How to Start a Dog Sitting Business

Many people have considered many different pet business ideas, such as wishing their dog or dogs could stay at home instead of going to a boarding kennel while they go on vacation or travel for business. A Dog Sitter makes that possible.

Starting a dog sitting business requires thorough planning. For those wondering how to start a business, especially in the pet sector, you might also think about how to start a dog treat business, how to start a dog training business, how to open a pet store, or even how to start a pet photography business. But, diving into the dog sitting niche is rewarding given that more than 80% of households in the US have a dog.

Ensuring you have the proper legal coverages and Small Business Insurance will protect your venture. It’s essential to grasp what is marketing to help your business grow and prosper. A business startup checklist, including a website startup guide and an understanding of common business structures, is pivotal in this journey.

Why Pet Sitting Can Be More Than A Side Hustle

The world of pet business ideas is vast. Pet sitting, encompassing dogs, cats, birds, and other pets, has emerged as a valued service. Many people, while pondering how to start a business, opt for this niche. That’s where pet sitters come into the picture.

The pet sitter provides care for pets in the owner’s home, giving the pet owner peace of mind. If one’s interest veers towards canine specialties, they might research how to start a dog breeding business or how to start a dog boarding business.

How to Start a Dog Sitting Business

Key Skills and Requirements Pet Sitting Business Owners

Entrepreneurs interested in pet-centric endeavors often have a genuine love for animals. However, before diving into how to start a dog sitting business, it’s essential to draft a business plan. This plan should incorporate various aspects, from how to start a dog training business to understanding the basics of how to start a dog treat business. But that’s not enough. The owner of a pet sitting business must have core skills, such as knowledge of animal health and care needs. The pet sitter may be caring for a wide variety of animals. The majority of pet sitting businesses focus on dog care. In addition to a genuine love for pets, the entrepreneur in pet sitting services must have superior organizational skills.

How to Start a Dog Sitting Business

Dog Sitting vs. General Pet Sitting

Differentiating between general pet sitting and dog-specific ventures is crucial. For those specifically interested in canine ventures, understanding how to start a dog boarding business or even how to start a pet photography business might be beneficial. With general pet sitting, the business owner needs a broad knowledge of types of pets and their requirements for care. For example, a general pet sitter may be taking care of various reptiles, birds, turtles or cats.

When dog sitting is the business core, there is still a wide range of knowledge required. For example, there are dozens of dog breeds which may behave differently. There is also a great variety in dog ages, from puppies to the elderly.

From the boisterous golden retriever puppy to the elderly schnauzer, the needs vary.

Understanding Dog Behavior

Dogs are very expressive animals for those who recognize their signals. For example, a wagging tail shows a happy, friendly dog; a tucked tail shows a dog feeling apprehensive or frightened.

Before signing up a new client, the dog sitter should of course, arrange a home visit and evaluate the pet. Will the pet need special care, such as carrying down steps? Is it crate-trained, kept in a certain area or allowed free rein of the house? Does the pet need medication, or is it on a special diet? Any concerns should be discussed with the owner.

Knowledge about dog behavior is crucial for sitters. It’s equally essential to be equipped with a business startup checklist and a comprehensive understanding of how to start a business, including the intricacies of small business insurance.

How to Start a Dog Sitting Business

Handling Emergencies and Unexpected Situations

The Red Cross offers First Aid certification class for Canine First Aid, and a dog sitter should definitely take this class and/or other similar classes. The dog sitter should also carry a general first aid kit for dogs in the vehicle.

Of course, the best way to care for an injured or ill dog is to get it veterinary care. When signing up a new client, gather information about the dog, including the name, address and phone number of its veterinarian. Also, keep information about the location of the nearest emergency vet hospital for any after-hours needs.

An important part of the paperwork associated with dog care is a statement from the owner, which states that the pet sitter can make decisions regarding the need for veterinary care. Often a dog sitter may be able to reach the dog’s owner by phone or text quickly, but if the dog owner can’t be contacted, that piece of paperwork may help the pet sitter quickly arrange a veterinary appointment.

A quick note about underground fencing – many dogs can be let outdoors wearing a special collar that’s linked to underground fencing. If the dog nears the boundary, it gets a warning – and has learned to stay in its own yard. However, other dogs and animals can easily get inside the boundary. It’s a good practice to take a look around before letting the dog out into the yard.

