I recently posted a piece on how to make six figures walking and watching pets. During the conversation that followed, I ran into J.D. Antell, author of The Dog Walker's Startup Guide. I asked J.D. to write a guest post on the subject of making money on pets, and he's obliged with the following.
First, I’d like to create a distinction between a pet sitting service and dog walking service. The two have been used interchangeably for far too long and there are major differences between the two you should be aware of. When I started out back in 2001 I offered both pet sitting and dog walking services. Over the course of the seven years I was in business I recognized that dog walking offered the biggest return on investment (ROI). That's when I decided to exclusively offer only dog walking services.
Pet sitting, as it’s known, really began to take hold back in the late 80s and early 90s. Why then? Americans simply started caring more about their pets and decided that leaving ol’ Rex in a kennel for a week or more just wasn’t fair or humane. During that time some entrepreneurial pet lovers decided there was a market for “pet sitting services” and created businesses that served that need, and pet owners began to respond! Slowly at first, but in larger numbers as the concept became known. Thus the pet sitting industry was born. Before you decide to start your own pet sitting business consider some of the key differences between the two.
Dog walking, differs considerably from a traditional pet sitting business and offers a very real solution for those who need a more flexible schedule. Pet sitting is about pet visits: feeding the cat, bird, dog, or fish, making sure they have fresh water, making sure the owners house is still standing, watering plants, taking in mail, taking the dog out for a potty break or a walk and some companionship. Pet sitters take care of many different types of animals from domestic “pets” to live-stock. But here is the clincher: the hours are pretty much 3 to 4 blocks of time in each day: early morning, noon, late afternoon, and an evening tuck-in. Pet sitters work very hard and need to be out most of the day with brief 1-2 hour blocks of down-time.
In contrast, a dog walker’s job, focus, and service is very different and the hours are much more conducive to stay-at-home parents, students, and retired persons. Dog walking is a more zen-like business model, provides a steady predictable income, and your customer base is much, much larger.
How Pet Sitting Services Came to Be
Our world has experienced changes to its neighborhoods and subsequently its municipal laws; and it’s not just us humans who have felt the impact of urban sprawl. In most communities it’s now against the law to let your dog roam free or be left out in a yard all day. This was what people used to do with their pets when they went to work all day; and what we’ve seen is a growing number of commuters needing to hire dog walkers to take their dogs out during the day.
I heard somewhere that commute times have increased something like 200-300% in the last 20 years—plus there are far more dual earner households with nobody at home to take care of the dog. Unfortunately, dogs’ bladders haven’t kept pace! It’s now practically impossible to own a dog and go to work unless you hire a dog walker, which is why it’s such a hot business to get into.
A dog walker can walk about 4 dogs in two hours (and more if you offer group walks or outings) at $15 per dog that’s $60+ for a couple of hours work. Most stay-at-home parents can squeeze in at least 4 hours of work per day so let’s just make that an even $120. So for a part-time job you can earn $600 or more per week! That’s some serious supplemental income. Need a full-time income? Well, just do the math!
So the long and short of it is: if you are looking for a relaxed and flexible business with practically unlimited income potential then dog walking might be your answer. Combine that with a great way to get exercise and stay healthy-- not to mention working with the best stress relievers on the planet, and you've got a recipe for success!