Dogs have been part of humans’ lives for thousands of years. They bring us joy and keep us company. They help us protect our livestock and guard our homes. But the reasons for spending time with and taking care of pups are many… In case you’re wondering about how to become a dog sitter in your your city, you will be delighted to hear that your dream can come true provided that you possess some qualities, follow some steps, and invest in your professional development.
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Photo by nrd on Unsplash. Give your puppy a hug today and every day!
Desirable Traits of a Pet Sitter
You may believe that expressing your love for animals should be enough for pet parents – or for yourself. While you can’t do a pet-sitting job without adequate motivation, you also need to showcase some skills and attributes. You must get along with the pets. And with the pet parents too if you’re planning to find long-term continuous work, so you can stop looking for answers to the question of ‘how to become a dog sitter’. Pet owners want reliable and trustworthy pet sitters, who show dedication even if no one is looking. Going to the gym every day to stay strong and fit won’t give you plus points but it will help you since you must have some muscles to carry the pet if an emergency occurs. And, some giant dogs will challenge you when holding the leash.
Something to think about: Some pet sitters don’t even take off the leash while out on the scheduled walk. They say pets usually listen to you while you hold the leash firmly but the moment they become free as a bird, you kind of lose your authority.
Whether you decide to launch a pet-care business or simply take a few dogs for a walk, you’ll act in situations where some organization and communication skills will make your work (life) easier. In most cases, only people already turned 18 can offer their services as a pet sitter. You will be asked to sign legal contracts, which will protect you, and that goes far more smoothly when you’re over 18. However, teenagers over 13 can join PetSitter.com, for example. Also, (fully charged) smartphone and some experience are a must. Lastly, veteran pet sitters, who run their own pet-sitting businesses, emphasize that you should focus on an area close to your home. Driving 24-30 miles to get to your appointment is not worth it.
Something to think about: You will waste precious hours and anything can happen during your way to your clients’ home. The bus or your car can break down, for example. On the other hand, when you live 3-5 blocks away, you can easily ride your bike or walk to your ‘workplace’.
Responsibilities of a Pet Sitter
When pondering on how to become a dog sitter, you may jot down several titles you may acquire as such. For example, some professionals differentiate between pet sitters and dog walkers. In the case of the latter, you’re a person who accepts a booking and takes the dog(s) for a walk. That’s it. Some pet owners expect sitters to walk their dogs for 30-45 minutes. This varies. You’ll possibly feed the pets with food given by the owners, and scoop poop. Carry extra doggy bags, and extra equipment like collars, leashes, etc.
Strictly speaking, pet sitters take up jobs with more responsibilities. They offer services such as pet boarding, pet grooming, pet training, pet taxi, etc. They may stay shorter and longer periods of time at their clients’ home. They provide food and water for pets, clean their litter boxes, give them medication (if necessary), take them out for a few walks, and update the owners by sending videos and/or photos to them. (Now you know one of the reasons you must carry a phone.)
Something to think about: Every pet has its own character, and every pet parent sets their own rules regarding their pets. You must follow their instructions under any circumstances. You’ll look after a living being, their ‘children’, so they must know you’ll take good care of them. That’s why personal traits and some experience open more doors for you, assuming you will add value to their lives.
How to Gain Experience for Becoming a Dog Sitter?
Cautious pet owners may only hire a sitter who has got some pets on their own. However, the circumstances might not allow you to be a pet owner yourself. You may live in a small apartment, your landlord or landlady strictly forbids animals on their property, or someone in your family is allergic to dogs, cats, etc.
What can you do then to find your first client you don’t know?
- If you grew up with animals, elaborate on the work you did.
- When your best friend asks you to pet-sit her/his dog, encourage her/him to give you a reference or write a testimonial.
- Volunteer at a shelter in your spare time. Lots of pets are abandoned.
- Do pet owners take their pets to pet hotels / doggy day care in your city? Ask the owner whether you could work there part-time or a few hours a month!
