you’d owe employees.

Getting scrappy with these cost-saving techniques in the startup stage allows you to turn your dream into reality without taking an overwhelming financial risk. With some strategic thinking, you can launch your passion project on a sensible budget!

How to make a profit with a Doggy Daycare Business

Running a dog daycare takes passion, but you want it to be profitable too, right? Here are key factors that help drive a doggie daycare’s financial success:

Opening a doggie daycare is extremely rewarding, but making it profitable takes some business savvy too. Here are some key strategies to maximize your financial success:

  • Set your rates in line with competitors – typically $20-$40 per day. Offer packages and discounts to boost volume.
  • Choose a location that’s convenient for customers with ample parking. Easy access drives repeat visits.
  • Offer extra services like boarding, grooming, and training to increase revenue streams.
  • Start with just daycare, then expand your offerings over time.
  • Provide exceptional care and safety standards to delight pet parents. This earns referrals.
  • Keep costs controlled as you scale up. Little things like energy efficiency add up tremendously.

With strategic planning, you can turn your passion into a thriving business. Stick to your vision, focus on quality care, and the profits will follow!

Summing Up

We’ve covered a ton of ground here on starting your own dog daycare business! The initial steps of finding facilities, purchasing supplies, hiring staff, and financing operations can feel daunting.

But take it one step at a time, and know that each challenge is surmountable. Raise capital through smart financing strategies. Build processes for efficient operations. Stay nimble and customer-focused as you grow.

While the path will take dedication, passion, and grit, the reward is immense. You get to spend your days surrounded by playful pups doing something you love! There are few jobs more joyful and fun than running your own dog daycare.

If you have the drive and business chops to execute well, don’t let anything hold you back from pursuing your dream!

Frequently Asked Questions

You have a few options when it comes to facilities for a dog daycare business. Most commonly, entrepreneurs rent or buy a commercial space like a storefront or warehouse building. The facility should have both indoor and outdoor spaces for the dogs. You can also start a home-based daycare in some areas depending on zoning and permit regulations. Outdoor areas need to be securely fenced in.

There are no legally required credentials but having certification can give your business more credibility. Options include becoming a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), earning accreditation from the Better Business Bureau, or completing pet first aid/CPR courses. Some states may require you to earn a pet care operator license.

At a minimum, you’ll need multiple dog handlers on staff at any given time to supervise, exercise, and care for the dogs. Most facilities have one handler per 10-15 dogs. You may need staff dedicated to customer service, pickup/dropoff, and business operations. Vet techs or groomers are helpful in providing services.

Many facilities boost profits by providing extra services like boarding, training, grooming, shuttle service, or retail. You can offer hourly daycare for part-time use or webcams so owners can check-in. Providing meals instead of owners bringing food is another common add-on.

Dog daycares must prioritize safety. Have protocols for emergencies, injured/sick dogs, and escapes. Keep vaccines required and health records. Have liability waivers signed. Install security cameras, fire alarms, and temperature control. Keep first aid kits on hand and a list of emergency contacts.

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    Gauri Pandian

    Gauri Pandian is a seasoned Business Development Manager with 9 years of experience in sales and client relations. Currently, she is responsible for business growth and client acquisition as a BD Manager at Zipprr, a leading custom software development firm. Prior to this, she has worked with Early-stage startups helping them scale through strategic partnerships. Gauri has a crack for understanding customer pain points and unlocking new opportunities.