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Everything you need to know about being a dog sitter

Dog sitter with Jack Russell dog advice

A pet sitter needs to be empathetic, sensible, reliable and organised.

© Shutterstock

If you love dogs and think it sounds wonderful to spend all day around your furry friends, dog sitting might be the job for you.

By Dr Jo de Klerk, BVetMed (Hons) MScTAH MRCVS

Updated on the 20/11/2020, 13:09

After all, it’s important to do what you love, and love what you do, and that will be noticed by all the lovely dogs you will have the pleasure of looking after.

Being a dog sitter means that you can have freedom and flexibility in your day to do what you love around other life commitments. An experienced dog sitter can earn a respectable income from dog sitting, but it’s also a job which can be done part-time alongside other work commitments. Getting started as a dog sitter is relatively easy, as the only essential requirements are being a dog lover and having good general knowledge about dog care. However, gaining qualifications and references will go a long way to expanding your business.

If you’re considering becoming a pet sitter, or hiring one for your dog, here are some of the most important things to consider.

What does pet sitting mean?

Pet sitting is when a dog owner hires a dog sitter to look after their furry friend, instead of putting them in dog kennels. This can be for a short period of time, for example during the day when the owner is at work, or over a longer period of time, such as when an owner is on holiday.

The role of dog sitting can come in a variety of forms. You can dog sit by going to the pet owner’s house and spending some time with their dog, such as walking or feeding him, or you can have someone else’s dog in your own home. Sometimes it even requires staying over and house sitting too.

Dog house sitting: What are the duties of a pet sitter?

Dog house sitting usually requires staying in the owner’s house for a period of time. This is common if the dog owner is on holiday. Not all dog sitting services offer house sitting, but it’s often one of the more exciting parts of dog sitting; you might even get to stay in some really nice places!

The duties of a pet sitter when house sitting often include caring for the owner’s dog, such as dog walking, grooming, playing, frequently changing drinking water and feeding. It might also include travelling with the dog to the vets or administering medication.

Sometimes other duties are required, such as cleaning the house, so it is important to clarify what the dog owner expects.

Understandably, dog owners miss their furry friends while they are away, and therefore most dog sitters take photos and send daily updates to pet owners to ensure they have peace of mind.

Education, Training, & Certification

While it is not an essential requirement to have a degree, most experienced and highly regarded dog sitters have had some form of further education. In addition to this, if you work for a pet sitting agency rather than independently, they might ask you to go on a training course before you can work for them.

A background in animal care, such as working in a veterinary practice or at a dog groomer, will go a long way, but completing an official course will make you even more employable.

The National Association of Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers (NarpsUK) offers a business course for pet sitting and dog walking, which not only covers pet care and first aid, but also how to run a successful business, and details about UK law. However, there are many online, and in-person courses available about animal care.

Pet Sitter Skills & Competencies

Being a pet sitter requires many skills which you might not have thought of. Even though you will be mainly working with dogs and cats, pet sitting still requires great interpersonal customer service skills, as after all, your client is a person! It is also important that a pet sitter is empathetic, sensible, reliable and organised. Finally, it is a good idea to be physically fit, as most dog sitting roles require dog walking too.

In addition to these qualities, it is important that a dog sitter is competent at looking after a dog. This includes knowing about canine nutrition, animal first aid, how to entertain a dog and how to ensure the dog is safe and secure.

Pet Sitter Salary: How much does a dog sitter make an hour?

Pet sitting salaries vary greatly depending on the role and style of work. Pet sitters can work as freelancers or under the umbrella of an agency. While agencies will take a cut of the money, they also deal with all the business aspects and find clients, which frees up more time to work with dogs. In addition to this, agencies usually charge a little more to their clients, so their cut doesn’t necessarily mean an agency pet sitter will be worse off than a freelancer.

As a freelancing pet sitter, you can expect to earn between £10 to £20 per hour. The average salary for a pet sitter in the UK is £24,679, rising to £30,380 for pet sitters in London.

Work Environment

One of the great things about dog sitting, is that the work environment changes frequently. Sometimes you might offer home dog boarding, allowing you to work from home. Other times, you might work from the dog owner’s house, or be out in the countryside dog walking.

Work Schedule

If you are employed as a dog sitter by an agency, you might have to follow a work schedule with regular hours. However, freelance pet sitters can have more flexibility. Typically, pet sitting is not a typical 9am to 5pm job, and may require staying overnight, attending to animals late at night, helping out dog owners at late notice and occasionally putting in long hours.

Do pet sitters stay overnight?

While most pet sitters will stay overnight on request, not all pet sitters offer overnight services. Staying overnight will usually be at an additional fee.

What is the average cost for a pet sitter?

The average rates for a dog sitter depend on the service being offered. Doggy daycare in the pet sitter’s home is often between £30 for half a day or £40-50 for a full day. Pet sitting in the owner’s home for 24 hours will usually cost around £60.

For short visits, such as walking or dropping in to feed and play, an hourly rate of £15 to £20 per hour is usually applied.

How much do dog sitters charge in the uk?

As already mentioned, the average cost for a pet sitter in the UK varies depending on the services required, however you can expect considerable variation across the country, with local dog sitters in rural areas charging much less than dog sitters in London or major cities.

How much do you pay an overnight house sitter?

Overnight house sitters will usually charge approximately £50-60, however this might be less if they are not required to stay the whole day too. In addition to this, the fee will likely vary depending on what duties are required, such as whether it is just dog and house sitting required, or also household duties.

How do I start dog sitting?

If you are interested in dog sitting but don’t know where to get started, contacting an agency is a good initial place to make enquiries. Agencies already have a client base, and they often also provide support such as business administration, insurance and training courses.

If you don’t think an agency is for you, a good starting point is to enroll on an animal care training course, which also has a business element. Once you have finished your training, you can set up your business and begin to advertise your services.

Remember that in the UK, you are required to have a licence to care for other people’s animals in your own home or set up boarding kennels, however it is not required if you only go to other people’s homes. Nevertheless, taking out insurance is important.

Getting your first client is always exciting, and many people find word of mouth and social media marketing the best tools to do that.

How old should you be to pet sit?

The minimum working age in the UK is 16. While children from the age of 13 can work a limited number of hours, a pet sitter should not be younger than 16 as they may not be responsible enough to take care of a pet.

What is the best pet sitting service?

There is no such thing as the best pet sitting service. Instead it is what is right for you and your dog. Some dogs are happiest at their own home and have no problem with a pet sitter dropping in to play or walk them for an hour in the middle of the day.

For other dogs, constant company is more important, and therefore a doggy daycare in a pet sitters’ home is a better option for them.

It’s important to remember though, that dogs thrive off of company, and should not be left alone for more than four hours in a day.

Dog sitter or pet sitters near me

If you are looking for a dog sitter near you, the best place to start looking is with people you know. Word of mouth and personal recommendations are a great way to find someone reliable.

Another option is to contact a local pet sitting agency and enquire about whether they have anyone in your area who comes highly recommended. They might charge a bit more, but you know they are backed up by an agency, which means if at least minute they can’t come, there is likely to be a replacement dog sitter to ensure your dog gets the care and attention he deserves.