For dog lovers, getting paid to be a canine caregiver is a dream job. Animal enthusiasts are in luck, because this career can be incredibly lucrative: pet parents spend tens of billions of dollars on their critters every year, and a sizable chunk of that goes to the dog sitters who provide their pets with love and affection while they’re away. If you’ve skimmed the below and are looking for an application to become a pet sitter, Rover is most likely your best bet:
Becoming a dog sitter is so much more than signing up with an online service. You’ll need to take measures to set yourself apart from the competition and your brand, and our guide is here to help. Here is how to become a dog sitter online.
Become a Certified Pet Sitter
You don’t need to obtain certifications to become a pet sitter, but putting in the time and effort of getting accredited will help you stand out when pet parents in your area are trying to find a pet sitter online. You may want to become a member of one or more of these organizations, especially if other sitters in your area are associated with them:
- Pet Sitters International (PSI): This organization’s CPPS-Certified Professional Pet Sitter Exam has been trusted since 1994 to ensure care providers have the knowledge they need to care for all kinds of pets.
- National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS): The NAPPS Certification Course — an online program that educates on pet care and business building — is offered at a discounted rate for registered members.
- International Boarding & Pet Services Association (IBPSA): Members have access to a variety of support for training, business development, industry trends, and community events.
At the very least, you should take a general pet care course that covers topics like animal CPR, poisoning prevention and treatment, and wound care. Your local veterinarian or animal training organization are both great resources for finding these types of training programs.
Get the Necessary Gear
Before you even advertise your services, you’ll need to grab a few essentials. These tools will make your job easier, and make your four-legged clients’ experience safer and more special (which are two foolproof ways to build a loyal customer base):
- Leash and adjustable dog collar; pet parents will no doubt provide these items, but extras are good to have on hand in case something unexpected happens on your outing
- Poop bags and a portable dispenser for them
- Dog and cat treats
- Easy-to-clean toys (ones you can bring to your jobs and easily clean with soap and water between gigs)
- First-aid kit that includes:
- Alcohol wipes
- Antibiotic ointment
- Cotton balls or cotton swabs
- Disposable gloves
- Medical tape
- Pet-safe antihistamine tablets
- Squeeze bottle with fresh water
- Styptic powder
Get Your Home Ready for Boarding
If you plan to pet sit in your own home through doggy daycare or overnight boarding, prepare your home before setting up your business profiles. After all, you don’t want to lure in customers only to scare them off with your dog-dangerous digs, so take pet-proofing measures in your home and yard:
- Lock up cabinets that are accessible to animals, especially any that contain dangerous substances (like cleaning chemicals) or potentially-harmful foods (like chocolate).
- Secure trash can lids.
- Move power cords off the floor.
- Get rid of dangerous house plants.
- Keep rooms clear of objects that present choking hazards and those that could easily be chewed.
- Block off areas that contain dangerous plants, lawn care equipment, or chemicals.
- Ensure there are no holes in or gaps underneath fences, and address any issues you see immediately.
- Clean up pet waste from your own pets.
Lastly, be sure you’ve tidied up your home the way you would if you were hosting company — because you are! No pet parent wants to leave their fur baby with a slob, so be sure your home is picked up and presentable for meet-and-greets, drop-offs and pick-ups, and your pet guests’ entire stays.
Bulk Up Your Experience and Reference List
Dog dads and moms want to leave their pups with someone who has a proven track record for safe and reliable pet care. Before you sign up for a gig-booking service, be sure you have at least a few folks who are willing to write a glowing review for you as soon as your account is active.
If you’re just starting out, you can still find ways to pull in business that will help you establish the credibility needed to draw in new customers. A great approach is to offer discounted services (in other words, less than what you’ll ultimately charge when you become a dog sitter online) to friends, family members, and neighbors. Let them know you have plans to expand your clientele and that you’d appreciate their feedback, and once you’re accepting customers online, ask them to give you a review.
Decide Which Services You’ll Offer
Some pet care specialists are jacks of all trades, while others focus on providing only a few services to their critter clientele. Before becoming a dog sitter online, be sure you have a plan for what kind of care you’ll provide. You’ll later share this information on your pet sitting profile, which may include:
- Dog sitting and cat sitting in your clients’ homes
- Dog boarding in your home
- Drop-in visits and dog walking
- The sizes of dogs you will care for; are you willing to be a dog sitter for large dogs (including pitbulls) and care for dogs with special needs (including older pets)?
- Other types of pets you will care for; are you open to caring for birds, reptiles, and small mammals?
- Other pet care services, such as bathing, nail trims, brushing, medicine administration, and obedience training
- The hours you are willing to work (including holidays)
- How far you are willing to travel
Establish Price Ranges
In order to set reasonable but competitive rates, take a look at what the other sitters in your area are offering for their services, and compare their qualifications to yours. You don’t want to short change yourself, but if you set your prices too high and there are a lot of other qualified sitters to choose from, you may not attract many clients. Also decide whether you’ll offer discounts. For example, some sitters charge less for additional pets, and some offer free litter box cleaning.
Keep in mind that you can always change your pricing. For example, it may be worth charging slightly less in the beginning in order to stand out among the competition and build a client base. Once you’ve gotten a handful of reviews from happy customers, you can raise your rates for new clients.
Finally, know that no matter how long you’ve been in business, you’ll probably need to negotiate your prices every so often. It’s fine to walk away from a potential customer who isn’t willing to pay what you deserve (and what other pet parents are happy to give you), but try to be flexible when it makes sense. Giving a discount of a few bucks in order to secure repeat business is worth it in the long run.
Set Up Your Online Dog Sitter Profile
There are more options than ever for becoming a dog sitter online, so do some research on the best booking company for you. You’ll want to choose one that has active users in your area as well as secure payment options. We recommend working with Rover and Care, which have outstanding reputations for connecting canine caregivers and pet parents safely and securely.
Build Your Business
Once you’re signed up to be a dog sitter online, the real work begins — and not just when it comes to walking, feeding, and playing with your new canine clients! In order to grow your business, you’ll need to continue to set yourself apart from other sitters in your area. Consider these tips for building your customer base:
- Be willing to work when others won’t. Making yourself available for holidays, weekends, early mornings, and late nights will make your schedule a little hectic, but you’ll also earn loyal customers who have an otherwise difficult time finding pet care.
Tip: Remember, you can negotiate here. Rather than drop in at 11 PM to care for someone’s pet, offer to sit for them overnight at your home for a discounted price. You won’t have to go too far out of your way, and you may make a loyal customer.
- Take Instagram-worthy photos of the pets you sit. Adorable critter photos will help your online profile stand out, but be sure to only post eye-catching photos of as many different pets as possible; a bunch of blurry photos of one dog won’t make potential customers confident about your experience.
Tip: Always ask permission before posting photos of your customers’ pets and homes.
- Give your clients a great experience. Satisfied customers will be happy to sing your praises through online reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations to their pet-parent friends.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews from clients who had a good experience. You can even offer an incentive for those who bring you new business — even a $5 discount goes a long way toward encouraging referrals.
If you want to become a dog sitter online, you’ll not only need to have a passion for pet care, but an entrepreneurial spirit. It takes considerable planning and prep work to set yourself up for success, but if you put in the work, you’ll be bombarded by happy customers, repeat business, and lots of wagging tails!