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A Pet Sitter's Guide - Do's and Don'ts for a Successful Pet Sitting Business

By Edited Jul 2, 2016 2 8

Make Your Pet Sitting Business a Success!

At Home and at the Home of Their Favorite Pet Sitter
You love pets and you are thinking about becoming a professional pet sitter.  What are some considerations to starting a successful pet sitting business?  How does a pet sitter maximize the number of jobs they are able to accept?  What should a good pet sitter do or not do?  Should a pet sitter just be a dog sitter, a puppy sitting caretaker or a cat sitter?
More Questions to Consider Before Becoming a Pet Sitter

Questions like the ones above are important if you are interested in learning how to become a better pet sitter. Consider these questions and more like the following:  What are some tips professionals use to earn repeat clients for their pet sitting businesses?  How does a pet sitting professional become not just a good pet sitting professional, but rather, a great one instead? 

As you ponder starting a successful pet sitting business, keep these questions and considerations in mind. The below tips will also help pet sitters set up, perfect or expand their own unique pet sitting businesses.

Meet and Exceed Expectations

Beyond the basics of obtaining clear instructions from new clients and determining if there any special needs for a pet or if there are any special requests a client owner may have, some of the below suggestions may be obvious to many pet sitters. However, for others, these suggestions may serve as new information.

These hints are meant primarily to aid aspiring and new professional pet sitters who may be thinking of starting their own professional pet services. To ensure optimal success to run a successful pet sitting business, give these tips a try with new or existing clients.

Keep the Promises You Make

Be willing to do exactly what you promise to do. If you commit yourself to providing an hour’s walk to a pet owner for a dog, then walk the dog for a full hour. If you state you will spend an hour with someone’s beloved cat, do this and stay with him or her for an entire sixty minutes. Play with the cat, or if the cat is not especially social, talk to him or her.  Many cat owners will pay you just to keep their cat company. You may not have a lot to do depending on the cat or his or her owner’s requests. 

If you are not tasked with playing a cat or if the cat is timid or somewhat unsocial, you can still visit with the cat and talk to him or her gently in a reassuring way. Who knows? Over time, this particular kitty may decide he or she wants to play.

If you have pets yourself, you know how you want them looked after when you need to leave them in the care of a pet sitter. Take care of your client’s animal or animals in the same way you pamper and care for your own pets. Your client’s pets also deserve the same care and attention you give to your own animals.

Respect a Client’s Wishes and Follow Their Instructions to the Letter

Don’t assume that you know better than any pet owner as to what is best for THEIR pet, even if you are a long-time professional pet sitter. If they have stated that they don’t feed their dogs rawhide, then don’t give that pet any rawhide or any other rawhide-like treat. 

There is probably a good reason an owner does not allow their animals to eat or enjoy certain treats, even if this is simply a general preference. Whether you agree with them or not about the safety of a particular treat, your opinion is immaterial. This is not your decision to make.

Any instruction like this is very simple to follow. Doing so should be a basic tenet for any professional, let alone a professional pet sitter, to follow. Do only want a client wants and likewise avoid doing what they dislike. 

With Written Instructions You Are Ahead of the Game

Many animal owners will leave written instructions for their pet sitters. If they do, you are in luck. Your client’s wishes are clearly spelled out leaving very little room for a possible mishap or a miscommunication. Take the time to read these instructions carefully and don’t dismiss them or ignore them.

Pets like their routines. Follow their schedules and routines. You will have an easier time doing what each animal likes and what each pet is accustomed to doing or experiencing in their own home. You will be able to do your job all that much better. You will also be doing your job more efficiently and effectively, too, if a client, for instance, advises where their pet's items and food are stored in their home. If they don't offer this information, be sure to ask. Remember, happy pets equal happy clients. Happy clients refer their preferred pet sitting professionals to their friends. More referrals equal more business and so on.

Dole out Treats and Food Only After You Have Permission

I have actually had a pet sitter give my animals treats without asking my permission to do so, first. I was stunned she did not even think to ask me if this was okay with me beforehand. While many pet professional sitters are very knowledgeable about foods or treats that are dangerous to house pets, it is wise for anyone to ask a client or any pet's owner if any treats are even allowed and how many treats are permissible at a time.

Keep all House Keys until Clients Return Home

Do hang onto house keys until the owner returns. I recently had a pet owner ask me to put their front door key in their mailbox the last night I was scheduled to visit their cat. This however, is not a good idea. This is due to the possible event of a flight delay, a missed flight connection or any other reason, like a road closure, which could prevent a client from returning home on their expected return date.

Puppies Need a Good Puppy Sitting Caretaker
If this happens, you might need to go back to their house to let yourself in to feed or care for a pet or pets, once more.

Without the keys, a call to a locksmith would be necessary.

Some puppies or dogs might also need a potty break in this situation as well, too. This is especially true for young puppies that heavily depend on their puppy sitting caretakers.

Do Use Common Sense When Pet Sitting

Don’t rearrange any photos, decor pieces, or anything else for that matter while you are staying in someone else’s home. This is not your house to decorate. If you move an object, put it back where you find it. Observe how food bowls are arranged and where trash cans are situated in the home. Leave their location and placement alone. Don’t change any item's placement because you don’t like where it sits. This has been an issue, in my case, because I have a blind dog. Her bowls need to be left exactly in the place I put them so Marley can find her dishes right where she knows to look for them.

Do Communicate and Update Clients on the Status of their Animals

Send a short e-mail to a client or leave them a brief voicemail on their cell phone to let them know that their pet is being well looked after and tell them how their cat or dog is doing while they are away. All pet owners will wonder how their beloved animal or pets are faring while they are away and in the care of any professional pet sitter. I know I do. Some clients may even call their pet sitters for an update, so why not offer a status update before a possibly anxious client asks for one? It’s a nice touch to add to the array of services any professional pet sitter can offer.

