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How to start a pet sitting business, according to pros

From researching your clients and competition to marketing yourself, experienced pet sitters share advice and tips on how to start a pet sitting business.

How to start a pet sitting business, according to pros

If you love dogs and other animals (and who doesn’t?), it might have occurred to you at some point to monetize that passion. After all, why not earn some money while walking Lulu in the sunshine or snuggling Fido? “There is something so genuinely pure and happy about spending time with dogs, cats and other animals,” says Daniel Reitman, founder and CEO of Dan’s Pet Care. “You know what you are doing is making their day better, even if it is something as simple as some pets on the head or playing fetch.”

But you might be stumped on how to start a pet sitting business. On the surface, it sounds simple enough: You take care of someone’s fur baby while they’re away. But once you get into licensing, business plans and financing, it can get overwhelming very quickly. And that’s where expert advice can come in handy. Read on for advice on how to start your own pet sitting business and tips and tricks to ensure your pet sitting business is successful. 

Before starting your pet sitting business

Before you rush out and start designing business cards and T-shirts, you’ll do well to take some time to decide what kind of pet sitter you want to be and educate yourself on what it takes to own a small business. In addition to resources you can find through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), here are some suggestions from our experienced pet sitters.

Figure out what your motives and goals are

How you approach starting a pet sitting business will largely depend on what you hope to achieve: Do you dream of a standalone business with multiple employees, or are you just hoping to earn some extra cash and pet sit now and then? For Darisa Taveras, a dog walker in Paterson, New Jersey, it’s a way for her to get her dog fix, and the money is just a bonus, she says. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Reitman manages a pet sitting business with more than 70 employees, 3,500 clients and a facility with both indoor and outdoor space for dogs to play.

Before you do anything else, Reitman advises considering what you want your business to become. He suggests asking yourself the following questions, which will help guide you as you lay out your plan of action:

  • Are you the kind of person that wants to manage people? 
  • Do you want to have a team? 
  • Do you want to be running this solo? 
  • Is this something you are doing as a side hustle, or do you want to make this a career?” 

Scope out the clientele and the competition

To avoid entering a market unprepared, research the market in your area to really drill down to who your ideal clients are and what your “edge” will be. Perhaps the pet sitters in your area primarily cater to dogs — if you’re a cat lover, gearing your business toward strictly feline fur babies may give you an advantage over your competitors in that area by allowing you to focus on providing the best care for a smaller demographic. 

This ethos rings true for Reitman. “I hate the idea of competing on price or exceptional service but rather on the quality of what is being delivered to the dogs and pet parents,” he says. “Our goal is to raise the bar, which hopefully will get all other companies to do the same, resulting in improved quality of service for all the pets we care for.”

Create a business plan

When Reitman started his pet sitting business, he had the in-depth and on-the-ground experience from working at an animal hospital, but “had zero experience running a business.” It wasn’t until a few years in that he wrote his first business and marketing plans, which he says “helped [him] get things more organized.”

Regardless of whether you anticipate pet sitting being a side hustle for you or a full-time job, starting out with a business plan can help you really nail down the specifics and give your business a jumpstart — who your ideal customer is, what kind of services you’ll offer and how you plan to market yourself. The SBA’s guide to writing a business plan is a great resource; in addition to breaking down what information should be included, they also provide multiple business plan examples. 

Decide on a location

Will you offer pet sitting exclusively in your own home, or are you open to staying with the animal at their home?  If you plan to offer additional services like grooming or training, you will likely need to find a separate space. However, if your immediate plans primarily focus on pet sitting, you can likely run your business out of your home like Elly Schmidt, owner and founder of Your Fairy Dog Mother and Co. MKE

One of the benefits of creating a pet sitting business is the potential for low start-up costs. You can get up and running for a little over a thousand dollars these days.

— Daniel Reitman, founder and CEO of Dan’s Pet Care

Figure out financing

In addition to a business plan being important for setting your goalposts, it will likely be a necessity if you decide you’ll need financing for your new business. However, one of the benefits of creating a pet sitting business is the potential for low start-up costs, says Reitman, who notes that you can get up and running for a little over a thousand dollars these days. That amount would cover establishing a corporate entity, a website built, business cards and insurance.

Three key steps:

  1. Take your business location (your home, your client’s home and/or a leased space) into consideration.
  2. If you’re primarily going to be driving around to clients, don’t forget to factor in transportation costs. Figure out how and where you’ll advertise your services (such as on and those associated fees. 
  3. Then, decide if those cumulative costs are something you will put up yourself, or if you’ll need to seek out other financing options. If that’s the case, Reitman advises reaching out to your local chamber of commerce, searching for grants and/or utilizing a small business loan from the SBA.

Outline your policies

Think about what kind of hours you will keep for your business and how you’ll handle cancellations, additional requests and your own sick time. Will you have a contract for your clients to sign? Will you offer back-up care? 

