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How To Become A Dog Sitter: A Fun Side-Hustle

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Dog Care By Kate Brunotts 13 min read July 12, 2021

how do you become pet sitter

What could be better than getting paid to spend time with four-footers? Dog sitting can be an amazing way to make some income on the side or build a career that keeps you surrounded by furry friends. 

I’ve learned this first hand, as I work as a dog walker and sitter when I’m not writing articles! 

We’ll explain everything prospective dog sitters would want to know — including what to expect, the qualifications you’ll need, and how much you can expect to make — below. And I’ll try to share a little behind-the-scenes intel so you can know exactly what to expect! 

How to Become a Dog Sitter: Key Takeaways

  • Dog sitting can be a fun job for dog-lovers but you’ll need to have a few key skills. For example, you’ll not only need to know about basic dog care, but you’ll also have to have great communication skills and some business acumen to be successful.
  • To be a dog sitter, you’ll need to be willing to perform a variety of different tasks. You’ll obviously need to walk and feed the four-footers in your care, but you may also need to do things like administer medication or provide routine grooming services, such as brushing and bathing the pets.
  • Dog sitting isn’t the most lucrative career, but some will find it financially viable. The average yearly income for a dog sitter is about $30,000, but this varies significantly based on your location, experience, marketability, and client base.

Dog Sitter Job Description: What to Expect from the Work 

caring for pets as a dog sitter

Dog-sitting is actually a pretty complicated gig that involves a lot of small, different tasks that make up the bulk of your overall job responsibilities. Here are some of the main duties you may be required to perform as a dog sitter: 

Assume Full Responsibility of the Pets In Your Care

While pet sitting, it’s important to take full responsibility for the dogs you’re watching over. You’ll need to comply with all local leash and pet waste laws, along with any other regulations surrounding the pooch in question. 

If you aren’t sure whether you can fully fulfill a particular dog’s needs, don’t take on the dog sitting job — it’s not fair to you, your client, or (most importantly) the four-footer.

Walking Furry Friends

dog sitters have to walk dogs

One of the most important duties of a dog sitter is to ensure that your canine clients are getting plenty of exercise. This means taking dogs out for appropriate length walks — and you’ll have to do so in all kinds of weather. 

It’s not uncommon for pooch parents to request that walks measure a certain distance or proceed along a particular route. The owner may, for example, request stopping at the dog park, or avoiding certain areas or situations that may trigger the dog while on the walk. 

As a dogsitter, you’ll need to take diligent notes of these nuances to ensure you’re providing proper pooch care. 

Grooming Pets 

You won’t be required to perform complicated hair cuts or anything, but dog sitters often provide grooming services such as routine bathing and brushing. You might also be required to brush the teeth of your furry friends on a daily basis or wipe down his paws after traipsing through the mud. 

It’s even possible that owners will ask you to grind or trim a dog’s nails, but this isn’t especially common. 

Playing With Pooches 

dog sitters must play with the dogs

One of the key responsibilities of a dog sitter is keeping pups happily engaged — and that means pupper playtime! 

(Yes, you actually can get paid to play with dogs. What a world, right?)

The owners may request that you have play and training sessions with Fido to keep his tail wagging while they’re out. Ask the owner about the pup’s favorite toys and be sure to bring them out during your stay.

Just be aware that individual dogs often enjoy different kinds of play, so you’ll have to be flexible and try to party in a way that the particular pupper you’re caring for likes. 

Feeding Four-Footers

Dog sitters need to make sure that the pups in their care are getting plenty of fresh water and food at their regularly scheduled times. 

Depending on the dog’s diet, you may be asked to prepare certain foods or treats — some dogs and their owners have picky food-preparation preferences, and you’ll always want to respect their wishes. In these cases, I like to record the owner preparing the food with my phone before they head out so I have it as a reference. 

Cleaning Up After Canines

This just in: Dogs can be messy. And as a dog sitter, it’ll be your responsibility to deal with these messes.

Whether it’s a torn toy, an indoor accident, or loose hair strewn all over the couch, you’ll need to clean up after your canine companion while he’s under your care. If Fido has a feline friend, you may need to clean out the cat’s litter box too (besides, this will help prevent some dogs from “litter box grazing,” which is always a win). 

