This annual list of the best pet franchises was revised and updated on January 28, 2023.
People love their pets. Animals that started out working for us centuries ago have become part of our families, to be loved, doted on, and played with. Whether it’s a dog walker in the park, a cat owner presenting her lap as a heated bed, or a kid watching a fish swim round and round its bowl, millions of people have let animal companions into their hearts.
70% of households in the US own a pet, meaning that the pet industry serves the majority of the population. This love of animals is reflected in how much people spend on their pets. In 2021, the pet industry was worth $123.6 billion in the US, 30% larger than just three years before. This money goes on a wide range of expenses, with veterinary services often top of the bill, followed by food, and kennels or home care services for when pet owners are away. Grooming, treats, toys, and vitamins can also feature heavily, depending upon the animal, as owners shower their pets with extra care and attention.
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Pet ownership has been on the rise for a while. 70% of American households currently own a pet, compared with only 56% in 1988. Consumer expenditure on the pet industry rose by 560% from 1994 to 2019, driving the rise of several big brands, including the big franchises that are now available. This is a business that has been seeing steady growth off the back of the natural human desire for companionship, and then took an extra jump in 2020 as people adopted pets to make up for being stuck at home.
Pet franchises cover a wide range of different business models. There are general purpose pet stores and supply services, ones catering to specific types of animals, day care services, training providers, and grooming businesses. Natural and holistic foods are increasingly popular, so many providers include them in their stock, and some specialize in them, to appeal to an eco-friendly and nutrition-conscious customer base. Within both food supply and grooming services, there are some providers who go to the customer and some where the client goes to them. As franchised industries go, this is one of the most diverse, meaning that there’s plenty of choice for how to work and what business model to adopt.
If you want to get into the biggest part of the market, then selling supplies is the way to go. Pet food and treat sales were worth $50 billion in 2021, and are the bedrock of the industry. Whatever other expenses a pet might or might not incur, they’re always going to need feeding. Catering to the most popular pets is, for obvious reasons, the most profitable way to do this – dry dog food is the highest selling product type, followed by cat food. If you want more direct contact with the pets and a better chance to build personal customer loyalty, then other services such as walking, grooming, and training could be for you: though a smaller part of the market than food, services were still worth $9.5 billion in 2021.
When considering what sort of pet business to get into, it’s worth considering the popularity of different animals. 69 million US households own a dog and 45.3 million own a cat, making these the most popular pets, and so the ones where specialist services are most likely to succeed. But there are also other animals whose needs can keep a pet business going, such as the freshwater fish owned by 11.8 million households, or the reptiles cared for by 5.7 million. Only 3.5 million households have horses as pets, a fraction of the number of dogs or cats, but horse care and riding require a range of specialist products and services which can help drive business. Instead of aiming for the big markets, you could focus on a more specific niche that’s less likely to be covered already.
The pet industry bucked the general trend of the Covid pandemic, benefiting from its impact. With more time at home and less human contact, there was an increase in pet adoptions, meaning more households had more animals in need of the industry’s services. Being at home also made owners more aware of existing pets and those pets’ needs, and the need to keep them distracted while home working. Even as belts were being tightened in other areas, US pet expenditure rose, completely bucking broader trends. While the rest of the economy slumped, pet products and services soared. $8.1 billion was spent in 2020 on pet services, such as grooming, walking, and pet sitting, the sorts of services where franchises thrive, and these further rose to $9.5 billion in 2021.
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Like some other symptoms of Covid, it’s likely that this increase will last beyond the pandemic years. These newly adopted pets aren’t going to go away, and people who have become pet owners are likely to get more pets in future. The pandemic has accelerated an existing shift toward flexible work schedules and home working in many professions, which makes it easier for people to own and care for pets, and means that owners spend more time around their animals. The recovery period is expected to consolidate more widespread pet ownership and a stronger pet services industry.
A shift toward ecommerce has benefited pet services, with the sector’s online sales outpacing those of wider online retail, nearly quadrupling since 2013. This might seem counterintuitive for the pet sector, but it represents the importance of sales, whether of food, treats, toys, grooming tools, or other pet products. People’s love of their pets leads to all sorts of purchases that would bewilder those without pets, and online retail is taking significant ground from physical stores, especially following the shift in shopping habits during the pandemic. Convenience, choice, and value are all helping to move consumers toward online purchases for their pets. Getting bulk goods such as pet food and cat litter delivered has the added bonus of not having to carry their bulk home from the shore, adding to the appeal of online shopping.
