Have you ever thought about starting a career in the pet sitting industry?
As you may know by now, I’ve made dog walking and pet sitting my career and pay my bills with this growing niche in the pet service industry. While it does sound easy enough, there’s actually a lot more going on than meets the eye.
I can tell you from 5+ years of experience that it involves a little more than clipping a leash to a dog’s collar and going for a leisurely stroll around his neighborhood.
Let’s take a look at the tools of my trade!
My Car – More Than A Simple Means Of Transportation
Since I don’t live and work in a huge city such as NYC where I could walk to my clients’ condos and townhouses, I heavily rely on my car for getting around between clients. It takes me anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes to get from client A to client B, and with an average of 7 daily visits you get the picture.
It also holds a pet first aid kit and a sleeping bag, towels for rainy days and muddy paws, an umbrella, a flashlight, tons of poop bags, collars, leashes, pens and my schedule. The sleeping bag is part of my extended first aid kit. It would help me move a larger dog who’s injured but too heavy for me to carry.
Coffee and water are always along for the ride as well. The same goes for snacks and my lunch or dinner, depending on the time of day I’m out and about. I’ll also bring a cooler on those really hot summer days.
Side note: I track my daily miles in a mileage log. All of those miles are tax deductible.
My Phone – Providing Peace Of Mind For My Clients
Providing peace of mind is a major part of any dog walker’s/pet sitter’s job description. Clients want to know that their beloved fur babies are well taken care of while they’re not home. Without my smart phone, I wouldn’t be able to provide this peace of mind in a timely manner.
I use my phone to snap pictures and videos of the pets in my care which I then send to my clients via text or email. It lets them know that we went for a walk, administered medications as necessary, handed out treats, brought in a package or had a play session.
GSD Remi Taking His Meds
The Right Kind Of Poop Bags, Collars, & Leashes
I like to be prepared for poop emergencies because we all know that ? happens, right?! As mentioned above, that’s why I always have extra rolls of poop bags in my car to refill the poop bag holder dangling from my cross body bag.
Most clients provide their own poop bags, but sometimes they run out or we just happened to use the last one while out on a walk when Fido decides to poop again.
I personally really like the poop bag brand Earth Rated and stock up on them on Amazon.
Stocking Up On Earth Rated Poop Bags
I also carry a large size sling collar along in my cross body bag. Sometimes it’s referred to as a choke collar and fits around all size necks, from a Beagle to a German Shepherd. I started carrying one on me at all times ever since the flat collar of one of my dog walking clients’ broke in mid-walk. Another ? moment.
And guess what – I didn’t have an extra collar on me. Thankfully that dog wasn’t a runner and didn’t stray very far. I was able to turn the leash I was walking her on into a makeshift sling leash, and that’s how we made it safely back to her home.
Ever since that day, I made it a point to have that extra sling collar on me, and have had to use it several times, mainly to regain control over a dog who was simply pulling too much. Used correctly, it’s a great tool to encourage polite leash walking.
Keys, Storm Whistle, Pepper Spray
Having all the necessary client keys on me is kind of a no-brainer, so I won’t go into a lot of detail here. Let me just share one tip that comes to mind as far as keys are concerned – never leave them in your car. I learned that one from Erica as well.
That seemingly small negligence makes up a big chunk of claims filed with professional pet sitting liability insurance providers and can get very expensive if all the client locks will need to be replaced.
Side note: DO have professional liability insurance. It’s peace of mind for yourself should something happen. I’m with Pet Sitters Associates and they’re quite affordable.
I can’t tell you enough how much I value my storm whistle/tick twister combo and also my pepper spray. While I’ve never actively used the pepper spray (except for training purposes), it provides ginormous peace of mind that I’ll be able to break up a dog fight if necessary.
My Clip-On Pepper Spray
However, I HAVE used my storm whistle and tick twister countless times. The whistle is super loud and acts as a great distraction. I use it regularly when approached by loose dogs to stop them in their tracks (there’s many of them here in our rural area). It can also serve you well if you’re in need of help and trying to get people’s attention.
I always carry a storm whistle and a tick twister on a lanyard around my neck
I’ve also mentioned those tools in my post 3 Tips For A Safe Encounter With Loose Dogs.
I mainly use the tick twister during spring, summer, and fall. It’s an easy to use tool and definitely handy to have on me while out on walks. If you’d like to learn more about it, you’re welcome to check out my post Little Tool, Big Impact – The Safest & Easiest Way To Remove Ticks.
A Tick Crawling On GSP Tab Ended Up Being Removed With My Tick Twister
Virtual & Hard Copy Scheduling Tools
One of the best decisions I made in 2016 was to invest in a professional pet sitting software. Pet Sitter Plus makes scheduling and invoicing a breeze and is affordable, which is obviously an important criterion, at least in my opinion.
What I really love about it is the app-like phone interface. This feature set it apart from several other softwares (I tested 3 or 4) and ultimately made me go with it. Now I can check off visits while out and about, and also schedule and/or send invoices – all conveniently from my phone.
My Virtual Dog Walking Schedule
While I absolutely love my pet sitting software, I still use a hard copy schedule as well. It’s a great way of double-checking my own planning/scheduling PLUS it always works, regardless of whether or not the internet might be down.
My Hard Copy Dog Walking Schedule
One habit I learned from my awesome former boss Erica, owner at Pick Of The Litter Pet Care, is to always leave notes. For one, it’s proof that I actually showed up for the respective dog walking or pet sitting job. But it also provides a summary of my stay with the dog and/or cat AND is a cute keepsake – some of my clients have kept every single report sheet I have filled out!
K9sOverCoffee Weekly Dog Walking/Pet Sitting Report Card (You May Use It To Create Your Own)
I hope you enjoyed the glimpse behind the professional dog walking scenes. Who knows, you might just ditch your 9-5 gig and give this niche a shot. I recommend checking out PetSittersInternational and/or ProfessionalUnitedPetSitters for more information on how to start a profitable pet sitting and/or dog walking business.
Know that all the tools mentioned above are tax deductible, besides the cost of the smart phone. You can, however, deduct a certain percentage of your monthly phone cost, and if you have a designated home office space, that can save you some cash come tax time as well.
Have you ever thought about starting a dog walking/pet sitting business, or do you know someone who owns one? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!