How do you start a dog sitting, walking and grooming service?

Posted 08/10/19

A little over 18 months ago, Nikki was working in a full-time job and looking for a change. “I was fed up with the everyday grind and working long hours,” she said. “I wanted to do something completely different from the standard desk-bound office job.”

A matter of months later, in March 2018, Diamond Doggy Care was born. Nikki had moved to a beautiful old Victorian house in a leafy area of South Liverpool and knew it was the ideal base for her new business.

“The house is perfect for dog care. There’s plenty of room for lots of dogs and it is close to parks for dog walking, and for meeting potential new customers. In fact, that is how I got the business off the ground; by handing out flyers to neighbours and talking to other dog owners in the park, while walking my own dog – a Golden Labrador called Penny.”

The business grew almost immediately, and now serves customers all across South Liverpool, offering a wide range of services. Dog owners can call on Nikki for everything from grooming – she is an advanced qualified groomer with a dedicated grooming room – to walking, boarding and home visits for more elderly or disabled dogs unable to cope with long walks.

In fact, that sensitivity to the needs of each dog, and its owners is one of the secrets behind Nikki’s success. “You have to remember that each dog we look after is a beloved pet, a best friend, so every owner wants to be confident that their dog is happy and well while they are away, whether on holiday or just at work,” Nikki explained.

“I am incredibly proud of the fact that our ‘pet parents’ trust me with their beloved dogs. I’ve met a wonderful array of people and it’s just great to be able to help them out so they can go to work or on holiday and not have to worry. They know their dogs will get three different walks every day and be looked after as if they are my own.”

That is not just lip service, as Nikki’s approach to taking on new customers and their pets makes it clear.

“I have to be careful,” she said. “Taking in an aggressive dog for instance risks injury or stress for the others, so the fit has to be right. But it’s also really important to be sure every pet we take on is comfortable with us, so everyone gets an initial meet and great in the park, where we check paper work and so on, followed by a trial sleepover.”

“Each new dog stays for the day, watches Come Dine With Me, has dinner and goes to bed at eight – I put a blanket over them and give them a treat.”

Nikki is rightly proud of her success, but makes clear it was not just luck. She put in the work to understand the risks, build her qualifications and create a service that gives owners total peace of mind – including posting pictures of their pets on social media and sending SMS updates.

In fact, her advice for anyone thinking about opening a pet groom business speaks volumes about the focus and professionalism that is behind the growth of Diamond Doggy Care.

“This is not a job you can take lightly,” she said. “You’re looking after people’s beloved pets so leave nothing to chance. That means everything from knowing the latest legislation and laws inside out, to really understanding every pet. I ask our pet parents as many questions as possible to get a good understanding of the dogs, which helps me to be to give them a quality time.”

“For example, I would need to know if they don’t get along with the post man, if they are scared of joggers, don’t like high vis vests and so on. That might seem obvious, but if you don’t do that, then how can you give each dog the personal care it deserves?”

Insurance and risk management are very important too, according to Nikki: “I have CCTV in and around the house which helps to reassure owners, and proved very useful when a customer mistakenly believed their dog had been injured while with us.”

“The right Insurance is really important too and I encourage all owners to check our insurance certificate on the wall, for their own peace of mind. But, of course, it’s also there to protect my livelihood if something goes wrong, so I can get on with making sure every dog we see leaves here happy and healthy.”

Despite her stunning success in such a short time, Nikki remains ambitious for the business, with plans to expand. “I’ve been looking at some residences that have dedicated, large outdoor and indoor play spaces, with additional rooms for grooming, a puppy area, a sleepy chill out area, and an adventure park with trampolines and so on,” she said.

“There is lots of inspiration out there, so watch this space.”

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