Can you make a living pet sitting full time?

Yes, you can make a living as a full-time pet sitter. The demand for pet caretakers is significant, and in most towns the pet population is about 8% dogs and 6% cats. So, if the population of your city is 100,000 there are 8,000 dogs needing exercise and relief breaks. Pet sitting is a $2.6 billion dollar market in the United States, and it’s growing.

If you walk 1 dog per day, 5 days per week, and charge $20 per walk, that’s $5,000 per year. It is realistic, and sustainable, to walk 6 dogs a day and make $30k per year, but it’s also easier said than done. It isn’t “hard” work, but it is time consuming and will take you several months to a year to develop a good reputation and fill that schedule. Please keep a couple of things in mind:

-A half-hour walk will take you an hour, when you include setup and travel time. A service radius of 4 miles or less works nicely. Any more than that guarantees you will be having very long days.

-Most clients will want you to walk their dogs at 7am, noon, and 6pm. Filling the mid-morning and mid-afternoon time slots is not impossible, but it is more difficult, especially when you are starting out. Once you are established and popular, it will be easier to find folks that need mid-morning or mid-afternoon walks.

If you are walking dogs first thing in the morning to the end of the day, these will be long days. Full time Dog walkers can suffer burnout after a few years. However, there are other ways to pet sit. If you have your own house and yard, you can have dogs over for day camp. This way, you only have to schedule 1 or 2 walks per day, and you’re home most of the time.

Extra bowls, leashes, and doggie bags are required

Another way to pet sit is house sitting. The going rate on this varies between $60 and $100 per night. You may also offer to have dogs stay with you at your house. I charged $20/day for day camp, but if they stayed overnight, I charged $30/night. It will take some time to determine what blend of sitting/walking/overnights are right for you.

Important: The practice of providing overnight dog care is lucrative, but your holidays and weekends won’t be the same. Finding time to take your own vacations WILL be a challenge.

Pet Sitting was something I began unintentionally as the 2008 recession dragged on. I would spend a few hours a day at the nearby dog park with my puppy Nitro, and we got to know dozens of owners with very active dogs. After about a year of (inadvertently) building my client base, I officially started my pet sitting business.

The advantage to business development from the dog park is that it imparts the luxury of previewing clients. All dogs are wonderful of course, but excessive barkers, escape artists, and overly dominant dogs are not optimal charges. Attending the dog park serves as an impromptu “meet and greet” session. Very often, you will observe most dogs are just fine, but if their owner is fussy and difficult, you’ll want to know that ahead of time.

There are several principal details on how to set up a small business, and I’ve covered those in a separate blog entry titled “Starting a pet sitting small business.” The hairy particulars of maintaining a doggie day camp or implementing overnights (your house or theirs) are in my “Pet Sitting Tips and Tricks” entry.

The bottom line is that pet sitting is a great way to earn a living where you are valued, trusted, and appreciated. Pet sitters are their own boss and have a flexible schedule. However, it requires long hours without a lot of time off, and you better really love dogs because they are slobbery, smudgy, loud, and hairy beasts!

Featured photo – Nitro and his girlfriend Greta in 2011 taking a brief break during a walk.

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