These days, many people are looking for side hustles. Maybe you are even thinking that becoming a dog sitter might be the perfect part-time gig for you. After all, you get to play with dogs and earn money at the same time…it’s a win-win. There is a lot more to being a good dog sitter, however, than giving awesome belly scratches. Before you dive tail first into launching your pet sitting business or joining one of the pet sitting gig work apps, you should know what you are getting yourself into. Here are the Top 13 Things To Know as Dog Sitter.
13. Dog Sitting Can Be Messy Business, Especially When the Dog Does His Business
Poop happens, and as a dog sitter, you’re going to have to handle more than your share of doggie droppings. When you take the dog or dogs for a walk, you will need to carry a supply of doggie bags with you so you can clean up the messes they make along the way. It is the responsible thing to do, as unpleasant as it may be. No one likes to step in a pile that a dog walker neglected to remove. That’s the quickest way to ruin a pair of shoes! If you are taking care of the dog at his own house and walking him in his own neighborhood, you can bet that a nosy neighbor will be watching and ready to report you to the dog’s owner if you fail to clean up after the dog.
12. Accidents Will Happen
The dog or dogs you are watching may be totally house trained for their owners, but they might have accidents for you. It is not because they are trying to make your life difficult…they could be nervous or anxious about the sudden loss of their owner and they don’t understand that it is a temporary thing. Try as you may to keep the dog on his same schedule, there will probably be changes that throw off the dog and disrupt his routine. You may find yourself cleaning up vomit and poop. If that is the case, you could check with the dog’s owner to see if they have tips that they know will help their dog, like leaving a TV or radio on or extra cuddles.
11. Clear the Yard of Doggie Land Mines
Just because the dog owner has a fenced-in yard doesn’t mean you are off the hook for poop patrol. A good dog sitter -- one who wants to be asked to pet sit again -- will clean up the droppings in the yard as well. It’s a courtesy to the dog owner. Who wants to come home from a vacation and have to face a yard full of doggie land mines? Your client will be impressed with this extra effort and it could lead to repeat business and recommendations to others.
10. Liability Insurance…Boring, But For Your Own Good
If you are serious about doing your dog sitting business right, you will need liability insurance. You may balk at the initial outlay of money yet having liability insurance really does protect you if something were to go wrong. For example, the dog could slip its collar and get hit by a car. Or bite a child. Or eat the couch. Or eat something that makes him ill. Having pet sitting insurance protects you if you are sued by your client or someone else. Several insurance companies offer a specific pet insurance policy that takes into consideration the unique challenges of caring for someone else’s pets.
9. Don’t Quit Your Day Job
You need to take a critical and honest look at your schedule to see if you really have time to commit to pet sitting. It can be a time-consuming commitment. Are you available to stay overnights at your clients’ homes or do you have your own family and pets to care for? Are you planning to bring the dog to your house? If that is the case, be warned that the dog may experience anxiety from being in a new, unfamiliar place. Plus, you will need to make sure that you have all the supplies that you need on hand…a crate, dog bed, leash, and more. Your other option is to stop by your client’s home several times a day to care for the dog. Are you able to make frequent stops at the client’s home without quitting your day job? Before you commit to a dog sitting job, be sure you are able to be at your client’s house first thing in the morning, several times throughout the day, and late in the evening.
8. Workout Time…Through Rain, Snow, Sleet, and Dark of Night
Part of the job of a dog sitter is to make sure the dog gets plenty of exercise, no matter the weather. You will be asked to walk the dog in the cold and snow of winter, in rain of spring, and during other unfavorable times. You will have to be prepared to weather the storm to make sure the dog in your care gets enough exercise. Does the client regularly have the dog jog with him or take him to a dog park for a game of fetch? If so, you may be asked to do these things as well.
7. Bath Time Shouldn’t Equal Mess and Stress
As a dog sitter, you may be asked to do more than just watch the dog. Your client may ask you to regularly brush the dog and bathe him as needed. Before becoming a dog sitter, you should know how to properly bathe a dog so that you can do this task with minimal mess and little stress on the dog. Washing a dog can sometimes be a challenging job–you may have to call in reinforcements. You should have some experience in dog bathing going into your dog sitting gig.
6. Emergency Preparedness, Canine Style
As a dog sitter, you are taking responsibility for your client’s fur baby so, of course, you will want to make sure that you know exactly what to do in case of a medical emergency or other type of unexpected situation. Get the name and phone number of their veterinarian, as well as the emergency animal hospital your client prefers. Do you have a way of reaching the client if you need them to authorize a medical procedure and discuss an emergency expense reimbursement policy? Do you have transportation that is suitable for taking the dog to the vet? A Great Dane may not fit in your Mini Cooper. If all goes as planned, you will never experience an emergency in your time as a dog sitter, however being prepared will help remove the chaos and uncertainty if it does happen.
5. Medical Needs
Discuss the dog’s overall health and health history with your client. Find out if the dog takes any medication and how it is administered. Some dogs are really stubborn when it comes to swallowing pills and you could end up wrestling the dog whenever he needs to take his meds. If the dog has had any previous medical emergencies, ask if there are warning signs you should watch out for.
4. Dog Sitter Versus Pet Sitter
Most people have more than one pet so you would be more of a pet sitter than a dog sitter. Before agreeing to a dog sitting assignment, you should find out if you will be caring for other animals, as well. How do you feel about cats? Or snakes? If you have an adversity to reptiles or rodents, or an allergy to cats, then you need to be very clear to your clients that you only take care of dogs. You should also be aware that you may lose clients because of it.
3. You Might Be on Hidden Camera
Conduct yourself in a respectful and professional way, even when it is just you and the dog. It is common these days for families to have pet cameras, security cameras, and other types of surveillance devices in their homes. As unnerving as it sounds, the client may log into their security cameras from time to time to check on their dog. You don’t want them to see or hear you throwing a party at their house, damaging their property, or being mean to their dog. Prior to taking a dog sitting gig, you should ask the client if they have a pet cam and how they intend to use it when they are gone. Although it is their home, you don’t want your privacy to be violated either. Having a candid discussion about security camera, Alexa, and other smart home devices should put you both at ease.
2. Doggie Aggression and Behavioral Issues
All dogs are not created equal. Most, if properly trained and socialized, are sweet, well-behaved animals. Some, however, can act out aggressively or exhibit behavioral problems. Unfortunately, many dog owners will downplay their dog’s aggressiveness when hiring a dog sitter. After all, they don’t want to scare away all the applicants. As a responsible pet sitter, ask the client as many questions as possible to try to determine the dog’s typical behavior. Find out how they handle behavioral issues or aggression in their dog so you can be consistent in your discipline. Above all, be alert to the dog’s body language so you can attempt to stop an aggressive outburst before it happens.
1. Dogs With Phobias
Dogs are individuals and react differently to different triggers. Ask the client if their dog has a fear or known trigger, and how they address it. For example, is the dog afraid of thunderstorms? Does he wear a thunder shirt when the weather forecast calls for storms? If so, be sure you know where the thunder shirt is and how to properly put it on the dog. There are other triggers for a behavioral change, too. Perhaps the dog is scared of the garbage truck or the neighbor’s cat. If you are aware of these things, then you can learn how best to handle them.
Dog sitting can be a rewarding and lucrative side job, however it is not always easy money. You will have to work for it doing such unpleasant tasks as scooping poop, manipulating a pup’s pill regiment by tricking him with stuffed cheese, cleaning up dog vomit, and purchasing insurance. Dog sitting, on the other hand, can be an enjoyable experience. You will get to spend some of your time cuddling with cute dogs…and getting paid for it.