So you want to own your own Pet Sitting or Dog Walking business? Maybe you know someone that does it. Maybe you see other people in your community doing it. Maybe a neighborhood kid does it. You saw someone in a movie doing it. There is a need in your area. You heard people get paid so much to just walk a dog or play with a kitten and think “WHAT?! I can do that!”
Whatever the reason you think it’s a great idea, I first want to go over what kind of person it takes to actually succeed in this business. So, before you file the paperwork to register your business (yes, you need to do that to be legit), start a website (yes this is needed), or advertise your services on social media (how else will people in this day and age know your business exists), lets go over some important details first!
First off this is a given but you must be comfortable working with dogs, cats, and if you want to expand, other types of pets. Now you could choose to work with only one type of animal, but this will limit your income potential. Bottom line though is you must enjoy and love animals! Believe it or not, people do go into this business not really liking animals but just thinking its easy money. Rover or Wag! Are a great example of that.
You will also need to be a people person and pleaser to an extent. Yes, the business is based on animal care, but you still have to deal with humans! Humans are not always nice! Humans will not always treat you fairly. Humans will expect a lot out of you! Humans are the ones that pay you! So having some customer service experience is a plus! There are some wonderful humans too and you may even form friendships with them.
If you like the structure of a 9-5, this is not the job/business for you! Unless you are strictly a dog walking business Monday through Friday between the hours of 10-3, you will be working all hours of the day, weekends, and holidays. But again, that’s actual times you are out taking care of pets. Then you have office responsibilities outside these hours or even during. You must market, you have to answer phone calls, respond to messages, work on your website, work on your online presence, accounting, bookkeeping, and spending most of your life in your car.
In between all those times you spend working you want to maintain a personal life. You have family and friends that have needs. Schedule doctors’ appointments when you are less busy. Go grocery shopping, do your laundry, clean your house, oh and eat. Add in having kids and now you have to get even more creative in juggling it all. What about your own pets you have, chances are your dog can go a few hours without you. You will get breaks in the day with your schedule, so this is not a huge deal! But something to still consider.
I often got asked by clients “what about your dog, when you are out walking everyone else’s dog?” Well, that’s a great question but honestly my dog was completely fine being home alone for hours. But this is how I make a living, walking other peoples’ dogs or pet sitting. So, I can’t tell a client “Well you know, your dog would be completely fine being alone while you are work” If I said that people would either decide they don’t really need my service, or they would think I am some cruel human! So, I simply say, I have time in my schedule to stop home and let him out. Vacation clients would ask also “what do you do with your dog when you go on vacation?” Well, I usually find a family member to watch my pets, or I hire a pet sitter to come. If your business eventually grows, you can hire people to lighten your load.
You need to be organized. You will have to plan schedules and routes. You will most likely keep client’s keys. You will need some sort of file system to keep track of client’s accounts and contracts. Luckily there is a lot of software and app options for this. This technology was not around when I first started. You will need to keep record of your expenses related to the business and mileage on your vehicle. These are important at tax time. You will need to keep track of money coming in.
You don’t want to be a push over, so a backbone of some sort is needed. Initially you will feel like you should take on any client that comes your way because after all you are trying to build your business. Let me tell you, you will occasionally get a less than ideal client. I will explain this in more detail in another post. You must be comfortable saying “No”. This is hard, believe me, I have struggled with this, especially early on. I shy away from confrontation, but this will inevitably happen in your business.
When I first started in 2005, a lot of people didn’t take this type of business seriously. They saw it as simple and something they hired the neighborhood kid for. They didn’t think I worked hard. They couldn’t believe I got paid to do this. It was aggravating to be treated in such a way or made to feel like I didn’t have a legit serious business. I think anyone who does this for a living for just a week or two, would have a better appreciation and understanding.
