Opening your own dog boarding kennel can be a dream business come true. What's better than spending the day with man's best friend? Most modern kennels now offer dog suites instead of crates or cages, creating an environment that feels more like home to the dog and offering peace of mind for concerned dog owners. Dog parents will feel reassured seeing a grassed outdoor play area and a climate controlled interior when they visit your new business.
Location and Permits
If you have your eye on a location for your new kennel, you will first need to research the governmental requirements which vary drastically from site to site. Find out if you need a kennel license in your state or municipality. Most states will have animal cruelty laws that indicate the number of animals on your site, and the space needed to house them. Check your state's Department of Agriculture animal welfare section for specific requirements, like kennel wastewater disposal. Investigating drainage permits, building codes, use permits and zoning requirements can be very time consuming, making this the most important step. There are consulting companies that specialize in permitting, but you can do it yourself by asking questions to planning or permitting departments in your local city/county.
Take things like noise issues into consideration. Dogs do not like a lot of noise and neither will your neighbors. It is important to keep in mind that your neighbors may be potential clients. Additionally, a high traffic area is not always the best, as it could be dangerous for people dropping off and picking up their pets. Once you have researched and decided on a location where a kennel would be allowed, research if there is room to expand in the future as your business grows.
Plan for less than 20 dog runs per building. It is more effective to have multiple smaller buildings than one giant building. This set-up will be quieter for the dogs and as a consequence they will tend to bark less. Smaller buildings also mean cost savings when it comes to your utility bill. If you have only a small number of dogs in an off-peak period, they can all be accommodated in one building saving on A/C or heating bills.
Internal walls of the kennels can be covered with tile, linoleum or rubber for an easy clean smooth surface with a more domestic feel. The kennels should be designed to make the best use of natural light, existing trees and grass. Provide heating/cooling, comfortable bedding for dogs as well as soothing music as background noise.
Provide access to outdoor areas. Ideally, each kennel should be equipped with a doggie door out to a private grassed outdoor area. Use welded wire for fencing instead of chainlink. It is a safer alternative as the chainlink can catch on dogs nails. The grassed backyards will set you apart from your competition. You can also offer multiple playtimes or potty breaks. Playtime sessions can be held outdoors for well-tempered guests. Interactive play decreases stress, helps prevent cage fighting, provides mental stimulation as well as physical exercise for the dogs so that when it's time to rest, they will do just that.
Decide whether your kennel will be all-inclusive or base price plus charges for extra services (feeding, medicating, playtime and more). Research services offered at surrounding kennels and compare their pricing structures.
Offer a variety of extras and options. Additional services you could provide include training, grooming, agility equipment rental, a public dog park, retail sales, dog walking, doggie daycare, transportation, accommodation for cats and web cams.
Although it does save a little upfront to keep paper records instead of a computer-based system, even a small kennel will eventually have thousands of records and it could become tedious to upkeep. Specialized computer software that does everything (reservations, invoices, payments and reports) makes it easier in the long run.
Hours of Operation
If you are going to be an owner-operator, consider opening by appointment only. You can be quite flexible with appointment times to make it convenient for your customers, but this system also allows kennel owners more freedom as you are not manning an empty office for hours each day.
Maintaining a good working relationship with surrounding kennel operators can be a very good thing (even though they are your competition!). If you are an owner-operator and need to close your kennel for a period (i.e. vacation), you can refer your clients to a surrounding kennel during this time. They can, in turn, refer their clients to you if they are away. This way, you are not turning away customers who then have to find another kennel on their own and they will most likely be very grateful for a recommendation.