Dog Sitter Business Idea

START YOUR OWN PET BUSINESS

samsonmedia123 9/5/2008

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Business Summary:

Dog Sitting/Dog Walking services are part of the overall in-home pet care business, which is huge in the US, and also in any worldwide communities where there are folks willing and able to spend a good amount of disposable income on their beloved pets.

Dogs. . .and Cats and Birds and Ferrets – Oh, My!

Generally speaking, the pet sitting business category focuses on the care of dogs. By its very nature, however, in-home dog sitting also frequently includes care of other family pets: cats, birds, fish, guinea pigs, and the occasional ferret. Thus, the industry term is “pet sitting,” which, across the nation, can include care of exotic pets and farm animals as well.

“Pet Parents” --A Pet Industry Term Coined to Describe Target Customers for Specialized Pet Products and Services

Pet sitting businesses serve distinctively different target customers than the clientele of boarding kennels and doggy day care centers. Sitter clients usually want their animal family members to have the very best experiences in their own house while the pet “parents” -as this category of customers is now called in the industry- are away from home.

Customers who desire pet sitting want their animals to be cared for in the familiar surroundings of their own home, and for pet sitters, that is where the dog walking and other customized service options come in. Even the best kennel or day care center environment does not allow for the regular, outdoor 30-minute walk that a dog may be used to at home, or other special routines that the dog moms and dads provide their animal family members.

Big City Dog Walkers – A Glamorous Niche of the Dog Walking Business

The dog walking services provided by average pet sitters are miles apart from the movie images of a New York City dog walker, merrily tripping along Park Avenue with 10-15 dogs of every size proceeding ahead on leash in an orderly semi-circle. Big city dog-walking services are a highly specialized area of the pet industry. The business category begs several intriguing questions, such as: how does one dog walker get a dog out of and back into its apartment with 12 or 13 other dogs in tow?

Although big city dog walking does fall into the home-based business category, this very special boutique niche requires description as a separate business from the average dog walking service that is a part of the national pet sitting industry.

Start Up Cost: $1,500 – $6,000

Can Be Home Based?: Yes

Can Be Operated Part Time?: Yes

Skills Required:

Must Love Dogs . . .

An innate love for all animals, plus some experience in caring for them, is required to make a success as a pet sitting professional. Further education in dog and animal care is available through courses offered by pet sitting associations such as NAPPS (National Association of Professional Pet Sitters) and PSI (Pet Sitters International).

Dogs and other animals sense when someone is not at ease around them. Keep in mind that, as a pet care business owner offering your services to the public, you will not want to turn down any reasonably behaved dog, even if you do prefer the powder-puff kind over the big bruisers. If big dogs just aren’t your thing and you still want to start this business, you might structure and advertise your business towards “Dogs Under Twenty Pounds.” At any rate, success in starting your own dog sitting in-home pet care business will be largely determined by how much you enjoy interacting with the animals and your enthusiasm in caring for them as a business.

Pet Sitting as a Business Requires Basic Traits of an Entrepreneur

Dog sitting for friends and family on an occasional basis is as different as daylight to dark from in-home pet care as a business. You will need to have or develop, in addition to your natural ability with dogs and other animals, the basic traits of a successful entrepreneur. You need to be a high-energy, driven person, with the self-discipline to start projects on your own, budget your time, and meet deadlines. You must be able to communicate ideas visually, verbally, and in writing, and have the ability to sell yourself as well as the services you offer. Problem-solving skills and the ability to work independently and under pressure are other important traits. In addition to getting along with animals, people skills will come into play even more importantly as you contact prospective customers, interact successfully with your customer base, and get repeat business and referrals.

How Much Can You Earn:

As with all home-based business ventures, your potential income estimate dependson whether you will be working part-time sitting for a few family, friends and neighbors, or if you will treat your endeavor as a true business operation – going full-time and all-in.

Pet Sitters’ Businesses Surviving Gas Prices, Shaky Economy

Recent national publicity and media attention to pet sitting trends and revenues indicates that pet sitters can still garner a stable income in today’s economic environment. Even with rising gas costs, owners of pet sitting businesses have been able to readjust coverage areas and increase their prices without sacrificing income levels. Recent news stories across the US captured by NAPPS (the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters)indicate that pet sitting businesses are maintaining their incomes in the current dicey economy. By increasing appointment charges an average of $2-3 dollars for gas and mileage and bringing their radius of clients closer to home, many business owners did lose loyal clients (they helped place them with other pet sitters), but found they retained more money after the adjustment.

Average Appointment and Overnight Sitting Fees

In the US, the average in-home pet care appointment fee averages $18-$22 for a 45- minute to one-hour service visit to one dog; services to more than one animal carry add-ons from $5-8 per dog for two or more dogs or pets. Overnight pet sitting charges nationwide range from $50 to $75 per night, generally including up to two pets. Additional services that pet sitting business owners can provide will up the prices. A majority of professional pet sitters offer additional services as poop-scoop, administering of meds (may require special certification training with a veterinarian), transport to and from vets and groomers, and home services for out-of-town clients such as collection of mail, changing status of TV, lighting and window coverings, to name some of the most popular add on services, which can add to your fee schedules.

