When you work as a pet sitter, you’re taking care of animals while their owners are away on holiday, for work, in the hospital, or for some other emergency. They may want you to watch their pets while staying at their house, taking them into your home, or simply visiting daily to feed, walk, and check on them.
While that might seem pretty easy, it’s your job as a professional pet sitter to provide your furry family members with the best care. You’ll be expected to ensure each client’s pet is safe, healthy, and happy. You may even be expected to arrange the pet’s food (dog food delivery is one option if you're looking after dogs)! With that in mind, here is a step-by-step guide for anyone looking to start a pet-sitting business or side hustle.
Step 1: You must love animals
If you want the best chance to become a famous pet sitter in your neighborhood, you must be an animal lover, and the animals must love you too. That’s because you’re not just feeding and walking them. You’re also acting as their support human. Once they notice their owner isn’t home, they’ll likely become confused, scared, and stressed about it.
This is especially evident with dogs, which may be demanding your attention randomly throughout the day and barking at strange noises to wake you up in the middle of the night. So if you don’t love dogs, are allergic to cats, or don’t like animals in general, there’s simply no way you’ll be able to provide them with the right kind of honesty and quality of care.
Step 2: Manage client expectations
Clients need to trust giving you access to their home while believing you’ll be utterly respectful of everything inside. They’ll also need to believe you have the knowledge and experience to respond appropriately to a variety of possible circumstances. So it’s a good idea to discuss how you should respond to specific emergencies and get them to provide a checklist of everything they’re expecting you to do while they’re gone.
It's also important to make sure you are comfortably in control of your and the pet's safety. For example, if you're walking a dog that pulls erratically you should use a dog harness for extra control.
If there’s anything you won’t be able to do, like checking the mail each day or watering plants, you must be realistic and upfront about everything with them. Pet sitting is based on trust between you and the client, so being honest will help manage their expectations.
Step 3: Become an expert
If you’re completely inexperienced with animals, you might want to start by spending some time with friends with their pets and attending pet-care workshops. Provide plenty of positive reinforcement with praise and healthy treats. If you ever want your clients to think of you as a trustworthy pet sitter, the best way is by establishing yourself as a local expert in pet information and animal care.
Even if you’re one of those who’ve grown up being around animals, becoming a certified professional will give you a real advantage over your competition. Several professional online courses are available for pet sitting certification or as a dog groomer, which will help with your animal knowledge and increase your value.
Step 4: Communicate with your clients
Rather than waiting for clients to check up on you, it’s a much better idea to have a proactive pet-sitting business by opening up communications with them first. Send them a text or email with a status update once you arrive to reassure them their pets are doing okay at home without them.
You can even send clients a picture of their pets chilling at home once they feel comfortable with you after giving them heaps of extra attention. Sending them visual images that show them everything is okay will ease their anxiety about leaving their fur babies with a stranger and prove that they’ve hired the right pet sitter.
Step 5: The final touch
You must always leave each client’s home in the same state as when you arrived. Remove any of your rubbish, do the dishes, clean up any excess animal hair, use a pooper-scooper, and ensure their pets look clean, healthy, and happy before going.
You can also write them a small note welcoming them home and adding any other important information they need to know. You should also call them the next day to ensure they are happy with your service so that you can express interest in pet-sitting for them again.