How to Become a Pet Sitter

9 minutes • 19 May 2021

Pet sitters care for domesticated animals while their owners are away. These professionals care for the pets, tend to their needs, including feeding, and provide companionship.

It’s a valuable and important service, especially for dog owners. A dog left alone all day can suffer from a lack of physical and mental stimulation. That can prompt the dog to act out in destructive or annoying ways – destroying furniture, barking and descending into compulsive behaviors such as excessive licking and manic activity. A bored dog is a mischievous dog. With an adequate supply of food, water and clean litter, cats can get along on their own for a couple of days, but not dogs, which are bred as companion animals and instinctively crave interaction with people.

Pug resting in a cage

Another compelling reason for dog owners to hire a pet sitter is so their dogs can get outdoors as necessary to relieve themselves. Better to pay a pet sitter than clean the carpets every evening after a long day at work.

A skilled pet sitter with an established customer base can make a good income while enjoying relative autonomy on the job – it’s just you and the pet. You’ll provide a vital service while improving the life of the animals you supervise. If this sounds like a pleasant way to make a living, read on to discover what’s involved in becoming a pet sitter.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • How much money you can make as a pet sitter
  • The required training and certifications
  • Professional groups to join
  • Employment opportunities for pet sitters
  • Finding clients
  • Plus helpful tips

How much money can you make?

Pet sitters may charge by the hour or by the visit. There may also be a fixed price, such as for the day, overnight, or by the week. The average hourly wage is about $14, according to recent surveys of pet sitters conducted by ZipRecruiter and Indeed. Fees can also depend on whether pet services are being provided during holidays or if multiple pets will be involved.

Training and Certification

No license or training is mandatory to be a pet sitter, although you can become certified as a pet sitter through a variety of educational programs. The main reason to pursue certification as a pet sitter is that it looks good on a resume. Certification sets you apart from competitors offering pet sitting services. It shows you have taken the extra steps to achieve expertise in your work. That inspires confidence in customers.

Pet sitter eating with dogs in the living room

You also benefit from training by learning more about different animals and breeds, their disposition, and how to provide good care for them. After all, pet sitting is about more than sitting on the couch reading a book or texting a friend while the client’s dog runs wild through the house.

Here is a list of schools and programs that offer pet sitter training to help you get started.

  • Some of what you will learn in training:
  • Pet care for a variety of common animals and breeds
  • Health, nutrition and behavior profiles for different pets
  • Business development and management for a pet sitter
  • Pet first aid, including canine CPR

Professional Groups to Join

Participating in professional organizations is a great way to meet other professionals, swap tips and techniques, learn about job opportunities and stay engaged with your profession. Just as important, professional memberships show your customers and potential employers that you are serious about your work and devoted to being the best pet sitter you can be. Here are two of the most popular professional groups for pet sitters:

Pet sitter petting a dog's belly while it's on its back

National Association of Professional Pet Sitters is the only national, non-profit, professional pet sitting association dedicated to raising and abiding by industry standards. They are members with education, certification and the resources to operate successful businesses. A membership is $149 a year and includes these benefits:

  • Continuing  education
  • Library of resources and business tools
  • A listing in the NAPPS pet sitter directory

Pet Sitters International is the world’s largest educational association for professional pet sitters. PSI is dedicated to educating professional pet sitters and promoting, supporting and recognizing excellence in pet sitting. Annual membership is $145 plus a one-time $10 application fee. Benefits include:

  • Access to group-rate insurance and bonding coverage
  • A free custom business page and link on the PSI Pet Sitter Locator
  • Subscription to Pet Sitter’s World magazine
  • Customizable pet-sitter forms
  • Access to downloadable promotional materials
  • Access to PSI’s private member group on Facebook
  • Connect with PSI’s full-time staff to help answer pet-sitting questions
Pet sitter reading a magazine at the kitchen table while watching a dog

Employment

You’ll find jobs for pet sitters advertised at large veterinary practices, pet-store retail chains and online. When applying, it’s helpful to make copies of your resume and professional training certifications in advance so you’ll have them ready. You’ll also need copies of reference letters and contact information. Good references are critical to your success because as a –pet sitter you will have access to customers’ homes and that involves a high degree of trust. Be confident in the knowledge that smart customers will definitely check your references before handing over the keys to the front door.

