Shirley from We Love Pets Brentwood kneeling holding two dogs

Meet Shirley – We Love Pets Grays and Brentwood

Stop the car! Shirley has always loved animals and remembers making her father-in-law stop his car after hitting a bird!

I took it home and nursed it back to health. It was a lovely feeling to see it head off happy and healthy.

In 1985 had my daughter, and as with any new child they take up lots of your time, but I earned a little money walking a local ladies dog. Life, bills and all that took over and I needed a more regular income. I didn’t think for a moment I could start a dog walking business, and anyway where do I start? There’s so much to learn, so much to consider.

In July 2018 Shirley took voluntary redundancy from the job she’d held for 17 years.

By 2017 I knew redundancy was likely to be an option soon, so when the offer arose I decided it was now time to do what I’d always wanted, to be my own boss looking after animals.

Had you considered being your own boss before the redundancy came about?

My father had always been self-employed, starting as a painter and decorator before moving into wedding photography, then around 1995 he started his own dog walking business. I envied the life it gave him, spending his days with all sorts of lovely dogs, he was so happy and had plenty of time for family. But still for me, it was a dream I couldn’t pursue. Where would I start?

I had all the fears and anxieties you consider when thinking about setting up your own business:

How will I get customers?
How will I promote myself?
How will I recruit staff?
What licenses do I need?
How many dogs should I walk at once?
How do I get a website together?
Google was useful for finding answers, but there was so much to learn and that’s when I found We Love Pets, their website is full of relevant information and it took me no time to find out more about their franchises.

I get to be just like my Dad! Content, happy, self-employed but without the fear of making mistakes or failing, because I have the award winning company behind me, supporting me and being my cheerleaders. They want me to succeed as much as me and I can’t wait to get started.

From employee to business owner, what skills will you be bringing with you?

Communication; I’m a great communicator having dealt with many situations in employment and this will help me build long lasting relationships with my customers.

I always knew I wanted to work with animals and that I wanted to be self-employed, so when redundancy was first discussed I started to really think and plan for my future. I contacted the Kennel Club to ask for help in finding a good study option. From their suggestions, I selected the Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour and training (CIDBT).

I completed their course on basic dog handling and training skills scoring 100% in both areas. I was able to test my new skills during a workshop with the Kennel Club building in April and proudly display my certificate in my home.

I’m halfway through the second course which is common canine behaviour problems and can’t wait to share my knowledge with my customers as and when they need it.

Shirley also offers dog walking and pet services in Thurrock, Grays, Brentwood and the surrounding towns and villages. Find out more here.