Anyone who owns a dog knows that dogs cost money. Food, vet bills, random accidents – these little things all add up. Dogs also cost you time. You have to feed them, take them for walks, and all the other tasks that come along with dog ownership. It’s pretty crazy how much a dog can change your schedule. About a year ago, I started up a side hustle petsitting business on two sharing economy platforms: DogVacay and Rover. I thought I’d share some thoughts on how dog owners, like myself, can use their dog to actually help them make money.
I’m a firm believer in finding side hustles that incorporate tasks that I’m already doing, and one thing Ms. Panther and I had definitely been doing for the past five years was taking care of our dog. Surely there was a side hustle that could incorporate the dog tasks we were already performing.
Petsitting was something that seemed to fit the bill. The way I figured it, I was already taking care of my own pup. It didn’t seem like that much work to add a second pup to my home from time to time. That’s where DogVacay and Rover come into play.
DogVacay and Rover
The easiest way to describe DogVacay and Rover is to think of them as an Airbnb for dogs. You might be going out of town and need someone to watch your pup. As a dog owner, if you’re going out of town, you basically have three options:
- Find a friend or family member to watch your pup.
- Put your pup in a kennel.
- Find a sitter on DogVacay or Rover.
Having a friend or family member watch your pup is usually most preferable, but isn’t always an option. And putting your pup in a kennel isn’t always the best fit. Not to mention that it can be expensive and weirdly impersonal.
Using DogVacay and Rover to Help You Make Extra Money
This is where DogVacay and Rover step in. People who are going out of town can search for sitters who can board a dog in their home. As a host, you set your own rates, set your own calendar, and set your own rules and policies. You’re free to reject any sitting requests you receive for any reason or no reason at all. For dog owners, DogVacay and Rover are generally cheaper than boarding your dog in a kennel. Your dog also usually has a better experience, since they get to stay in a home with a loving family.
Sitters on DogVacay and Rover are independent contractors. You are essentially a small business owner, much like an Airbnb host. As with Airbnb, DogVacay and Rover handles all of the payments and you communicate with clients through the respective apps. The two platforms also provide insurance for its sitters which are meant to cover really bad situations that might occur. (However, please note I’m not an expert on these host insurance policies. In a future post, I may dig deeper into these policies).
In return for providing you with a platform and handling payments, DogVacay and Rover take a cut of your earnings. This is the same as how Uber or Airbnb work. Based on the date I signed up to be a host, DogVacay and Rover both take a 15% cut of my earnings. Unfortunately, both platforms recently increased the service fee to 20%.
Why Pet Sitting Doesn’t Feel Like Work To Me.
Make no mistake, there is some work involved in watching another person’s dog. But if you already own a dog, the amount of work you have to do beyond what you are already doing is pretty minimal.
Think about it. If you’re a dog owner, you already have your set tasks you do every day with your dog. For me, my dog goes out for a walk in the morning before I go to work, goes out for a walk when I get home from work, and then goes out one more time before I go to bed. She eats twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.
I’ve found out that basically every dog follows this basic schedule. Sure, I have to hold two leashes and feed two dogs now, but that really doesn’t add much time to my daily schedule.
What happens if I encounter a dog that doesn’t follow this schedule? The beauty of setting up a side hustle using DogVacay and Rover is that you are in charge. I choose which dogs I want to watch and which ones I don’t want to watch. Naturally, I only accept dogs that fit within my schedule. Since I don’t want to watch any large dogs, I also only accept dogs that weigh less than 40 pounds.
Other than basic dog tasks, my only other added time is setting aside 15 or 30 minutes every few weeks to meet with potential new clients. This is some work, but its not much.
How Much Have I Made?
You’re not going to get rich off of DogVacay or Rover unless you want to host multiple dogs at once, and even then, I think it would be pretty hard to have this be a sustainable income on its own. Since I really just want to have some fun and make a little bit of extra side money, I limit myself to watching only one guest dog at a time. Still, its not too hard to make a couple hundred extra bucks a month.
In terms of rate, I generally charge $25 per night, but I do occasionally increase it during high demand holidays. It’s not a ton of money, but I’ve consistently been able to pull in about $200 per month with minimal work. If I book ten nights in a month, which isn’t too hard to do, I pull in $212 after Rover and DogVacay take their fees. Add it up over the course of a year and that’s $2,400 extra dollars in your pocket that you can use to pay off debt, or my recommendation, save in a Solo 401k.
Below is a snapshot of my earnings on DogVacay for 2016. The snapshot also shows what my lifetime earnings have been since I started petsitting in summer of 2015.
Here is a screenshot of my payouts from Rover for 2016. You can see what I charged and what Rover took out in fees.
All together that’s $1,892.25 in dog sitting income this year without doing very much extra work beyond what I’m already doing with my dog. My goal has been to earn about $200 per month, which I’ve been reaching so far without issue. I anticipate making $2,400 between the two platforms by the end of the year. Not bad at all.
What Expenses Can You Expect?
In terms of expenses, the largest expense is the fee paid to Rover and DogVacay. At 15%, it’s a significant amount (although still less than the 20% to 25% that Uber takes). The fee is worth it to me since I find the platform is a great way for me to drum up business with minimal work. The fee is taken out by Rover and DogVacay before I’m paid, so any earnings I receive are always paid net of fees.
