Welcome to the Professional Dog Walkers Association
Setting up and starting a new dog walking business in the UK
Download our free Information Guide here:
Our guide to setting up and starting a dog walking business in the UK, what you need to know:
Topics covered (scroll down to read):
Note: This document does not constitute legal advice and is for general information only. We accept no responsibility nor be liable for any damage (including without limitation, damage for loss of business or loss of profits,) arising in contract, tort or otherwise from the use of, or inability to use, our website, related social media activity or other communications derived from our site or any material derived or contained in them, or from any action or decision taken as a result of using our website or any such material. Specialist legal or business advice should be taken in relation to specific circumstances.
Founded in 2016 due to the irregular and / or lack of a standard regulation between local authority guidance throughout the country. We are a UK wide not for profit, transparent, committee managed organisation and work to our Constitution.
Our committee is made up of volunteers who are passionate about our industry; namely 2 Co-Chairpersons plus a non-committee-based Business Development / Social Media Manager and Quality Assurance Manager, all of whom are active self-employed pet care service providers. We will be looking to increase the committee positions as we grow in membership numbers. Our management team are based in Aberdeenshire, North Ayrshire, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey.
We have a combined experience of the pet care service industry of around 65 years with areas of expertise covering but not limited to dog walking, puppies, training, behaviour, integration of dogs in to walks, child / dog bite awareness, canine / feline / equine psychology, small animal care/husbandry specifically fibrevores. Between us we hold degrees, certificates of qualification and memberships to various other professional organisations plus of course our individual working backgrounds outside the industry.
Currently we have around 200+ members, all based within the UK.
We are registered with the Information Commissioners Office and ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Assurance Registered organisation.
In summary, we believe that we are striving for animal welfare and public safety through educating anyone considering dog walking as a career and setting the standard from the outset.
According to our Constitution our “Main objects of the Association are:
3.1. to enhance the general profession of the commercial dog walking industry.
3.2. to disseminate advice, represent and support commercial dog walkers and new businesses in matters of general industry interest.
3.3. to promote adherence to code of best practice for commercial dog walkers in order to implement and sustain high standards of service provision and care.
3.4. to strive to improve welfare of the dogs and proficiency of dog walkers.
3.5. to work with authorities to create and implement legislation in a currently unregulated dog walking industry.
3.6. to keep up to date with changes to industry law and legislation.
3.7. to strengthen the bonds between the Association and other associations working for similar purposes.
3.8. to support and / or organise various charitable events from time to time.
3.9. to apply any profits of the Association in furthering the objects of the Association.
3.10. to carry on whatever activities the Members may decide.”
HOW TO JOIN
You can join up at our website, Join Here page:
If you are a just yourself then the Individual Membership level, 1 year’s membership would apply; alternative options are available if you have any staff / helpers / business partners.
How it works:
Once you have applied for membership of the Professional Dog Walkers Association, your Initial Account is opened (this may take up to 3 working days).
You will receive instruction on how to verify your membership and complete your application.
You will have restricted access to the Member's Area to collect information / links for purchase of discounted insurance if required. (Insurance discounts are with our affiliates Protectivity for business or A-Plan for home and vehicle – we would recommend you shop around for the policy / company who best serves your requirements).
Full access to the Member's Area and Document Library will be available once your application has been approved.
You have 1 calendar month from the date of your Initial Account welcome email to complete your application.
Membership application verification process
We have a membership verification process to ensure:
Our members are all background verified at their point of application, we request to see two pieces of documentation; business insurance (plus employers’ liability insurance if relevant) plus one other piece of formal documentation such as Disclosure Certificate or registration with HMRC.
If an applicant is unable to provide the necessary documents, then their application does not proceed.
It is your choice to subscribe for membership but if you do, we expect members to uphold our 22-point Best Practice Guidelines and be respectful that you are part of a nationwide ethical organisation. We do carry out occasional checks to ensure that members are upholding these values. We retain the right to cancel memberships at any time if there is any indication of non-compliance.
The full Guideline is at the point of sale at the checkout, but you can see a summary of the main points on our website here:
Benefits of Joining
From a client perspective:
Members benefits include:
We request all members hold valid and appropriate level of pet business insurance, that they are genuinely self-employed, encourage disclosure checks, are active with continuous professional development, hold animal first aid certification and work as a minimum to the set standard.
These might include, but not limited to, and as far as practicable:
Once you join and become accepted as a verified member, your account becomes upgraded to Full Member where you can:
PDWA Member’s Area Account:
You can log in and EDIT your profile which is your public website listing. Download / print your digital membership card; if you subscribe to a multiple membership you will receive Admin status for additional listings for each additional member.
