Working as a petsitter
November 16, 2013 7:31 AM   Subscribe

For years I have wanted to be a professional petsitter. Right now I work 30 hrs./week in an office. I would do it the "right way," getting insured, learning pet CPR, paying self-employment taxes, etc. Ideally it would be my main job, along with maybe freelance writing on the side (which I have done). Have you done this? Is it possible to make an OK living doing this? I have a lot of marketing experience and animal-related contacts, so that will help.
posted by trillian to Work & Money (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sign up on Care.com and see what it gets you. Just go there and see what folks are getting to pet sit.

Frankly, I usually pay $100 a week and a full fridge for our friends to come to our place and watch our cats when we go out of town.

People pay about $20 a day to board animals.

So...no, I don't see this as a money making proposition. It can be a nice sideline for a few extra bucks in your pocket, but unless you want to run a boarding/doggie day camp facility, I don't see how it can yield a living wage as a full time job.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:38 AM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a few friends who do this, and you should be aware that it's a very sporadic job. Some weeks, you'll have more clients than you can get to. Some weeks, you'll have none. There will be potential clients who want you to start sitting in 2 hours' time, and those who will cancel on you last-minute, leaving you without a regular gig that had been going for months.

You will also see a good number of sick animals, and will most likely encounter some animals that you will have to make the decision on putting down.

I don't say this to discourage you, but to let you know that, while you can make a living doing it, it's really stressful at times and the money is not predictable.
posted by xingcat at 7:39 AM on November 16, 2013


My dogwalker makes a very good living and does petsitting on the side, but she confirms that the real money comes from the daily clients. The overnights and cat visits are great when they happen, but they are sporadic, and she can usually only look after one set of animals at a time.
posted by rpfields at 7:47 AM on November 16, 2013


I guess I should have said dogwalker/petsitter.
posted by trillian at 7:52 AM on November 16, 2013


I have been working as a dog walker and pet sitter for 10 years as a full time job. My town has about 5 full time pet sitters that I know of.

People in my town (New Jersey) charge about an average of $20 for 20-30 minute walk. I occasionally do overnight sitting and charge $90. One petsitter I know takes dogs into her home for vacationing clients, but not sure what she charges. One dog walking team I know puts one person at the dog park, and another person drives around picking up dogs, drops one group off and goes to get the next one and picks up the first lot when dropping off the second.

Read Patti Moran's Petsitting for Profit. She also runs Pet Sitters International, which will get you listed in the online directory, and more importantly get you access to insurance through Business Insurers of the Carolinas, which runs me about $300 a year. You can also get bonded for yourself or employees through their insurance company.

Insurance will cover injuries to dogs in your care, things like lost keys or damage to people's homes.

I have not had any experience with sick or neglected dogs. One of the most important things you can do is be friendly to other pet sitters and try to make friends with them, because if you ever want to take a vacation, it helps to know them. When I had to leave the state for a family emergency, I had no problem getting people to cover me because I'm not jerk or trying to take other people's clients.

I have an accountant for taxes, but it is pretty simple and just pay quarterly taxes based on their estimate. Not very expensive. I ride my bike everywhere, which is a quirk of mine, but it has really helped me get all of my clients very very close together. I give a small discount for walking neighbor dogs together. Saves gas and also gives me an excuse when people want me to drive their pet to the vet or run errands I really don't want to do.

I would explore the pet sitters international site and see what people in your area offer and charge.
posted by katinka-katinka at 8:11 AM on November 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


I give people a list of other dog walkers & pet sitters when they hire me, and ask them to contact one as a backup. Having people make their own arrangements is a lot easier than trying to schedule fill ins yourself when you need time off.
posted by katinka-katinka at 8:13 AM on November 16, 2013


I just discovered this website and bookmarked it for my someday petsitting dreams if I ever get out of an apartment. I don't know much about it, but I was intrigued: DogVacay. Maybe there are others like this as well.
posted by rawralphadawg at 8:18 AM on November 16, 2013


Since I work from home, when I had a dog, I walked her myself during the day and often chatted with the dog walkers who work around my building and use the same green spaces as I do. From what I gathered from them you can make a reasonable living at it, but only if you are the one who runs the business yourself and you build up a fairly substantial clientele in a small area, such that you or your employees can walk a fair number of dogs at the same time.

