Are you an entrepreneurial type who loves dogs? You could start a dog-sitting business and make some good money. In fact, a recent Pet Sitters International (PSI) survey shows U.S. pet sitters earned an estimated $75,658 annually. Not bad for a job that allows you snuggle with pups and get a workout in by walking other people’s dogs.
PSI, an educational association for professional pet sitters, reports in its 2019 Pet Sitting Industry Forecast that pet-sitting businesses in the U.S. performed more than 22 million assignments and generated more than $440 million in revenues last year.
And the American Pet Products Association (APPA) reports that consumers spent a whopping $69.51 billion on pets in 2017 – up from $66.75 billion the year before. An estimated $72.13 billion was expected to be spent on pets in 2018 – of which an estimated $6.47 billion of those expenditures was expected to be for pet services, including pet sitting and dog walking.
Professional pet sitters have gained considerable credibility and attention in recent years, according to the PSI survey: “Gone are the days when boarding at kennels or burdening a friend or neighbor were the only options for pet care when a pet owner traveled. The numerous pet-sitter search sites that have launched in the last few years are a testament to the growing popularity of pet sitting.”
Interesting Fact: There are now more pet-owning households than there are those with children, some 84.6 million strong as compared with 52.8 million with kids.
If you love dogs, you can tap into this hot industry and create a profitable and successful business that fills the needs of dog parents in your area. The opportunities go beyond pet-sitting and dog walking services for travelers and vacationers.
Many dog owners use pet-sitting businesses for daily services, including dog walks, vet appointments, and to love on their pup while they are away for long hours at a time.
If you’re ready to create your own pet sitting and dog walking business and you believe you have what it takes – here’s how you can get started.
CREATE A DOG SITTING BUSINESS PLAN
You’re super excited and can’t wait to meet your first canine client, but hold the leash! Before you set your rates and schedule your first appointment, you should take time out to create a business plan that will help guide you in your new venture. It doesn’t have to be overly formal or complicated – in fact, I would purposely keep it simple. No need to go off creating a complex document that will bog you down.
As a writer and marketing professional, I’ve done quite a few of these for friends and family. I once put so much time into developing a 20+ page business plan for my husband’s company he started in 2007, I was so over the actual idea of us doing it. So don’t get too caught up in the formalities that it turns you off to doing the actual job.
Here are some questions to use as a starting point. I love business plans because it serves as a one-stop source with all my ideas, information and key points that I can access easily.
1. Develop A Business Name and Mission Statement
In case you needed more proof that I’m a writer geek, this is my favorite part of any business plan. Having a fun, catchy business name helps you create an identity and adds credibility to your services.
A mission statement clearly defines who you are and what you do. It also helps clients understand what sets you apart from your competitors. Sharing why you’re the best dog sitter/walker tells people why they should choose you.
2. Determine Your Ideal Client
While nearly 70 percent of households have a pet, not everyone is going to be your ideal client. Who do you want to serve? Do you want to overnight dog sit for people in your neighborhood only or are you available to walk dogs during the weekday for people who work long hours?
3. Decide What Your Will Do – Caring for Dogs
Since this is a post about how to start a dog-sitting (and walking) business and you’re reading this, I’ll keep it to that. You should do the same with your new venture – while most pet sitters might include cats, fish and other household animals, if you feel that dogs are your specialty and you want to keep it to dogs only, do so.
4. Define your Services
What kinds of services will you provide as part of your pet sitting/dog walking business? Make a list of everything you want to offer – feedings, administering medication, taking dogs to the vet, overnight care, daily walks, poop scooping. Be very specific about what you are going to offer.
5. Explore Extra Services
Believe it or not, you can offer more than just dog care. Are you willing to take out the trash, switch lights on for out-of-town clients, water plants and collect the mail? Questions about household chores – extra services – may come up. Be ready to answer those questions – and decide what your “extra services” fee should be.
6. Establish Your Rates
You will need to research what other comparable dog sitting services charge. You also need to decide what is your time worth and how much do you need to earn.
7. Market Your Business
In order to succeed, you will need to promote your business. For starters, create a website and post online to different social media groups and directories. You can also create flyers to leave in public places and invest in a magnetic car sign with your business name and logo.
8. Set Your Availability
What days and hours are you available? Will you offer your dog sitting business and dog walking services on weekends and nights? What happens if you are out ill – will you have back-up coverage? What does that look like?
9. Think about Long-Term Vision
Finally – what is your long-term vision for your dog sitting business? Will you keep it small or would you like to add employees and expand beyond your initial client base? Dream big, plan smart and have fun!
Make Your Dog Sitting Business Official
Once you create your dog sitting business plan, there are still a few things left to decide on. Since you will be working with people’s beloved dogs in their homes, you need to officially set up your business. You will need a business license and a separate bank account. Also check into becoming bonded and insured as this will help give your clients peace of mind when they hire you.
Don’t forget to set aside some funds for supplies like poop bags, business cards and a leash or two for your car – you will find having an extra one around will come in handy.
Organize Your Dog Sitting Business
You will want to be super organized as your start to book up your dog sitting business. Find a system that works for you – whether it’s a date book or your phone’s calendar system. You will also want to organize all your files for client contract agreements, invoices and bank statements as well as information about each dog that you’re taking care of.
Consider having release forms on hand for the dogs you will be responsible for transporting to the groomer, vet or other service provider. You will want the dog’s owner to sign a release that grants you permission to seek services for their pup. And if you’re a business owner who tracks car expenses and mileage, you will want to create an organized method for retaining all this information.
Join an Industry Association
There are many advantages to joining an industry association where you can network with others in your profession. Before you join any pet sitting association, look at the costs and benefits of membership.
The fees often range from $50 to $500 a year. What are you getting from your dues? Some offer various forms of discounts, resources, mentorship, educational materials, website, support, business materials – find out which one might be right for you.
Start Your Dog Sitting Business
Once you’ve achieved these steps outlined here, you should be ready to start booking calls and scheduling appointments. Continue to market your services, share your business and provide excellent customer service. Revisit your dog sitting business plan in six to eight months and revise the areas that need attention and include any new goals or changes you have identified during your first months.