If you’re a dog lover — like over 44 percent of the U.S. population, based on pet ownership statistics — the idea of making your living caring for our four-legged friends might sound like a dream come true. And, it really is for some dog lovers.
But, reality deserves a place in the decision-making process, both for your benefit and the animals you love. So, if you’re considering buying a boarding kennel or dog daycare, let’s discuss some realistic pros, cons, and tips that can help you decide if it’s really the dream you want to pursue.
First, do you have what it takes to run a boarding kennel?
Hands-on kennel owners generally spend every day cleaning the kennels and play areas, playing with and exercising the dogs (some of which are not the most cooperative) and feeding them. While caring for your own loving pet at home probably seems simple and quick, doing the same for 20+ animals with different temperaments and personalities can prove more challenging.
If the thought of doing these things nearly all day, every day doesn’t really appeal to you, it’s quite possible buying a boarding kennel isn’t the best option for you. While you can theoretically hire staff to handle everything for you, the more employees you bring on, the lower your profit, which is why most kennels run a skeleton crew.
On the other hand, if all the fun and not-so-fun aspects of looking after dogs is more of a joy than a chore in your mind, then starting your own doggy daycare may be just what you’ve been looking for.
Beyond the basics, running a dog daycare is like running any other business
Getting past those specifics, a boarding kennel or doggy daycare is a small business. So, like any other small business, running one successfully will require some basic skills and knowledge:
- Staffing - Hiring a great team is key to balancing happy dogs and happy owners. Make sure they share your love of animals and have broad experience dealing with dogs. Great customer service is equally important, as well as the ability to deal competently with any unexpected circumstances.
- Accounting - Keeping a sharp eye on the finances is vital. Positive cashflow is what drives every business forward, and your dog daycare is no different. In most areas, the profit margin for boarding kennels is fairly thin, so there’s not often a lot of wiggle room if you let the books go.
- Marketing - Online and offline visibility as well as local advertising will be necessary to gain customers. However, repeat business and word-of-mouth advertising from satisfied pet owners who’ve had a great experience is the best sort of marketing you can get. With that in mind, excellent customer service and taking great care of the dogs who stay with you should also be considered marketing activities.
Ready to buy a boarding kennel?
If you’ve come this far in the article, you’re probably a dog-loving entrepreneur who’s ready, willing, and able to get your doggy daycare owning off to an exciting start.
If you’re planning to start from scratch by buying land, building the necessary office and boarding spaces, and getting the word out to the local community, more power to you. You’re in for a long but highly rewarding adventure.
Many successful kennel owners have chosen, instead, to take a much quicker and easier path: buying an existing dog daycare that’s already running successfully. At BusinessesForSale, that’s our area of expertise. So, let’s dive into buying a boarding kennel.
Unless you already know of a local kennel that’s for sale, there’s a good chance your research needs to start with the question of, “where do I want to live and work?” After all, boarding kennels are localized businesses that rely on local clientele, so any neighborhood or city can only support so many.
Many kennel owners choose to live near or on the grounds of their kennels to ensure someone is always on hand to check on the dogs. Whether you choose to go that route or not, you’ll surely want to live nearby, if only to limit your commute.
The first step in finding boarding kennels for sale is to access a list online. Other sources exist (such as local newspapers or business journals, as well as commercial real estate brokers), but a reputable online listing is likely to cast the widest net and present the most options for strategically narrowing your search.
As you review business listings, you’re looking for reputable kennels that are not struggling to stay in business, and that can evidence a healthy base of satisfied customers. Social media and review websites are an excellent place to vet prospective kennels because pet owners are often very quick to share both positive and negative experiences when it comes to their furry family members. A series of glowing reviews and delighted comments can go a long way in confirming you’ve found a dog daycare that’s worth purchasing.
As with any business, you should consider the demographics and level of competition in the area. Dogs are popular pets nearly everywhere, but areas that cater primarily to busy young professionals or students may not provide enough business, since many millennials who are focused on schooling or career tend not to take on the added responsibility of pet ownership. On the other hand, areas with lots of young families, empty nesters, or seniors are much more viable options.
Once you’ve settled on one or more kennels that meet your initial criteria, it’s time to get some professional help and start digging into the details of these particular businesses. A professional business broker with experience in the local market can be invaluable at this stage. You may also want to bring in an attorney, accountant, and a commercial real estate agent as well. All of these professionals can make the entire process of choosing and buying a boarding kennel far easier, faster, and more likely to end in success.
Reviewing the kennel’s financial records is a vital step in the process, as no amount of charisma or smooth talking on the part of the owner will be able to hide whether or not the kennel is a good investment once a qualified accountant begins poring over the books. Unless you can clearly identify the reasons behind financial issues and you’re confident you can reverse them, it’s unwise to invest in an operating dog daycare that’s slowly going out of business.
Legal records are important to review as well. Any businesses involving raising or caring for animals are going to be subject to various regulations, usually at the local municipal or county level. Verify that the kennel’s licences and insurance are up to date and that their staff have the necessary training and (in some cases) certifications to be doing the job in that location.
You’ll want to do a thorough inspection of the premises, preferably with a local inspector at your side, so you can confirm the property is compliant with regulations. You’ll also want to confirm that:
- There’s adequate space for the animals and the bedding material in each enclosure.
- There’s plenty of room to exercise the dogs.
- The whole property is securely fenced so you won’t have any escapees or unwanted guests. (The fencing should go several feet below the ground and be approximately eight feet high to keep diggers and jumpers from getting past it.)
Your team of professionals will outline any other specific items you’re going to want to research based on the kennel in question and any unique local circumstances. Rely heavily on these pros because the next step involves your wallet.
Most dog kennels for sale have asking prices in the low- to mid-six-figure range, so it’s unlikely you’ll be in a position to pay cash for the doggy daycare you decide to purchase.
Work with your business broker, and/or local financing professionals you trust, to explore all the different avenues available to entrepreneurs interested in financing their purchase of a new business. These will include conventional loans and commercial lines of credit, as well as specialized loans (such as those offered through the Small Business Administration (SBA), local Chambers of Commerce, or Economic Development Agencies in the area.
Be sure whatever method or product you choose to finance your dream is clearly in line with your own business and income goals as well as the historic cash flow and revenue of the kennel you’re considering buying. Taking on too high of a monthly payment from day one is a guaranteed path to failure for any business owner.
Once you’ve done all your necessary research, the finances are in order, and you’re ready to sign on the dotted line, you can start focusing your full attention on running your new boarding kennel and making it the best it can possibly be.
Congratulations, and good luck!
For a more extensive look into buying a business, explore our other articles, case studies, and feature interviews.