The problem is that the window for dog-walking is kind of narrow. People who have their dogs walked once a day, pretty much want it to happen between 11am and 2pm so that it falls in the middle of the time they're away from home for work. It's less useful for them if they walked fido at 8 right before they left for work and then you come in and walk him again at 9:30 and he remains inside alone until they get home again at 6.

Most of the walkers I've talked to are employed by one of the pet shops / doggie day cares in our neighborhood, and they just work for someone else for 3-4 hours per day, a couple of days a week -- they're mostly university students and this is their part time job. A couple of them that I've talked to run their own business, and they still only walk dogs 3-4 hours per day, but I imagine they spend the other hours managing key pick-ups and drop-offs, marketing, billing, etc, etc.

There's one guy who works for himself and walks for a bunch of different houses in the streets immediately surrounding my building who does a circuit -- he parks near a park, walks through the neighborhood in a circle gathering up all his doggy clients and brings them back to the park area, lets them play for a bit there, then walks them all back home on the same circuit, dropping them off as he goes. I assume he then goes off and does the same thing in other neighborhoods.

They pretty much all say they like buildings like mine (a condo complex with 650 units, where a third to a half of the suites have dogs) where there's a lot of dog owners and if they can get 10 clients in the building, they can go in, collect all the dogs take them out together for their walk and then take them home and drop them off again because there's less time they spend just walking/driving around in between walking dogs -- which is wasted time in the prime hours of the day.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:31 AM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that this previously asked question may help you, especially with the business aspects.

Good luck!
posted by Wolfster at 8:43 AM on November 16, 2013


If you learn (and get some sort of certification for) how to give sub-q fluids and insulin injections, you can up your rates. My downstairs friends and neighbors have in the past (when they had cats with these needs) gotten cat-sitters who are vet techs because said cats needed daily fluids, and it was not cheap but they were happy to pay it so they could go out of town occasionally without boarding the cat (which is even less cheap!).
posted by rtha at 9:31 AM on November 16, 2013


My dad works full time as a petsitter and makes a good living at it. Here are a few things I know about how that works for him:

-He gets up really early every day to do his morning check-ins with his clients, and does another in the evening. He has a few free hours in the middle of the day.

-He charges $20 per visit no matter how many animals there are.

-As mentioned above, most of his steady money comes from regular walking clients. He is also a licensed dog trainer, which I believe increases his appeal as a dog walker.

-My parents also board dogs in their home which brings in some money.

-He has experience with farm animals and exotics (reptiles/amphibians), which gives him more opportunities for clients.

-When he was first starting he bought the client list of a retiring petsitter in the area and it really helped him get on his feet.

-Yelp is a huge deal for him, and most of his new clients these days are a result of his glowing Yelp reviews.

You have to love driving, walking, being organized, and getting up early. You have to not mind working a LOT, especially around the holidays. It's hard for my dad to get away for any kind of vacation. But I've never seen him happier or healthier. Good luck!
posted by rabbitbookworm at 9:41 AM on November 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I once worked part time as a pet sitter for a lady that ran her own pet sitting business. This what I found.

It is possible to make a living as a pet sitter. The more organized you are, the better you will do. So Nthing everyone who talked about insurance and keeping in touch with other pet sitters and pet sitting organizations.

Great pet sitters who are 100 percent reliable and commited are really tough to find. If you are such a person your prices can be high and people will pay because they absolutely are counting on you to care for members of their family. Less commited, less available, less reliable pet sitters will have a difficult time keeping established clients and as others have said, it is the regulars who are your bread and butter.

Do try to keep the area you serve manageable. Time and gas are expensive and cut into your profits.

Have a means to communicate with your human clients each time you visit their pets. We left hand written notes. That way there can never be a question about whether or not you made a visit and folks love to hear about how their pet spent her day.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:58 AM on November 16, 2013


Our dog walker just started using this Pet Check Technology system and it seems pretty cool and useful so far.
posted by spilon at 11:07 AM on November 16, 2013


Our petsitter makes a full-time living doing this. She has a regular client roster and is able to limit her work to our neighborhood and a few adjacent neighborhoods, so she doesn't have to spend much time or money on travel. Even so, it seems like the money can be uneven -- she definitely has daily/regular clients, but a lot of her work comes around holidays, vacations, etc. As mentioned above, this means she works every single Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Labor Day, etc., and only rarely gets to take a vacation herself. Still, she absolutely adores animals and seems to love her job, so for the right person it can be the right fit.
posted by scody at 1:38 PM on November 16, 2013


Thanks, all -- very helpful.
posted by trillian at 3:57 PM on November 16, 2013


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