This is the second post in my series, “How to start your own home dog boarding business.” Before reading this article, you should read the first one here:
Note: you will understand the process much more easily if you follow the posts in the order they have been written…but hey, it’s up to you!
There’s no place like home
Having decided that a home dog boarding business could be a good career move for you, it’s time to give some serious thought to your actual home. Everyone’s domestic situation is different and some are more suited to home dog boarding than others. The essence here is to discover how dog-friendly your home is and what, if anything, you can do to improve it.
Note: even if you already have a dog living in your home, it doesn’t necessarily follow that your home is dog-friendly, particularly when it comes to the animal welfare standards expected for a home dog boarding business. Our dog, Max, was quite safe and happy in our home before we started this whole process, but we still had to make changes to obtain a licence for Gail’s Home Dog Boarding!
As in my previous last article, I will identify the key areas you should consider and present them as a series of questions you can answer about your home. Today there are nine questions:
1) Who owns your home?
If you live in the UK (we do) then your home is probably one of the following:
- owned but mortgaged
- owned outright
Depending on which of these applies to you, there will be a certain amount of choice and control you have over how you may use your home. Taking each in turn:
If your home is rented to you as a domestic home, landlords normally include a clause in your tenancy agreement to say that you are not permitted to run any sort of business in it. If you’re thinking of opening a home dog boarding business from your rented home, I recommend you have a good look through your tenancy agreement to see what it allows and what it prohibits. It would probably be a good idea to contact your landlord and discuss it with them, too. Given that many landlords don’t even allow you to keep your own pets, they may be quite resistant to the idea of you running a home dog boarding business.
With regard to getting a license from your council, contact your local Dog Wardens or dog boarding license department and ask them about home boarding dogs in a rented property. It would be wise to do this before spending any more time or money setting up a business, but if you rent from a private landlord and you can get the landlord’s permission, this shouldn’t be a barrier to being licensed.
If you rent from the council, it could be trickier. Many council properties don’t allow pets, or if they do, there is a separate pet agreement. Also, council domestic tenancies usually don’t allow business use.
Gail and I don’t rent our home so the issue didn’t arise. But if you’re a tenant, I suspect there could be problems getting a license, although this might vary from one council to another.
As with tenancies, your mortgage comes with a written agreement. This might prevent you altogether from running a business in your home, or might require you to inform the mortgage company and obtain their permission.
However, if you get the all-clear from your mortgage provider, then it should be no more difficult getting a local council licence than it would if you owned your home outright. Gail and I were asked informally by the Dog Warden if we were tenants or owner-occupiers but we were not asked whether we had a mortgage.
If you own your home mortgage-free, then you generally have more freedom than others to say how you use it. But you should still be aware that there may be restrictive covenants on your property preventing you from running a business. As I understand it, these covenants are sometimes put in place to preserve the character of a neighbourhood and stop you from doing anything that might be unacceptable to your neighbours.
When you bought your house, your solicitor might have told you about any restrictions. You could also check your deeds. If there is a restrictive covenant in place (and I’m no legal expert; nothing here constitutes legal advice) I’m not going to suggest that you go ahead regardless… that’s your call!
2) What type of building do you live in?
Some types of domestic buildings are suited to a home dog boarding business and some are not. If you live in a detached, semi-detached or terraced house, or a downstairs flat or bungalow, then your ground-floor access to the outside world will be part of your private living space and you should usually be fine. Maybe a permanent park-home, too? I guess it would depend on the agreement you have with the landowner.
However, an upstairs flat, high rise apartment, tenement, loft or any type of multi-occupancy building with a shared entrance could be a lot trickier without that immediate access to the outside. I think you’d have to be prepared for the council to say no. But you could still ask. Also, if you don’t live on the ground floor, you need to consider the next question…
3) What outside space do you have?
You don’t need an enormous garden or yard, but when the council representative comes to visit your home, they will want to see a secure outside area for dogs to use, with strong walls or fences that are sufficiently high to prevent escape.
Our garden is not very large, but we have raised and strengthened the fencing and had a lovely dog-friendly artificial lawn laid down. The lawn surface is only about 16 square metres but it’s surprising how much fun even larger dogs have on it! We can rinse, disinfect, power-wash, brush and even vacuum it as required; it looks great, too! If you go down this route, I suggest you go for one of the more robust types of artificial grass that is designed for heavier use by dogs (and grandchildren!)
