Setting up a dog field seems pretty simple on the face of it. Buy a field, put a fence up, open the doors, make easy money!
The reality is that establishing a dog field is a costly enterprise and if you want to run a successful dog field business that is not going to fall out of favour when a new field opens locally, then investing in the right set up is critical.
Every field is different, but as an example of the most common set up – a 2 acre grass paddock with 6ft fencing – using our own Dog Field Cost Calculator, set up costs are approximately £20,000-30,000 excluding the cost of the land (2022) depending on a few important factors.
Here we’ll go through the costs you need to consider if you’re looking to set up a dog field:
- What Does Land Cost?
- Planning Permission
- The Cost Of Fencing and Gates
- Seeding and Weeding
- Water Supply
- Excavation and Landscaping
- Activities, Benches and Shelter
- Padlocks/ Locks
- Booking Systems
- The Cost of Dog Waste Bins!
*we exclude ongoing running costs such as waste management, insurance and maintenance
From the emails and calls we get at British Dog Fields, people who are interested in setting up a dog field fall into two main camps – those who have an idea of the value of land and what setting up an enclosure might cost and those who don’t.
The people in the first camp (usually farmers and people professionally involved in land management) are quite often surprised by some of the hidden costs like dog waste bins, the cost of the planning process and the day to day business expenses. I always ask people in the second category to sit down with a cup of tea whilst I give them a run down on land prices, acquisition costs, and the enormous sums associated with acquiring the right parcel of land for a dog field.
If you’re just starting the process of looking into setting up a dog field, have a read of ‘How To Set Up a Dog Field’ before you go any further with this article – there’s a bit more to setting up and running a good dog field than many anticipate and this article outlines the most important things you need to know before you jump in.
What Does Land Cost?
The cost of land depends on where you are in the world and what type of land you’re looking for. There is considerable competition for small parcels of accessible land and often buyers end up in bidding wars which has resulted in these plots going for up to £80k acre in some areas of the UK (2022).
It is possible to find land for around £5k acre but as well as being much larger plots (sometimes 100s of acres) these areas are usually unsuitable for dog fields – often without the right access or are in very remote areas that do not have a big enough market of dog owners to make them economically viable.
If you are looking to rent land for a dog field, things can get considerably more complicated but with limited access to suitable financing for this type of enterprise, it is in many cases the only option. Rental prices fluctuate enormously but we estimate rental prices relative to alternative uses like solar farms.
To get an idea of how much land costs in your chosen location, have a read of our article on ‘How to Find Land’ where you will find a number of links to resources that will enable you to more accurately assess current land prices in your search area.
Another thing to consider when buying land are the additional costs. Much like purchasing a house, you will need to employ a solicitor, pay for searches (this is very important when establishing rights of way, sporting rights, and any other things that may impact your dog field), and depending on the value of the land, the stamp duty you will be required to pay.
It is very important that you have the right planning consent to set up a dog field. There is a lot of misunderstanding about the requirement for planning permission for a dog field and we have covered this topic in detail here where you can find out more about planning permission for dog fields.
The cost of submitting a planning application varies but can be done for a few hundred pounds if you do this yourself. We strongly advise thoroughly researching successful (and failed) planning applications of a similar nature in your search area as well as making sure you understand the ‘Local Plan’ so that you can construct the best supporting statements for your application.
If you have a slightly more complicated application we strongly recommend recruiting a planning agency to help you. For example, your land might include challenging access, be within an AONB, have residential property in close proximity, or be impacted by a vast number of other things. The cost of employing a specialist agency with experience in this area is approximately £4,000. We consider it an essential cost when setting up, and with many prospective field owners having to make adjustments to their plans, delaying their opening, it can be a false economy to go it alone. The support and knowledge offered by planning agents can save you considerable time and money.
The Cost Of Fencing and Gates
The only way to accurately determine the cost of fencing your field is to request a quote from several reputable local contractors because material costs and labour vary considerably across the UK.
Here are the most important things that will influence the cost of your fencing:
- Total length of the fence
- Type of fencing used – most commonly use is wire netting and post
- Number of strainers required
- Height of the fence
- Quality and treatment of any posts
- Gauge of the wire or type of material
- Type of equipment required for installation (ground dependent)
- Number of gates
- Type of gates
As you can see, there are a great many factors influencing the cost of the fencing. We have seen all sorts of fencing solutions from the most common which is post and net, rigid weld-mesh fencing through to feather board with costs ranging from £10/metre to £50/metre.
It is important to note that not all fencing is created equal, and the effectiveness, longevity and functionality will depend on getting the right product for the job and ensuring that it is installed correctly. The fencing you choose will influence your market with taller, more robust fencing appealing to a wider range of dog owners.
If you want to dig a bit deeper into the type of fencing you should choose, here is our summary on fencing for dog fields.
Seeding and Weeding
Most newly set up dog fields will require some seeding or weeding. You may need regular weed killer applied in the first few years if you have taken on a very established thistle field, or you may be seeding from scratch.
We recommend using a reputable local grass and pasture maintenance company for both weeding and seeding unless you are experienced and have access to the right equipment.
Seed varies in price and there are seed mixes that are far more durable and suitable for dog fields than your average garden lawn mix. You may also choose to add additional seed for areas of interest, screening, and environmental benefit like winter bird seed.
The cost of your seed will depend on rate of establishment, the content and the sowing rate (grams / m2) amongst other factors. For most paddock style dog fields we recommend a hard wearing gallops grass.
When you are choosing a weed killer it’s important get the right product and ensure you leave sufficient time after application to be safe for dogs. Many of the best weed treatments require users to have a license and these professional outfits will be able to best advise a treatment that will limit any collateral damage in your field.