And though it should go without saying, be sure to pick up any pooch waste while you’re out on walks or playing at the park. 

Veterinary Care  

you may have to take dog to vet

In some cases, dog sitters may be asked to administer medications. Just be sure to discuss the details carefully and administer the pooch’s meds in the exact manner you’re instructed to. This is another time it can be helpful to record the convo or take some notes to ensure you get everything correct.

Sitters should also keep track of a dog’s general health and report any injuries, sickness, or changes in behavior. In some situations, you may need to take a pet to the veterinarian. Make sure you’ve collected the necessary info — such as the vet’s name and location — ahead of time so that you have everything you need to give your furry friend the care he deserves while his owner is out. 

Documenting The Process

Nothing puts a pet parent at ease like a thoughtful update with pictures and videos of their furry friend. As a pet sitter, you’ll need to check-in with the owner periodically or as often as requested with updates on their four-footers. 

Some owners may just want an end-of-the-day summary while others will want more frequent updates. It’s all about keeping those pooch-parents happy, so tailor the info your provide to suit the individual owners desires.

Additional Tasks 

It’s not uncommon to be expected to complete basic household tasks as a dog sitter, especially if you’re staying in the owner’s home. This may include collecting the mail, watering the plants, or washing the dishes. 

Depending on your business model, you can consider charging extra for these services. 

Dog Sitter Income: How Much Do Dog Sitters Make?

dog sitter salary

According to Ziprecrutier, the average salary of dog sitters in the United States is about $30,000 per year. This comes out to an hourly wage of about $15.00, though keep in mind prices vary greatly from one area to the next, as well as between individual dog sitters and clients. 

While this isn’t the most impressive salary, some sitters argue that getting to spend time with dogs is worth sacrificing a more lucrative career path. 

As someone who has worked as a dog sitter in both Virginia and New York City, I charge much higher rates when working in the city. Though, this obviously makes sense, as the cost of living is much higher in metropolitan areas. 

With that in mind, if you aren’t working through an agency, you can more or less set your own rates and even charge more for specific services, like overnight dog sitting.

And even if you are working with an agency, sites like Rover allow you to set your rates, though you’ll have to account for the fee associated with using their client-finding services. 

Skills & Qualifications You’ll Need to Be a Dog Sitter 

Dog sitters need a certain set of skills in order to provide competent care services. Here are just a few skills you’ll need in your toolbox as a pet sitter: 

  • Strong Communication Skills — One half of the job is taking care of pups, the other half is communicating with the pooch parent! You’ll need to have excellent communication skills as a dog sitter and be ready to respond to any of the owner’s questions. You’ll also need to make sure you can handle the prospective pooch before the start of your stay. Be sure to ask plenty of questions to make sure the canine in question is a good fit for your skillset. 
  • An Understanding of Dog Body Language — Any dog sitter will want to become well-versed in dog body language. Some dogs will be hesitant and nervous with a stranger in their home. Being able to recognize signs of distress and knowing how to give an anxious dog plenty of space as the pup gets used to your presence is key for success!
  • A Passion For Pups — Taking care of dogs can be a whole lot of fun, but it can also be pretty demanding depending on the dog. Dog sitters know how to be patient with every pooch and go above and beyond to show their furry friends that they are cared for. 
  • Flexible Scheduling — Unfortunately, most people need dog sitters during the holidays or vacation prime time. That means that some sitters may need to sacrifice traveling or relaxing over the holidays in order to maintain their business. In addition, some owners will request regular sittings, so you’ll have to factor this commitment into your schedule. 
  • A Love of The Outdoors — Whether it’s a beautiful day or a stormy mess outside, our furry friends still need to get their walks in. Dog sitters will need to be prepared to walk dogs outside in all types of weather and be physically fit to keep up with their canine companions. 
  • Organization Skills — Managing multiple clients at once can quickly become a disaster if you aren’t organized. Dog sitters need to have top-notch organization skills and keen note-taking abilities while figuring out the needs of each furry family. 
  • Plenty of Energy — Dog sitting isn’t a 9 to 5 job that you can clock out of at the end of the day. You are on deck for your canine clients 24/7 while they are under your care, so you’ll really need to love pups to excel in this position. 

