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Learn How to Start Up a Pet Sitting Business

Pet Sitter Certification Course

Check out the following free articles from PetSitterCourse and look below for  resources that will help you start a dog sitting business. 

The resources and tools below will work for those in the USA, Canada, the UK, and other countries.  

Guides for How to Become a Pet Sitter or Dog Walker

Guides for How to Start a Pet Sitting or Dog Walking Business

Guides for hiring staff

General Guides for Being and Awesome Pet Sitter and Dog Walker

An Introduction to Clicker Training

This post has some affiliate links. If you choose to buy one of the products we recommend in this post, please use the link we provide below. We receive a small commission when you use one of our affiliate links and it helps us keep this website going. 

Insurance for Pet Sitters

Every pet sitter or dog walker needs to carry general liability insurance and be bonded. You never know when the worst might happen and you need to be protected if something goes wrong at a visit.

Bonding is a type of business insurance that protects customers from theft by employees. It’s an advantage to pet sitting services to be bonded because it automatically gives your customers a higher level of trust in your business.

General liability insurance protects you from being held personally responsible for damage. Make sure the insurance you choose will protect against claims arising from accidental injury to people and pets, and also covers damage to property.

Lastly, you will need to find an insurance company that is based in your country or region. Below is a list of the best pet sitting and dog walking insurance companies, sorted by the country where they offer insurance.

Pet Sitting insurance providers based in the United States

Pet Sitting insurance providers based in Canada

Pet Sitting insurance providers based in the United Kingdom

Professional Associations For Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers

Joining a professional pet sitting and dog walking association can have many benefits. 

PUPS has a wonderful online form where you can learned a ton when first getting started.

NAPPS has a very good private facebook group available for their members. In this private group you can ask questions and get answers from other professional pet sitters. 

The conversation on the NAPPS facebook group is more professional than many other groups.

 

PSI has many helpful webinars and you are sure to learn a lot from them. 

Pet First Aid

Every pet sitter should be trained in First Aid. If you are the owner of a pet sitting company, I recommend you look for an in-person class or at least a course that is offered live over zoom so you can ask questions during the course.

For training staff in first aid, there are often time and financial constraints that might make an in-person course out of reach. In those cases, you could look for an online course or first aid course on video.

Walks ‘N’ Wags offers in-person, zoom, and online First Aid training. They have certified instructors in Canada and are expanding all over the world. I like that they have live dogs at every in-person First Aid class. 

Lisa Wagner, the owner of Walks ‘N’ Wags was a pet sitter for eleven years and developed a very comprehensive online first aid training that is perfect for training your staff.

PetTech offers in-person First Aid training in the United States.  They have various in-person courses that will teach you everything you need to know about pet first aid. 

The folks at Pro Training, previously Pet Pro Hero, have a great online First Aid course that is well suited for training pet sitting staff in First Aid. 

If you are looking for a less expensive option for training your staff in First Aid, you can buy the Red Cross Pet First Aid Books with the training DVD. Buy this one for cats, and this one for dogs.  

When you are onboarding a new staff member and ask them to watch both of the videos within their first week. During your next orientation meeting, be sure to cover any questions the have about first aid in person.

In general, your staff should not be administering any medical care beyond very basic First Aid. However, they do need training to be able to spot a medical emergency. Most importantly, your sitters need to know when a pet needs to go to the vet. 

Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Software

There are many scheduling and invoicing systems made specifically for independent pet sitting and dog walking businesses.

The best advice I have heard about how to pick a system comes from Kristen Morrison, “Just try out a few and pick one that works with the way your brain works”.

Remember, no software is going to have all of the features you want. Sometimes you need to find a creative workaround to get your pet sitting software to preform the task you require. 

Many times, changing your policy to fit what works within your software is much easier than waiting for a new feature to be added to the software. 

A few of the most popular and modern pet sitting softwares are:

Team Chat

Slack is a free team chat app that makes communicating with your team easy. 

Check out our this article for a more detailed explanation about how to use slack in your pet sitting company.

Background Checks For New Hires

Pet owners expect their sitter to be background checked, especially if you are hiring staff.

Acutraq is the #1 most used background screening service for pet sitting companies. The customer service at Acutraq is fantastic and they have a quick turnaround.

They offer County Criminal Search, Multi State Criminal Search, 50 State Sex Offender Registry Search, Social Security Trace, Alias Name Search, Motor Vehicle Record Search, and more. 

The easiest way to get started with Acutraq is to give them a call. They will be happy to walk you through the process and get you set up with an account, so you can hire with confidence.

Background Checking Service for Pet Sitters

PetBusiness Coaches

There are many fantastic business coaches that will teach you exactly how to solve some problem in your pet sitting or dog walking company.

Kristen Morrison has set the standard for pet sitting and dog walking agency coaching. 

She has many great books published and offers informative webinars about many professional pet sitting and dog walking topics, including marketing, hiring, and preparing your business for sale. 

Kyle Haubrich offers coaching for pet sitting and dog walking business owners. He ran his own company in the FrontRange of Colorado, USA and specializes in helping pet sitting and dog walking businesses build a sustainable business for the long term. He teaches pricing, hiring, marketing, onboarding new clients, and operating your company as a system. He is also the author of PetSitterCourse.com

When you are first getting started, I recommend you reach out to a few coaches in the Professional Pet Sitting and Dog Walking field. Not every solution offered by a business coach will work for your company, but if you gain expertise from a few coaches, you can adapt each method to best compete in your local market and you will save years of trial and error.

