Let’s Raise the Bar on The Pet Sitting Industry

The definition of professional is “following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain.” Therefore, by definition, any of us who pet sit or walk dogs as a means of livelihood or for gain are considered a professional. From my perspective, most of us in this industry define ourselves as “professional pet sitters.”

There is also another set of pet sitters who do this as a means of livelihood or for gain but for some reason the “professional” pet sitters have labeled them “hobby sitters,” by definition they are technically “professional pet sitters’ as well. Some have waged war against these so called hobby sitters although the hobby sitters don’t seem to be participating in the battle. There is also an underlying opinion that these so called “hobby sitters” are ruining our industry. I disagree.

There aren’t any prerequisites for becoming a pet sitter or starting a pet sitting business; there aren’t any formal classes that need to be taken or certifications needed. Some professional and so called “hobby” pet sitters have worked in veterinarian offices, have been through vet tech or Red Cross training and volunteered at dog rescue centers. None of these are a requirement to start a “professional” pet sitting business. Comparatively speaking the cost of starting a pet sitting business is relatively low and the requirements are minimal.

Many believe that having insurance and a website makes them professional. In reality having insurance does not make you any more of a professional than having car insurance makes you a good driver. It is insurance, nothing more. Albeit insurance is a wise thing to have for your own protection.

Having a website may get you found, but again does not make you a professional. It makes you a pet sitter with a website. There are many pet sitters that call themselves “professional” that are not an LLC, which again is not necessary. It may make you more legitimate but not necessarily professional.

There are even people who have full time jobs and run a pet sitting business on the side. They consider themselves “professional pet sitters” as well even though this in not their main source of income. In some instances this could be considered more of a hobby.

Are we professional pet sitters because we may have an employee or an IC?  What makes the college student we hire to pet sit anymore professional than a college student placing and ad to walk dogs or pet sit?

Exactly what constitutes a “professional pet sitter?” A 15 letter word called “professionalism.”

Professionalism is defined as the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well.

Every pet sitter that has embraced professionalism is the true professionals in the industry. They realize that they are business owners and have developed or acquired the necessary skills in order to run a successful business. These skills include managerial and leadership skills, marketing, communication, sales, and customer service. They know how to offer solutions, deal with problems and build relationships. They embrace these skills with confidence and professionalism.

Pet sitters who have not acquired or developed these skills are perceived by their clients as “just pet sitters.” Why? Because that is the message they are conveying. They lack knowledge and confidence in their business skills and it is clear to the client.

The struggle is not between the so called “hobby” and “professional pet sitters.” The struggle is within our own camp. It is between the professional pet sitters and the “unprofessional” professional pet sitters.

Our industry is saturated with pet sitters. They are like fleas: if you see one there are hundreds more following right behind. Those who are prepared will do well. Others will survive. Most will go out of business. We need to clean up things within our own camp and embrace professionalism instead of placing blame on the so called hobby sitter. The days of “I am bonded, insured, and I have a website so therefore I am a professional” are coming to and end. We need to step in up in order to stay competitive.

“You must play with puppies all day” and similar phrases are nothing more than our perception of what we believe the general perception of our industry to be. Every time these types of phrases are spoken, thought, written or repeated they are given power and therefore driven deeper into your belief system. In order to change what we believe is “their” perception of our industry we need to change our thinking and eliminate these types of thoughts and phrases from our vocabulary. Stop believing them and stop giving them power over our industry.

A colleague wrote a blog a few months back titled “An open letter to the person who told me $15 was too expensive to care for their elderly dog.” I was saddened to see that so many industry professionals embraced these same views and felt compelled to share and praise this blog.

The blog started out by chastising someone for calling a pet sitting business 10 days before Christmas about pet sitting services for the week of Christmas. We are a service based business! People call when they need service, not when it is convenient for us. It does not matter if they call 10 days before Christmas, a month before Christmas or Christmas morning. If you are able to help then do so, if not politely say “ I am sorry we are completely booked, and for future reference Holiday’s tend to book up quickly therefore it is always best to book early.”

Let’s face it, without clients we don’t have much of a business. Every time your phone rings it is an opportunity to grow your business and increase your income. For a pet sitter just starting out a few last minute calls can be a godsend. You may own the business but the client signs your check.

In the comments the blog author wrote “It’s about raising the respect we deserve from clients.” It is quite simple. If you want respect you have to show respect. Respect is not given. Respect is earned.

Fault was placed on the potential client for thinking $15.00 was too expensive for pet sitting services. As usual the “hobby sitter” and “kid next door” were used as a comparison to try and make a point. These always seem to be the arguments used when standing up for our profession.

In my opinion if blame is to be placed then the pet sitter is at fault for failing to convey a feeling of trust, peace of mind, and the true benefit and value of hiring a professional. The caller did nothing wrong. You are not going to land every client. However we can do better than the comparison between the “professional” and “the kid next door” or “the hobby sitter.” We need to do better. The argument is old, tired and never held much weight in the first place.