Online marketing is a key tool for those providing services. Social marketing and online ads are an important way to reach customers, and the increasingly sophisticated power of geographically localized online marketing can help with this. Over 90% of millennials are active on social media, compared with 48.2% of baby boomers, meaning that the growing importance of millennials in the pet market increases the importance of social marketing.
Recent growth has predominantly benefited big brands. Two companies alone provide nearly half of online pet product sales, indicating that people go to the big names when they want something for their pets. This promises good things for franchises, as brand recognition and the backing of a bigger business are among their key assets.
Millennials have recently become the largest demographic for pet ownership, representing 35% of the market, and this may benefit the franchised pet industry. Because they tend to have families later and smaller than their predecessors, millennials have more money to spare for their pets. Now that more of them are on the property ladder, they’re more able to indulge in pet ownership and to treat the furred and feathered parts of their families well. As customers, millennials tend to be brand conscious and driven by online marketing, again allowing franchises to make use of their strong identity. Younger customers are less entrenched in their buying habits, and so easier to lure away from competitors. This is the customer base on which new franchised outlets can build a business.
As our list shows, this isn’t just a growing industry, it’s a diverse and thriving one, where you can pick a business that suits you. Despite the looming prospect of an economic downturn, investment banking behemoth Morgan Stanley has predicted 8% annual growth for the industry by 2030, one of the highest growth rates in the whole of retail. If you can find the pet-shaped hole in your local market, this could be a good industry to enter.
The Top Pet Franchises of 2023
1. Pet Supplies Plus
Pet Supplies Plus stores carry a full range of supplies for all kinds of pets, and services such as pet washing, grooming, dental care, flea treatment, nail clipping, and ear care. The company is now owned by private equity firm Sentinel Capital Partners.
Founded in 1987 by Jack Berry and Harry Shallop in Redford, Michigan and franchising since 1990, the number of locations has nearly doubled over the past nine years from 258 in 2012 to the current total of 632 (up from the previously reported total of 583), of which 232 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
Husse is a Swedish company that makes high-quality, premium pet foods for cats and dogs, cat litter, and a variety of accessories. Its special franchising twist is that it delivers pet food to people’s homes free of charge in Husse-branded vans. Husse was the first company to be approved by the USDA to export its pet food to the US market.
Founded by Tom Eliasson in 1987 and franchising since 2002, the last known reported number of locations was 540 in 2019 (up from the previously reported total of 524), of which one was company-owned and 530 were located outside the US (only 9 US locations).
3. Wild Birds Unlimited
Wild Birds Unlimited isn’t one those pet chains that serve any and all pets. It has one and only one focus: birds. But as the name indicates, it’s not about birds as pets. This is a chain that sells bird-feeding and bird-watching supplies (bird food, feeders, birdhouses, binoculars, bird baths, field guides and other books about birds). In short, it’s the perfect store for any bird nerd. To keep up with the times, the chain has been rolling out online shopping for each store that mimics the in-store experience as closely as possible for each location, along with a new company-wide point-of-sale system.
Founded in 1981 by Jim Carpenter in Carmel, Indiana and franchising since 1983, the number of locations has expanded in recent years from 275 in 2011 to the current total of 357 (up from the previously reported total of 350), of which none are company-owned and 21 are located outside the US.
Petland sells all kinds of pets (selection depends on location) and a wide variety of pet-related products. The company has been the object of much debate and protests from animal advocates, who accuse the chain of sourcing dogs from “puppy mills” that don’t provide adequate care. The chain itself has been accused of not treating animals well when in their care, and many customers have complained about buying pets that turn out to be sick.
Founded in 1967 and franchising since 1971, the number of locations has been on the rise in recent years from 131 in 2012 to the current total of 249 (up from the previously reported total of 239), of which 27 are company-owned and 147 are located outside the US.