Any other expenses are minimal. Dog owners provide their own dog food, treats, and toys. Most dog owners also provide their own poo bags. In any event, I don’t ever pay for poo bags. Instead, I just take them from an apartment building down the street from me. The only other expenses would be general wear and tear to my furniture and house, but I don’t really know how to properly calculate that expense.
Tips For New Hosts
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in doing, here are my general tips:
- Figure Out Your Target Market. You want to make sure that your profile appeals to dog owners who have the types of dogs you want. For me, I’m looking for dog owners who are working professionals like myself. This usually means they have a good, well trained dog that is used to a regular working schedule. By aiming for this type of market, I reduce the risk of getting dogs that will be a pain to watch.
- Limit Yourself To Certain Types of Dogs. I have a small dog and don’t want to deal with watching a big dog, so I make it clear that I only accept dogs that are 40 pounds or less. This results in me having two small dogs in my home, which makes walking and caring for them a breeze. I’m already used to taking care of a small pup!
- Always Set Up A Meet And Greet. You’re letting a strange dog into your home, so always set up a meet and greet before you accept any booking. This gives you a chance to make sure the owner has a good dog and isn’t a weirdo. To be frank, I wouldn’t trust any owner who didn’t insist on setting up a meet and greet in advance. After all, what dog owner would just let their dog stay in a stranger’s house without meeting their potential sitter in advance? (Pro Tip: Set up a meet and greet near your house. Never travel for meet and greets. I have a park just a block away from my home, so I always have new clients meet me there. It saves me time and lets the dog owner get a feel for my neighborhood).
- Limit Yourself To A Reasonable Number of Dogs. I only watch 1 dog at a time. This reduces the amount of extra work I have to do. While watching more dogs does increase what you can earn, for whatever reason, watching 2 extra dogs seemed like a ton more work to me.
- Platform Stack. Both Rover and DogVacay are basically the same, so I always recommend putting your profile on both platforms in order to increase your visibility. There’s no harm in doing this. Just make sure you keep your calendar updated on both sites. For myself, when I first started out, I found myself getting almost all of my bookings through Rover. This year, for whatever reason, I’m getting almost nothing out of Rover and almost all of my bookings come through DogVacay, so platform stacking has really made a difference for me this year.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the downsides.
- Potentially Bad Dogs. The biggest risk you face when you take in a new dog is that you have no idea if the dog is going to be nightmare. So far, we’ve managed to avoid issues, but we’ve had a few dogs that were a little bit more work for us then we’d like. One way to reduce this is to get yourself a base of repeat clients. At this point, we’ve been doing this for a year and have a decent number of repeat dogs that we know fit with our schedule and are well behaved. Do what you can to get those repeat clients.
- It’s Not a Ton of Money. You’re not going to get rich off dog sitting alone. That’s why I typically recommend petsitting for folks that already own a dog. The reasoning is that you aren’t forced to change your schedule if you already have a dog, since you need to take care of your own dog too. If you don’t have a dog, you’ll have to think about whether adjusting your schedule to watch a dog is worth your time.
- Your House Can Get Messed Up. Dogs mess up your house. They pee and poo and leave dog hair everywhere. It’s just the nature of having a dog. If you’re bringing another dog into your house, you have to accept the risk that your guest dog might pee or poo in your house. Just hope it’s on a surface thats easy to clean!
Why Every Dog Owner Should Sign Up For DogVacay and Rover
In the end, I think there are a number of reasons that every dog owner should give sites like DogVacay and Rover a try:
- Make Money On The Side. There are so many ways to make money on the side using sharing economy apps and sites like DogVacay and Rover are easy ways to make a couple extra bucks on the side. Use this money to pay off debt, save for emergencies, or, my personal preference, supercharge your savings and put this money away into a Solo 401k.
- Learn To Start A Business With Little Risk. When you start up your petsitting side hustle, you basically make yourself a small business owner. The beauty of this, however, is that you can start up your business with no cost. If you find dog sitting isn’t for you, you can just stop doing it. No harm, no foul.
- Make Side Money Doing Things You Are Already Doing. I love figuring out ways to make money doing things I’m already doing. I have to take care of my dog every single day of the week, no matter what. It’s a task that cannot be avoided. Adding a second dog to the mix doesn’t really change that schedule. All it does is make me take out two dogs when I go for a walk, instead of just one.
- Have Fun Watching Dogs. Finally, it’s fun. I’ve watched over 20 dogs in the past year, and every dog is different and hilarious in their own way. You get used to the quirks of your own dog, but its so fun to see the quirks of other dogs. If you like dogs, then you really should give these apps a try.
Think This Is For You?
As you can see, I really believe that any current dog owner can benefit by running a dog sitting side hustle using DogVacay and Rover. Your dog doesn’t have to cost you money. It can help you make some money as well!
If you’d like to be a host, feel free to sign up using my referral link on Rover and DogVacay or simply head to Rover or DogVacay and sign up to be a sitter.
**Full Disclosure: If you sign up using my referral link for Rover, I do receive a bonus from Rover. DogVacay does not have a referral program for referring new hosts as far as I can tell.
Before we go, here’s another pic of one of my great guest pups!