So You Think You Can Pet Sit?
Take it from a pro – being a Dog Nanny isn’t as easy as you think
When I first opened my business, it was primarily obedience training. After a year or so I decided I wanted to add to it, and approached my business advisor with the idea of pet sitting and dog walking. He frowned upon the notion and confided in me that only people with no other talent walk dogs, and that I should focus on marketing the dog training portion of my business. I ignored his advice and began planning the pet sitting portion of by business.
And how’s it going? It’s now my four year anniversary and I have a successful pet sitting company and a loyal clientele who are family to me. But my business advisor had it all wrong – it wasn’t just a walk in the dog park. There are parts of the job that will challenge the most seasonal profession. Here are just a few of the tough hurdles (although in hindsight, some a bit funny to me now) I’ve had to deal with:
Weather advisory: Oh, it’s snowing and nobody’s supposed to be driving? Too bad. My furry clients need me; just because it’s an ice rink doesn’t mean they don’t need to eat. No matter the conditions, I need to get there. Each morning the first step is to check the weather and plan accordingly. On holidays, I could be pet sitting for up to six or seven clients. This means if it’s snowing on Christmas, I get to view the winter wonderland while walking dogs for twelve hours straight in the cold while everyone else enjoys their eggnog.
New key, no problem! One Thanksgiving day, I was making my rounds as usual, when I got to a new client’s house early in the morning. I put the key in the lock, and to my dismay it did not turn. I wiggled and wiggled (you learn the trick to just about any door when pet sitting) and nothing happened. After I was convinced it was the key and not me, I called the owner. It’s customary to do a walk through before the client leaves to go over the day-to-day and get the special details, but it was only in my second year of pet sitting professionally, and I didn’t even think to check the key. Turns out it was a new key that they didn’t test. ALWAYS test new keys. Because if you don’t, your pet sitter might be forced to break into your house with a credit card. And if that pet sitter has ‘disaster brain,’ she might just panic while doing so. I looked over my shoulder every two seconds thinking the neighbors were going to call the cops on the crazy bundled up lady trying to break in to a house. But we have to be creative, because Fido is the number one priority.
Related: 5 Tips For Hiring a Dog Sitter
Not for those with a weak stomach: So puppies tend to get into things they shouldn’t. They put everything in their mouth, and this can result in a lot of stuff being digested that shouldn’t. Pet sitters must be able to handle that same stuff coming back out one way or another. I’ve seen all sorts of things in dog puke: toy stuffing, stick pieces, full biscuits, and I’ve even seen a pieces of TV remote. Vomit treasures are a rarity, but still something to consider if you’re thinking of pet sitting.
Dog Walker-Puppy Confidentiality: When I pet sit, I’m not just taking care of the dog, I’m taking care of the home as well. And no matter what weird stuff the owner is into, I will never speak of it to anyone. I don’t snoop and I don’t ask questions. What I run into while looking for a new roll of toilet paper, although I might find it shocking, I will never speak of.
Spoiled pooches: Our pets are our best friends, and for most they are considered family. But the fact remains that they are still dogs. I’m guilty of spoiling my dog, but there’s a limit. She doesn’t need a clothing change twice a day, and she certainly doesn’t know what time on the hour she gets treats. When you’re a pet sitter, you see it all. People can have the strangest requests for their pets, including singing them to sleep after tucking them into their beds.
But at the end of the day, I pet sit because the wags are worth it. It’s a difficult job, but the payoff is that I get to spend my days hanging out and taking care of your furry best friend.
Rachel Leavy lives in Rochester, New York with her dog, Maria, and her gecko, Nigel. She has loved animals all her life, and has owned her own dog training and walking company for five years. When she’s not playing with puppies, she can usually be found writing short stories, riding horses or out at a play.