For any animal lover, being a dog sitter is a dream come true. You get to hang out with pups all day long and get paid for it! If you’re like me, and you prefer the company of animals to humans, this is the perfect profession for you. Personally, I would gladly do this for free, and it’s just an added bonus that it has the ability to financially support me.
It’s important for me to mention that while being a dog sitter is a very rewarding job, it is also very difficult. It’s not for the faint of heart. Things will occasionally go wrong that will test you in ways you never thought imaginable, so don’t get into the business thinking that it will be easy money. It is a lot of work.
- You get to hang out with dogs
- The money is good
- You’ll always have a friend to hang out with
- You’ll be taking the dogs out for walks, which means more exercise and nature exploring for you
- You’ll build strong bonds with each of the dogs, which will change you
- If you don’t have a dog and are looking to get one, you will be exposed to different breeds, and will better be able to decide on one when you choose to get a dog
- If you’re an introvert, you have the perfect reason to stay at home on a Friday night
- You’ll develop a sense of responsibility that reaches beyond yourself
- You won’t be able to bring the dog outside of the radius of the place you’re staying, which means no travelling while the dog is in your care
- Dog hair. Everywhere.
- You will have to adjust your life and schedule to suit the dogs
- Sometimes it takes a day or 2 for the dog to settle in. Those first few days can be stressful for both you and the dog
- You will get less sleep
- Some dogs may not be fully housetrained, or if they are they may have an accident in your home because they’re in a new environment
- Your belongings may get destroyed-that’s part of it
- You’ll be working holidays. Holidays are when people go away and need someone to watch their dogs. Weekends and holidays are prime times for dog sitting, and if you refuse these then you will get less work
About the Industry
There are 2 options when it comes to dog sitting: the dog can stay at your home, or you can live in the dogs home while the owners are away. This really depends on the owners preference and your availability to do so. If you are staying at the dogs home you will not be able to bring your own pet with you unless the owner says that that is alright.
Rates will vary depending on the country that you are in. For the purposes of this blog I am speaking in Canadian dollars. Industry standard is anywhere from $25-$50/night if the dog is staying with you, and $40-$70/night if you are staying at the dogs home. Typically a sitter will charge more to stay in the dogs house than for a dog to stay with her, this is because staying in another persons house is more of an inconvenience. The prices may also change depending on the services you offer. For example, if you are committing to being with the dog 24/7 then you are able to charge more for your service.
You’ll Need To:
1. Adjust your schedule
People are paying you to be with their dogs while they cannot, which means you’ll need to adjust your schedule to accommodate that. If you work long hours perhaps dog sitting is not the best option for you, unless you work from home or you’re able to bring your dog to work. Most people don’t expect you to be with the dog 24/7, but you should attempt to minimize the time that you’re away. The maximum amount of time that I will leave a dog alone is 5 hours, less if it is a puppy, or if the dog requires special attention (ex. medication, has separation anxiety, etc).
2. Get Insurance
You will need to have insurance if you are going to be a dog sitter. There are multiple different insurance packages that you can purchase, but they can cover anything from medical emergencies, bites, and destruction of property. It’s VERY important that you have this. Not only will potential clients not take you seriously if you don’t, but you will be completely screwed if you run into a situation where you need it. Insurance will cover you if the dog gets injured, if you get injured, or if the dog injures someone else while in your care. There are many different insurance packages that will cover a multitude of issues, including the destruction of property. Take a look at some of the packages and find one that works for you. There will be a monthly or yearly fee for insurance, but trust me, it is worth the investment.
3. Prepare for an Emergency
You need to be prepared for if an emergency arises (let’s hope it doesn’t). Before the sitting starts, you will need to have the dogs medical history, and have the contact info for his vet clinic. The owners will need to call into the clinic to let them know that you will be taking care of the dog. It is also a good idea to know where the closes vet emergency room is. Prior to dog sitting, have the owners sign a waiver saying that in the event of an emergency, if the owners are unreachable, you have the authority to make a medical call and will not be liable for the prices that follow. Having insurance is also essential in dog sitting.
In most cases you will not need all of this information, and some people may feel as though it’s excessive, but it can really save your butt. There was an occasion that I was dog sitting, and the dog came to me with phnumonia. After the first night of her stay I realized that something was seriously wrong, and I took her to the vet clinic. The owners were on vacation, and unreachable, so I had to make a call medically. The dog ended up staying in the clinic for a number of days, hooked up to IV. Since the owners were unavailable, I had to put the cost on my own credit card, and because I had taken precautions I was fully reimbursed. The dog recovered wonderfully, and the owners were so grateful that she was taken care of to the fullest extent that I could.
It’s a good idea to take a canine first aid class, in case you will need it. There are many offered, online and in person.
Where to Start
Work For a Company
The best place to start is working for a company. Even if you are planning of opening your own business, it’s a great idea to work for a company for a while in order to learn the ropes. Many people believe that dog sitting is easy, but it can be very difficult, and it’s good to have people behind you when it is. Most dog owners have used sitters before, so they will immediately pick up on the fact that you’re new. Working for a company will help you to get rid of those nuances that label you as a “newbie”. Most dog walking and daycare companies will offer a pet sitting service. Approach these companies and talk to them about what that entails. Most companies will take a percentage of the wages. You will be covered under the companies insurance, and they have more clientele, so you will be able to begin immediately and you will have a higher volume of dogs.
There are also a lot of great online businesses as well, such as www.dogvacay.com. On these you will create a profile, and potential dog sitting clients will contact you if they would like to book. Everything is done online, which is very convenient. You’ll be covered under their pet insurance, and they offer online support when needed. Of course this means that they will take a percentage of the wages, but it is worth it to have that help. My sister has used dogvacay with her own dog and she had a wonderful experience. As a dog owner, she was nervous about sending her dog to a place she doesn’t know, but the sitter was wonderful, and sent her photos and updates. She even sent her home with her own new blanket as a Christmas present!
Start Your Own Company
Another option is to start your own company. This is the best option for someone who is planning on dog sitting long term. You will need to get pet insurance for yourself, so that you’re covered in an emergency. This option can also be more sparse in the beginning, as you’re building your clientele. Let people know what it is that you’re doing. Tell your friends and family that you’re dog sitting, talk to acquaintances that have dogs and offer to sit for them. It’s a good idea in the beginning to offer to sit for free, or for a discounted price. People are very particular about their dog sitters, and they tend to stick to the same person every time they go away. By offering a lower price they’ll be more likely to switch to you. Even if they say no to you, they now know that you’re open for business, which means they will either refer you to their friends, or use you when they are in a bind or have to go away last minute. A “no” doesn’t always mean no forever. Start making business cards and flyers and distribute them to veterinary clinics, and post them on the community park boards, especially the ones near the dog park. Don’t be afraid to talk about your business, even if you only have 1 or 2 clients. The more you remind people of what you do, the more likely they will be to think of you when they’re planning their trip away.
As the bond between dogs and humans grows, their place in our society does as well. The need for reliable dog sitters is rising, especially in cities. NOW is the time to jump on this amazing career opportunity.