Reasons to start a pet sitting business can be different, depending on whom you ask. Some motivation comes from those affected by the national rise in layoffs. For others, it might be the desire for a mid-life career change, or as a response to The American Pet Product Manufacturers Association estimation that Americans will spend an overall total of $43 billion on pets in 2008.
Whatever the reason, small businesses nationally have created 60-80 percent of the net new jobs over the last decade, and they are the core of how the United States is growing.
Pet sitting has been named as one of the fastest growing home-based businesses according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Entrepreneur.com’s report ‘Become a Pet-Sitter or Dog Walker’ explains that the outlook for pet sitters and dog walkers has never been better. Both pet sitting and dog walking are still in their infancy as recognized professions. But with only about 3 percent of households nationally using a pet sitter or dog walker, there is plenty of room for new pet sitting and dog walking businesses to emerge and grow. There are no statistics on the number of dog walkers, but some estimates put the number of bonded and insured pet-sitter businesses nationwide at 10,000.
Pet sitting and dog walking can be very profitable and rewarding, especially in large major metropolitan areas where pet walking in particular has become more popular. The national average is about $16 per visit, and it usually customary to charge an additional $1 to $3 for each additional animal in the household. Do the math, and at 6 visits per 7 day work week, is $672 per week or $34,944 per year. Add a few more pets per household, and you are making well over $35,000 while working for yourself, and with some of the cutest clients in town.
Professional pet sitters care for people’s pets either for the day or for longer periods of time like during vacations or business trips. Many professional pet sitters also double as dog walkers they often offer other services like cleaning up accidents, changing cat litter boxes, administering pet medications, bringing in newspapers and mail, watering plants and taking out trash.
A background in pet care work such as veterinary, pet shelter, dog training or boarding care is of course very useful and usually recommended. A well-trained and experienced pet sitter or dog walker must be able to interact effectively with all types of dogs and cats large and small and be comfortable with other pets such as birds, rabbits, ferrets, snakes, etc. It is also extremely important to be able to determine if and when a pet requires veterinary medical attention. Becoming associated with a veterinarian who can provide emergency services is recommended by the Humane Society of the United States. Always check with a licensed veterinarian if you are a pet sitter, and have any questions about the care of a pet including administration of medications. In addition, becoming Pet CPR certified can be a valuable asset to your business. For more information about Pet CPR courses, please contact your local American Red Cross chapter.
The Humane Society of the United States provides some very good tips for pet owners in search for a pet sitter. Do you have written proof of commercial liability insurance and bonding? What is your training and experience? Is there a backup in case of emergencies? Do you provide related services such as grooming, dog walking, dog training, and play time? Do you have a contract spelling out services and fees? Can you provide phone numbers of other clients as references? Be prepared to answer any of these questions from prospective clients.
Once you establish your business, how do you get your clients? If you have a pet, chances are likely you network with other pet owners in the neighborhood, at the dog park, and at your veterinarian’s office or training class, where the opportunity to get new clients is unlimited. Word of mouth is one of the very best ways to market your services, most importantly because it is FREE! As you get one client it will certainly multiply into more as they are sure to share their positive experiences with other pet owners in need of your services.
Your organic marketing approach, paired with an online presence will sure to make your business grow. Clients expect you to be online, so they can shop your services, and learn more about you. With approximately 90% of Americans using the Internet, a website for your pet business is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.
There are also several national pet sitter and professional pet associations such as PetSitUSA, Pet Sitters International, The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, and The International Association of Canine Professionals that can get you started on the right track, and offer tips and advice about important insurance, bonding requirements, training, as well as networking opportunities.
So, for those with an entrepreneurial spirit and a love of pets, now has never been a better time to follow your dreams of starting your own successful pet sitting or dog walking business.