Always Be Honest and Do Honest Work

If you have committed to staying overnight at a client's home and you offer in-home pet services, stay at the home and honor your commitment to stay overnight, all night, at the client’s house. This does not mean it is okay to leave the house to go play poker with your friends at 10 pm and then return hours later at 2 am.  I don’t know of any client who wants to pay any sitter to party at someone else’s house. Be present and attentive to client’s pets and don’t abuse a client’s trust in you and your work. Earn the pay you are to receive honestly.

However, I don’t believe that any client would fault someone for running out quickly to grab a drive-through or a takeout meal.  Nor would I, as a pet owner, be annoyed if my own sitter briefly stepped out to rent a DVD from a Redbox or a DVD rental store. However, it is your responsibility as a sitter to ask ahead of time if this is okay with your client.  Use your good judgment, when making any decisions like this one. This is particularly true if you have to run an errand or attend a class for instance. 

Remember, you have committed yourself to doing overnight pet sitting jobs. If you can't do them well or properly, do not offer to do any or accept any overnight pet sitting jobs.

If you don’t like staying overnight in other people’s homes or you don’t want to commit yourself to lengthy visits, focus on shorter cat sitting and dog walking sessions instead of offering in-home overnight pet sitting stays as part of your professional services. If you prefer to dog sit older dogs, accept those jobs and decline the ones for puppy sitting jobs. Puppies, of course, need the most attention and care.

Protect your pet care business and your reputation by always being honest, communicative and responsive to each animal's needs. Do also pay close attention to any special needs of dogs or cats along with the specific needs and preferences of all clients. If you don't take care how you act or perform any pet sitting jobs, you will lose clients and word will get around town that you are unwilling or unable to provide excellent service and fulfill the services you offering. If you are intent of making your successful pet sitting business prosper, you will need to heed this advice.

Develop Relationships With Other Professional Pet Sitters Nearby

You can refer one another to new clients needing professional pet services. You can also serve as a backup to one another, if  either of you falls ill or experiences an emergency. If anything happens to you during  a pet sitting job, you could need immediate backup support.

Yes, other professional pet sitters are your competition. But they can also be your allies and a source of more business should they become fully booked and unable to accommodate their regular customers.  They could also receive a call from a new client that they cannot or choose not to assist. Some pet sitters, due to their own physical stature, do not work with larger dogs and large breed dogs, which they cannot manage well. This is a good business practice for a pet sitter. Do not underestimate the benefit of working with other area pet sitters when you are just starting out offering services.  This is especially true during the Holidays when pet sitting services are in very high demand.

One pet sitter, I know, prefers not to work in the winter due to the snow and icy conditions that make getting to homes more difficult during this part of the year. For the winter months, she does not do any pet sitting. Instead, she refers her clients to other professionals when she can't accommodate clients or does not wish to take on particular pet sitting jobs.

Do what you know you can do well and do what you do best. For any self-employed business or professional, this is practical and advisable. This is also a great tip because it is also one that helps pet sitters, like my friend set up their businesses for success.  My friend knows what works best for her.  As a result, she delivers her best work, and only her best work, to her clients.

Do Keep Careful Track of Keys for Your Clients

If you store house keys for repeat visits to clients who continuously use your pet sitting services throughout the year, it is imperative that you keep these keys in a secure place without any identifying address information affixed to the keys themselves.  Perhaps you can number the keys and keep a spreadsheet with the corresponding numbers and unique addresses in a secure computer or other location.  Develop your own system and keep one that works for you.

Take a Pet CPR Class and Continue to Educate Yourself on Pet Care

Develop relationships with area veterinarians. Cultivate repeat clients by providing exemplary pet care services and use your references from clients and referrals to keep your name and your pet sitting business at the forefront of your client's minds. This will be especially invaluable when their friends ask them for the name of a trusted pet sitting professional that they have personally used themselves. This is how many professional pet sitters, best attract, new clients.  Again, remember that new clients equal more business.

Heed these Do's and Don'ts for a Successful Pet Sitting Business

Professional pet services are widely needed.  In short, take your pet sitting responsibilities very seriously. Use these practices and avoidance tips to surpass the services and care your competitors offer. Follow these tips to improve your reputation and to enhance the success and viability of your pet sitting business. I have seen these do's and don'ts work for pet sitters and their successful pet sitting businesses. Become a great pet sitter instead of just another pet sitting service operating nearby.

More pet tips:



Dec 21, 2011 12:34am
You've covered all the bases a pet sitter needs to consider to do the job well.
Jan 16, 2012 5:36pm
hehe I am linking this to my petsitter :P
Jan 16, 2012 5:44pm
Thank you both for the comments. I hope they help you either with your current pet sitter or for friends thinking of becoming a pet sitter. I am also now looking for a new pet sitter myself. I am obviously going to be picky about choosing my next pet sitter, too!
Jan 18, 2012 6:32am
VERY comprehensive article. Obviously people with pets worry a great deal about them when they have to leave pets at home so this is a very helpful article.
Jan 19, 2012 10:02pm
This is great advice for anyone who wants to start a pet sitting business. Anyone who pays for pet care wants to feel sure that their pet sitter will do a good job!
Jan 19, 2012 11:26pm
Thanks Judy and Deborah for your comments. It's hard not to worry about your pets but good pets sitters can be found. My parent's have the best pet sitter! She always takes the best care of the animals she cares for consistently.
Jan 21, 2012 8:07pm
Great info shared. Looks like it's a great business for pet lovers. SUd and Dugg!
Mar 12, 2012 10:52pm
Thanks Athena!
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