Don’t overlook online employment-search services like Indeed and ZipRecruiter. You can set up notifications on these sites to receive email alerts about pet sitting jobs that match your geographic location.

Finding Clients

Every pet sitter needs a website and business cards. The website is necessary so people can discover your services as well as learn more about you once they have your business card (which must include your website address).

Kitten sitting on a window sill

Because everyone is online these days, that’s where your marketing efforts should focus.

Build a free Facebook page for your business. This is how you attract followers and provide tips to improve their life with pets. You can run discount specials and create teaser links to your business website by offering articles and news about pets.

Now create an Instagram page to highlight your pet sitting services. Instagram is the top online venue for professionals to showcase their work. A dedicated business page on Instagram is always working on your behalf. Be sure to include pictures of you interacting with pets.

Next, create a Google My Business page. This is another free service that lets you display your hours of operation, photos and reviews of your service so you can encourage customers to post great comments about your dog walking service.

Setting up each of these sites should take less than an hour. Then you’ll have three powerful tools promoting your business every day, around the clock. So you can spend more time pet sitting and less on marketing.

Additional strategies for finding clients:

Veterinarian Referrals

Contact local veterinarians and build friendly business relationships with them. A vet recommendation for your business can be invaluable in signing new clients. Start by making friends with the receptionist, who interacts with the vet daily and can make introductions.

Partner with Local Shelters or SPCA

This serves two purposes. It gets your business in front of people who are adopting animals and it solves an immediate need for busy professionals – finding someone to care for their pets while they are away. Leave flyers and business cards at the local shelter or SPCA, then encourage staff to recommend your pet sitting business. Volunteering for an hour or two each month at the shelter can build goodwill and help your marketing mission.

Partner with Independent Pet Stores

Small business owners understand the value of working with other professionals in the community. Focus especially on pet stores that sell organic pet food, specialty chew toys and other items that tend to attract more affluent customers.

Several goldfish swimming in a fish bowl

Good to know

As a pet sitter you may be able to establish long-term relationships with customers – and you should. Better to spend your time on a paying customer than looking for new clients. Still, economic conditions change and clients come and go. What you need is consistent cash flow. Here are suggestions from professional pet sitters to keep your business humming:

Provide excellent service

It’s harder for a client to discontinue your pet sitting services if you can show you are the absolute best in the business. Always give your best effort. Offer discounts to customers who refer others to your pet sitting service. After each visit, or perhaps weekly, leave a note for each customer detailing all you have done for their pet. This is not bragging. It’s showing customers they are getting real value for their money.

Pet sitter hugging dog at the park

Diversify

You may encounter potential customers who don’t need or want a pet sitter, but might warm to the idea of dog walking services or transporting a pet to and from the vet while the owner is at work. Also, don’t limit yourself to pet sitting cats and dogs. People with aquariums or caged birds, for example, need someone to feed their pets while they’re on vacation.

Focus your service area

Pet sitting for multiple customers in the same subdivision or neighborhood is easier on your time and transportation costs than driving all over town. You’re just burning up your profits in extra gasoline costs.

Ask customers to recommend you to their neighbors and friends

Word-of-mouth advertising is still the best advertising available. And it’s free.

If you enjoyed this article, check out some more great PocketSuite.io content that can help you grow your career as a pet sitter. Here’s a great place to start.PocketSuite has thousands of business owners who all started where you are right now. Our community is always happy to help you ramp up, grow your client base, and achieve your income goals, both within the PocketSuite app and as part of our exclusive Facebook Community Group. PocketSuite’s vision is for any professional to be able to work for themselves and make a great living. It starts here. It starts with you. It starts today. Let’s get started, download PocketSuite now! Feel free to reach out with any questions (we’d love to hear from you)! Text us @ (415) 841-2300.

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