& dog daycares throughout the USA."> Locate pet sitters, dog walkers, dog runners, & dog daycares throughout the USA.

Five reasons NOT to start a pet sitting business

by Therese on August 29, 2009

in Pet Sitting, The Pet Care Biz

reasons not to start a pet sitting businessYou may absolutely love cats, dogs, and other pets, but that doesn’t mean you’re cut out to be a pet sitter. Before you jump in, take a look at the reasons listed below. If any of them are why you want to start your own pet sitting or dog walking business, I urge you to give some serious thought as to whether or not this is the business for you.

1. It’ll be an easy way to make money
Nope. This is absolutely false. While it can be fun and rewarding, it’s not always easy. You can count on the following:

  • Working way more hours than you’d like
  • Working holidays
  • Cleaning up nasty things that come out of pets!
  • Visiting the emergency animal clinic
  • Going out in nasty weather because pets are counting on you
  • Dealing with difficult pets and owners
  • Always having to hustle to market your business so you’ll get new clients
  • . . . and that’s just for starters!

2. I can work with pets and not people
Again, nope! While it’s true that you will primarily be working with pets, you will have to interact with people quite a bit. Remember, you’ll be taking care of your client’s pets – their family members. Because of that you’re going to need to know how to talk with your clients about their pets, about your services, and about a myriad of issues that may come up. You may have to reassure pet parents that their pets are OK, educate them about the pet sitting business, inform them of a pet or home emergency, and possibly even let them know their pet has died. If you don’t think you can handle this type of communication with understanding, tact, and kindness then pet sitting isn’t the job for you.

3. I can work whenever I want to
Well, yes and no. You could refuse to accept clients who want weekend or evening work, but that will cut into your paycheck. The reality of it is, most career pet sitters work crazy hours. They may start their day at 6 am and work off and on until 10 p.m. – and that’s seven days a week! And then there’s the part about not getting a day off for months on end. Read this post which talks about a typical day for a pet sitter.

4. I have small children and I can take them with me

Not a good idea. Period! By taking your kids to work (yes, pet sitting is work!) with you, you run the risk of:

  • irritating clients
  • being faced with a lawsuit when your child breaks something in a client’s home, is bitten by a dog, or lets a pet out (note: your pet sitter insurance probably won’t help you out here, either!)
  • being viewed as very unprofessional
  • losing business! Former clients won’t recommend you (you know…the ones who owned that lamp your child knocked over and broke). Other pet sitters and pet professionals such as veterinarians, groomers, and dog trainers won’t refer to you once they find out your kids are along for the ride.

5. I love pets
That’s definitely a good start, but it’s not enough. As a pet sitter, it’s a given that you’ll be interacting with pets on a daily basis, but guess what?! Because you’ll also be a small business owner you will be responsible for creating policies & procedures, managing finances, creating or managing the creation of your website, marketing & advertising, purchasing insurance, scheduling, paying self-employment taxes, and a slew of other business tasks.

So, am I trying to discourage you from starting a pet sitting business? You could say that. It’s crucial that anyone thinking of getting into this business does some research before jumping in. It’s not a 9 to 5 job, and isn’t right for a person who doesn’t want to commit fully to their business. It can be physically exhausting, frustrating, emotionally draining, and all-consuming. If you’re able to understand that and still think you have what it takes to launch your own pet sitting business, then you just might do well . . . but do your research first!

So, pet sitters, what do you think? These are only five reasons not to start a pet sitting business, but we all know there are more. What are some of the reasons you’d give?

Technorati Tags: ,

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Cindy Nevarez August 30, 2009 at 4:35 pm

LOL! This is so funny that right after I finish answering the question about the biggest challenge to our pet sitting business on LinkedIn for Therese I open my email and find this!
First let me say, that I was already accused of being long-winded on that answer, and that I was annoyed that I couldn’t go past 4000 characters in spite of that accusation…and also in my quick effort to cut it down I left mistakes, which they don’t allow editing…oh well!! I apologize for the mistakes…I am usually a better writer than that.

One thing that I would add to these list of reasons not to start a pet sitting business is if you are one of those people who are not assertive enough to control what you do in the face of other people’s expectations of you…then pet sitting is not for you.

