How to Start a Home-Based Pet-Sitting and Dog-Walking Business


Everything you need to know to run a profitable pet-sitting and dog-walking business from your home
Have you ever dreamed of starting your own home-based pet-sitting and dog-walking business? There is no better time to do so than now. This fledgling field—which combines the appeal of working with animals, a viable customer base, and truly low start-up costs—is fast becoming an established profession for many. And yet its “fun” aspects ...
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How to Start a Home-Based Pet-Sitting and Dog-Walking Business

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Everything you need to know to run a profitable pet-sitting and dog-walking business from your home
Have you ever dreamed of starting your own home-based pet-sitting and dog-walking business? There is no better time to do so than now. This fledgling field—which combines the appeal of working with animals, a viable customer base, and truly low start-up costs—is fast becoming an established profession for many. And yet its “fun” aspects are often overshadowed by daunting tasks. With a simple, step-by-step format, How to Start a Home-Based Pet-Sitting and Dog-Walking Business guides you from dreaming to doing more clearly and comprehensively than any such book to date.
Leading pet-care company owner Cathy Vaughan shares her experiences and advice on every aspect of the field, providing a gold mine of tools and success strategies. She shows you how to register your business with the proper authorities, purchase specific insurance for a pet-sitting business, market your services, expand your business—and how to become and stay profitable.
Use these handy worksheets, checklists, and sample forms:
Revenue Table
Income Log
Profit and Loss Statement
Preservice Checklist
Service Agreement
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762760831
  • Publisher: Globe Pequot Press
  • Publication date: 1/11/2011
  • Series: Home-Based Business Series
  • Edition description: First
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 322,677
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Cathy Vaughan established Cathy’s Critter Care as a one-client start-up in 1998 and today her business employs sixteen part-time pet sitters and a full-time office manager. She has been a Goodwill Ambassador for Pet Sitters International, spoken at conventions, and published articles in World of Professional Pet Sitting. In 2010 Cathy co-established Bluebonnet Bunk’n Biscuit, a comprehensive pet-care facility.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: So You Want to Start a Pet Sitting Business.

•         The pro’s of pet sitting

•         Flexible time

•         Low Stress

•         You’re the boss - you make the decisions

•         Good pay for the hours of work and resources needed - How much do you want to make?

•         How much will it cost to start my pet sitting business? Can I really work ‘when I want to’ and ‘be my own boss?’  The truth! The con’s of pet sitting

•         The family’s take:  Is it a Joy or a Pain?  Is it really all worth it?


•         The con’s of pet sitting

•         Through wind and sleet and snow....working in all kinds of weather conditions.

•         Working when others are ‘off’ - working early mornings, late evenings, minor holidays and of course, major holidays!

•         The cyclical nature of the pet sitting business.   Consider the slow months and busy months.

•         Driving...driving...driving! The biggest expense of time and money for pet sitters.


•         The personality of the successful pet sitter and other questions you should ask yourself

•         Do you love pets and people? I have yet to have a dog sign the check!

•         And you thought it was just playing with as a therapist, grief counselor, pet nutrition expert, accountant, teenage babysitter and more.

•         The buck (or ‘bark’) stops with you! Handling people pleasing/customer satisfaction issues. How comfortable are you with being the person who handles customer issues and conflict?

•         Physical demands of the job.

•         What is your personal comfort level with different pets?  Are the certain pets you can’t imagine caring for?

•         Can my kids come with me? Should they?

•         Still not sure? Visit a local networking group.

Chapter 2: Envisioning the business

•         Determine a need in your area - market research of your geographical service area and other similar companies.

•         Calling all dogs and cats?  Will you specialize or encompass all species of pets?  Will you fill a niche market and specialize?

•         Determine your service area.  Radius of travel? Urban/Sub-urban/Rural?

•         Will you work part time,or full time?

•         Are you interested in starting your own business or buying into a franchise?

•         What other services might you offer? Pet Taxi, Behavior Training, Errand Services, etc...

•         Growing your business/Meeting your clients’ needs.

•         Juggling family life when your office is at home.

•         Handling your pet sitting schedule + your family.

•         Dollars & cents - How much can I make? Is petsitting really recession proof?

•         Choosing your name...and making sure nobody else has!

•         Sole Proprietor, LLC or Inc.? What’s best for you.

Chapter 3: What you need in your home office and mobile office.

•         Keeping your office  a work space. Setting boundaries on family and setting boundaries on business.

•         The benefits of designating a space for your business from the IRS perspective.

•         Hours of operation - phone calls at 11pm!

•         Your client files - paper and electronic

•         Your client keys

•         Computer

•         Calendar

•         Phones (land lines, cell phones and smart phones)

•         Tools of the trade - leashes, toys, treats

•         Things to have with you - pens, dayplanner, cards

Chapter 4: Writing a business plan.

•         Why do I need a business plan if I don’t need any investment money?

•         Solidify your objectives: What, How, When, Where and Who.

•         Parts of a business plan - Get it done in <20pages. You make the plan - you make the decisions.

Chapter 5: Getting started.

•         Start up costs list.

•         Should I hire professionals to help me?  (Marketing companies, CPA’s, attorneys, etc...)

•         Choose a name.

•          Do I need a logo?  Can I trademark my logo?

•          Write a Mission Statement.  What for? I know my mission.

•         Goals Checklist

•          Register your business.

•          Join a professional organization.

•          Purchase insurance and a bond policy - yes, they are two different policies!  This is a must before your first assignment.

•          Get your printing done!

•          Printed materials - business cards/flyers/brochures/magnets/shirts...