5. Dog Training Elite
Dog Training Elite offers customers an alternative to taking their furry companions to obedience school. Customers can schedule in-home training sessions that can be focused on a wide range of pet behavioral issues, including leash and potty training; staying and coming; destructive chewing and digging; stealing food, clothing, or other objects; barking, howling, and whining; food guarding and begging; mouthing, nipping, and playing rough; anxiety and submissive urination; jumping up and hyperactivity; aggression and anxiety; specialized puppy training; and service dog training.
Because socialization is also important, group obedience training sessions are held with pets and owners in public places. Their approach to training is known as classic conditioning (also called Pavlovian or respondent conditioning).
Founded by John Mestas in 2011 and franchising since 2015, the number of locations began to rapidly expand during the past couple years and currently totals 204, of which 10 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
6. Camp Bow Wow
Camp Bow Wow doesn’t sell franchises to just anyone – you’ve got to be a demonstrated dog lover to join the company as a franchisee. This chain supports dog owners with doggy daycare, overnight boarding, training, grooming, in-home pet care, dog walking, and pet waste removal services (the exact array of services will vary by location). Strategically-placed webcams in the outdoor play yards allow pet owners to check on their furry friends remotely.
Founded by Heidi Ganahi in Denver, Colorado in 2000 and franchising since 2003, the number of locations has grown steadily in recent years from 108 in 2012 to the current total of 202 (up from the previously reported total of 197), of which seven are company-owned and one is located outside the US.
Dogtopia has been getting a lot of press coverage lately. The company has a whole program centered around giving employment opportunities to adults with autism. The chain has also started pursuing a new target audience by establishing doggy daycare and spa locations exclusively for corporate customers, just like an employer might have on-site childcare. When in their care, dogs are separated into groups by size for play, socialization, and training. Webcams let owners check on their pets as well.
Founded by Amy Nichols in 2002 and franchising since 2005, the number of locations has expanded rapidly in recent years from 25 in 2012 to the current total of 195 (up from the previously reported total of 161), of which two are company-owned and 17 are located outside the US.
8. Sit Means Sit Dog Training
Sit Means Sit Dog Training helps pet owners train their puppies and dogs, whether it’s for having an obedient pet, hunting dog, service dog, or K-9 unit dog. Many locations also offer boarding services and sell a variety of dog-related products, including collars. The company founder started making dog-training videos on a daily basis that after a few years were getting millions of views every month, serving as the company’s main draw around the world.
Founded by Fred Hassen in Los Angeles, California in 2006 and franchising since 2009, the number of locations has steadily climbed from 68 in 2012 to the current total of 157 (up from the previously reported total of 149), of which none are company-owned and one is located outside the US.
9. EarthWise Pet Supply
EarthWise Pet Supply is a chain of retail stores where pet owners can find pet food and supplies of all kinds, along with DIY pet-washing stations and grooming services at select locations. The company’s approach to pet food is to mimic as closely as possible the natural diets the animals would eat in the wild. It also focuses on greener options in its pet supplies, featuring many items made from recycled materials.
Founded by the Seitz family in 1977 in Huntington Beach, California and franchising since 2008, the number of locations has grown slowly but steadily from 19 in 2012 to the current total of 153 (a big jump up from the previously reported total of 67), of which one is company-owned and all are located in the US.
10. Pet Wants
Pet Wants is a chain that capitalizes on pet owners wanting the very best for their four-legged friends. The company produces and delivers fresh, custom-made, highly-nutritious pet food made in small batches without the use of any corn, wheat, soy, fillers, sugar, dyes, or animal by-products. Franchisees can choose either a retail store model or a mobile model, with pet food delivery being a major feature of each approach.
Founded by Michele Hobbs and Amanda Broughton in 2010 and franchising since 2015, the number of locations currently stands at 146 (up from the previously reported total of 125), of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
11. Fetch! Pet Care
Fetch! Pet Care helps match up the right pet sitter to each customer for dog walking, pet sitting, a special puppy program, group off-leash exercise, overnight care, and specialty services when pet owners are away from home. The chain’s Pet Care Coordinators tap into their pool of service providers who are all background checked, insured, and come highly recommended. The company philosophy is that pets are always better off being able to stay at home instead of shuttled off to someplace else when owners are away.