Graphic Design Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers

Many underestimate how much graphic design goes into running pet sitting or dog walking services. 

The truth is, you will need graphic design for your social media channels, your website, business cards and any other printed material you decide to use. 

Templates for Pet Pros offers many cute graphics for social media that are sure to engage your followers.  

Upwork also is a great place to look for graphic designers. In fact, I hire upwork freelancers all the time for topics that are difficult or time consuming to learn, such as setting up Facebook Pixel, Facebook Events, web development and more.

Vistaprint offers low cost printing for business cards and flyers. I always splurge for a little bit higher quality paper and I’ve never been disappointed with the quality of their printing.

Sticker Mule has a wonderful refrigerator magnet printing service that is hard to beat on price. We give a refrigerator magnet to every one of our clients and it’s been great for word of mouth marketing. 

 

Hire a Virtual Assistant

Virtual assistants are people from all over the world who are available to help you with any task that can be done remotely. 

I hired a virtual assistant from Alpha Assistant to take care of my invoicing.

Our assistant, Krys, checks over our invoices to ensure they are accurate before being sent out. She splits invoices as needed and emails clients when their credit card is out of date. 

Krys has been a huge help to our company and I never need to worry about our invoicing. 

Payroll Software

If you decide to hire employees in your pet sitting or dog walking business you will need some kind of payroll service. Most people use Quickbooks, Gusto, or Paychex

While it is possible to take care of all of the HR needs in your small business yourself, you may find yourself spending more time researching new HR laws and filling out paperwork than you do actually caring for pets. Even though payroll software is expensive, it’s well worth the cost. 

Payroll software takes care of all of the tax filings, required documentation you need to legally hire employees, and the actual writing of the sitter’s pay check. 

Payroll software will require you to enter the number of hours each staff member worked and the dollar amount of their milage reimbursement. The software takes care of the rest. 

If you are figuring out how much money to pay your staff, check out this article from PetSitterCourse.com 

Free Business Consulting:
The Small Business Development Center

If you live in the United States, you can take advantage of your local Small Business Development Center for free small business consulting. 

The SBDC can help you navigate how to start your business and offer industry professionals that can help you strategize any part of your business.

The SBDC also offers affordable classes on topics ranging from taxes, to marketing, to hiring, pricing and more.

If you live outside of the United States and know about an organization that is similar to the SBDC that is available in your country, I would love to hear about it and add it to this list. Please comment below!

Credit Card Processing

If you are making less than $10,000 per year, your best bet would be PayPal and / or Square for credit card processing. 

If you are planning on making more than $10,000 per year, you will get a better credit card processing rate by getting a “Merchant account” from a bank. You will also need a “Gateway” to connect the merchant account to your pet sitting software. 

If you decide to go with a merchant account, go to your bank and see if they offer one with a good rate. Don’t be afraid to shop around for a better rate. You should be able to get something below 2.7% Firserv from First Data offerls low rates. 

Authorize.net is the industry standard for your payment gateway. Authorize.net connects with Time to Pet and Precise Pet Care. 

 

Business Phone Systems

A phone system can really help you grow your business. They are very helpful because you can easily route calls to an office admin on your days off.

 Also, it’s very handy to be able to set up a dial by number menu that allows callers to select #1 for current clients, #2 for sales, #3 for hiring, and #4 for all other questions.  This allows you to prioritize calls you need to answer VS which ones can go to voicemail. 

If you are just getting started, you might only need Google Voice. Google voice comes with Google Workspace (which I also recommend in our article, best tech for pet sitters) However with Google Voice you will not be able to route calls (at least at the time I am writing this).

Line2 is a low cost option that gets you a separate phone number for your business, but again, no call routing. 

8×8 and Ooma are both great options for a fully featured business phone system. 8×8 is one of the most popular, inexpensive, and robust options that nobody has heard of. 

No matter what you do, I recommend you get a phone number that is separate from your personal cell phone number. Otherwise, It can be very hard to “turn off” when your clients are always calling your cell phone. 

You can try out any phone system you want to and you can always move your phone number to a new phone system if you want to switch. So, there is no risk when trying out a new phone system. 

Lastly, you don’t need desk phones, the app on your cell phone does everything a desk phone can do, and usually it does a better job. A phone system app will not require you to buy any extra hardware. 

Creating your Website

Even if your main form of marketing is word of mouth, it’s likely your potential clients will look for you online before they contact you. A professional online presence often will bring in most of your clients. 

If you want a website made for you, Pet Marketing Unleashed makes wonderful looking websites that are sure to bring in clients.  Barketing Solutions is another great option. 

SquareSpace is a great all-in-one website builder for those that want to make their own website but do not want to deal with as much technology.  Wix and Weebly are also good options. 

WordPress is one of the most complicated options for creating a website. However, it’s also the most powerful. The functionality of WordPress is extremely expandable with the use of third party plugins. With WordPress you can create nearly any type of website you can dream up.  

If you decide to use WordPress I suggest:

There are a ton of youtube videos that cover how to use WordPress and Elementor to build your website. Check out WPCrafter and Ferdy Korpershoek to get a good start. 

Check out our article, 12 Best Tech Tools for Pet Sitters for more details about creating your website. 

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