When you love pets, setting up your own business and working with them can seem like a dream come true. But do you know how much to budget for startup costs?
We put together this cost guide so you know how much it costs to start a kennel business doing pet breeding and boarding.
For the examples in this guide, we’ll focus on a dog boarding and breeding business. It is the most common form of pet boarding due to the dog’s popularity as a pet.
There are other forms of boarding facilities, like those used for horses, but the costs involved are very different from those used for boarding canines. Similarly, specialty breeding facilities like those for exotic birds or reptiles come with a completely different set of costs but are not as common as those used for dogs.
To accurately quantify the costs for either a breeding or boarding facility, it’s essential to clarify the difference between the two. A breeding kennel is a specialty business to breed animals — in this case, dogs. Meanwhile, a boarding kennel is a specialty business for housing animals (dogs) temporarily.
Breeding facilities for dogs are often inside someone’s house. Many small-business dog breeders have one or two pairs of breeding dogs. Although there are still ‘puppy mills’ in operation, this form of breeding is typically unethical and frowned upon by most kennel clubs. In some places, it is even illegal.
For the rest of this guide, the focus will be on a professional boarding facility, which has shown to be profitable for many kennel owners. Let’s jump into the costs associated with a dog boarding establishment.
First, you need to have a space proportionate to the number of kennels and thus dogs that you will board. Keep in mind this is the maximum capacity of the facility.
The number of dogs you will be able to board at a given time will depend on several factors, including local laws and regulations. In many states, there is a maximum number of dogs that can be boarded at one facility. Check with your local laws to determine if this applies to you.
Dogs will also need walking. They cannot just stay in a small kennel all the time. For this reason, many dog boarding facilities have a large outdoor area. It can get quite costly to purchase and maintain, depending on where you live.
Many professional dog boarding facilities have indoor kennels, which lead to an outdoor dog run. Although it may cost more initially, the business will save on labor in the long run because the company won’t need to have multiple staff members walking dogs day and night — the dogs can simply leave to the outside of the kennel whenever they want to. However, this requires a relatively large building and lot. Interested in starting your own business? Check out our guide.
Insurance is an essential consideration for dog boarding facilities. Due to the strict regulations in some areas and for liability reasons, you should obtain insurance for your kennel.
Insurance for a small breeder may only be $100 a month. But for a larger boarding facility, it can be significantly more expensive, upwards of $1,000 per month. The cost of insurance will depend primarily on the size of the facility and its maximum capacity.
Professional-grade kennels are typically made of chain link and galvanized or painted steel construction. They can be quite costly, depending on how large they are and how many kennels you need.
When boarding dogs, it’s wise to have kennels that can fit large breeds. You can always put a small breed into an enclosure sized for a large breed, but you obviously cannot do the opposite. A large kennel will typically cost between $300 and $1,000 each. Let’s look at an example.
Let’s assume that you want to be able to board 20 dogs at capacity. If we understand that the baseline kennel costs $300, then your purchase of 20 kennels would be $6,000. However, if you intend to get top-of-the-line, professional-grade kennels, then 20 enclosures at $1,000 each would cost you $20,000. For a smaller startup, estimating about $10,000 should be relatively safe for 20 kennels.
Dishes are not a huge expense, but it is necessary to have spare dishes. Also, the amount you have to spend will depend upon how many kennels you have. Again, let’s use the example of 20 enclosures. For 20 dishes, at $20 per dish, your initial costs would be about $400. At $50 each for high-end dishes, your initial costs would be about $1,000.
Just like you or I prefer, dogs like a comfortable place to lie down. And few pet owners are going to leave their dogs at a facility that forces them to lie on a hard surface.
The cost of beds varies, depending on the size and type of dog bedding. You’ll want to pick a robust and quality product that can go through a commercial washing machine (we’ll get to the washing machine later).
The average costs of decent dog beds can vary. But assuming you’re going to buy a suitable quality of bedding in bulk, you’ll likely turn to wholesale suppliers (you should ideally be buying all of your equipment from wholesalers). Quality washable dog bedding will likely cost between $20 and $60 per kennel at wholesale costs.
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The dogs will be a lot more comfortable if you provide them with some toys. It’s simple enough to get some hard rubber dog ball toys and rope toys to keep the dogs occupied. A good rule is to factor in about $20 per kennel in initial toy expenses. It will be an ongoing expense as dogs destroy toys.