Provided there’s a secure space for your canine guests to be let out for a little exercise and toileting between their walks, you’re fine. But you will need to check there are no hazards such as glass greenhouses, sharp edges, poisonous plants or steep drops where small dogs might fall and injure themselves. You should also be careful where you place bins or garden furniture; if they are too near the wall or fence, dogs can (and will) use them as platforms to escape Houdini-style over your otherwise-adequate wall or fence!
It’s worth mentioning that there’s a fair chance some of your more “enthusiastic” doggy visitors might “trash” your garden a little. If you’re super-proud of your carefully-planted and beautifully-manicured flower beds, make sure you adjust your expectations or you might be in for an unpleasant surprise.
4) Do you have neighbours?
As the Australian TV theme reminds us, “Everybody needs good neighbours” and unless you live far away from anyone else, it’s particularly true if you’re going to have your own home dog boarding business. At the very least, you need a working relationship with them. So if things haven’t gone so well in the past (and let’s face it, they don’t always) then now might be the time to build some bridges with your nearest residents…
Tell your neighbours what you’re thinking of starting and ask them if they have any objections. It’s not that you’re asking them for permission as such, but people like you to consult them and will feel important and valued if you include them at the planning stage. They may also be more sympathetic in future if you board a dog that turns out to be a world champion barker.
5) Do you have any pets of your own?
If you already have a dog living in your home, this won’t stop you getting a home dog boarding licence. But how well do they get on with other dogs? If your dog has any difficulty socialising, you will need to think carefully about having other dogs to stay. Also, having a resident dog will reduce the number of dogs you are able to board (see the “How Many Dogs?” section in Question 6.)
The Guidance Notes attached to the 2018 Regulations recommend that dogs are not boarded where there are cats in residence. Whilst owning a cat won’t actually prevent the local council issuing you with a licence, they will certainly want to know how you intend to prevent the cats being worried by the visiting dogs. They may require a written risk assessment, too.
Other small mammals
You may keep rabbits, guinea pigs or other small pets at your home while running a home dog boarding business, but as with cats, you will need to demonstrate that their well-being is provided for. How will you prevent visiting dogs from approaching any of their cages, hutches or enclosures? Plan ahead, because you will be asked!
6) What is the room layout of your home?
The living areas of many homes have sub-divisions into smaller spaces such as lounge, dining room, kitchen, utility room, playroom, snug, etc., whereas others are more open-plan spaces with through-lounges and diner-kitchens. At the end of last year, Gail and I took down some interior walls to create one large space out of the former kitchen, hall, lounge and dining areas, which we love. It also means we can see what the dogs are up to while we’re cooking dinner!
How many dogs?
The layout of your home is not critical, but it will affect the number of dogs your licence will allow you to board at the same time. The 2018 animal welfare regulations and guidelines require that each dog (or with permission, a pair of dogs from the same household) has its own “designated space” for eating, sleeping and withdrawing to if it wishes. During the day at Gail’s Home Dog Boarding, the dogs spend most of their time in our open-plan lounge. But at mealtimes and overnight, our dog (Max) goes into the front bedroom and the visiting dog(s) goes into the back room which we have carefully set up to provide a suitable space that conforms to all the regulations. Accordingly, Gail has been granted a licence to board up to two dogs from the same household in addition to our dog.
According to the regulations, you are also required to demonstrate how you would isolate (and care for) a dog in the event of a transmittable disease; this will take some careful planning. As part of the application process for a dog boarding licence, you will need to submit a floor plan of your home and explain what procedures you would follow if this were to happen.
Think about how you would use the areas of your home and how many dogs you think you could board at once. Your local council representative or Dog Warden can give more advice and ideas if you need them.
7) Where is your home located?
We are very fortunate to live in Morecambe, Lancashire. The promenade and the beach provide excellent dog-walking routes with some of the best coastal scenery in the country. Just around the corner, we have Torrisholme Barrow, which has woodland paths with lots of exciting smells for dogs. There are open fields with plenty of opportunities for on-lead and off-lead exercise. We also have easy access to the canal towpath with idyllic waterside walks towards Carnforth or Lancaster.
Our bungalow is in a suburban cul-de-sac. We can hear the birds singing in the garden and although the quietness is occasionally punctuated by the passing of a slow local train on the nearby track, it’s a very relaxing and peaceful place for our visiting dogs to enjoy.
