Income from dog sitting is not unlimited since there are only so many hours in a day, but it can provide a good side income or even full-time income to support yourself and your family. My formulas will help you determine prices that work for you and for the current market.
With The Big Quit upon us in 2022, many individuals tired of working for low wages are starting their own businesses. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spend a total of $99 billion dollars a year on their pets! If you are good with dogs and good at managing your own time and finances, you can tap into this lucrative industry by starting a dog boarding from home or pet sitting business.
Let’s get right to it. How much money can you make with a pet care business? The answer may surprise you. Income in this type of business is not unlimited since there are only so many hours in a day and so many dogs you can walk or care for, but it can provide a good side income or even full-time income to support yourself and your family.
I started pet sitting and dog walking in 1994 for a company in San Francisco. In 1995 I moved to San Mateo and started my own business. The area was growing and many people were earning a lot of money thanks to the dot-com boom. In my best years I made over $100,000! It is possible for you to make that much, but there are some considerations. Let’s take a look.
Kinds of services
What kinds of services do you want to offer? Individual or group dog walks? Hikes? Dog boarding in your home? These services will have different price points and popularity, depending on your area. For example, in my current home town there is very little demand for dog walking, while just 30 minutes away in a more metro area there is a big demand, with sitters doing large group walks and raking in the cash.
Some services are more cost efficient than others, if you can handle them. Boarding dogs in your home can bring in a good income if you can manage a large group. Group walks or hikes can be very lucrative if you can safely handle 5-10 dogs at once. Driving to a client’s home for a private walk or individual care visit is less efficient, but as a premium service you can charge more.
For some reason, pet care providers have a much harder time than, it seems, any other business owner in setting prices. I can tell you if you start on the high side and provide excellent service, you are more likely to be successful than if you start low and overwork yourself. How to determine prices?
Doing market research and seeing what others charge can be helpful but you shouldn’t use this as a basis for your fees. Instead, start by determining how much you need to make. Let’s say you’ve determined you want to make $5,000 a month from your business. You’ve decided that group walks is your primary area of interest, and that you can realistically walk 6 dogs at a time, twice daily, Monday through Friday. If you maintain this schedule consistently, you will need to charge $21 per dog to meet this goal … or will that work? Oops, we forgot about taxes.
Running your business legally is a subject for another article, but the short version is you should absolutely do things on the up and up. Paying taxes may seem onerous, especially when folks pay you in cash so you don’t even have to deposit it in the bank … but wait till you need credit and see what happens. Getting a loan, buying a car, and especially buying a home, requires a significant amount of income to be reported on one’s taxes at the end of the year. If you made money and didn’t report it, it doesn’t count.
I am not a tax advisor, just an experienced business owner. Consult a licensed tax professional in your area for the best advice. That said, you should set aside approximately 25% of your income for taxes. Based on this estimate, you will need to charge at least $28 per dog to profit $5,000 and have enough for taxes.
Let’s try another scenario. You want to board dogs in your home and make the same amount per month, $5,000. You determine that you can safely keep up to 5 dogs at a time. This type of care will be spaced out differently than regular walks or hikes, with possibly more traffic on weekends and holidays. It’s not likely you’ll have 5 dogs together every day of the week. If you charge $70 per dog for this service, you will need to have 95 dog days per month to meet your goal (including taxes), which is 3 or so dogs per day. See how this works? Determining how much you want to make and what you can realistically do on a daily basis are key to setting rates that work for you.
I have many years of experience caring for all kinds of animals including exotics, horses, and pets with medical needs. This gives me an advantage over others. If you have special experience or skill in giving medications or anything else out of the ordinary everyday care, you can charge more for these services. Can you train the dogs while they are in your care? Can you provide baths and other grooming services? Pet owners are willing to pay for quality care, and if they aren’t you don’t want them as clients.
Hiring is a way to scale your business, but it has some significant considerations. If your goal is to create a large business with staff I suggest you check out some of the programs available like The Hiring Handbook for Pet Sitters by Kristin Morrison.
One of the benefits of a pet care business is low overhead. You don’t need retail space, inventory, computers, desks, or any of the many other expenses incurred by brick and mortar businesses. Your primary expense, especially if you are traveling to the client’s home, is transportation, and some of that will be tax deductible. This factor also makes starting such a business much less of a risk. If it doesn’t work out or if you decide to go in a different direction, you aren’t losing a significant investment.
I wish you success in your pet care business!