Part-Time Dog Sitters

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Part-Time Dog Sitters
Love dogs? Dog-sitting may be the perfect side hustle

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Despite remote work and a kibosh on travel, pet sitting during the pandemic didn’t completely ‘go to the dogs.” And now, by all accounts, part-time dog sitters are getting even busier.

Newly dog-less and with time on my hands, I decided to test the waters. My beautiful dog Lizzy had been with me 15 years when she passed away. I wasn’t ready to get a new pup—but I missed canine companionship. Lizzy had a lot of friends so I offered to dog sit.

Word got out at the dog park, which was packed with newly adopted “Covid pups.” Pet ownership has skyrocketed and there are more people with pets now than ever before. According to the American Pet Products Association, 11.38 million US households took on a new pet during the pandemic, with 75 percent of surveyed pet owners saying that spending time with a dog or cat helped to reduce their stress and increased their sense of well-being during the pandemic.

Requests from people at the dog park (at first I only knew the names of their dogs, you know how that goes) came pouring in, first to day-sit as they gradually went back to work and, later, for sleepovers when they began travelling again.

I worked full-time until Covid caused my travel writing to become non-existent so I saw this as an opportunity to start a part-time job. I created a business Facebook Page called “Kinver K9s,” posting rates and testimonials, and I handed out business cards in the dog park. Within a few months, I was turning down requests as I only take four “clients” at a time.

Within no time at all, I found myself making $2000 a month from my side gig. It’s been a mostly wonderful experience. Amazingly, I’ve only had one troublemaker, an aggressive pandemic pup whose parents had zero experience (their first dog). Another time, I boarded two un-neutered large dogs and an un-spayed female—that was quite the workout. I paid a friend to help as the two males had to be separated. I’ll never do that again—talk about a learning curve!

I spoke with other dog lovers who recently started offering part-time doggie daycare services, along with a few seasoned sitters, but they all have something in common: they prefer working with dogs more than any other job. Here are their stories.

Rafi Shaik, San Jose, California

“I began working from home when Covid hit. Because I spent so much time commuting back and forth—I’m a software architect—I had lots of spare time, so my wife and I started dog boarding. We also wanted our kids to get involved—like me, they learned a lot by looking after dogs from a young age. My daughters, ages 11 and 16, walk the small guys and I handle the bigger breeds.

I signed up with Rover.com and got bookings right away, and after a few reviews, bookings snowballed. I now have many repeat customers and they tell their friends.

My limit is three dogs. And I keep my Rover calendar full for two weeks then block for two weeks because we want to give our Lab a break from other dogs’ energy and temperament. Unfortunately, I turn down a lot of regular clients to keep those two weeks free, but they understand.

I started low at $45 per day and charged less for puppies—my girls love to play with pups and time away from their computer and phone is time they can learn. My sweet spot is now $55 for day-sitting and/or sleepovers.

Having never been exposed to the outside world, some dogs aren’t socialized and have fear issues. I can usually tell by the first phone call whether there will be a problem: if I hear anxiety in [the owner’s] voice, dogs tune into that anxiety. [Many pets, grown accustomed to being with their people 24/7, experience separation anxiety, which can lead to issues when owners return to work. Sadly, while pet adoptions rose 12 percent in 2020, many pandemic puppies were returned to shelters, in fact at double the rate in 2021, according to USA Today.]

While on the phone I ask about any behaviour and health issues; if a dog is coughing or on meds I turn them down. Rover takes care of the rest, including vaccination checks and pet insurance. Today I have a Labradoodle and German Shepherd mix— it’s gonna be a good day.”

Joseph Avalos, Brooklyn, New York

“I moved to Brooklyn a few years ago to pursue a culinary career but soon realized I hate making wedding cakes and needed another career—and you need extra work living in New York. In high school I made pocket money taking care of dogs, including grooming, so when people asked if I could watch their dog on the weekends, it was a no-brainer. And I loved staying at their homes rather than my shoebox-sized apartment. I volunteered at first but always got tips and referrals.

Having a flexible work schedule helps. I joined community groups, including Facebook’s “NYC Dog Walkers and Petsitters,” and people are always posting requests for dog sitting and boarding. I also offer full service, which includes house cleaning. In a typical week I’ll have four dogs, all one-on-one. I charge a sliding scale, depending on what you can afford, so a walk is between $30-$50 and sleepovers from $50-$90. The latter includes cleaning or caring for multiple dogs.

I would love to work with dogs full-time. My dream is to have a space where dogs could stay with me, with off-leash parks nearby. Like us, dogs don’t like being cooped up.”

Diana Monks, Gabriola Island, B.C.

“I’ve been walking dogs for about 50 years—we always had dogs in our family. When my husband and I retired we volunteered a few days a week with the SPCA and the Humane Society. Some retired sled dogs dragged us around the neighbourhood!

We moved to Gabriola Island and met like-minded folks walking their fur babies. Someone asked if I could sit her puppy and that soon morphed into sleepovers for about six families. I often go to a client’s house for a few weeks, or their dog comes to our house. Nothing is regular—one week I won’t have any dogs and another week two dogs every day. I’m happy that way, but I’ll get busier with people travelling more, especially the snowbirds who don’t want to take their pets south.

I take all sizes, unless they are too rambunctious. And I said no to a woman who asked me to live at her house for three months—my husband wasn’t thrilled. Our house isn’t big enough for her three large dogs, but I’m sure she found someone.

I post on Gabriola Pet Sitters Facebook Group, but people mainly call from referrals. I’m not in this to make a lot of money and some people are living on their pensions so I charge $25 per day. Tips are appreciated.”

Dean Geatros, Calgary, Alberta

“Back in 1998, I hurt my back at work, and the only place that hired me was a dog walking service, which turned out to be paid physiotherapy—I loved it. I started walking two dogs and soon had a six-pack at the off-leash park.  The company changed hands, and I started my own business called “Dog Walkin’ Dean.” Fast forward a few years, and I had up to 24 dogs a day.

Here’s a typical day: I make a list of three runs with dogs’ initials so I remember which dog I had on which run. I leave the house around 9am and pick up the first pack (maybe eight) in my mini van—some dogs are waiting outside their house while others are inside, whatever makes the customer comfy. If I have the key, clients must let the neighbours know—I don’t want to get wrestled to the ground by the police, especially at my age (almost 60). We tear around the off-leash park for an hour and depending where the dogs live, they might stay for a second run or even the whole day, no extra charge. Back home at 4pm with a few sleepovers and dinner at 5pm.

"I prefer dogs rather than people, and hopefully I will never have to work with humans again"

I’ve had up to 17 dogs sleeping over during Easter and Christmas—what a blast. My wife and I have a big backyard, but a 1,300 square foot house. We have several plastic kid’s gates strategically placed so the dogs are somewhat separated. Some are in the bedroom, a few in the hallway and maybe six in the kitchen with our dogs—they’ve moved up a notch on the pack ladder in the kitchen. And we replaced our dining room suite with critter furniture. After supper we have about a few hours’ playtime and settle down around 9pm. We all fall asleep watching Animal Planet (kidding, sort of). Patty has a few pups on our bed and a couple on the floor—some dogs like women more than men.”

By all accounts, there’s no time like the present to offer doggie daycare and/or sleepovers, whether taking one or two at a time like Diana, offering additional services like Joseph, or developing your services into a full-time business. “I prefer dogs rather than people, and hopefully I will never have to work with humans again,” says Dog Walkin’ Dean, laughing. But for most of us dog lovers with employment elsewhere, it’s a perfect moonlighting job.

This article originally appeared in the award-winning Modern Dog magazine. Subscribe today!

 

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