When you have a kennel, you must keep things clean. Every time a dog leaves, its kennel will need a full cleaning and disinfecting. If people get wind that kennel cough is in your facility, it could destroy your business faster than you can clean it.
Word travels fast among dog owners, especially with social media. So, for the sake of the dogs’ health, make sure you don’t skip this necessary expense.
A part of this expense is having things like mops and buckets, disinfectants, a hose with a suitable spray nozzle, and even a commercial clothes washer for cleaning the dog bedding. It is necessary to facilitate a clean and successful facility.
The expense of having several sizes of leashes, muzzles, and harnesses isn’t significant, but it is essential. There will be times when you need to muzzle a dog for safety, and the last thing you want is to need a muzzle and not have one that fits. Budgeting about $400 to buy a variety of muzzles, harnesses, and leashes is a good action plan.
You probably think that people will drop off and pick up their dogs, right? Not always. Many kennels offer a pick-up or drop-off service, some at an additional upsell. It’s a great way to make a bit extra for the benefit of convenience for your clients.
The other consideration is that there may be a situation where you need to get a dog to an emergency clinic immediately. Accidents happen, and the last thing you need is not to be able to get a sick or injured dog to an emergency clinic.
Most dog boarding facilities that don’t have a veterinarian on staff will need to have some different-sized pet travel crates for transporting dogs in case of emergency — or, as mentioned, if you are going to have a pick-up and drop-off service. Budgeting about $600 will get you a few crates of various sizes that you can use to transport your guests as required.
While we aren’t specifically talking about starting a grooming business, it is a beneficial add-on service that can make the return on your investment even better. Many boarding facilities also offer grooming services. Pet owners love this because they can leave their dogs for the night, and when they pick them up, they’ve been bathed and had a beautiful haircut.
Trimming nails is another thing that many dog owners would much rather pay for than do themselves. Offering this as an additional service could be a money-maker for you. Professional pet grooming equipment usually costs about $400.
Even if you choose not to have grooming services, you will need to be able to clean the dogs if needed. What if a dog gets sick during the night and you’re unable to clean them and their kennel properly?
That would be very bad for business. With this situation in mind, you should have a pet bathing setup within your facility. If you offer grooming services, it is essential.
Depending on the amenities of the facility, you may need to install a dog bathing shower. These costs will vary as mentioned, but you should include this in your budget.
If facilities exist within the building, it may only cost you a few hundred dollars to get things set up correctly. But if you need to install plumbing, drains, or other such devices, you might be looking at spending several thousand dollars.
Like the actual kennels, fencing will be another significant expense. The most common form of housing in the exterior run portion of the enclosure is made using chain-link fencing. Each exterior run will need to be separated from the others to avoid physical contact between the dogs. Due to the liability, getting appropriate fencing to separate and box in the exterior runs is an essential expense.
For most fencing applications for a dog boarding facility, the expense could be anywhere from $1,000 to $8,000 or more. The cost will depend on several factors, such as how many kennels you have and the size of each run. Also, whether you have the fencing professionally installed or do the work yourself will have a significant effect on the overall price.
With any business that relates to animals, there are going to be regulations to follow. A breeding business, for example, may be heavily regulated, and there could be multiple hassles in terms of paperwork and red tape with regulatory agencies. Many kennel clubs and breed-specific clubs and societies have stringent rules that must be adhered to as well.
If you choose to have a breeding business tied in with your boarding business, there may not be much extra expense, if any, for equipment and supplies. However, there may be additional licensing and permits that you will need to apply for, and that will likely carry a cost of some sort.
Check with your local laws and regulations to see what you need to do in your particular state. These statutes are often implemented at the state or even local level rather than at the federal level.
While much of this guide has focused on boarding facilities, there are some additional expenses to note for breeders regarding veterinary services. Having breeding dogs, you will need to keep the parents in good health.
Similarly, when puppies arrive, so do more veterinary expenses. Each puppy will also require vaccinations for things like rabies. It is a legal requirement in many states.
Whether you are running a full-service boarding facility or a small breeding facility for pets, there are a lot of considerations when it comes to expenses. Knowing what you need to achieve a successful and trouble-free startup is as important as having a strong business plan.
Setting up a boarding facility from scratch can be a costly endeavor. But, if you can find a building with some of the appropriate amenities, it can be as lucrative a business as it is fun to hang out with happy dogs all day. And who wouldn’t love a company like that?
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
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