A few years ago, Kristen and I thought a cool way to serve our neighborhood if we could watch people’s dogs while they went to work.
We both work from home full-time. (We did it before COVID made it as normal as it is today.) And I’d spoken to a few friends who took their dogs to doggy daycare facilities that were both fairly expensive and inflexible.
So we looked for an opportunity to make that work.
That opportunity presented itself when Rover.com popped up. Rover created a marketplace where dog sitters could list their services, manage bookings, and actually host dogs.
Rover was perfect for us as we started. It let us try things out, make mistakes, and figure out if we actually liked dog sitting or if it was just a weird idea we had on a walk one day.
- We make the rules. Kristen and I are, by nature, very flexible. But we’ve learned we have to have some clearly defined boundaries or there will be dog owners who take advantage of us.
- Our dogs are the boss. At the end of the day, if dog sitting isn’t fun for Murray and Ms. Bey, we can’t do it. We’ve learned what kinds of dogs our dogs like being around and we politely decline dogs that don’t fit their criteria.
- Do things the right way. We’ve learned a ton of skills since we’ve started. And we’ve set some pretty firm rules for ourselves. For example, we always feed dogs separately. It’s a total pain to lock one dog at a time in our kitchen so they can eat. But 100% of dogs are weird about their food and we’ve just found that dogs eat better and there’s less drama if we do it in a controlled way. Doors and baby gates help us manage this very easily.
- Build the pack. It wasn’t until COVID, when we shut down for a couple months, that it became clear that we needed to ditch one-time dog visitors through Rover and concentrate on building our pack of regulars instead. We now use Rover occasionally to meet new people in the neighborhood, but generally speaking build our pack via referrals and word of mouth. Having a pack of regulars has taken it from a “mildly stressful” side hustle to something that really brings us a lot of joy. I mean, we basically get paid to play with really awesome dogs each day.
It has turned out that, over time, it has become a great way to get to know and serve our neighbors.
And yes, it pays. While it isn’t lucrative and it certainly has some costs (pet insurance, treats, toys, home repairs) it is worth doing financially. If we advertised a little and were willing to give up more of our time we could certainly make more… maybe even one of us could do it full-time… but Kristen and I both have jobs we really like so this is a nice thing to do on the side.
And we get to play with really nice, though somewhat goofy, dogs so everyone wins.
How Does It Actually Work?
We primarily do daycare. For a set fee we accept up to 4 dogs per day for up to 12 hours of daycare. So dog owners drop their dogs off at our house in the morning and pick them up after work.
For overnight care (boarding) dogs get dropped off at the beginning of your trip and picked up when you come home, we charge a set rate based on 24 hour increments.
We don’t offer dog walking services, we tried that and while we like walking dogs… and daycare / overnight dogs get walked… we just didn’t find it worked for us.
What if something goes wrong?
In four years we’ve have only a small handful of minor incidents. Dogs playing hard who get a bump or bruise. Dogs who jump off of things an injure themselves. Really minor stuff.
But, if something were to go seriously wrong, we have specialty insurance so we’re covered. It’s not cheap! It costs us about 1 months dog sitting income, but it’s important that we’re protected in case anything ever were to go wrong.
We collect the dogs vet info, we make sure they are up to date on all of their shots and all of that, we pre-screen the dogs (cough, mostly the owner) before we start, that way if something goes wrong we’re good to go.
We also follow all of the county’s guidelines and rules for operating, we have it set-up as a real business, we pay our taxes and all that, so we’re not taking any wild risks. We’ve had animal control here and gotten the thumbs up. And our neighbors know we do this and since we stay within the rules set-up by the county, they have no problem either. You would think it would be a loud thing to live next door to… but outside of the dogs barking when something exciting happens, like the Chewy box arrives, it’s really not that loud because we’re here with them all the time and help keep things under control. And we clean-up like crazy so it’s not like it smells bad.
But yes, when we are fully booked like we were yesterday, it’s a lot of dogs. We can take up to 4 guests dogs at a time. When you include our two… that’s a total of 6 dogs. That’s a lot of dogs that want to sit next to you on the couch or want you to throw the ball or play tug of war. And when the postal carrier comes by… it’ll be loud. But 99% of the time… we just love it.
We do it because we love dogs and we love serving our neighbors. When we manage it well it’s actually a lot of fun.
Plus, it was pretty cool to go to Hawaii this year and know that trip was paid for by our pack. Mahalo.