How to start a pet sitting business

Discover how you can care for adorable furry friends while earning a profit.

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Starting any business can be like watching a puppy take its first step. You're nervous but excited to take a running start. Tempted as you might be, there are steps in starting a business you cannot sprint past. Our guide will navigate you through the steps you need to take to open a pet sitting business, leaving no stone unturned.

What is a pet sitting business?

A pet sitting business is one that takes care of animals while their owners are away. This may be a temporary arrangement while a pet's owners are away on holiday, or a regular arrangement to keep a pet entertained while its owners are at work.

Get to grips with key industry skills

Ask yourself: can you handle an animal if it's anxious or gets too playful? A pet sitter should have an understanding of animal behaviour and be able to be gentle and assertive with animals when they act out.

If you can, gaining experience at boarding kennels, groomers, doggie daycares or other related employment can help you understand what may be required from a pet-sitter on a day-to-day basis.

While each animal is different with unique personalities, all pets share the same basic needs. Familiarising yourself with Australia's legislation governing animal welfare will help you to better understand these needs, which includes:

  • Providing food and water
  • Providing accommodation or living conditions
  • Understanding your animal's normal behavioural patterns
  • Treating disease and injury
  • Handling the animal appropriately.

In some cases, you may be hired to pet sit at the owner's home. At this point, you will need to prove yourself trustworthy and reliable for the owners to feel safe leaving you in their home.

Equip yourself with the right qualifications

woman pet sitting a dog

Not all pet sitters need a qualification, but having one can add credibility to your business. Luckily, there are plenty of online courses out there that you can complete in your own time.

Here are a few useful courses to consider:

  • Certificate II in Animal Studies will give you the fundamentals you need to feel confident as a pet sitter. This course covers animal breeds, animal welfare and handling, workplace health and safety, fleas and common parasites, dog enrichment, bath and drying, and diseases and infection control. You can complete this course in your own time in as little as 15 weeks for a cost of $3,000 at Training.com.au.
  • RSPCA Certified Online Pet Sitter Course. This course teaches the local laws, codes of practice and the standard of care the RSPCA expects. You will train to handle pet emergencies, decrease the risk of dog fights, illness, accident or escape. For a fee of $150, you can complete this online course within two hours.
  • First Aid and Medication Techniques for Pets led by The Pet Industry Association, teaches this essential skill set for pet sitters.
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Training.com.au

Certificate in Animal Care

An animal care certificate from training.com.au could help start your pet sitting career.

    Choose a catchy name for your business

    Before you open your doors to paying customers, you need to name your business. While this is a very exciting point, don't let your excitement take away from making a good business decision. Remember that your business name not only needs to reflect what you do, but it also needs to be catchy and memorable for customers. Here are a few tips for picking the right name:

    • Choose a niche in pet sitting and make sure your name reflects that
    • Check if the name is already in use and try to pick something unique
    • Double-check domain names to make sure you can name your website correctly
    • Keep it simple and don't use words that are hard to spell
    • Choose a name that's scalable and will grow with your business

    Once you've got your perfect business name secured firmly under your belt, it's time for the fun stuff, like designing a logo and building your website.

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    Choose the right business structure

    The business structure you choose will need to fit your needs and the vision you have for your business. After all, this will determine who makes the key decision in your business and how you pay tax. Check out two of the most common business structures for a pet sitting business:

    • Sole traders. Register as a sole trader if you're the only person running the business. As the owner, you'll be solely responsible for every aspect of the business, including the debts and losses.
    • Partnerships. You may want to start up a business with a friend or a relative. If so, then register as a partnership. You and your partner will have joint responsibility for the business, including all of the financial and business decisions. Consider using a partnership agreement to protect you and your partner.

    Once you have established your business structure, you will need to register with the Australian Taxation Office and apply for an ABN (Australian Business Number). An ABN is a unique 11 digit number that identifies your business to the government. You can use it on invoices, tax payments to claim goods and services tax, and get an Australian domain name.

    Write a business plan

    Putting together a business plan before you jump into the world of pet sitting can be extremely beneficial. It will help you think about your business's long-term goals, set realistic milestones for its growth, and consider the money side of things.

    Your business plan doesn't need to be pages and pages long, but it should cover the following for starting a pet sitting business:

    • Business description. Explain what your business does and how it makes money.
    • Product research. Go into detail about your business's service and how it's different from others in the market. Explore the advantages and disadvantages of your product.
    • Market research. Think about the type of customers that you'll be targeting and who your main competitors are.
    • Sales plan. Talk through your marketing strategy, including how you're going to find your first customers and build up a customer base.
    • Financial analysis. Outline your pet sitting business's financial details, including how much set-up costs are, how much you'll charge customers and a sales forecast for the coming years.
    • Future goals. Think about where you want the business to be in one, three, five or ten years. Set realistic goals to help you achieve this.

    Prepare yourself with the right equipment

    You shouldn't need to invest too much money in equipment for your pet sitting business in the initial stages. Typically, pet owners will provide you with everything you will need, including:

    • Enough food for the amount of time their pet will be in your care
    • Adequate rolls of poo bags
    • A leash for walks
    • A pet carrier, if applicable
    • A harness and a seatbelt attachment if the animal will be travelling in a car with you.