Full access to discount codes and links for various industry products including training courses, pet sitter software, insurances, degradable poop bags, dog beds.
Download the latest revision documents, dependent upon your subscription level, keep your paperwork up to date. Our documentation package includes easily Microsoft Word and Excel editable templates for:
We are expanding on our Best Practice Guidelines and Compliancy Code with Guidance notes. This is a brand-new addition to our Members Area, and we will be adding to it over time so do check back from time to time for new updates.
Once verified, Members are invited to join our supportive, non-judgemental private Facebook Members Group. We have a mix of professionals ranging from long established limited companies to new start-ups. We are a small but friendly group and growing steadily. It is by no means compulsory to join the group and not all our members have opted to do so. We are there for chat, support and some fun.
We also provide private, individual support.
BECOMING SELF EMPLOYED:
Register with HMRC:
Self employed and businesses have a legal obligation to keep up to date, accurate financial records and pay National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and Income Tax on profit. It's a very complex subject and what each individual must pay will vary depending on our home nation and our profit.
Financial records include records of income, payments and expenditure.
You need to decide what trading entity would best suit. There are several entities to choose from: sole trader, limited company and partnerships.
If you opt for sole trader status, and at time of writing, legally, you do not need to register with HMRC immediately upon setting up a new business, currently you must register by 5th October of your second trading year. Registration is free of charge and straightforward and you will need to do so to submit your tax return later.
Currently, self employed must submit an annual Self Assessment which includes our total income, minus our allowable expenses which calculates our profit. The NICs and Income Tax calculation is based on the profit. You may need to pay Class 2 and 4 plus income tax element at current rates. Personal Allowances apply.
An Accountant may be best placed to help with this but individuals may do their own.
HMRC are anticipating transferring over to Making Tax Digital by (at time of writing) by April 2024, which means self-employed businesses and landlords with annual business or property income above £10,000 will need to follow new rules.
Please note that rates of income tax and personal allowance vary throughout the devolved nations.
The following link takes you to the .Gov website, have a good look around:
Or you could consider speaking to an accountant / business advisor, some will offer an initial free consultation. They can also take care of HMRC side of things for you. If you have worked and paid income tax during the tax year in which you start up, there may tax concessions available, your accountant would help advise with this too.
The disclosure barring service is a criminal record check, you apply providing your personal details, pay a small fee and provide proof of id. They run a check and then you would then receive a certificate detailing none or any previous convictions you may have.
We advocate this as it is formal document which you can show your potential new clients.
In the early business start up days we have found that it really helps.
Be mindful of where you purchase your disclosure, there are many third parties who offer to act on your behalf but may charge more than the government websites. Also consider the process, and the nature of the documents you may need to submit to a third party – ensure there is an adequate data protection policy in place and that you know where your documents are being sent to.
We advocate that you apply directly via the Government websites. The following link takes you to the .gov dbs information page:
There are many providers on the market, we would recommend you speak with them all to get the possible deal for yourself that you can. Discuss with them the services you intend to provide, not all companies provide small holding cover or for walking female dogs in season or pregnant dogs for example. A standard dog walking business insurance policy would usually cover you for:
Public liability cover forms a vital part of any pet business insurance policy and can save you and your business from substantial financial problems. If a third-party claim that you have caused them injury or damaged their property, you could find yourself and your business being sued. So, for example, if a dog you were walking was to bite a member of the public and they deem it to be your fault, you could be covered. The same principle would be applied if the damage was caused to a third party’s property. Regardless of whether it was you or a dog you are walking that caused the damage if you are deemed to be blamed in some way, public liability cover may protect you.
Most insurers will provide between £1 million and £10 million worth of public liability cover.
Care, Custody and Control
Provides you with protection should one of your client’s pets get injured, go missing or even die whilst in your care.
If an animal in your care was to injure itself and require treatment, through no fault of your own. Some companies may also provide cover for non-negligent third-party claims.
Many business owners will take charge of a client’s keys to collect dogs for their daily walks. Losing the key to someone’s home has a two-fold effect. Firstly, the cost of a new key and secondly the cost of replacing the locks that would need to be broken to get back into the property. Some policies will cover the replacement of lost keys and damaged locks. Costs involved in setting or resetting intruder alarms. Temporary security protection while the above is arranged.
Most insurance companies include cover for a maximum of 6 dogs walked together (we as an organisation advocate 4).
Additional cover options might be available such as Equipment Cover, Personal Accident, Loss of Earnings, Professional Indemnity if you are providing advice e.g. dog training, Employers Liability if you intend to take any volunteers or staff on (Employers Liability is compulsory in the UK).
