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Opening a Doggy Daycare or Pet Resort - What You Need To Know

Updated on July 18, 2011

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Hello again and welcome to the Self - Employment Network. I've operated many business ventures over the past 30 odd years and this is about only one of them.

So you want to open up a pet resort? OK -- not a problem. I'm going to tell you how we got started and what we learned over the years so you won't make the same mistake.

The project we wanted to open this time was a dog resort, not a kennel. There is a big difference. The name "kennel" throws people for a loop. The term implies cages, confinement for endless hours a day with little or no socialization. I'm not even going to discuss a "kennel" because to me, it is cruelty even though it is big business with lots of money to be made. But I am going to talk about a "Cage Free Resort", just like the one that we started up and ran successfully for seven years. In those seven years we built up a strong clientelle of well over 500 dog owners.

It all began when I was scrolling down the Fortune 500 list of the top businesses in America. Ranked #72 was Pet Sitting / Resort. At the top were all the big guys like Shell Oil and things that were way out of my league. But a Pet Business sounded like something I could do and would be interested in.

The first step you have to do is to gain credibility and that means -- becoming Bonded and Insured. That is priority. You will have to go to an insurance company and fork out about $700 - 800 just to get this status. This alone tells potential clients that you have been security screened for any jail time, illegal practices, etc, and are likely to be a good candidate to look after their pet. A dog is not just a dog. These are your clients babies, even more so a part of their family than an actual human member of their family. This is man's best friend and it's true. Not anyone is going to be left alone for a week or more with their baby. So, make sure for your first year of operation at least -- go and get Bonded and Insured. Once you're established, it's up to you if you want to continue to pay out big dollars for this status year after year.

The next step is to have a secure play area for the dogs. We had an acre of land with a small apple orchard. You should invite potential clients and their pet(s) over to meet with you in order to view the premises where the dogs will be staying and take them out into the yard to see the play area. It is mandatory that the facilities are clean and there should be no smell or odour of dog anywhere. My wife is a clean freak and first time clients would always comment on how clean everything was and that there were no bad smells anywhere. Sound too hard for you already? Well, it gets better. This is a business that brings in piles of dollars if done right and tons of repeat clients that just keeps growing. But it's not easy on your own. There has to be more than just you. Dogs are not like cats. They are demanding and only rest for short periods during the day. They need to have the companionship of humans constantly or they are not happy and will let you know by barking or whining. No one really wants to place their animal in a kennel -- a pen with nobody to play with for days or weeks. A caged dog like that will come home a changed animal, wondering what they did to deserve that kind of punishment. A cage free facility is what everyone wants but they are few and far between -- at least the good ones anyway where your dog will be loved and cared for. Our facility was our home where up to thirty dogs at a time would intermingle with the other guests. We had a screening process for everyone to go through, a very good idea for anyone starting up. Not all dogs are sociable. Not all people are sociable and that's what you have to find out. When a new dog owner comes over for the first time, bring them and their pet into the yard whether it's summer or winter. Do not let them enter the area where all the dogs are when they arrive. Then, let one dog at a time out to go and meet the new kid on the block. They will sniff each other from top to bottom and maybe even play a little. Then, let the next one out and the one after that and so on. When all the dogs have met the new guy or gal, they form what is called a pack and you will eventually be the pack leader. It will be up to you to break up squabbles and fights over food and toys. By the way, toys should be put away when you have a large pack on hand or you'll be asking for trouble. Remember, these are babies -- kids about 2-3 years old, with teeth. That is why insurance is a good thing to have when an emergency visit to the vet is unforseen but will happen eventually. The income is tremendous. This is a recession free business that only grows over the years but you have to be in good health and be able to have a partner with you if you want to last at this game. In the morning, everyone is up at the crack of dawn and bedtime is not until late at night, about 10 -11pm. So, it's a long and tiring day.