Additional Things You’ll Need to Become a Dog Sitter 

dog sitting can be really fun

Before setting up your dog sitting business, you’ll also need to consider the following factors. 

  • Insurance: If you find yourself working regularly as a dog sitter, it’s imperative to get pet sitting insurance to protect yourself and your clients. Sites like Rover do not provide pet sitters with liability insurance though they may offer reimbursement on a case by case basis for injuries incurred by the pet or sitter. 
  • Pet-Care Certifications: Gaining pet care certifications doesn’t just expand your knowledge as a pet provider, but it also gives owners the confidence they need to trust you with their fur baby. Seek out courses in dog CPR, basic obedience training, and first aid as you move towards becoming a dog sitter. 
  • Website: If you’re running a dog-sitting business independently, you’ll need a place where prospective clients can contact you and learn more about your services. You’ll want to build a website and potentially social media accounts where you can advertise your sitting business. 

Should Dog Sitters Work for Rover or Another Dog-Sitting Company? 

Instead of setting up your own dog sitting business or working through a local agency, you could sign up for a site like Rover. This site allows you to set up a dog sitting profile, communicate with clients through the app, and access a whole network of potential clients. The only downside is that Rover and other similar pet sitting websites charge sitters a portion of the fees they collect for each job. 

If you don’t have a portfolio of past clients, I recommend starting on one of these platforms so that you can get a foot in the door of the industry. It’s also a good way to see what other sitters in your area are charging or offering as a part of their services. 

Once you’ve built up some relationships with clients, starting your own independent dog sitting business is likely the most profitable approach. You can expand your reach by offering referral bonuses for clients. As your business grows, you can invest in a pet business software package to keep everything organized and functional. 

If you’re mainly interested in dog sitting as a side gig, I would recommend sticking to sites like Wag or Rover to avoid dealing with the logistics of running a business on top of your other day job. 

Another Option for Dog Sitters: Trusted Housesitters

We’re sharing information about Trusted Housesitters as part of a paid partnership.

Are you more interested in spending time with dogs than padding your bank account? Would you like to get the chance to stay in different places in exchange for taking care of a four-footer?

You may want to check out Trusted Housesitters.

Trusted Housesitters pairs dog sitters with people in need of someone to watch their house and care for their pets. You won’t be paid for doing so, but if pooches are your primary motivation, that shouldn’t be a problem anyway.

Check out their site to learn more details (you can even browse potential gigs for free), but you’ll need to pay a small monthly fee to enroll in the program. From there, you’ll just discuss potential house-sitting gigs with those in need of a pet sitter and agree on the details.

Again, this isn’t a paid opportunity (in fact, you aren’t allowed to charge for your services via Trusted Housesitters).

But it is a fantastic chance to get some more four-footed love in your life and help out some needy dog owners in the process.

Is Dog Sitting a Good Job? Is It Fun?

dog sitting is a fun job

Dog sitting can certainly be one of the most fun, rewarding jobs you can’t find. After all, who doesn’t like getting paid to spend time with furry friends? 

However, it can be physically demanding, and it requires you to cater your skill set to the individual needs of each furry friend. 

After all, you’re watching over someone’s fur baby, which comes with a lot of responsibility. You need to make sure that you’re well-equipped to meet the needs of each dog and collaborate with the owner to set up a schedule that works for the canine in question. 

If you’re not too concerned about making a lot of money, dog sitting is an amazing job. Just make sure that you’re able to take care of each pooch as if they were your own. 

***

Pet sitting can make an amazing way to spend time with dogs and earn a salary or some cash on the side. This career path isn’t for everyone, but for those who are up for the associated challenges, it’s certainly worth it.

Have you ever considered dog sitting? What about dog sitting appeals to you the most? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

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Written by

Kate Brunotts

Kate is a dog-loving content specialist with over a decade of canine-care experience. She is currently a professional dog walker and pet sitter, with previous experience working at the Heart of Chelsea Animal Hospital in Manhattan. When not spending time with four-footers, she can usually be found crafting top-notch dog-care articles that pet parents can trust. Kate loves dogs of all shapes and sizes, but Bernese Mountain Dogs hold a special place in her heart.

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