Having a water supply in your field is highly recommended because despite what you may tell your customers, some will forget to bring water and that puts dogs at risk.
If there is no nearby feed to draw from, using an IBC is an option but is not recommended for drinking water. This will need to be supplied daily for dogs to drink from. Livestock troughs are not recommended either for a number of canine health related reasons.
If you wish to have mains water, you will need to consult with your local water authority who will make a connection from their mains pipes to your boundary, install a stop tap and a metre for billing. It will then be your responsibility to take that feed to wherever you want to install your water supply. The cost of having this connection made by the water company is approximately £500 but will depend on where you are located and the complexity of the connection.
Having a mains fed supply is far better for a number of reasons – IBCs can be unsightly, need regular maintenance and are not a suitable supply of drinking water – they are however good for cooling off and washing down.
Very few dog fields gain permission to install lighting but those that have proper flood lighting are popular year round and don’t suffer the same season fluctuations in bookings that most fields experience.
The cost of installing flood lighting for night time use is considerable, especially where a mains connection needs to be established and many opt for solar lighting as an alternative. Having installed solar lighting at a field with the hope that this would maintain bookings throughout the winter, we were disappointed to discover that fewer people than anticipated used the facility after dark and the disbenefits were considerable.
There are circumstances when a very well lit field can be extremely successful so if you think that your field might be suitable and want to explore the idea, you can book a consultation where we can run through your specific facility, discuss how to make the planning case and talk about some of the more practical considerations you will need to make.
Excavation and Landscaping
When I talk to people who set up their fields from a blank canvas, the most common surprise cost they incurred were the car parking areas.
Most parking areas will need to be excavated, rolled, topped, (rolled and topped again and again!) and finished to create an all-weather, durable surface. Many field owners also have strict planning conditions imposed on them in relation to parking areas which can further increase these costs.
In some cases a simple all-weather parking area for one car can add up to being half the fencing costs again, particularly for those who do not have access to the equipment and need to hire labour as well. As an example, the first in-field parking area we created for one vehicle totalled £3800 in excavation, equipment hire, hardcore and finishing surface.
Activities, Benches and Shelter
Dog fields are becoming more elaborate in terms of the facilities provided. There is an expectation that you will offer at least some physical enrichment – be that tyres and logs or more formal agility equipment which can reach many thousands of pounds for a simple set-up.
Creating your own enrichment and activities is a far more economical solution but you will need to budget for raw materials which have increased in cost considerably in recent years. Ebay and Facebook Marketplace can be great places to source enrichment items for your field as long as you ensure they are suitable and safe. You can also find lots of ideas and tutorials on YouTube.
Providing a seating area and shelter can also be a considerable cost and it isn’t sufficient to simply put a cheap domestic solution in place. Domestic picnic tables are not designed and built to withstand the kind of punishment these items get in a dog field and you may come to do your daily field inspection to discover a pile of sticks where a bench used to be!
Any shelter you provide needs to be able to withstand weather and exposure without becoming a liability or danger to field users, so in both these cases, we highly recommend investing in high quality solutions, or avoid them altogether. Most field shelters should also be included in your planning application. There is a good second market for field shelters but be careful to check them carefully for structural integrity.
Padlocks are a subject that we could write a book about but here are our top tips for choosing a padlock or lock for your field gates:
- Combination locks should be easy to use, even for those with dexterity issues
- Make sure you get a lock that easily fits with your gate mechanism – this makes it less frustrating for users
- Generally speaking, the more you pay, the better the lock will be
- Do not use digital padlocks – the technology isn’t there yet
Increasingly people are using gate mounted coded locks which are easier to use but more complicated to change the code and remove if they need to be replaced.
Reputable lock manufacturers have good guarantees on their locks but you must ensure that you get a lock that is designed to be opened up to 20+ times a day, 365 days a year and is designed for outdoor use.
One of the myths about the set-up costs of a dog field is that having a booking system to manage your customer bookings is expensive. There are a variety of off-the-shelf softwares available, all with pros and cons associated with them but with YouTube tutorials and access to remote help desks, many are relatively simple to set up and manage.
Some field owners want to add additional features like gift cards, packages, discount codes, regular user perks, and on and off peak pricing for example, which is where some of the booking systems start to get expensive and complicated.
It’s for this reason that we set up a Booking System Set up and Support package that dog field owners can get from us – with our guarantee that if you can work Facebook, you can work the system we set up for you!
The costs of not using a booking system are high but for anyone unconvinced of the merits of a secure online booking system, you might find this article helpful.
The Cost of Dog Waste Bins!
In all my days I don’t think there are many things that have shocked me as much as the cost of commercial dog bins (like the ones you see in public parks). Somebody is having a laugh! The vast majority of these bins are sold to councils at extortionate prices but thankfully, now there is a demand from private individuals, there are some suppliers who are sharpening their pencils to service this market.
If you choose to employ the services of a pet waste disposal company (Pet Waste Solutions are our preferred partner nationally), they will likely supply smaller field caddies for you as well as the large wheely bin but if you fancy something more artisanal in your field, and would like to invest a week’s takings, then there are less industrial looking products available like this from Kingfisher.
The Return on Investment from a Secure Dog Field
People set up dog fields for all sorts of reasons. They are an increasingly popular farm diversification activity and are a good investment for those looking to buy property with a reliable monthly return.
Land has always been considered a good investment and with dog fields, the return can be sizable with successful dog fields in the UK making between £20,000 and £45,000 per year with minimal impact on the countryside and ecology.
With set up costs that can be achieved with little more than an unsecured personal loan, they are a very attractive enterprise for those who can secure funds for, or have access to the land.