How about you?
Whilst the location of your home is not a deal-breaker, it’s worth thinking about the quality of the home dog boarding environment you would be providing. Do you live in the country, the suburbs, or the city? Is it quiet or noisy? How near are you to the main road? Would the dogs be distracted by pedestrians or vehicles passing right outside the window? Where would you take them for walks? How far away is the nearest off-lead exercise area?
Remember, as home dog boarding businesses we are always seeking to provide a vastly superior experience to the local dog boarding kennels. Will your home allow you to do this?
8) Who lives in your home?
If you live alone, there’s no-one else to particularly consider when starting a home dog boarding business. However, you will need personally to provide all the necessary time, attention and skills (see my previous article) without immediate support.
If you live with a spouse or partner, they will certainly need to support your venture even if they’re not directly involved. And if they have some relevant skills and available time to help, all the better. Gail is the owner of Gail’s Home Dog Boarding and does most of the day-to-day work, but I’m on hand to help when she’s busy, give extra attention to dogs who want it and, of course, make the coffee (that’s a full-time job in itself around here.)
What about other adults? Do you share your home with any other relatives, friends or housemates? You’ll need to consult fully and honestly with all the people in your home that your new business will affect. Make sure they’re all on-board (and get any extra help you can.)
Next, there’s the question of children. If you are a parent and you already have a dog at home, your children will hopefully have already learnt what behaviours are acceptable and unacceptable around dogs. But you should still remember to reinforce the guidelines they will need to follow when a new dog arrives to stay.
Whilst you shouldn’t be put off by the occasional horror stories we read in the newspapers about dogs that have seriously injured children or babies, it’s vital to remember that dogs are animals, not people. They come pre-programmed with some basic instincts that no amount of domestication will completely remove. Despite the fact that our dog, Max, seems very loving and protective towards our 2 two-year-old grandsons, we would never leave him in a room with them unattended. I would suggest this is even more important when dealing with a dog that is new to your home.
If you have children of any age or are planning to have them soon, make sure you factor them into your plans and be clear how you will manage any interactions between them and the dogs. To obtain a licence, you will need to write a full risk assessment to identify potential problems and state how you will manage them.
9) What furniture and accessories do you have?
Gail and I have quite a minimal approach to accessorising our home; we don’t have many ornaments or “knick-knacks” and we put most things away rather than leaving them out on view. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but it made life a lot easier when we were preparing our house for home dog boarding.
Our furniture is tidy but not particularly new or expensive. If a visiting dog causes some damage to it, then it’s not the end of the world. We have mainly laminate floors with rugs rather than carpet. These are is easier to clean if there’s an “accident”.
Have a look around the areas where your visiting dogs would roam. How much “stuff” do you have? Are there items that they could knock over, pull down or break by jumping up or running around with a little too much enthusiasm? Do you have electrical appliances with trailing wires? How willing are you to have a particularly smelly dog sitting on your furniture? Might you need some covers?
Be realistic: if you’re going to run a home dog boarding business, you may no longer be able to have your house quite the way you like it! Your priority should be to make sure the dogs are completely safe in your home. Once they are, then you might want to find ways to protect some of your belongings, too.
Mi casa es su casa
If you’re not familiar with this Spanish phrase, it means literally, “My home is your home” and is used more generally to mean “Welcome!” I think it very well captures the attitude of a good home dog boarder. To provide a safe and comfortable home-from-home experience for your doggy visitors, you will need to consider all of the above aspects of your home to make it as dog-friendly and inviting as possible.
You probably can’t change its structure and you certainly can’t change its location. But be open to making whatever adaptations are needed to its layout, furnishings, accessories and your household routines to make it so much better than dog boarding kennels. That, after all, is your major selling point: home dog boarding must always be better than boarding kennels! (See “Is home dog boarding better than kennels?”)
Don’t adjust your home dog boarding business to fit better into your home. Instead, adjust your home to provide the most excellent dog boarding facility you can!
My next article will be about Animal Welfare and the Regulations you will need to understand and implement as part of your home dog boarding business. If the link hasn’t appeared below yet, check back soon – it’s on the way!
Talk to me!
How suitable is your home for starting a dog boarding business?
- Have you found hazards that might need moving?
- How many dogs do you think you can board, and in which rooms?
- Are unsure about what is allowed?
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