Having your policies in place will not only save you headaches down the road but help you hold your boundaries and know when to say no, which will help preempt burnout, says Schmidt.

Don’t forget taxes

Your tax obligations will change somewhat depending on your location, but what won’t change is that you will have to pay them. You can get a head start by utilizing the resources through the SBA and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to determine the best way to approach your taxes. And you will thank yourself when tax season rolls around if you put a plan in place now to track your finances

A tool like Time to Pet can help you keep track of both your earnings and can be synced with QuickBooks, allowing you to keep everything streamlined. 

Get your paperwork in order

As a pet sitter, you may be subject to licensing requirements, depending on your location and what type of business you have. You may need to have liability insurance, a business license or comply with other state, county and city regulations. For Schmidt, who is located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that meant establishing her business as an LLC and acquiring insurance. To find out the requirements for your business, visit your local government’s licensing website or their offices.

In addition to the above requirements, you may want to consider beefing up your skills in the pet sitting arena by taking a pet CPR class or a certification course through an organization like the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS).

Get your tech in order

In this day and age, a business without a website is practically unheard of, given that most people rely on the internet to search for any kind of service they need. And if someone in your area is searching online for a pet sitter, you want your name to be the first to pop up. Reitman’s tips for building your online presence:

  1. Figure out a name for the company, make sure the domain name is available and secure it.
  2. Check that the same social media handle is available via a website like NameCheckerr and secure it across all platforms you hope to have a presence on (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and TikTok, for example).
  3. Set up a Google Workspace to acquire an email with that domain name.
  4. Come up with a monthly plan for putting out pet-centric content via your different channels. And if you struggle to come up with ideas, utilize resources like YouTube, ChatGPT and pet sitting Facebook groups.

In addition to your website and social media presence, using a pet sitting business software like Time to Pet can give you a professional edge over your competitors. Schmidt’s clients use it to request services, and she can then assign them to specific handlers. It also has an invoicing feature to help streamline your business.

Get creative with your advertising

This is an area where you can really have some fun, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Taveras created business cards and shirts with her information on them whereas Reitman started small with neon pink flyers that he hung up all over train stations, businesses and anywhere else that would allow it. 

“That progressed into car magnets, branded employee shirts and hoodies and local newspaper advertisements,” he explains. As his business gained traction, he invested in car wrap advertising for his staff and paid them a monthly fee for keeping them wrapped, as a way to create visual awareness of his brand in the community. 

“There is something so genuinely pure and happy about spending time with dogs, cats and other animals. You know what you are doing is making their day better, even if it is something as simple as some pets on the head or playing fetch.”

— Daniel Reitman

How to start a successful pet sitting business

Figuring out the logistics of your pet sitting business is just the beginning. There are a number of elements that go into establishing a lucrative small business. Tips from our experts to send you on your way:

Remember it’s still a job

When you’re surrounded by adorable pets, it can be easy to forget that what you’re doing is actually a job. And while that’s part of its beauty, “it is essential to remember that this isn’t just about hanging out with people’s pets all day,” says Reitman. Starting a business may also include ”customer service, accounting, management, marketing, advertising, training and all the lovely headaches that come with it,” he adds. 

With customer service in mind, Taveras adds the importance of being respectful of people’s property and time in maintaining a good relationship with clients.

Find a mentor

One of the unique aspects of the pet sitting industry is the presence of mentors and coaches.  But before hiring them, Reitman advises checking out different pet sitting resources on YouTube and podcasts such as “Pet Sitter Confessional” and “The Poodle to Pitbull Pet Business.” With that base of knowledge, he says to take any further questions to a mentor or coach who is “running a successful business they wish to emulate,” such as Doug Keeling (aka Doug the Dog Guy). 

Connect with the pet sitting community

Whether you’re diving headfirst into the business or ramping up your existing structure, it can feel lonely and overwhelming if you don’t know anyone in the industry. Reitman suggests seeking out pet sitting groups on Facebook, such as Pet Sitters International (PSI) to build community and share resources. 

Additionally, Pet Sitters International (PSI) and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) are great sources of educational and business resources for aspiring and current pet sitters. They both offer certification courses, as well as memberships that provide additional benefits tailored to the pet sitting community (discounted insurance, for example).

The bottom line on starting a pet sitting business

Like any other job, starting a pet sitting business has its unique challenges and rewards, but it also has a low barrier for entry and a lot of flexibility, making it a great option for someone looking for a change of pace. 

In addition to the monetary benefits, pet sitting can also be a very rewarding career or side hustle for anyone who is a pet lover. It’s a line of work in which you can revel in the joy of connecting with apprehensive pets and witnessing that transformation, points out Schmidt. While some animals may take to you immediately, there’s another level of joy in forming a connection with a previously scared or timid pet, she says. As Schmidt concludes, “Watching an animal come out of their shell and start to enjoy your presence is unimaginable.”