    It can still be useful to have some spare equipment on hand as well. Here's a quick list of essential bits and bobs:

    • Food bowls
    • Water bowls
    • Blankets
    • Treats
    • Leashes
    • Dry and wet pet food
    • Furniture and car sheet for protection from muddy paws and hair
    • Pet toys
    • Emergency medical supplies

    Making sure you have all of the right legal documents in place before you start your pet sitting business will give you the best chance of succeeding when you open. Here are a few legal bits to get in order before you open for business:

    Pet sitting contract

    Just like any other business, it's best practice to organise a service agreement between you and your clients. It's always a good idea to go over this contract with your client before any business commences.

    These are some essential clauses to include in your pet sitting contract:

    • Outline of the services you will provide and how often
    • Pet's medical and behavioural history
    • Emergency contact details for the owner and vet
    • Rates and terms of payment
    • Client's house rules

    Before you agree to care for an animal, you should also ensure that the owner has microchipped, desexed and vaccinated their pet. This should be included in the contract and signed by the client.

    Insurance

    To avoid being liable for damages or injuries to another person or property, you should invest in Public Liability Insurance. In fact, this is required by law for all pet sitting businesses. The insurance covers events such as if a pet escapes or gets injured while in your care, veterinary treatment or if the pet injures another pet.

    Local council requirements

    You will also need to check in with your local council regarding the number of pets you can legally look after. In some cases, you may need to apply for a permit.

    Website disclaimer

    If you are setting up a website, a website disclaimer can limit your liability to any claims that users and clients could make against information that you provide.

    If you need any help with legal requirements for your business, you can compare and use the online legal services below.

    Name Product What's offered? Starting price to become a member Annual Fee from Free legal documents available?
    Lawpath
    Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $79 per month
    Essentials: $288, legal advice: $828
    You can view samples for free and you can create your first document for free.
    Choose an annual plan from just $288 and get unlimited revisions to your legal or business documents. Plus, unlock exclusive partner offers.
    LawDepot
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    $4.99 per month
    $59.88
    Free one week trial available which gives access to hundreds of documents.
    Customise and download legal documents in as little as five minutes. Plus, LawDepot offers peace of mind with two service guarantees.
    Legal123
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    Varies per template
    N/A
    No
    Legal123 offers a range of individual templates or document packages for consultants, app developers, personal trainers and more.
    LegalVision
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $49 + GST per week
    $2,548 + GST
    No
    Your business can take advantage of unlimited lawyer consultations, fast turnaround times and free legal templates with LegalVision.
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    Start building your customer base

    The growth of your customer base relies heavily on glowing reviews. Consider your target audience and try to figure out the most effective way to reach them. You can print out flyers and business cards to pin at your local bulletin board or hand out in your local area to get started.

    Online marketplaces are hassle-free and useful platforms to connect with clients.

    • Madpaws. An online marketplace where you can register as a pet sitter.
    • hipages. Connect with customers from your local neighbourhood looking for a specific trade.
    • Airtasker. Post your specialised skill and browse tasks people need help with.
    • Oneflare. This Australian marketplace matches clients looking for pet sitting with local businesses.

    You can also look at Facebook and Google ads from competitors to get an idea of how to market your business online. If you're looking to attract a wider audience, it's worth investing in a well-designed website that's SEO friendly. This means that it shows up in the first pages of search engines and can be found by more customers.

    Set your prices

    A pet sitter's service is not the same for every client. Before setting a price, you should consider the needs of your client. Here are some criteria to keep in mind when selecting your prices:

    • The type, size and number of animals
    • The number of hours for your service
    • The types of services requested
    • Physical and medical requirements of the animals
    • Demographics and local pricing comparisons

    Browse through local listings or apps to find the average cost and set yours accordingly.

    The average cost for a pet sitter ranges from about $60 to $200, but you can choose to raise the price for overnight pet sitting or boarding. A walk in the local neighbourhood may cost $10 - $25 per hour. For services such as bathing and grooming, you can charge a set fee of between $20 - $40.

    If you are new to the business, you may choose to set your prices slightly lower than the average. As you take on different clients, your rapport will grow. You can raise your price once you have an established clientele.

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    Frequently asked questions

    What services does a professional pet sitter include?

    Professional pet sitter services include feeding the pet, exercising them, cleaning up after them, grooming and bathing. Some pet sitters have experience with providing medical assistance such as daily injections and giving oral medications.

    Can pets stay at the pet sitter's home?

    This depends on the pet sitter's services. Some pet sitters do offer boarding services. However, this is limited to certain types of pets. The pet sitter will need special licensing and additional insurance to be able to offer this service.

    What are the benefits of a long-term pet sitter versus a boarding kennel?

    A boarding kennel can be quite expensive for many people. Being near other animals can also be stressful for animals, especially when they are in an unfamiliar environment. By hiring a pet sitter, your clients can ensure that the pet is comfortable and their routine remains the same. Having personal contact with a pet sitter can also be beneficial for your peace of mind.

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