How to Start a Dog Sitting Business

Building Trust with Pet Owners

During the first meeting with the owner, the pet sitting business owner should take time to gather all the information needed. The information should include:

  • Pet’s name and age
  • Any current medications and frequency given
  • Type of food, amount provided at each feeding, and timing of feeding.
  • The hours for the events in the dog’s regular schedule (first out in the morning, midday, late afternoon, last out in the evening, as well as feeding times).
  • Name, address and phone number of the veterinarian
  • Name, address and phone number of neighbor, friend or family member who knows the pet.

Many pet sitters update the pet owner during or immediately after each visit. It’s easy to send the pet owner a picture and a quick text, so that they know the care has been provided. That should be a feature of the service.

How to Start a Dog Sitting Business

How to Start Your Own Pet Sitting Business

Keep in mind that as you consider starting your own pet sitting business, there are probably dozens of pet owners who are hoping to find you.

The market for pet sitting has never been stronger.

Crafting a Business Plan for Your Pet Sitting Service

  • Executive Summary: Brief overview of the business, mission statement, and goals.
  • Business Description: Details about the dog sitting service, location and operations.
  • Market Analysis: Research on the local pet market, competitor analysis, and target audience.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy: How you plan to attract and retain clients.
  • Organization and Management: Business structure (sole proprietorship, LLC, etc.), roles, and responsibilities.
  • Service Offerings: Types of services provided (overnight stays, daily visits, etc.)
  • Financial Projections: Estimated revenue, costs, and profitability.
StepDescriptionResources NeededTips & Best Practices
Market ResearchUnderstand the demand for dog sitters in your area.Survey tools, local pet forumsLook for areas with high pet ownership.
Business PlanOutline your services, pricing, target audience, and financial projections.Business plan templateConsider long-term scalability.
Legal RequirementsEnsure you have the necessary permits, licenses, and insurance.Local business registration officeInsurance is crucial for handling potential incidents.
Training & CertificationEnhance your pet care knowledge and gain credibility.Local pet training coursesFirst-aid for pets certification is a great start.
Set Up Your SpaceDetermine if you’ll offer services at clients' homes or have a dedicated space at your place.Pet-friendly space, safety equipmentEnsure space is secure and hazard-free.
Pricing & ServicesDecide on your rates and the specific services you'll offer (e.g., overnight stays, day care, walks).Competitive analysis toolsOffer package deals or loyalty discounts.
Marketing & BrandingCreate a brand image, set up a website, and promote your services on social media.Website builder, social mediaUtilize customer testimonials and pet photos.
Operational ToolsUtilize tools for booking, scheduling, and communication.Booking software, phoneAutomated booking tools can simplify the process.
Customer ServiceEnsure you communicate effectively with pet owners, providing updates and addressing concerns.Communication tools, feedback formsRegular photo updates of pets can be a unique touch.
Continuous LearningStay updated with pet care trends, attend workshops, and continuously improve your services.Workshops, online coursesJoin pet sitter associations for networking.

Business License and Legal Considerations for Dog Sitting Businesses

While specific licenses can vary by state and municipality, most places will require at least a general business license to operate. Additionally, some localities may have specific pet business regulations or permits.

Since pet sitting does not take place in your home, it is not a “home-based business.” In zoning terminology, pet sitting may be termed a No Impact Business or a similar term.

Some of the legalities to consider include:

  • Contracts: Clear agreements with pet owners regarding services, pricing, responsibilities, and liabilities. There are templates for such contracts online, but you may also have an attorney check the contract to make sure you’ve covered everything.
  • Liability: Understanding potential risks and how to mitigate them.

How to Start a Dog Sitting Business

Securing Pet Sitting Insurance

You’ll need pet sitting business insurance of two basic types:

1. Pet sitters should consider general liability insurance (covers injuries or damages during service).

2. Care, custody, and control insurance (covers injury, loss, or death of a pet in your care).

You’ll be using your personal vehicle and may consider adding commercial vehicle insurance, especially if you may have the need to transport pets.

How to Start a Dog Sitting Business

Getting a Business Bank Account for Your Dog Sitting Business

With any business, it’s important that you keep a separate bank account for the pet sitting business. You should also get a credit card that is used only for the business.

