Gather references for the dog walking service. You should have prior experience taking care of dogs before emBARKing on this venture. Ask the owners of the dogs you have taken care of for written recommendations and ask them if it is acceptable to them for you to provide their contact information to prospective clients.
Get a billing system up and running. In the beginning you may think your billing method does not have to be structured or sophisticated, but you watch, business will build up and you will need to stay on top of clients and their payments. Excel and Quicken are two good programs to utilize. Quicken will help you (Quick Books) with taxes, workers comp, and other issues that may arise as your company grows.
Seek legal advice. Many dog walkers perform their services under the table. While this is very lucrative and provides less of a paperwork hassle, it can be a bad choice. Walking dogs carries liabilities. You are responsible for the safety of an owner's dog-you want to make sure your company, and not you, personally, are liable in the event of an accident. If you employ other walkers you must have worker's comp. Ask your lawyer about the best way to go about setting up the business as legitimate.
Get the right equipment. Dog owners will generally supply leashes and harnesses for their own pet, but you never know what will happen along the way. Always have extra leashes, harnesses, collars. Always have water and treats on hand for your dogs.
Learn the streets. If you do not already know your territory, study a map of the streets on which you will be walking. You should not be distracted while you are walking the dogs-looking at a map can mean a misstep for you and/or Fido.
Advertising is good, but word of mouth is the best. The pet community is very tight. Provide satisfied clients with your business card. Offer referral incentives to current clients (free dog walks, etc) to generate even more business.
Dress appropriately. Dress in layers so that you can be prepared for any change in temperature or weather pattern.
Lastly, hire help. The only real way to make money in any industry is to have people working FOR you. Hire reliable and honest workers who have experience with dog walking. Remember, you are only as good as your weakest employee. Be VERY discriminate when hiring. You are entrusting the lives of loved pets with these people.
Establish a set of rules by which you do business. For instance, set a limit as to how many dogs you can walk at a time (5 is a good number). Enforce these rules to create a consistent environment for you, your employees, and the dogs that are being walked.
There is an amount of liability in this industry as you are in charge of the lives of people's pets, and in many cases you will have access to clients' homes. Seek legal advice on what type of insurance and protection you need.