You have to have an area in your home which is set aside for a play area. We had our double garage made into a doggy play room, with fiber flooring so the urine can be easily cleaned up. This is also an excellent play area on rainy days. Ask the owners to provide their own beds or blankets so their baby can smell the scents of home. Make sure enough food is brought by each client -- enough to last for the duration of the stay. There are just so many things for you to know about this business that I simply can't put it all down in this one Hub.

An important thing to tell you about is that you must be free and clear of neighbours, at least 1000 feet anyway and your outside play yard must be completely fenced (5'-6' high) to avoid any escapees. You don't want that to happen, God forbid. The feces is to be picked up several times a day. Some dogs will eat their own feces or anothers if it is left in the play area. This waste is to go into the weekly trash to prevent maggots from forming in the heat of the summer. Do you still think this is the business for you? Look -- what you are getting into is basically a farm life style, up early in the morning and to bed late at night. I told you it wasn't easy, but it's ranked very high on Fortune 500 and not many (good) cage free facilities exist in North America. I would say that probably about less than 10% of these doggy day care places are licensed and without a license, you're setting yourself up for a real nightmare scenario. It takes just one complaint about your facility and the Bylaw will come knockin'. You'll have 10 days to apply for a License or be prepared for fines up to $500 a day, so this is Important. If you have a not so friendly neighbour, maybe you should think of doing something else. Your dog business will have to be a long way from neighbours, as I mentioned earlier and 1500 feet seems to be what most townships would like. You'll have to go through a rezoning hearing with your city council just like we had to and that was after seven years in operation. But, with over 500 clients (supporters), or should I say people bringing money into the township by way of buying gasoline, food, gifts and so forth, our License was granted quickly and without much hassle at the hearing in front of town council. So, if you don't do this right, you could have one heck of nightmare on your hands.

Well, that's all I'm going to write here for now but for anyone venturing into the pet sitting business, you may want to contact us first, or you can learn on your own the way we did. We were lucky. We survived and eventually sold our business last year for a very high amount which allowed us to start up another business which I'll talk about next time. We called it "The Pussycat Hotel". Guess what kind of animals this time? It's on Facebook -- check us out or Google us in Canada. If you require more information on opening a Doggy Day Care or Dog Resort, contact me and I'll help you out as much as I can.


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    • profile image


      6 months ago

      I would love to open an indoor dog park. I have a business plan but looking for investors as I live in an apartment.

    • ianleverette47 profile imageAUTHOR


      17 months ago from Brinston, Ontario Canada


      We did take our sheep dogs on an obedience course but that was just to see how they would respond. You really do not require any sort of course. If you own a dog, they become naturally attached to you. As they're growing up, you can teach them along the way just like a child, how they should behave or not behave. All dogs understand love and companionship. No one should treat any animal with cruelty. It's like raising a child. Teach them and with love and affection, otherwise this is not your cup of tea.

    • ianleverette47 profile imageAUTHOR


      17 months ago from Brinston, Ontario Canada


      I had several dogs over the years growing up so it was natural for me to have a few more. You really don't require dog training, just a passion and love for animals. They understand. Any aggressive dogs that came for an interview before boarding were not permitted to be with the group ---in other words, we would not accept them. Most dogs are quite sociable and enjoy the company of others and the human companionship. We now operate a cat boarding business at

    • profile image


      17 months ago

      What kind of dog training you had before you opened your resort?

    • profile image


      17 months ago

      Did you know how to handle dogs before you opened your resort? What kind of dog training do you recommend one to have before opening? How many people helped you when you had thirty dogs?

    • profile image

      Robbyn Clark 

      17 months ago

      I so enjoyed the read, this is a passion of mine and I am in the works of starting a doggy day care. I will be in touch, thank you, Robbyn

    • profile image

      Louise W2R 

      2 years ago


      I really want to start a business in pet resort. Its a passion of mine and I don't know where to begin. Finding the location and the land and financing such a place. I really enjoyed reading your story and also agree in no cages. I want my dogs to feel like they are right at home with continuous human supervison and not ever left alone or feel abandoned. My long term goal is to be successful financially so that portions of my profits be used donated or used to help animals.


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