Do Pet Sitters Make Their Own Schedule?
A lot of people assume being a Pet Sitter gives you the freedom to make your own schedule. To be a free agent! A nomad of your career path!
I am here to tell you that after making Pet Sitting and Dog Walking a business, I have learned that is true. That is…if you don’t want happy clients (both human and animal) or to get paid.
First and foremost, you are considered a very personal service provider for the people entrusting you with their dog, cat, reptile, bird, fish, collection of worms. That one stuffed animal on the couch named Paul. An occasional pig. I kid. Except about the pig, I do have a pot-bellied pet client. But because all of these animals require different care at different times, and because you work at the behest of their owners, you have to be flexible in order to keep regular clients and keep a regular income.
And if you’re a Phoenix area Dog Walker, or in another similarly challenging climate area, your schedule can be at the mercy of a particular season or temperature.
Here are a few things to think about when considering your schedule as a pet sitter and dog walker:
Clients will ask you to come at or stay until ungodly times.
I’m talking 5 AM. I’m talking 9 PM. I’m talking Christmas morning, and New Year’s Eve until the fireworks have stopped. And sometimes all of this in one day. As a Full Time Pet Sitter, you are acting in place of a pet’s owner, so you are expected to be there like an owner would, even if that means getting little sleep sometimes or spending a night in with an animal even if you’d rather be acting like one on the major holidays. It’s not only comforting to the pet, it is comforting to the owner to know someone is with them, and they will appreciate it.
Suns out…no dogs out.
Being a Dog Walker in Phoenix comes with its unique challenges, most revolving around 4-5 months of difficult to unbearable heat making usual dog walks impossible. I don’t like to take dogs outside when it hits over 95 degrees, and even then, always on the grass and for a short time. For dogs that absolutely need long walks, sometimes that means working with a client to see if you can come before the sun comes up or hours after it goes down if it’s something you want to do or feel safe doing. But sometimes, walks are just nonexistent in the summer.
No doggie door means knowing pee schedules.
It’s very strange knowing the pee and poo schedules of another person’s pet and the idiosyncrasies that come along with it. Very quickly you learn how many times this dog poops after eating; what happens if this other dog doesn’t pee right before you leave the house; how long this dog can hold it. This is all important to know in general for the best care, but even more important to know if you’re caring for a dog without a doggie door. Depending on the dog, you have to decide with the owner how often that dog needs to go outside, even if it means waking up in the dead of night and walking zombie-like to the door to let them out.
Workin’ 9 to 5.
What does this mean? It means a lot of people will ask you to visit their pet during the midday hours of about 11 AM-2 PM, about halfway through a workday or just enough time for the dog to hold their pee until they get back in the evening. Most of my visits are during these times, so often I don’t get to eat lunch, and am working straight through for sometimes 5 hours with drive time in between. Work with the client and their needs to find a time during those busy few hours that hopefully work for both of you.
Dogs love their habits.
Oh, dogs. Always making me think they have to desperately do business in the morning when really they just don’t understand why I am not awake when they are. Whether it’s simple companionship, energy, food, or something on a more important level (like the strict administration of medications), dogs like and sometimes need to stick to their schedule, too. Even if that means they wake you up by standing over at 4 AM you while you sleep until you open one eye begrudgingly.
Sometimes flights are late or plans extend.
Things happen. Flights are delayed. Plans change and a family wants to spend a little longer on their vacation. I can’t count how many times I have had to be flexible and change things last minute because of these circumstances. I will say to make sure to discuss specifics with your client and agree to your discretion to change your schedule for these situations. Do only what you can. This is why your client should have a local emergency contact in case you are in fact unavailable or it would cause you to be stretched thin to a problematic point. But be sympathetic, and know these things may happen.
Obviously I have said no to clients before if I have plans or cannot commit for various reasons. But I try my best to serve them and their pets, and I believe it’s what distinguishes someone who is truly dedicated to their pet business.
So next time an acquaintance thinks you can make it to their second cousin’s girlfriend’s poetry reading because you ‘make your own schedule,’ try not to show too many teeth when fake laughing through their assumption, and remember you’re your own boss when it comes to Pet Sitting Full Time…but so are your clients.