When tax times come, it will be much easier to file when your personal and business bank accounts are separate entities.

How to Start a Dog Sitting Business

Pricing and Packages for Your Pet Sitter Services

Many pet sitters charge between $15 and $40 per visit, depending on the type of pet and service needed. With those numbers as a basis, add these considerations to your calculations:

  • Research local competitors: See what others are charging in your area.
  • Cost analysis: Understand your costs, including travel, time, and any special services.
  • Value proposition: If offering unique or high-quality services, you might be able to charge a premium. For instance, you may be able to charge a higher fee if you include dog walking.

Physical Setup: Do Pet Sitting Businesses Need a Dedicated Space?

No. The pet sitting business is not like a boarding kennel – it takes place at the client’s home.

However, if you want to add an extra service, such as a dog walk, you’ll need to do that in a suitable area. That may involve taking the pet for a short drive to get to a local park. If this is the case, you may need additional insurance to cover you for transporting the pet. You will also need safety-approved pet crates to keep the dog secure during travel.

How to Start a Dog Sitting Business

Marketing for a Successful Pet Sitting Business

Grasping what is marketing is crucial for any venture’s success. From creating a potent online presence to networking, every aspect matters. For those considering how to open a pet store or other pet-related ventures, understanding the marketing landscape is pivotal. You’ll need a website that thoroughly explains what service you provide. You should be introduced as the owner, with information about your background working with pets.

Of course, also develop a FB page and keep a strong online presence. If you offer add-on services to pet sitting, such as dog walking or overnight care, be sure to list those services.

Networking and Collaborating in the Pet Industry

Of course, you should network with other pet professionals such as dog trainers, groomers or veterinarians. For example, a dog trainer may be working with a client who has a puppy, and the puppy is being crate-trained. However, the owner is going to be working long hours and wants to continue the crate training, which involves potty training every four hours. The trainer may recommend the pet sitting service.

Here are some other ideas:

  • Pet supply stores: Collaborate or leave business cards/brochures.
  • Local pet events or shows: Set up a booth or attend as a guest.
  • Online presence: Create a website and maintain active social media profiles. Engage in local community groups on platforms like Facebook.
  • Referral programs: Offer incentives for clients to refer your services to others.
  • Join pet sitting organizations: Such as Pet Sitters International or the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters.

How to Start a Dog Sitting Business

Growing Your Pet Sitting Business

Whether it’s about understanding how to start a dog treat business, how to start a dog training business, or any other pet-related venture, growth strategies are essential. Some clients may regularly need pet sitters, such as people who frequently travel for business. Others may only need a pet sitter for a specific reason, such as a pet needing additional home care as it recovers from surgery.

If your business seems to stagnate, consider avenues for growth. For instance, you can branch out into an additional area or new housing development – but keep in mind you may need to hire extra staff.

You may provide pet sitting services for temporary clients who have had surgery or illness and are unable to take their pet outside or provide exercise. Join your local Chamber of Commerce. That way, you can network with all types of business owners, not just those working in pet-affiliated businesses.

How to Start a Dog Sitting Business

FAQs: How to Start a Dog Sitting Business

How much do pet sitters make?

Pricing varies based on location, services provided, and competition. Typical charges can range anywhere from $15 to $50 or more per visit, with rates in urban or high-cost-of-living areas generally being higher. Overnight stays or additional services can also affect pricing.

What’s the difference between a dog sitting and a dog walking business?

A dog sitter takes care of the dog in its home. The dog sitter usually visits the dog at least four times a day, to provide potty breaks, food, water and exercise. The dog sitter is responsible for the dog’s care throughout the day, adhering as much as possible to the dog’s regular schedule.

The dog walker usually visits the dog once a day, typically at midday, while the client is at work. The dog walker provides a potty break and exercise for the dog. Here’s more information about how to start a dog walking business if you’re interested.

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Lisa Price Lisa Price is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 4 years. She has a B.A. in English with a minor in journalism from Shippensburg State College (Pennsylvania). She is also a freelance writer and previously worked as a newspaper circulation district manager and radio station commercial writer. In 2019, Lisa received the (Pennsylvania) Keystone Award.