Prices will vary depending on what services you wish to provide, your area, how much public liability you need, and of course any add on options.
Protectivity Insurance offer our members a 5% discount on their online pet business insurance policies, available via a link only from our members area.
Vehicle insurance is compulsory in the UK. If you have a dedicated business vehicle or use your private car, check with your insurance company.
EDUCATION AND CONTINUOUS PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT (CPD):
Currently, at time of writing the dog walking industry is unregulated which means there are no right or wrong courses to study. We advocate preparing yourself as much as you possibly can and encourage CPD ongoing. Sadly, this is an area where many new entrants to the industry are not doing, to the detriment of their own businesses and the industry.
We would recommend undertaking at minimum:
While we are unable to recommend any specific courses, there are many excellent courses available, we would advise to choose those that are within your budget; within the scope of learning as noted above; those that are accredited by an official body if you are looking for a more formal qualification or certification.
Several courses providers very kindly provide our members good discounts on their courses (Pet Industry Federation; IMDT; Centre of Excellence). Our Members Area includes other accredited training providers who are also extremely reputable as well as further information on / links to Covid 19 hygiene and dog theft awareness.
Looking ahead to the future we hope that legislation for the dog walking industry will come in to effect at some point and would anticipate education / qualifications / certification and CPD to be part of that so it would probably be advisable to consider undertaking some study. However, should legislation come into play, we do not know which courses would be required as a benchmark so are unable to recommend any particular one. As mentioned above, go for those that can prove accreditation.
JOIN A PROFESSIONAL ORGANISATION:
It is not compulsory to join any, but you can, as an option, join any number you wish. There are a few of us around Globally!
By subscribing to a membership, you are joining an association and not purchasing a product per say, it is about enhancing your business and standing out from your competition. Importantly, you would also be agreeing to work to that organisation’s Charter / Code of Conduct / Best Practice etc. Select carefully and go with the organisation you feel best reflect your ethics and values.
What makes us different?
If you are new to the industry, then try to get as much experience and networking as you can. It may be worth be worth considering volunteering at a kennels, rescue centre, animal sanctuary, speaking with other local, reputable dog walkers etc.. Volunteer work can be extremely rewarding in its own right and a lovely thing to help support other local businesses and / or charities.
KNOW THE LAW:
As a business owner it is your responsibility to work within the law. Dog walkers are legally responsible for the dogs in their care. Familiarise yourself and understand all legislation in place. Currently in the UK includes but not limited to the list below. We would advise you carry out your own, serious research on this subject and understand the detail.
The devolved nations and main UK Government websites are the best places to visit:
Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 / Dangerous Dogs Act (Amendment) 1997, 2014
England and Wales Animal Welfare Act, 2006, 2018
Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010
Scotland Animal Health and Welfare Act, 2006
Northern Ireland Welfare of Animal Act 2011
Dog Control Orders
The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953
Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (England and Wales)
Highways Act 1980 (England and Wales)
The Highway Code
Land Reform Act 2003 (Scotland)
Scottish Outdoor Access Code
Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Act 2005
EU Regulation for transport of animals
Distance Selling Regulations
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
Cookies Policy if you have a website
Highway Code Animal Section:
The Highway Code section 57 states that “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars”.
Currently, this means that should you be involved in an accident with an unrestrained animal on board and the animal is deemed as causing a distraction / interference, then you may be liable for prosecution. This applies to all drivers.
LOCAL AUTHORITY LEGISLATION:
Check with your local council to see if they have any Public Space Protection Orders (local rules) or specific licencing requirements for commercial dog walkers in place. Some councils request a minimum public liability cover amount.
In England and Wales Dog Day Care / Home Boarding is regulated and come under the Animal Welfare Act 2018 England & Wales. This means licencing is compulsory, with strict inspection procedures in place.
Scotland and Northern Ireland your local authority is the licence issuer.
Before starting out spend time to create a robust business plan and base it on how you envisage your business to progress. They can be a bit of a bore to do but once you have it, it will help guide you in the direction you want to go, or it might highlight weaker areas or can also help if you need to apply for a business loan e.g., if you want to buy a van etc.
Generally, as a starting point, have a look around at what other dog walkers in your area charge, maybe find an average and start from there, but factor in such things as your experience, breeds knowledge, qualifications, whether you would need to travel etc… It is important to understand your worth.
Our download document also includes a checklist which you might find helpful, it is not a formal legal document but to help point in the right direction or provide some food for thought towards your decision making and planning.