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How to Become a Pet Sitter

Published on August 30, 2009 by   ·   1 Comment

Becoming a Pet Sitter

‘A career in pet sitting – could it be for you?’

Do you stare out of your office window on sunny days and long to be walking in the park with your dog or soaking up the rays with a couple of cool cats? If the answer is yes that maybe Pet sitting is the career for you.

And if you look longingly out of the window when the rain is lashing down and the temperature is well below brrrů and you still would rather be out running with the pack, then you are perfect Pet sitter material. But how do you get started?

Fiona Mackenzie, author of ‘Walk the Walk’, a guide to Professional Dogwalking, runs one of National Petsitters’ regional branches and advises: ‘First ask yourself why you want to be a Petsitter or Dog Walker? The answer for most people would be because they love pets and, of course, you have to be or have been an experienced pet owner before we would even consider you for membership. But you also have to like people too, as you would be in constant communication with the pets’ owners, most of whom, consider their pets to be part of their family.

Not only is that a big responsibility, but you have to be sensitive to the owner’s concerns for their cat, dog or snake! This means having good people skills as well as a sound knowledge of the animals you will look after and including, ideally, a completed Pet First Aid course.’
NARP is non-profit making and is funded by sales of their Register of Petsitters which is constantly updated and lists thousands of members. No commission is taken from the Petsitters who are self-employed and can work as little or often as they wish. To read more about the history of NARP or to find a Registered Petsitter, visit: http://www.thepetsitters.co.uk/

How can I get the best start in this career?

Even if you have been doing petsitting or dog walking on a regular basis, by joining the Trade Association you have access to a mine of information and the practical experience of other petsitters who frequently help and advise each other via the petsitters’ forum. Training and a knowledge of the law concerning petcare is vital and is Included in NARP’s training. Membership can also include Full Public Liability Insurance, a variety of different forms and contracts to cover anything from pop in visits to care for cats, having a dog to stay in your own home or petsitting by the sea in Cornwall with some chinchillas (yes, a recent assignment for a lucky petsitter!)

Like any small new business, the first six months are crucial. It often takes this long to build up a client base and if you don’t have a partner with an income which can cover both your financial commitments for at least six months, then you should consider saving a large enough sum to see you through your business’ fledgling start. However as the need for Petsitters outstrips the amount of professionals available, this is not usually a problem.

Is there a need for Petsitters in my area?

‘There is a need for Petsitters, Dogwalkers and Pet Carers anywhere there are pets’, says Fiona. ‘Just count up how many dogs and cats there are in your street. How many of those owners work, are elderly or are at home with babies and toddlers? You would be surprised to discover how many people still don’t know that this service is available and when they find out, they often tell us what a relief it is to know that their dog is having his crucial daily walk whilst they are at work or tied to the house. People often put off going abroad because of the anxiety they feel about leaving their pets behind. As a Petsitter, you can enable both them and their pets to have a wonderful holiday. We advise all our members on the best ways of advertising and how to keep these costs low. Having been a Petsitter myself, I would still say that word of mouth is one of the most effective ways of advertising but there are many others which don’t involve parting with money which may be better spent on ‘tools of the trade’ such as water bowls, good leads and sturdy boots!
What exactly, is Petsitting?

The term Petsitting now encompasses a wide range of pet care services. You may wish to offer one or all of them. Here are a few of them:

Petsitting involves staying in a client’s home to care for their pets while they are away. This means that the dog or cat’s routine stays as close to normal as possible although often the owners come home to a fitter pet than they left! This service is ideal for the mulit – pet household. The added bonus is that mail can be brought in, plants watered and the house looks lived in – a great burglar deterrent.

Dog Walking. A twenty to sixty minute walk with up to four dogs is about average. National Petsitters don’t walk more than this number of dogs at a time. ‘Any more than this’, says Fiona, can lead to pack mentality where the pets literally start behaving more like wild dogs. This can be intimidating for the public, extremely frightening for small, fat or old dogs and down right dangerous for all concerned. It drives me mad to see some of the London dogwalkers out in the parks with anything up to ten dogs each. These poor animals are often tied to lamp posts while the Dog Walker picks up yet another dog and how they can see where each dog has relieved themselves is beyond me. Stick to one or two and perhaps work up to four when you have the confidence and experience.

Pet Boarding

This can mean having a pet to stay at your home for a couple of hours, a day, overnight or perhaps a few weeks or even months while the owners are away. This is wonderful for a dog who often enjoys up to four walks a day and is treated like a member of the Pet sitter’s family. It also works well for parrots and small mammals.

Pet Visiting

Pop in visits are ideal for cats, fish or small caged animals. It is also a good way of caring for puppies left alone who might otherwise chew their way through the house causing damage not least to themselves. Over night visits for dogs, on the other hand, are not acceptable because a dog is a sociable animal and being alone for so long can cause stress and behavioural problems. A good Petsitter will never agree to visiting a dog left alone overnight unless it’s an emergency.

What qualifications do I need?

No formal qualifications are necessary although you must be experienced in caring for the kind of animals you wish to work with. Many Petsitters take courses in Pet First Aid and build up a portfolio of other qualifications such as diplomas in canine psychology, dog training, feline behaviour which means they can build up a multi disciplined business with more potential clients.

Once you have established your petsitting business, you can offer other services such as grooming and micro chipping – if you time to do the training because once word gets out that there is a good Dog Walker or Petsitter around, then the biggest problem for you may well be trying to get a holiday in for yourself!

To find out more about Petsitting as a career, visit www.thepetsitters.co.uk or ring Fiona Mackenzie on: 0118 983 2838/07732 555 789 – email: petsittinguk@aol.com

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Fiona is the author of the fantastic; ‘Walk the Walk’ a Guide to Professional Dog Walking’ , available to buy online from www.companionanimals.co.uk at a very reasonable ?4.75 and she has kindly agreed to give five copies in hardcopy away to five lucky K9 Magazine readers.

To be in with a chance of getting a copy simply send us an email to walkthewalk@k9magazine.com and tell us in no more than 30 words why becoming a pet sitter would be your dream job. Remember to include your address incase you are one of the lucky five.

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Readers Comments (1)
  1. My book, How to Start and Run a Petsitting Business was published by How to Books and is available now from Amazon and all good book shops. For more details, please contact me through my website, http://www.petsittersuk.co.uk
    Thank you and Happy Petsitting!