Founded by Paul Mann in Berkeley, California in 2002 and franchising since 2004, the number of locations had declined from 179 in 2011 to 72 in 2019 but has since bumped up to the current total of 107 (up from the previously reported total of 73), of which nine are company-owned and all are located in the US.
12. Aussie Pet Mobile
Aussie Pet Mobile brings their grooming services to the places where pets live and delivers them in their specialty vans outfitted with air conditioning, heat, electricity, and a water supply, none of which need outside hookups. There is plenty of room in the van even for larger dogs.
Founded in 1996 in Australia, the company moved to the US in 1999 and began franchising throughout North America. The number of locations reached a peak of 268 in 2018 but has since declined sharply to the current total of 78 (down from the previously reported total of 82), of which none are company owned and all are located in the US.
Scenthound is a word known by some as a special breed of hunting dog, but it’s also the name of a rapidly growing dog care and grooming franchise where SCENT is an acronym that stands for the five essential areas of dog care too often overlooked by pet owners: skin, coat, ears, nails, and teeth. Dogs require this basic hygiene and grooming attention to stay clean, comfortable, and healthy, which makes them even more loveable and snuggable.
Most customers opt for a membership plan called the Monthly Care Club that includes a bath, ear cleaning, nail clip, teeth brushing, and six-point basic health check. Haircuts and blow-drying can be added on. Items included in a membership plan can be customized so patrons only pay for what they need.
Founded by Tim and Jessica Vogel in 2015 and franchising since 2018, the number of locations currently stands at 40, of which five are company-owned and all are located in the US.
14. Furry Land Mobile Grooming
Furry Land Mobile Grooming brings dog and cat grooming services to the homes of pet owners (all breeds, sizes, and temperaments), but this is not in-home grooming. Instead, a state-of-the-art mobile grooming station in the form of a van is where the grooming takes place. The mobile grooming station can also arrive to your workplace or even a public park.
Routine bathing, brushing, teeth cleaning, ear and eye cleaning, and nail cutting keep pets healthy and comfortable. Without these services on a regular basis, pets can experience all kinds of issues, including matted hair, unhealthy skin, ear infections, excessive shedding, and so on. Additional services include vet-approved fresh breath treatments, mat removal, paw pad treatments, and doggie facials.
Founded by Nick Field in 2015 and franchising since 2017, the company website currently lists 35 locations across 16 states.
15. Central Bark
Central Bark was founded in 1997 by Jackie Jordan as Doggy Daycare in Wisconsin. Then in 2003, her business merged with Chris Gaba’s Florida-based Central Bark Dog Day Care to become Central Bark Doggy Day Care. More recently, the company has rebranded itself with a new logo and name, now calling itself Central Bark. The chain serves as a home-away-from-home for dogs when owners don’t want to leave their beloved pet home alone all day long. This doggy daycare focuses on exercise, socialization, and training to keep dogs happy and healthy.
Franchising began in 2004 and the number of locations currently stands at 33 (up from the previously reported total of 32) spread across seven states, of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
16. The Dog Wizard
The Dog Wizard is a dog training company whose services are divided into two broad categories. One is obedience programs, including puppy classes, board and train (dog stays at facility for 7, 14, or 21 days), group training, private lessons, day school (7 or 14 days), advanced AKC training to earn various certificates, and specialty classes. The other category is to address behavior problems, including raising your puppy, problem solving, socialization, separation anxiety, aggression rehab, and rescue rehab.
Founded by Gretchen Hollifield in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2005 and franchising since 2013, the number of locations has risen slowly in recent years to the current total of 21, of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
17. Wag ‘N Wash Natural Pet Food and Grooming
Wag ‘N Wash Natural Pet Food and Grooming is like a spa and buffet in one convenient location. Dog and cat lovers can bring their furry friends in for DIY bathing, professional grooming, and a wide range homemade treats and deli items, along with a selection of healthy pet food brands and unique toys for training and play. Loyal customers enjoy volume shopping rewards, coupons, free food programs, and other in-house promotions.
Founded by Jef Strauss and Dan Remus in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1999 and franchising since 2006, the number of locations currently stands at 14 (down from the previously reported total of 16), of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.