It always boggles my mind how pet sitters will allow themselves to be treated as if they are lucky to be in the great presence of their clients, while not realizing that they should instead be respected enough by their clients that the client would feel privileged that the sitter chooses to serve them. Most pet sitters are people who are former nurses, teachers, law enforcement, veterans, master organizers and planners, nutritionists, and a myriad of other professions. Over the course of their lives they have become experts at many things. They have something to offer that is meaningful to someone outside of their current jobs. In other words they deserve respect for just being who they are.

But, all too often I hear about pet sitters who couldn’t make it because they allow everyone else to control what it is that they do. They can’t enforce their policies. They can’t raise their prices. They can’t speak up when they see a pet owner feeding rancid old generic food that’s been in the heat of an AZ garage for 2 years. They can’t tell the client that the damage done by their 6-month old puppy who chews everything in site and is not fully housebroken is not their responsibility. They can’t tell a client that they won’t serve them because they keep their dogs outside 24/7. They can’t tell a client no because they live 20 miles away from their service area. They can’t tell the client that it’s dangerous to put the key under the mat when the sit is over, or that when the power goes out the garage door opener won’t work, so they must have an actual key. They can’t tell the client that walking their two dogs, cleaning their 4 litter boxes, and feeding their 8 cats takes longer than 30 minutes and that they need more money for that. I could go on and on, but basically these are all examples of what happens to a non-assertive person who decides to become a pet sitter. Then of course the sad thing is is that this person ultimately fails, and has to give it up.
What happens after that though is that the clients are left to call other pet sitters who are still in business and wonder why the prices are higher, the policies are tighter, the service area is well defined, and the demands of pet owner responsibility are greater. That pet sitter then has the double duty of having to explain why it can only work this way and why the other way didn’t, on top of explaining what is that they do.
So, I guess that leads to another reason not to start a pet sitting business; If you don’t want to have to sit on the phone for hours and hours explaining why a sucessful pet sitting business is run the way it is run, then don’t do it.


Cheryl August 30, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Great input on this page.

I would add that one needs to have paper work that is simple but l efficient when it comes to taking on a pet sitting job. If one doesn’t know what to ask or make note of on the paper work there are plenty of online sorces to find appropriate forms or contracts for pet sitting assignments. Also a terms and conditions paper regarding liabilty and natural disaster plans is a good idea!


Vicki Holt August 30, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Those five reasons are all valid. I’d add that if you’re bored by dealing with details, this business probably isn’t for you. There are hundreds of details to note and remember about every client, which reaches into the thousands as your client list grows. If you can’t be bothered taking copious notes on the details of the animals’ care, then you won’t be able to give them the care they deserve.

If you tend to be a procrastinator about things you don’t enjoy, then unless you really love filing, bookkeeping, keeping tax records, marketing, etc., your business is going to be seriously handicapped.


Kim Waite-Williams August 31, 2009 at 10:40 am

Great article! My (non-petsitting) friends believe all of those points to be true – that I am free to work limited hours frolicking with pets, and making loads of money in the process.

I also agree that these assumptions are what cause so many to fail, and as it was pointed out, this reflects poorly on the whole industry. I belong to a pet sitters network (NOVAPetsitters) and one of our goals is to mentor the newcomer so they build a successful business. Reaching out to other businesses and working to ensure we all meet certain standards benefits all of us.


Lorrie September 1, 2009 at 12:51 am

Great information and oh, so true! One thing I’d have never even thought of before becoming a pet sitter is the social isolation that tends to creep in after years of driving from home to home, hour after hour, day after day, 24/7. It takes a great deal of effort and planning to make sure you don’t neglect your social life and even your appearance. Other than speaking with clients, I’ve found myself sometimes not having had an intelligent conversation with another human other than my husband for weeks! For some this may be a welcome change from a demanding office job, but for the social butterfly it can be a lonely road. While we are driving from home to home, our friends and family are at their secular jobs doing what they do, and when they are at home having dinner, we are tending to that diabetic cat that needs his insulin at 7 PM and to the dogs that have to be let out at 9 PM just before bedtime. Pets are wonderful but we need human companionship just as much as they do. The pet sitter who works long hours, with few days off and non-existent vacation time is constantly challenged to find balance between work and other aspects of life. Learning to say no and set boundaries very early in the game can be of great benefit to the pet sitter who wants it all. Pet sitting, while it can be a fulfilling career, can also consume you if you let it.


