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Considerations when establishing a boarding kennel

Starting a business working with dogs - what do you need to be aware of?

We are a nation of pet lovers. It’s estimated that 12million households in the UK have pets, with the pet population currently standing at 54million. Breaking this down further, 24% of pet owners own a dog and 17% own a cat.

From a business perspective, this is a hugely opportunistic market to consider targeting with animal related products or services if you can.

Boarding kennels, or a dog walking business, for example, could be a business route to consider if you have a passion for animals, have the space requirement for this type of business and are looking at options for a rural business.

Below I’ve highlighted some of the key considerations if you’re thinking about venturing into this line of business.

Think of the wider picture

Any professional and caring animal business has a really good chance of success. Our generosity and protectiveness know no bounds when it comes to our furry friends that we share our lives with. But try to be objective, think about your customers and the needs of the market.

To make a business work you will need to appeal to all types and temperaments (of dogs and humans), you will need passion and warmth, energy and enthusiasm by the bucketful, but good sense and extra knowledge are what makes a good business, great.


There are no specific qualifications required for working with dogs or other pets, however, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t grasp any opportunity to display a qualification. Kitemarks, education, certificated practical experience and diplomas all prove that you are willing to go the extra mile which when your business purports to care, proves that you really do.

Understanding canine communication and behaviour patterns will make your work easier and is a great way to attract new customers. For example, owners are always concerned about the ‘first time guest’ if you have a process for introducing dogs into new and potentially stressful situations you will reassure your customers and this will parachute you above the competition.

Legal compliance

As the business owner, you should be aware of the legal and practical issues concerned, it’s a hefty read but take a look at the relevant parts of the Animal Welfare Act and reference it in your marketing material. It will be a comfort to pet owners that you understand the legalities and regulations.

Equally, make sure you have the correct insurance, customers are leaving something very precious in your care, and therefore you must assure them that you have all eventualities covered.


Any facility looking after animals must hold a license granted under the Animal Boarding Establishment Act. This will ensure that you have achieved the national standards such as space per dog, health and safety, disposal of waste, feeding, illness, accident reporting etc.

This is a legal requirement and is dealt with by the council licensing department.

Pest and disease control

You can’t pretend it doesn’t happen so it is better to be honest. Flea and tick control and vaccination are a part of life with a pet so should also be when they are ‘having a sleepover’. There is debate over the efficacy of vaccination versus natural preventatives, so decide which suits your business and use as part of your marketing.

Top tips when establishing a boarding kennel:

  • Try to take the ‘cute’ factor out of your market research, it is a business
  • Understand both of your customers, pet and owner
  • Look at becoming qualified or specialised, maybe pet behaviour, physiotherapy or counselling, it will set you apart from the competition
  • Work closely with your local authority to make sure you have all the right licenses and insurance
  • Be upfront about the ‘less cuddly’ bits, it’s part and parcel of pet-owning and owners will appreciate your honesty and help manage expectations for both parties

Farm diversification, diversification ideas, rural business, rural business ideas

About The Author

Fiona Davies

WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise) 

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