Each year PSA posts a list of some of the claims they paid throughout the year. Here are a few:

  • Client’s dog ate rat poison at member’s residence and required vet care – $703 paid
  • Client’s cat ate a foreign object and required a visit to the vet – $2704 paid
  • Member left gate open; client’s dog ran away and was found with injuries – $2,307 paid
  • Member gave the wrong dose of insulin to a client’s cat; taken to vet – $743 paid
  • Member was walking client’s dog, it got spooked, ran off and was hit by car – $2,957 paid
  • Client’s dog ate human medicine and required vet care – $800 paid
  • Client’s dog slipped its leash while on a walk; fractured tibia – $1,000 paid
  • Two client dogs playing in fenced-in yard; one dog injured ACL – $1,000 paid
  • At off-leash dog park, client’s dog was bitten by another dog – $472 paid
  • Member walking two client dogs who got into a fight; both dogs injured – $4,500 paid
  • Client’s dog bit an off-leash dog while on a walk – $4,401 paid
  • Client’s dog broke its leash and attacked another dog and its owner – $16,500 paid
  • Client’s dog bit an individual while in the member’s care – $10,376 paid
  • Client’s sliding door was damaged by member – $5,964 paid
  • Water damage to a client’s home due to the toilet overflowing – $4,628 paid
  • Member lost the keys to a client’s home and the home had to be re-keyed – $274 paid

Each claim was made by a professional pet sitter. I completely understand that accidents happen but if you are boarding dogs why would you have rat poison around? Giving the wrong dosage of insulin, leaving gates open, and taking dogs to off leash dog parks are all irresponsible acts made by professional pet sitters, not hobby sitters or the kid next door.

I am not asking everyone to fix the industry. I am asking everyone to run the best possible pet sitting business that they can. A small shift in thinking is a great place to start. Stop comparing and find the words that represent your own business and express your personal feelings and characteristics on why the service you provide is of value. The best thing you can do in this business is be genuine and be yourself. It is the first step in gaining trust.

Let our industry stand on its own two feet and stop comparing. Actions speak louder than words.

You can agree with me, you can disagree with me, or we can agree to disagree. Let’s raise the bar on the pet sitting industry.


  1. Great points, Anthony!

  2. BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO! I’m bookmarking this blog and revisiting it often.

  3. Very concise and excellent points made.
    Thank you for writing this..May it spread far and wide!

    • Daily Dog Walkers & Pet Sitters says

      Thank you Joanne. I hope it does spread far and wide. If it helps even one pet sitter I will be happy.

  4. Excellent! We should never allow price to dictate the difference between a professional and a hobbyist. We listen to the needs and respond appropriately, even if we decide to do the service for a lesser amount. Customer service is #1 and the way we run our business is of utmost importance.

    • Daily Dog Walkers & Pet Sitters says

      We are a personal service industry. Customer service needs to be our #1 priority. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Kim.

  5. Great blog! All valid points. It is up to us to set the standard and to always remember that we are a customer service based business. Without our customers, we would have no business!

    • Daily Dog Walkers & Pet Sitters says

      Thank you Dawn. Very true, without clients we don’t have much of a business. Thank you for commenting.

  6. Good points to ponder. Skills, good judgment (often based on experience), reliability and trustworthiness, organization, customer service are some of the most important traits of being a professional pet sitter. Thank you for making me think about what constitutes a professional instead of bashing the “hobby sitters” or saying I am professional because I have insurance/bond, xx years in business and a website.

    • Daily Dog Walkers & Pet Sitters says

      Thank you for your comment Kelly. Find the words that represent the value that YOU and your business have to offer.

  7. AMEN, Anthony! I was about to write an article/blog post on that very subject, but you beat me to it. Now I’ve got plenty of ammo and additional resources for my next material! On another blog post I’ve also mentioned the IMPORTANCE of a sitter’s personality, character, and performance to determine professionalism. You can’t legislate, license, certify, or insure a person’s character and personality. It especially troubles me to see a number of “pro” sitters wanting government intervention to crack down on the hobbyists. It also bothers me to hear a number of pet care “pros” saying that being a 100% full-time pet sitter or dog walker (or what have you) is best and everyone else who doesn’t fit into that mold is considered a hobbyist. Nowadays it’s necessary for many people to have more than one source of income/livelihood and there are also many people like me who have multiple interests. I’m in both camps. I consider pet care work because IT IS REAL WORK to me. I do my best to serve pet parents and their critter loved ones.

    I’m definitely sharing your post!

    • Daily Dog Walkers & Pet Sitters says

      Please don’t let my blog stop you. Keep the movement going and thank you for sharing my post!

  8. Hi Anthony,
    Incredible article and so true, IMHO!
    Thank you for sharing!!
    Paws up!

    • Daily Dog Walkers & Pet Sitters says

      Thank you Kristin. Paws Up to you too! Thank you for your comment. Best of luck with your pet sitting business!

  9. You have hit upon points that I have tried to make over and over again on different pet sitting forums! Thank you Anthony!

  10. Thank you Thank you Thank you!

    Being passionate about your business is a good thing. Combining both is a great thing. A professional will be relentless in earning respect, credibility and integrity…because it is personal.

    That is the value-

  11. Love, love, love!!! You are a great representation of an industry leader, Anthony! Thank you for your insight on what can be a sore subject between those in our industry. I am also a member of PSA and remember their last claims report. Good on you for putting words to a subject many of us only think about! – Tomika

  12. Brenda's Pet Sitting says

    I agree with you, nice to see others are on the same page. I started looking after dogs aftet I had to put down my third dog. I felt I just couldn’t go through it again but I absolutely love dogs so decided I would talk to a friend that owns a Pet Store to see what she thought. It was a go, she referred clients to me and they in turn referred other potential clients. I have been doing this for over 3 years now and love everyone of the little and big darlings. Nowhere else would I get to see so many different types of dogs from a 2lb Yorkie to a 150 lb bull/mastiff. I treat them like they are my own. Never would I let them off leash or have poisonous anything laying around even certain flowers are dangerous. I have been very lucky that no harm has come to any animal in my care. Sometimes they may get diarrhea because they are a bit anxious being away from home but a little pumpkin in their food usually clears that up. When clients tell me that they don’t worry at all about their pet when they are here with me, well, that says it all! Isn’t that what it’s all about?? I charge $15 a day but many clients pay more because it is worth it to them to have someone they trust. I can’t argue with that LOL!

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