Felicia October 4, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Yes the social isolation! I couldnt go to lunch with the girls because I had to get started on the midday visits and they all worked 30 mins away. Go out to a movie ha, out for drinks nope, a spa party whatever.


Paul (All For Dogs, Inc.) September 3, 2009 at 8:29 am

I have been on a grass routes marketing / networking blitz this week. Each day, I have met at least 3-4 NEW pet businesses right in my area. Kudos for getting started and good luck. It’s fun to start your own business.
I have also seen many other businesses get their fill of client’s and decide it’s not for them. Unfortunately, once a business owner knows the business is going out, they tend to begin not caring as much and it’s much easier for stupid mistakes to happen.

This IS a business and as much as you get to love and play w/pets during the day, it’s a REAL business in every sense of the word.

You need to control your schedule. You don’t get days off as the owner. You need to stand up for your business rules and know when to change them for the greater good of all clients. You constantly work with pet owners, not just pets. (So many people say, aww it must be great to just play w/dogs all day! And it IS!… but keep in mind it’s the AM, noon, and @ night, 7 days a week, holidays ESPECIALLY included. Not necessarily good if you are married, have kids, or a schedule outside of walking/sitting. And in making rules like PM and weekend visits are a $10.00 surcharge, you only drive clients away.)

I am not disuading you from starting a pet business. Just give it good thought before you decide to leap into the industry full-fledged. Get a business plan together. … compare to what other businesses are doing in your area.

It IS a beast to get started right now.


Kristin Morrison September 11, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Therese, this is a brilliant post! As one person wisely said: this should be required reading for those considering starting a pet sitting business! 🙂

You nailed the reasons most people cite for wanting to start a pet sitting business and why those are not the reasons TO start this kind of business.

What I have found is that pet sitters *have* to become savvy business owners or they will not survive in this business (or if their businesses do survive they will be completely stressed out and/or miserable business owners).

Thanks for taking the time to write such a well-written, articulate and informed article. This article gives so much clarity for all of those considering starting up a pet sitting business.


Kelly September 13, 2009 at 12:56 am

This was a well written and much needed post. I have a friend that had a pet sitting business for about 8 years and then she sold it. Even though her business was flourishing and she had a crew of 4 other sitters working for her she still did not have weekends or holidays off. Her business was too successful. After she sold her business she was so happy to have her Christmas season and summers back, to play with her own pets and enjoy her family again.


Michelle September 23, 2009 at 3:38 pm

I have to admit that my business is 95% work and only 5% fun and games. There’s alot of work, papperwork, keeping up with clients and there pets, Taxes, advertisment, complaints, discounts, credits, no holidays off, working 365 days a year, bad weather, untrained and disobidiant dogs, medication and injections, boarding dogs, seeing my home being distroyed by dogs, dogs peeing and pooping on my bed, gas, time, not enough time, I have to remember to sleep in a twenty four hour period, vomiting, peeing, poop, gosh the list goes on and on! The thing I miss the most is taking a vacation when I want to!!!!

Michelle D. Lemon


Susan Y September 25, 2009 at 7:49 am

I ran a pet sitting business many years ago. I was one of the first in my area and was very sucessful. I enjoyed visiting my clients pets, taking the dogs for walks and improving my training skills by reading and working with many types of dogs – HOWEVER – I never got to take a vacation, holidays were spent caring for clients pets while my family celibrated Christmas and Thanksgiving without me, when I wanted to get away for a day I had to line up help that wasn’t always reliable. I once lined up help for one day while I traveled to a dog show to show my dog in obedience for the first time. It snowed that day. My help didn’t make the visits because of the snow. Luckily it was just cats but I STILL had to make the drive to my clients house after spending 2 hours driving home in the snow. I gave up my business not long after that. It was just too much.


Christy January 2, 2010 at 11:16 am

Wow! Everyone here has made excellent points! I started my dog walking/pet sitting business about 9 months ago, and I had no idea what I was in store for! I knew it would be a lot of work, but that was really an underestimate! Luckily, I have experience in this field and am good at being detail oriented and organized, and my business is going strong. However, working for a company vs. being the owner may not bring in quite as much money, but it sure was easier.