To this day this business is seen as a “side hustle”, thanks to apps like Rover or Wag! Its infuriating because this was my livelihood and full-time job. I worked myself to the bone, exhausted! If you have a full-time job already, it’s going to be difficult to grow your business and still do your main job. Of course, if you are just wanting some “side” money and only do some dog walking or pet sitting when your available, that may work out fine. But to have a full operational business, you need to be available at least from 7am-10pm any day of the week and on holidays.
You could structure your business to just Monday through Friday Mid-Day Dog walks. You could just do drop-in vacation cat sitting, cats usually only require one visit a day, two at the most. Again though, offering so little of your service, won’t bring in a lot of revenue. I offered Mid-Day walks and drop-in vacation care visits for most types of pets.
When I had an employee, the business would make around $80,000 a year. I personally got to keep around $48k. Now there are pet sitting business’s that make six figures and even a couple that have reached seven figures. Kristen Morrison is dubbed the Million Dollar Pet Sitter. She has books and courses on the matter. I have read a few of her books. She put a lot of effort into building her business and eventually sold it. She now makes her money from courses online, books, podcasts, and guest speaking.
So, you may be thinking, why am I reading your advice, I should be reading Kristen’s. Well for one, making that much money is not typical. Two, Kristen charges for any real useful content. Her books have some helpful information, but I found that she really doesn’t give away any secrets that you can’t find for free online. The rest of her content in her books is fluff. Now she does this because she wants you to take her courses online, which cost hundreds of dollars! Even still, just because you read some tips or take her advice, won’t make you a millionaire overnight. You must put in the blood, sweat, and tears!
With that said, I encourage you to read any book you can find on Pet Sitting businesses or business in general. Search online or talk to other business owners. You must constantly be learning when you own a business.
Another key to success is being responsible. Clients will be trusting you with your pets and their homes. Though I discourage giving client’s an exact time you will be there to care for their pets, you will want to give a time frame and stick to it. If a client expects you there between 12-1:30, be there during that time. Make sure you are respectful of their house. Make sure doors are locked when leaving. Don’t make any kind of mess. Make sure you did everything they expected you to do. If something is wrong with the pet or house or you are running late or need to come earlier, communicate that with the client right away.
You need to be always professional and take this career seriously. If you have kids, its best to find a babysitter. I did bring my kids with sometimes but always with the client’s permission. Some pets don’t like children. Likewise, if you want to bring someone else with like a significant other. My husband would come with me sometimes but always waited in the car, not always fun sitting in a car for 30 minutes. Do not bring anyone else into a client’s home unless you have permission to do so. Expect that some clients are not comfortable with this.
This should be a given but if you are a smoker, no smoking in a client’s house, on their property, or when walking their dog. No judgment here, I am an ex-smoker. Some potential clients may not even hire you if you smell like smoke when initially meeting them. This was actually brought up to me at a Meet and Greet (this is when you meet with a potential new client to see if you’re a good fit for the job and to go over the pets’ care), my husband still smokes, and I was around him while he was smoking before I went to my meet and greet. The client said, “you won’t smoke in my house while you are here”. I said, “no I don’t smoke”. He said, “well you smell like smoke”. I apologized and explained that my husband smokes. So, if you smoke, spray yourself with perfume or Febreze beforehand. Some clients are fearful the smell on your clothing from smoke will rub off on their furniture or linger in their house.
The main part of this business is working with animals. So, you will want experience on how to handle whatever type of animals you will be caring for. So, any kind of background you can bring to the business whether that’s personal or professional will be good. Start with the animals you have experience with. Learn animal behaviors and basic training if you don’t already know these things. Brush up on your dog and cat breeds. If you are more into exotic animals, promote that. Offer to care for a family or friends’ pet while they are away or walk a neighbor’s dog while they are at work to get a feel for it. Now picture doing this for multiple clients a day and if it still feels like something you want to do, start your journey into building a business!
Vicky Guy owned and operated a Professional Pet Sitting and Dog Walking business for 15 years.