•          Business documents - service contracts,

•          Supplies - What’s all the junk in the trunk?  Things you don’t need too!

•          Your Presentation Book

•          The benefits of education/accreditation - PFA/CPR

Chapter 6: Financial planning

•         How much do I need to make?

•         How much can I charge? How much should I charge? Remember you are the business owner. You make the decisions on what you will charge.

•         Publishing your prices - the pros and cons.

•         How to deal with the “price shopper.”

•         Setting a monetary value on your time.

•         Invoicing and payment

•         Long term financial planning - no 401K’s here...planning for your future.

Chapter 7: Financial management

•   Your pet sitting business should make you money! How to know if it does.

•   Running your pet sitting business debt free isn’t a dream - it can be a reality.

Chapter 8: Taxes and record keeping

•         Do I really have to pay taxes?

•         When do I pay taxes on my earnings and how do I determine what I owe?

•         Monthly income and outgo. A basic balance sheet or P&L.

•         Keeping track of your biggest expenses - especially mileage.

•         What to do, when - record keeping on a daily basis, monthly, yearly

•         When to complete and file your taxes.

Chapter 9: Legal and ethical issues

•         Pet Neglect? Can I get involved and should I?

•         Under promise - Over deliver. Do the job you promised plus more

•         The Golden Rule is still alive and well

•         Am I on candid camera? Clients and ‘nanny-cams.’

•         Help! What if I am sued!  Answers to insurance and legal questions.

•         Real-life insurance scenarios you won’t believe but are true!

Chapter 10: Marketing your business - Getting your name out there is your #1 goal

•         Your niche drives your marketing - are you the Pet Sitter for Everyone, are you the Cat Specialist?  Highlight what sets you apart

•         The Green pet sitter - riding the eco-friendly wave.

•         Press Releases

•         Visits to vet offices and groomers with food, free speaking engagements, dog parties/events and other ‘guerilla’ marketing tactics to bring you clients.

•         Wear your colors!  Your wardrobe now consists of a myriad of shirts with your logo and tagline!

•         Using your business phone line/email to drive business to you.

•         The yellow pages - will it work or won’t it?  How your business makes that decision for you.

•         Using neighborhood newsletters and small town newspapers to your advantage.

•         Keeping your current clients and having them provide you with more...word of mouth referrals.

•         Offering specials - CGC, Shelter, Rescue Group Discounts

•         Set up booths at local pet events - contact shelters and rescue groups.

•         Participate in pet related events like PSI’s TYDTWD, Wishbones for Pets.

•         Stay educated and up to date on pet related topics. Keep learning. Set yourself apart from the competition by being well educated in your field.

•         Networking! It’s not a four letter word.

•         Have your 30sec, 2min and 5min ‘pitch’ of your business ready. You never know who will ask you about your shirt logo in an elevator!

•         How do you know if your marketing is working?  Which parts of your advertising campaign are working for you?  The way to know - Ask & Track.

Chapter 11: The internet and e-commerce

•         Your website - the best use of your business dollars!

•         Using the internet for your day to day business - Pet sitter software to run your business.

•         Social Networking sites - Use them to your advantage - avoiding the pitfalls and mistakes.

•         How simple email can be your best friend for booking verification

•         E-commerce and selling pet supplies on the internet - options for the pet sitter

Chapter 12: A Day in the Life

•         The phone what?  A likely script of what you might hear.

•         A list of questions new clients will ask you and possible answers.

•         Jump out of bed and stumble to the kitchen! It’s time to start the day.  An account of a real ‘day in the life’ of a pet sitter

•         The client meeting - the must have information you need from each of your clients.

•         What you need to do at every visit - a checklist

•         Some additions to your standard service that will set you apart (leaving written notes, calling the client, leaving a gift for the pet).

•         Some problems and challenges you might run into. The solutions to answer them.

•         They want you, but do you want them?  How to ask the right questions to get the clients you need.

•         Your day to day safety - How to be safe when working alone.

•         Safety of the pets in your care.  “A good dog walk gone bad.”

•         I just wish I could have one day off!  Using other pet sitting companies and colleagues to help make it happen.

•         Emergency Preparedness - for the big, the bad and the ugly - weather and other catastrophic events.

•         What to do if a pet dies in your care.

•         How to handle the client you can longer or just don’t want to work for.

•         Keeping the clients you want by getting feedback on your service.

•         Dealing with the death of a pet client. How to help your human clients  how to help yourself.

Chapter 13: Business endgame

•         Stay small or grow big? Pros and cons - dollars and cents of each approach.

•         Avoiding the B-Word - B*U*R*N*O*U*T

•         Setting up your business as a ‘process’ - think fast food chain!

•         Employees or independent contractors?

•         Where do I find good people to work in my business? Recruiting 101.

•         Interviewing and screening potential employees.

•         Dealing with people that work for you.

•         Setting up schedules

•         How to pay employees or independent contractors.

•         Changing with the times - keeping your business strong as times/circumstances change.

•         Take me to Tahiti - Selling your business.

Chapter 14: Training and certification - Setting yourself apart

•         Accreditation as a pet sitter - courses available.

•         Read!  The only difference between where you are now and where you will be

•         Pet First Aid/CPR

•         Conventions and Regional meetings

•         Using your local resources - dog trainers and veterinarians.

Appendix I

•         FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions (10 to 15, intended to be used on website)

•         Web Resources

•         Organizations

•         Trade Shows

•         Educational Resources and Training Programs

•         Other Useful Information

Appendix II

•         Forms: Service Agreements, Pet Sitter Instruction Sheet, etc...

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