I am now getting to a point where I realize I don’t have to say yes to every client all the time. I am setting boundaries, and I have help, so it’s getting better. Thank God there is a support system out there for newbies like me because I just don’t know if I could do it alone. My friends and family hear me constantly tell them, especially in the beginning, how hard I am working and how tired I am all the time, but I still don’t think they really get it. Even when you don’t have any pet visits or paperwork to do, your mind is still on your business. I have taken a few trips since the business began, and it’s super stressful and difficult to relax when you’re miles away and livelihood depends on others work ethic. I hope in the future I can afford to hire someone I really trust to handle things for me so I can take advantage of the reasons people go into business for themselves.


Pet Sitter Bible March 27, 2010 at 7:19 pm

This is an amazing list and so true! I was once interviewed by a newspaper and the writer asked me questions about what type of people do/should walk dogs and if it’s an easy business. The writer seemed hell bent on changing my answers to imply this is an easy business and most anyone can get into it. I “don’t” feel that way at all. I feel there is a ton of responsibility involved in caring for someones pets and their homes. Great article here, thanks.


Laura W March 27, 2010 at 8:12 pm

All so true!!! I have a client who wants to get in the business. This says more than I ever could.
A lot of people especially don’t understand how organized you must be with your taxes, client payments, mileage logs, expense logs, schedules and such. I’m also amazed at how many people call for a job but don’t want to work holidays, always want week-ends off and don’t want to get up early and late to care for dogs. “Just give me a few kitties to play with now and then, hah!”


Karen Logue November 3, 2010 at 8:12 pm

What a great article! The process of making the jump from employee to entrepreneur can certainly be a challenging one.

Having great information available which details both the opportunities as well as the challenges can cetainly help to assist in the decision process. It assists in answering other questions that budding entrepreneurs often ask themselves: such as “Why do I want to run my own business?” – “What is it that I really want to achieve – is it time with loved ones, money, change the world?” and “Am I really prepared to ‘do what it takes’ to be a success?”

Being clear with the answers to these questions can certainly assist in the move to becoming an entrepreneur.


Vanessa January 18, 2011 at 7:54 am

I’m so “facebook”… I am wishing there were “like” buttons for a lot of the comments as they are all so true ! This also goes across boundaries as the same can be said for Australians who want to start a pet sitting business.

I’ve got a sub-contractor (IC) who has started her own pet sitting business. It’s been a pleasure that I’ve been her inspiration however I keep telling her “just having a passion is not enough”. I sent this article to her. I am hoping she “gets it”.

I am hoping a lot of people “get it” however I’m afraid it will be too late .. and that’s why there is a such a huge rate of failure (after the first or second year) for businesses.

It is a business first and foremost. Being able to do what you love as a business is great however be realistic. Lots of newbie pet sitters are not. They get “stars in their eyes” before the reality hits.


Joyce November 30, 2011 at 4:06 am

I love this!! I started my pet sitting business not too long ago and learned a couple of things along the way. A lot of people say that I have the easiest job in the world but I don’t think they understand how important and stressful it is to be responsible for someone’s beloved pet. There is a lot more to it than just playing and walking someone’s pet, you need to be detail oriented and responsible for anything that may happen or go wrong! Organizing paperwork, invoices, phone calls and keeping in touch with all your clients gets very tiring especially when you can’t take any vacations. And then hiring some extra help is a whole new stressful world to think about when you are expanding your business. I hope this will help people understand that this type of business has all the ups and downs that go along with any other business out there.


Felicia October 4, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Yup I went into the business knowing all these things. The only thing that caught me off guard was a well planned vacation where I wasnt going to answer calls had my voice mail message and website reflect that I wouldnt be available.
Then my last job before vaca a dalmatian ate a wall. So I had to deal with insurance while sitting on my beach 🙁
Then when my brother died and I had to do all the arranging all while keeping the business going not getting a day off because it was prebooked client already out of town and my sub contractors were unavailable. This all lead to me all but quitting due to exhaustion. I stopped all marketing no new clients and didnt renew my insurance.
Yet I couldnt get any support from friends because they all believed the you make your own schedule and its such a easy job type of myths.

One more thing to add as many working mothers feel guilty for going back to work and leaving their kids behind. When I have a busy week I will feel totally guilty that it seems Im spending so little time with my own pet. My dog will even have behavior problems when Im constantly coming and going.
I am now looking to get a job with animals like at a shelter instead. Keep the animals get rid of the business.
I hope my friends click the link and read how it’s not what they thought.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: