by Sam Mazzotta
DEAR PAW’S CORNER: I’m a pet owner (two cats, a very mellow Chihuahua and two parakeets), and for a couple of years now I’ve been thinking of starting a business as a dog walker or pet sitter. Some of my friends and my boyfriend are trying to talk me out of it, saying pet sitters don’t make any money, and it’s an undignified job. What do you think?
−MaryAnne K., Syracuse, N.Y.
DEAR MARYANNE: If you think that you can be successful at something, then you probably can. I’m sure your friends are trying to talk you out of it because they care about you, but in the end, it’s about what you want. And frankly, caring for pets is hardly undignified — it’s an incredibly important job. There’s also high demand for quality pet care in major cities.
The most important part of starting your business is to do your homework — not just learning about pet sitting, but running a business as well. Sign up for small business or entrepreneurship classes and/or groups in your area (some are offered free or at low cost). Visit your local SBA (Small Business Administration) office to learn about federal programs and loans available to you.
Learn about the pet-sitting and dog-walking industry by checking out these organizations: Pet Sitters International (petsit.com) and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (petsitters.org). They offer resources, advice, training, online referral services, group health and dental insurance plans, and even certification.
One of the best things you can do is talk to pet sitters and ask questions. How do they provide quality pet care to their customers? What is the business climate like in your area? Learn as much as you can about running a pet sitting business.