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The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Dog-Sitting Business

The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Dog-Sitting Business

I love dogs, and I usually feel bad when I see a lonely dog to the point of suffering from separation anxiety. This love for dogs was the propelling power behind my dog-sitting business. But starting the business wasn't as easy as I first thought.

I had to go through the legal processes of registering a new business, getting insurance covers, and marketing my new business. Thankfully, the business picked up well. Now, with considerable experience in the business, I can share the ultimate guide to starting a dog-sitting business.   

The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Dog-Sitting Business

The University of Melbourne research shows that one out of four to six dogs suffers from separation anxiety from being left alone, an average of 25%. Interestingly, these statistics are just for dogs with clear signs of separation anxiety, signs big enough for owners to recognize.

So, when we talk about separation anxiety, even where there are no clear signs, it's estimated that around 40% suffer from it. That's a huge number, and it's the driving force for the rise of dog-sitting businesses. In 2022, the global pet-sitting market was around $1.6 billion, expected to reach $3.6 billion by 2032. 

That will be around an 8.3% expansion. In short, pet-sitting services are expanding, and jumping on this bandwagon is not a bad business idea. It's one of the businesses where passion meets current trends. Here is the ultimate guide to starting a dog-sitting business.    

Choose a Business Name

Choosing a business name is more than picking one of your favorite names. The choice of the name directly affects the business's success. It's one of the pillars of marketing. As a rule of thumb:

  • Let the name speak for itself: Go for a name that tells potential clients what you do. Don't be blinded by established brands like Yahoo or Google. Such names cost more to brand.
  • Don't be too narrow: I know it's a dog-sitting business, but don't be overly narrow. Don't limit your business to dog sitting and in a certain region. Maybe you'll later offer extra dog services and cover other regions. For instance, if Jeff Bezos had named his business Remote Bookstore instead of Amazon, he could have been forced to change the name when introducing other online products.
  • Avoid names that are hard to spell: You want names that customers easily remember and tell their friends. Avoid names like Flickr, where you must correct the spelling almost always.
  • Do an online name search: Licensing authorities don't allow sharing of business names. So, do an online search to ascertain that there is no other business with your chosen name. I also recommend avoiding names that are too similar to the competitors or big brands. Online search algorithms consistently rank established brands first, limiting your visibility. For example, if you call your business Adobi, Google search will show results for Adobe, not your business.

Decide the Structure of the Business

The choice of business structure impacts insurance, compensation, financing, income taxes, and the paperwork you must complete before the business starts running. Before deciding which structure to use, try to ask yourself the following questions.

  • How ready are you for administrative complexities?
  • Do you need financing, and which financing options would you prefer?
  • How do you want to pay your taxes?
  • What kind of insurance liability cover do you want?

There are many structures, but I'll cover only three because that's all you need for a dog-sitting business. Here is a breakdown of these structures and how they affect the above questions.

Sole Proprietorship

It's the most straightforward structure. As the name suggests, you'll fully control your dog-sitting business. Interestingly, you're automatically a sole proprietor if you start a dog sitting in people's homes without doing the paperwork.

With this option, your personal liabilities and assets are not separate from your business liabilities and assets. I recommend starting with this option and upgrading when you start employing workers.


A partnership structure is just like a sole proprietorship. However, you'll be partnering with two or more people. It's a great option when you want to combine resources with your friend and start a dog-sitting business together.

I recommend a limited liability partnership, where no member carries the burden of the business debts. You'll be paying taxes on the profits as personal tax returns, just like in a sole proprietorship.


A limited liability company balances between a partnership and a full-fledged corporation. The good thing with LLC is that it protects your assets, such as savings, houses, and cars, from business lawsuits and bankruptcy risks.

Remember, accidents do happen. Imagine taking care of expensive dog breeds like the Tibetan Mastiff, which costs over $2,000, or the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, which costs over $50,000. The risk is too high. I recommend starting an LLC that cushions you from the unexpected.   

Comply With the Licensing Requirements

If you want to do business with peace of mind, comply with the legal requirements of your region. The licenses vary across regions. For instance, in the US, you need federal and state licenses. In Canada, you get licenses from the municipality.

You might not need a provincial or federal license. The costs of these permits also vary across regions. So, check the legal requirements in your area and comply. 

Get an Insurance Cover

As I mentioned earlier, some dog breeds are expensive. The last thing you want is to be liable if the dog becomes sick or dies under your care. At the same time, you don't want to be liable when the dog causes damage. I was shocked when I learned how much people underestimate the damage a dog can cause.

When you're a dog sitter, you're dealing with a dog you don't fully understand. You don't know it's pulling power and level of aggression. Imagine taking care of a Bulldog without an idea of its temperament. It can quickly get out of control and bite someone.

There are around 500,000 dog bites in Canada per year and an average of 2 fatalities. According to a Canadian Underwriter report, the compensation for a dog bite ranges from $30,000 to $35000. Now, imagine a Tibetan Mastiff bought at $2,000 going on a rampage and biting five people. Simple math shows me you will part with at least $152,000. That's not small money for a start-up business.

I highly recommend a pet insurance cover when starting a dog-sitting business. The cover is inexpensive and costs around $250 to $500 per year. Insurance helps you with two things: to take the burden of the loss and a competitive edge. Simply put, clients will prefer working with a business with insurance coverage. Here are the things to consider when choosing the cover.

Public Liability Insurance

As the name suggests, this policy covers claims made by clients and the general public. It's like third-party insurance for motor cars. It's the policy responsible for the significant risks I mentioned above.

The good thing with this policy is that it covers even the property and other pets in the dog owner's home. For instance, the insurance covers the loss if the dog bites a cat while caring for it in the owner's house.