- Present yourself professionally – both online and offline when looking for a job as a dog sitter.
Everything You Need to Know Before You Start a Pet Care Job
You can study to become a vet at university, which can help you land a pet-care job soon. Of course, not all pet sitters went to vet school. Fortunately, there are some trailblazers who have started their own pet-care businesses way back when pet-sitting as a profession barely existed. They could not even google ‘how to become a dog sitter’, since Google was founded in 1998.
Some of them have actually launched their own school or put together a website with lots of resources. In the UK, anyone interested in earning a certificate in pet sitting can turn to the NarpsUK – National Association of Pet Sitters & Dog Walkers to get certified. Based in somewhere else than the UK, join Pet Sitters International and become a Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS).
Besides a certificate, it’s recommended to purchase insurance. Do you think pet sitters don’t take risks perhaps? Well, they probably don’t want to, however, pet sitting involves animals and humans, and accidents happen, unfortunately. Insurance serves multiple purposes. Firstly, if something happens while you’re working, it covers you and you don’t have to dip into your pocket to pay for a vet, any damage in the pet owner’s home, etc. Secondly, when promoting your services, you could advertise you’ve got insurance, basically using it as a marketing tool.
For example, Rover offers something called the Rover Guarantee. It covers the costs resulting from damage or injury caused by the pet care provider when this person can’t afford to or is unable to pay, or has no insurance. Not to mention that people like you with zero experience as a pet sitter can also join the community of Rover. Try to get your first gig as an on-demand walker! Meaning you’ll receive a last-minute call, which happens to many experienced dog sitters anyway, and walk a dog for 30 minutes or an hour.
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How to Become a Successful Pet Sitter/Dog Sitter?
We suggest that you should only accept the jobs you like. When you say yes to an offer, try to meet the pet parents and have a conversation about their dog before doing the actual job. This meeting is known as ‘meet and greet’ in the pet-sitting world. Some established pet sitters could tell you rather creepy and upsetting stories about clients who turned out to be difficult. Life may give you lemons and you can only make lemonade if you get prepared and insist on an initial meeting where you can look for cues and red flags.
The other reason for arranging a meet and greet is to learn about the animals. If a face-to-face encounter can’t take place, ask questions via email and/or phone. Ask about allergies, rules, emergency situation, medical history, etc. – anything that could possibly make your work easier and more stress- and hassle-free. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Another great idea is to have a medical kit with you. Search for the most essential things you should put into it, buy them, and you’ll be grateful for your foresight.
To become a pro, constant learning should not scare you away from the field of pet care but you should embrace it.
Part-time or a full-time pet care job?
Our advice is to sign up for an online platform. Find the right app-based jobs for you on AppJobs.com, for example. Most likely, you must pass a background check and cover your travel costs. With the app, you’ll be able to browse pet care jobs, connect with pet parents in your area, manage your bookings, and track your earnings.
Freelance: part-time or full-time? Turning a side hustle into a regular job!
Let’s Connect & Stay in Touch!
To conclude, we would like you to stay calm and not to worry about being inexperienced as a dog sitter. Mobilise your personal network and find someone who can hire you and then write you a recommendation or a reference letter. You can also ask them to sign up for a site as a pet owner and give you reviews and five starts there. Always highlight events in your life related to animals, whether you volunteer at a shelter in your free time or you spent your childhood taking care of horses, dogs, cats, chickens, etc. Be proactive, seize every opportunity to gain some experience,, for example, working for a pet-sitting business before founding your own. Finally, professionalism should rank high in your vocabulary. Your online profile(s) and you in person should look professional. No matter what.
If you’re a bit hesitant whether or not to work as a pet sitter, read the success stories of Ping and Rachelle. Both of them have managed to turn this opportunity into a part-time job in Sweden. Read also about insurance for gig workers doing pet care jobs. Having insurance could enhance your chances to get hired faster: find a job on AppJobs.com.
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