There are many permutations and combinations of pet sitting business models, but these seem to be the most common.
- Dog walking business which focuses on group walks using a van to transport the dogs. Minimum of two staff to enable safety and control should there be any unforeseen occurrence on the walk or at one of the houses.
- Dog walking business which focuses on one-to-one walks on foot from the house (no van needed, but transport to get between houses in minimal time is essential). Where two dogs live very close together – and are compatible – walks could be paired. This type of business can survive and thrive with only one person other than the issue of cover for emergencies/illness or holiday.
- The popular ‘catch-all’ of pet sitting business models, that is often used interchangeably with the term “petsitting”, at least in the UK. This model offers every conceivable kind of pet care service, including in-home boarding (for dogs, reptiles and smaller caged animals), walking (dogs), day care (dogs), home visits (any pets) and so on. A team approach is needed.
- Home-based dog boarding business, which only takes dogs for weekend and holiday boards. An excellent model for a sole trader, working alone in the first instance, so long as you have an emergency plan in place for extreme situations.
- Dog day care business, which offers day care only. Another good model for someone working alone in the first instance, so long as you have an emergency plan in place for extreme situations.
- Hub model for home boarding, where a central administrative hub manages a number of satellite boarding homes. The hub markets the business and generates clients who are then matched to a suitable boarding home. Hub boarding businesses can be small and in one geographical area, right through to being nationwide.
- Large premises dog day care facility, often providing transport for the dogs to the centre as well. This model needs a premises, a team of staff and a vehicle. This is one form of pet care business that probably benefits from employing staff, rather than using independent contractors.
- Home-based dog care, which is a combination of 4 and 5, covering both day care and home boarding. Works well for one person working alone in the first instance, so long as you have an emergency plan in place for extreme situations.
- House sitting service – this can be one person, in one area of the country – or indeed one person covering a much wider area, so long as they are not firmly rooted in their own home for any reason.
- Hub model of the house sitting service, where a central administrative hub manages a number of individuals willing to carry out house sitting duties. These are usually national organisations.
- Pet sitting service that only does home visits (for any animal) or walks, but does not also offer boarding or day care in the sitters own home. May offer overnight sits too.
- Speciality service, such as reptiles only, small animals, or – in some areas – horses or smallholding care.
I started with the catch-all model (as many people do) as a sole trader, without co-workers. With hindsight, I wish someone had told me that this model requires a team approach. I worked for almost 18 months doing it all, with the support of a house full of young adults who ensured that no holidaying dogs were left alone, while I went off to do a list of walks and the odd cat visit each day. I was soon exhausted and struggled to build any part of the business, other than home boarding, which is such a popular service it kind of grows itself. How much more productive I could it have been, had I begun to build a team from the beginning? I would suggest that – unless you want to do your own work for yourself and never grow your business – you consider the merits of building a team from the very beginning. More on this in the co-workers section of the site.
With a name like Custom Canine Care, it was almost inevitable that we would end up as a dog-only service provider, but it took over 4 years and a lot of heartache getting there. As a company we provide home boarding, walking, day care, home visits and house sitting – all for dogs. However, each individual member of the team, bar one, specialises in either ‘in home’ or ‘out of the home’ care. It’s rarely satisfactory in the long term to try to do both.
Taking all this into consideration, it’s wise, before you start up your business, to have a clear idea of which of the pet sitting business models you want to pursue and where you would like to end up. If your chosen model involves co-workers, I would encourage you to get them on board from the earliest possible opportunity.