Pet Sitter Business Income Limited Only by Creativity of the Entrepreneur

How you structure your unique in-home pet care business is the key to maximizing your income levels. Adding sale of products, hosting special events, and customizing service packages – all these ideas and more can substantially up the income you make from your pet care business. Your creativity, and the business skills to implement, are the only limits.

Understanding Customers:

Pet sitting is one of the fastest growing segments of the pet care industry; separate from its big brothers, boarding kennels and doggy day care centers, there is a large and growing market of customers who want dogs and other pets cared for in their own home environment, rather than being boarded.

Target Clients Are Pampered Pet “Parents”

The in-home pet care clients are the “Pet Parents” referred to earlier. They are very particular and very protective of their animals. Their pets often might be classified as “spoiled” because their owners spare no expense to feed them the best diets, buy them special toys (and often doggy clothing outfits), and generally cater to their every need--as perceived by the moms and dads of these pampered pets.

Customers Found in Every Age Group

Pet parents can be mid-to-upper level income folks of any age group. Young professionals in their mid-twenties and thirties often travel in the course of their jobs, and will regularly need your services. Middle-aged, intense career people may want their dogs walked before they get home from working late. And the large retired population will be prime candidates for services: they often have disposable income, they frequently look on their pets as “kids,” and they like to travel, which means they will want your services while they go on cruises and travel to locations where taking pets along is not an option.

Marketing Strategy:

If you have identified your target customer area, ideally close to your home, there are a few basic tried-and-true actions to start with.

  • Visit local veterinarians and grooming shops and ask them if you can display your business materials.
  • Send announcements and materials describing your services to area friends and neighbors.
  • Get listed on your local Yahoo or other internet providers’ local yellow pages.
  • Join one of the national professional associations such as NAPPS (National Association for Professional Pet Sitters) or PSI (Pet Sitters International). Organizations such as these give you multiple membership benefits, including being listed on their by-zip-code referral services on the internet.
  • Word of mouth is truly the best marketing strategy for the pet sitting business. Personal references that can attest to your reliability, true concern for the pets’ best interests, and expertise in pet care will help to get your business up and running faster than any other method.

Requirements:

Home Office Equipment

Every business owner needs a computer with the usual office software set, internet access, and a printer-scanner-copier.

For an in-home pet care business, there are other specific items you will need to operate as a truly professional business.

Professional Association Membership

For credibility and resources, professional pet sitting association membership is a must. The most high-profile pet sitting organization is NAPPS (National Association of Professional Pet Sitters). Their comprehensive membership benefits, products and educational course offerings include start-up business kits, liability insurance and bonding, templates of many business forms and materials you will need. Membership currently is about $160 annually. Pet Sitting insurance packages and bonding from their recommended agencies can run as high as $200 per year.

Another smaller but also quite recognizable association that many pet sitters belong to is PSI (Pet Sitters International). PSI offers similar but somewhat less comprehensive benefits to NAPPS, and is slightly cheaper to join. Quite a few pet sitters are members of both and display both logos on their business materials.

Business Cards, Your Best Jump-Start Tool

Every new business needs business cards. Since almost all area pet owners are potential customers, an attractive business card can start getting your business name out there immediately. A business card can be the basis for your startup; getting cards on display (use one of the many card holders available at office supply stores) at veterinarians’ offices and grooming shops should be done immediately.

Today, you can make a quick batch of business cards and other marketing materials at home on your computer; however, for the quantities of business cards you will probably need, it’s recommended to use one of the internet business card websites. The prices are relatively cheap and many sites, such as GotPrint.com, make it easy to create your own designs, using your own images and photos.

Today, a Web Site is a Must

If you truly intend to have a pet sitting business, rather than doing sitting just for family and friends, you’ve got to have a professional website, even if it is very simple. Although many startup sitters think they don’t need a website because they will be working locally and won’t be taking orders over the internet, getting a good-looking website up is an investment that will pay off as a marketing tool. Putting your website out there refers potential customers to your complete menu of services, and you can start receiving requests for service scheduling from customers as emails from your site.

Resource Urls

  • www.petsitters.org  Official website of NAPPS (the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters). Prospective pet sitting business owners can spend a lot of worthwhile time researching topics, viewing media spots, and seeing product and educational course offerings on the NAPPS website and related links. Pretty much everything you need to know is on this site.
  • www.petsit.com  Website of PSI (Pet Sitters International), a global organization for pet sitting professionals with a good contingent of members in the USA and Canada. PSI offers member video conferences on pet sitting business tips and best practices, as well as other courses on how to get your business running successfully.

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