As an animal lover, you may want to pursue career caring for them. Perhaps you have already built clientele as a dog walker or pet sitter. Now it's time to take your business to the next level. Pet care certification programs offer the opportunity to refine your skills and demonstrate proficiency in your field.
"Everyone probably can be a pet sitter, but not a professional pet sitter," says Cathe Delaney, administrative director of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters.
So what does it take to become a professional in an animal care field? You must be committed to continuing your education and rely on solid business practices and ethical treatment of animals.
Why Pet Caregivers Need to Be Certified
Professional certification will demonstrate your commitment to the field.
"Certification helps us professionally by letting our clients know that we are serious about our work and willing to invest time, money and energy in educating ourselves," says Debra Farrington, a pet caregiver in Hershey, Pa. Delaney adds that certification shows pet care workers are "true professionals. It's not the neighbor or the kid down the street. They take pride in their business."
Even better, "I also feel I can charge more for my services, and do so with no problem," she shares.
Where to Get Certified
The following organizations offer certification programs relevant to the pet care industry:
- National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) provides a certified pet sitter at-home study course. Topics covered include animal behavior, pet care, health and nutrition for pets, first aid skills and business know-how. The cost is $245 for NAPPS members and $395 for non-members. After becoming certified, business owners can offer the certification course to their employees at a discounted rate. Certification lasts for three years and earning continuing education credits is necessary for re-certification.
- Pet Sitters International (PSI) offers a pet sitter certification program, which covers general pet care, animal health and nutrition, additional pet-related services and important business strategies. This program is open only to PSI members. The cost of the course is $315, but there's a $75 discount if you register for the course at the same time that you pay your membership dues. Certification lasts for three years.
- National Dog Groomers Association (NDGAA) certifies groomers through a process that involves written testing and practical skills demonstration. Separate certification exams are available for sporting, non-sporting and terriers. A master exam is available to those who have passed all of the other phases. Each exam costs approximately $125, but costs are lower for members. Participation in a workshop, for a separate fee, is required before certification testing. A $35 study kit is another required expense. There's an annual renewal fee, too.
- International Boarding and Pet Services Association (IBPSA) offers two levels of certification in several specialties to its members. Currently, three specialties are available: canine, feline and small mammal and exotic. Avian and reptile courses are coming soon. For each level, there's a $99 cost, plus a $50 exam fee. Retesting is required every three years.
- Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) offers two levels of certification for trainers. The Certification Examination for Professional Dog Trainers -- Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) costs between $335 and $385. After earning the CPDT-KA certification, candidates may take the Certification Examination for Professional Dog Trainers -- Skills Assessed (CPDT-KSA) for $210. Re-certification, based on earning continuing education credits, must be completed every three years.
Other Details to Keep in Mind
Certifying organizations provide a variety of ways to display your certification to clients. After passing the exams, you may receive a certificate you can display at your place of business or a logo you can add to your advertising materials.
You should also mention it to your Care.com profile and when you apply for pet care jobs -- it can give you an edge over other care providers.
Part of running a professional pet care business involves a commitment to following the laws of your community. In some states, you may be required to have both licensing and insurance in order to provide pet care services. Regulations vary depending where you live, so Delaney recommends that you go to your city hall to find out the rules for your city and state and learn about how to get a business license.
And hold onto any receipts because these certifications are tax deductible!
Becoming certified costs time and money, but the payoff is worth it. Pursuing certification in your area of specialty will build your confidence, impress potential clients and take your pet care services to the next level.
Meghan Ross is a freelance writer in Illinois.