Tips for Starting a Pet Sitting Business
by Reader Contributors
Could a pet sitting business be a good source of extra income for you? Our readers share their tips for starting a pet sitting business and cautions to consider before you do.
Dear Dollar Stretcher,
I’m a stay-at-home mom. I’d like to start a pet sitting business out of my home for both doggie daycare and longer stays. My house has a huge backyard and my kids love pets.
What would it take for me to line up some families that would pay me to pet sit their dog?
Tips for Starting a Pet Sitting Business
We asked our readers for tips from anyone who has experience pet sitting and we got responses from both those who use such a service and those who work in the industry.
Pay special attention to some of the cautions they had to make sure this is the right type of business for you, your home, and your family.
The easiest way to get into pet sitting is to check out Care.com. Pet owners are often looking for someone to take care of their pets while they are out of town or do daily walkings. Check to see if they are looking for boarding in your home or prefer for pet care in their home.
Becky in Schaumburg, IL
I’ve been a dog breeder for many years and also sometimes work at a local kennel, as well as volunteer at our shelter.
First, before anything else, talk to your homeowners insurance company and then ask your fire department to do a safety check on your property. Both these things are free, but they are the most important steps you’ll take. You want to protect yourself, your family, and your potential customers.
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Get to Know Groomers
I located my pet sitter by asking my groomer. Get to know the groomers in your area. Also, get your name out in small, privately-owned pet food stores.
Rover.com Is a Good Place to Start
Go to Rover.com and join as a pet sitter in your own home. It is free and easy. It may take a while to get clients, but I joined and got a client the very next day. Holidays were busy as ever!
A Recommended Book
While pet sitting can be a less expensive start-up business, it is still a field with professionals. If you are serious about it, I would first suggest reading Pet Sitting for Profit by Patti Moran. This book continues to be revised periodically and was written by the founder of the professional organization Pet Sitters International.
Unless you have had the experience of hiring a professional pet sitter to care for your own pets, you may not realize the credentials and expenses (such as pet sitting specific bonding, insurance, membership in PSI, National Association of Pet Sitters, or another professional group) involved, but those things protect both your clients and yourself.
Children and Dogs: Huge Red Flag
At the very least, you need to check your homeowner’s insurance to see what they cover and probably get a pet sitter’s policy as well. Some insurance companies may not cover you if you take in certain breeds of dogs. You may want to look at something like Pet Sitters International to look at what information they have, as well as joining the organization for further education and marketing.
As a professional dog trainer and parent who also does dog bite prevention classes, the presence of children and dogs together raises huge flags. I love them, I know them better than anyone else knows them, and I don’t trust them, which is probably because I know them and love them! Many children love dogs, but far fewer know how to be appropriate with dogs and read dog body language. Actually, few adults know how to read dog body language, either. Even though your children love dogs, I would never, ever leave them alone together, not even to go answer the phone or grab a drink of water. Too much can happen too quickly, especially considering how impulsive children and dogs can be.
If you would like to be better versed on dog-children interactions, I strongly recommend investigating DoggoneSafe.com for some excellent articles and graphics. Raising Puppies & Kids Together by Pia Silvani is one book in particular I’d look at and anything by Dr. Patricia McConnell is very informative and readable and she does get into reading dog body language a bit.
When in-home boarding is done well, it is a very valuable service to pets and humans alike. You are completely responsible for someone else’s family member who is not able to communicate with you easily, and when you add children into the equation, it becomes a more challenging job to do safely and well. It’s not impossible, but it’s not easy, either.
Jill in Madison, WI
Provide a Webcam or Photos
Before you begin this sort of business, it’s best to check with your state licensing, because many of them have regulations regarding what you can and cannot do, including where animals can be kept and the temperatures at which they have to be brought into the house. Also, check with your insurance agency, because traditional renters’ or homeowner’s insurance usually doesn’t cover this, and a pet you don’t know can snap and bite without any warning. You may want to increase the liability coverage to make sure the value of your entire equity and personal possessions are covered.
Also make sure you have written contract on what you will and won’t do, who pays for the pet’s food, when payment is due, and what happens if an animal gets abandoned at your place, because sadly it happens all the time.
That being said, I have found most of my pet helpers from their ads online. If you really want to expand, you can put together an inexpensive website. One thing that pet parents love is for you to provide them with either a webcam and/or photos of their pets while they’re away. It gives them a sense of comfort.
Consider Pet-Sitting Smaller Animals
My daughter who is a vet tech looked into starting this type of business but found out it would have cost way more to sit dogs than it was worth from her home. The most important thing is to see how much your homeowner’s insurance will cost. If a dog were to bite one of your children or a stranger, you could be held liable. My daughter found out her insurance would increase more than $3000 a year.
Instead of sitting dogs, she sat small pets instead. Many people have a very hard time finding someone to watch animals such as guinea pigs, hamsters, lizards, and birds (although the large ones require special handling). A good place to put out ads is on Craigslist, grocery store message centers, senior centers, vet offices, and daycare centers.
Advertise on Craigslist
I have a couple of young friends that do this regularly. They not only do dogs and cats but also horses and other animals. They go to their neighbors’ homes usually for the larger animals but have had them come to their house too as they have the facilities to board them.
Also get references from previous clients and from your personal vet. Word of mouth works very well also.
Become a Host First
Check out DogVacay.com and click on the “Become a Host” tab. They offer pet sitting in people’s homes and you might consider that for your area to get started. As you build clientele, you could go out on your own.
Also, let all of your neighbors know and ask them to spread the word to their friends. You will need to decide on your rates ahead of time and what to include in your rates.
Leslie S. in Arlington, TX
Reviewed December 2021
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