Employer's Liability Cover

This policy covers your employees. You'll probably need it when the business expands and you start employing workers. But don't ignore it. It's easy to find yourself in hot water after employing someone, and the dog bites him.    

Personal Illness and Accident Cover

I recommend this cover if the business structure is a sole proprietorship and is your source of livelihood. It compensates if you get injured or sick and cannot continue your regular dog-sitting business.

Combine the Two Types of Dog Sitting

Dog sitting is flexible. You can take care of the dog in the owner's home, or the dog can come to your home. Most businesses specify whether it's in-home dog sitting or dog boarding. The problem with in-home dog sitting is that you can only handle one client because you can't simultaneously be in two different homes.

Dog boarding is a little better because you can care for more than one dog. However, to maximize profits, I recommend combining the two types. That way, you can take two clients even if you work solo. You go to the owner's home during the day for an in-home dog sitting. In the evening, you take another dog for dog boarding. 

Market Your Services

Dog sitting is competitive. You must market your services like any other business. For marketing, follow the current trends, and the current trend is online.

According to the International Trade Administration, over 27 million Canadians shop online, around 75% of the Canadian population. Estimates say that eCommerce sales in Canada will hit $40.3 billion by 2025. So, the best route is to join this marketing bandwagon using the following strategies.  

Set up a Website

With 71% of businesses worldwide having a website, it's now a basic need for every new business. People will want to see your website for more information, and a website serves as social proof that the company is legit.

The good news is that setting up a website is easier than ever. You need to head to a hosting provider, purchase a domain name, and pay for the hosting. Most of these hosting providers come with WordPress CMS, and you only need to use the free templates to design the site and add your brand information. 

The website will serve as a portfolio where potential clients see your accomplishments. The good thing with a website is that it allows you to compete with the industry goliaths. People can open your website and contact you the same way they open the website of a giant dog-sitting service provider. You can even outrank the giant sites if you have some SEO tactics.

Leverage Social Media Platforms

Over 33.1 million Canadians use social media platforms like Facebook. So, this is another pool of people, and you only need to win them towards your business. The good thing with social media platforms is that they don't charge to create posts, follow like-minded people, be followed, or join groups.

I recommend browsing for dog-related Facebook groups near your place and joining. Be active in the group. Always have that Top Contributor badge. Over time, members will learn you have so much dog-related knowledge. So, when potential clients post that they're looking for dog sitters, you'll have an advantage over your competitors.

Another option is to pay for Facebook-sponsored ads. The most significant advantage of sponsored ads is that you can micro-target your audiences. Remember, Facebook has lots of user data, which it uses to narrow down the ads to the right people.

When I was adopting my first dog, I asked about a reputable breeder from my friends, searched on Google, and talked a lot about dog breeders with my family. To my shock, when I opened Facebook, I saw many sponsored ads about reputable breeders in my area.

I don't know how they knew what I wanted, but I picked a breeder from the sponsored ads. So, Facebook ads are an excellent channel to reach the right people at the right time. Here is how to do it.

  • Go to Facebook Business Manager and create an account
  • Enter your name, email address, and the business name
  • On the next page, enter the details of your dog-sitting business and click Submit
  • To add ads accounts, open Business Settings, go to Accounts, and choose Ad accounts
  • Click on Add and then follow the prompts
  • To start running ads, choose Create Campaign from the ads manager
  • Choose your campaign objective, such as Conversions. The aim is to make visitors to your website convert into actual customers
  • Give a name to your campaign. I suggest using default campaign settings if you aren't familiar with them.
  • I also recommend using the daily budget instead of the lifetime budget.

Network With Teams That Offer Dog Services

Networking is a powerful tool. It's the easiest way to land your first client. It's all about befriending people that deal with dogs and getting referrals. For example, imagine a dog that suffers from separation anxiety when the owner leaves for work. It starts losing interest, losing appetite, and the weight drops. The owner takes the dog to a vet, thinking it's sick.

The vet diagnoses the issue as separation anxiety, and the remedy is to get an in-home dog sitter. If you have networked with such a vet, he will recommend you. Almost always, the dog owner's trust in the vet makes him choose the recommended dog sitter.

The same happens when you network with other dog sitters. The client might be relocating far from their dog-sitting service provider, or the dog sitter has many clients and can't take a new one, and they refer you. Here are the teams that offer dog-related services and can help send potential clients your way.

  • Animal welfare
  • Animal Rescue
  • Pet taxi
  • Pet photographers
  • Dog trainers
  • Dog groomers
  • Vets
  • Doggy daycare
  • Pet sitters
  • Dog Boarding
  • Dog walkers

Set Competitive Prices

What you charge for dog sitting can make or break your business. If the rates are high, potential clients will prefer your competitors. If you charge so low, clients will doubt your services. Also, low prices mean fewer profits, and you won't be able to sustain expenses like advertising and insurance.

The best thing is to gauge the average dog-sitting charges in your region and start slightly lower to attract the initial clients. For example, the average dog-sitting rate in Canada is around $30-$40 per day. On the other hand, dog-sitting charges for 24-hour care are around $75-$85 in the United States.

Still, the rates vary with states and off-days. For instance, New York rates go up to $50 per day. On the other hand, they go up by around 20% to 30% during the weekends. So, starting it at $25 per day in Canada, regardless of whether it's a weekend or not, is a good move.  

Take Care of Your Furry Friends the Right Way

The future of your new business depends on the quality of services you offer. Ensure you maintain a clean environment and bond well with your furry friends. That way, you'll not only retain your current clients, but they will also refer you to new clients.

Final Thoughts

The dog-sitting business is growing, and starting one is a wise investment decision. To avoid nasty lawsuits in the future, make sure you follow the right legal processes and get insurance coverage. Network with dog-related service providers and market your services online.