Dog sitting is a great side hustle or job, but it still needs a little bit of preparation.

Before starting a career as a dog sitter, there’s a few considerations that can help make your (and your dogs!) experience a little better.

1. Meet the dog ahead of time

Meeting ahead of time gives both you and the dog time to get to know each other. This will also let the dog owner see how you interact with the animal and reassure them that their pooch is in the best possible hands.

If you’re going to be dog sitting a particular canine regularly, you’ll want to learn more about their personality and whether you’ll be comfortable dog sitting them – whether that be in their home or your own.

2. Invest in good insurance

One of the smartest things you can do is get a comprehensive dog sitting insurance.

If things go wrong, it covers you for everything from material damage to injury claims. A good insurance policy provides you with peace of mind as you grow your dog sitting business.

3. Puppy proof your house

If you’re dog sitting at your own property, make sure things are pup-proof.

Even older dogs can get into stuff they shouldn’t, and the last thing you need is Fido eating your Wi-Fi cables, chewing up furniture, or digesting a poisonous houseplant.

Dogs are curious, and a new place with new smells is begging to be explored. Wagging tails can knock over low lying vases and ornaments, and if you end up watching one of the bigger breeds, even small furniture isn’t always safe. Not even end tables are all Great Dane proof.

Keep human food well out of reach, and check with the owner to make sure their pup can’t get into cabinets or open doors.

If you have pets of your own, make sure that they aren’t going to trigger a dogs’ prey drive. Small animals like hamsters and rabbits will be almost irresistible to terriers. A St. Bernard, on the other hand, has a reputation for a very low prey drive and usually gets along with everyone and everything in the house.

4. Research the breed you are going to sit for

Different breeds have different needs.

A high energy dog is going to need lots of play and lots of walks to burn that excess energy off, otherwise he’ll get bored. Bored dogs are destructive dogs, and pet sitting won’t be much fun (or profitable) if a dog eats your couch.

The work that goes into dog sitting a Collie is going to be very different to the way you pet sit a Pekinese. While a Collie is likely to try and herd everyone in the house in the first ten minutes; a Pekinese is more likely to be aloof and watchful while they get to know you.

5. Check food and medications required with the owner ahead of time

Before taking on a dog, make sure the owner supplies you with enough food, and if they’re on a special diet, get the details from the owner ahead of time or at drop-off.

If the dog requires specific medication, you need to be comfortable giving this. Some medication is time sensitive, so you need to set an alarm to make sure you don’t miss a dose.

Always check for food allergies and preferences from both the dog and the owner before you feed the dog; and check for general allergies when the initial pet sitting is arranged. If the dog is allergic to grass and you let him roll all over the lawn, you are going to have an unhappy pet owner at pick-up time.

6. Have a supply of owner approved chews and toys

A decent supply of familiar treats and toys can help ease a dog’s anxiety in a new environment. A nice chew stick settles most dogs down fast, and toys make playtime more interesting for both you and the dog.

Check with owners to make sure they are happy with what you supply – some dog owners will prefer to supply their own treats for dietary reasons or toys that they know are indestructible for their dog.

Top tip: Providing high quality treats and toys can help justify higher rates for dog sitting.

7. Do some basic doggy first aid courses

Not every incident needs a vet visit, so it’s good to know what you can handle and when it’s time to go to the vet.

Dogs can pick up burrs and thorns in their paws during walks, so it’s useful to know the basics on how to patch up minor wounds on them. If the dog is injured, even slightly, make sure to tell the owner what happened and what steps you’ve taken as soon as possible. You should have a policy within your dog walking contract on how injuries are handled.

Top tip: Having basic first aid capabilities and promptly catching any injuries will help customers feel that their dog is being cared for properly, and they’re much more likely to become a repeat customer.

8. Stick to their routine

Dogs need a routine to feel settled and safe. Their walks, treats and feeding should be done at the usual time for the dog to keep them comfortable and prevent any stress. Make sure you get details and a schedule from the owner so you can stick to these as much as possible.

9. Find out about any allergies and medical conditions ahead of time

Dogs, like humans, can have allergies and medical conditions.

Check for these with the owner, and do some research into any that the dog has so that you’re prepared for a flare up.

Make sure you get any medication from the owner and look up how to give it so that you are comfortable knowing what to do.

10. If you’re pet sitting at the owner’s house, respect their privacy

Occasionally you may end up pet-sitting at the owner’s house. If this happens, learn the ground rules ahead of time and stick to them.

You’ll want to find out about what food and refreshments you can use, what rooms are off limits to both you and the dog, and if it’s an overnight gig, what facilities you can use, like the laundry and specific bathrooms or guest bedrooms.

Make sure anything you do is non-intrusive and respectful. Keep in mind that many people now have in-home cameras, so be prepared to be on camera and act accordingly.

11. Cater to your dog’s personality

Dogs have unique personality traits and characteristics. That means walks, playtime and naps can look different for everyone.

Top tip: If you’re dog sitting multiple canines at the same time, try to work out if they have similar needs, otherwise dog sitting multiple animals that require different walk lengths and play times can quickly make your job much more difficult.

Some pooches will be just fine sleeping in the corner with you in the room, while others will want to snuggle up to you on the couch as much as possible. Some dogs are used to being crate trained, while others would prefer to sleep in your bed.

12. Get details ahead of time

Our most important tip, and the best way to be successful, is to get full details ahead of time. The best way to do this is to get dog owners to fill out a comprehensive form, especially if you’re going to be dog sitting for a longer period.

These tips should set you up nicely for dog sitting. Don’t forget to ask for referrals – word of mouth is a huge part of getting new clients – as well as a review posted online.

Once you have a couple of satisfied clients, they’ll likely return – and happy clients will tell their friends about you and the fantastic job you did looking after their animal. You can even give some pet sitting business cards when your client picks up their dog.

The difference between being an okay dog sitter and being a great dog sitter comes down to time and research, as well as your ability to bond with the animals.