I met Jennie almost 10 years ago, when I worked at the college student newspaper. She was the office manager, in charge of making sure we got paid. I loved her snarky sense of humor and her adorable cardigans. We stayed in touch even when she transitioned to a new job.
A few weeks ago, I noticed that Jennie was posting more dog photos on social media than normal. “Is she fostering a new pup?” I thought. Nope, it turns out Jennie had started a dog walking and pet sitting business. I’m always encouraging people to find businesses and side hustles that can earn them extra money, so I asked her about it.
Turns out, she started doing it to help pay off her husband’s student loans (currently around $15,000).
As y’all know, I’m always recommending a side hustle if you’re trying to get out of debt, save an emergency fund or just have more money. Often, we don’t get paid enough at our day jobs to afford everything we want and need, but a side hustle can bridge the gap between your income and your dreams.
Want to hear how Jennie earns hundreds by hanging out with cute pups all day? Read below. (And then go sign up for your own account at Rover.com)
Why did you start working as a dog walker/sitter?
I started dog walking/sitting for a couple of reasons. The first being that I love dogs! I think they’re hilarious, adorable, and more fun than a lot of people. I often find myself searching the Petfinder listings and dreaming about bringing them all home with me.
Right now my husband and I live with a little dog named Wallace. He is very spoiled. He has his own Instagram account and we are throwing him a graduation party this weekend for completing his first obedience class.
Wallace would probably love to have a little brother or sister dog, but right now we can’t take on the expense of another pet. Which brings me to the other reason I started dog walking/sitting, to help pay down my husband’s student loan debt. For me, this is a really fun way to earn some extra money to go toward bills.
Was it easy to find gigs?
I am really surprised at how fast I started receiving sitting requests! I posted my account on Rover and within a few days, I had two requests for dog boarding.
When determining which dogs to stay at my home, it really depends on the temperament of the dogs. I can only bring dogs into my home that get along with other dogs and those that are being well cared for (getting their vaccinations, check-ups, etc.) I can’t put my little Wallace in danger of becoming sick or hurt.
So I text/talk to the owners and get some info first. Then, we set up a time to meet and have our dogs meet each other. The criteria for walking and check-ins is different. With those types of gigs, I have a distance I’m willing to drive to a client’s house set up in my profile. That usually weeds out potential clients that would live just too far away.
How much did you make per gig?
I’ve made anywhere from $15 to $120 depending on the job. The time commitment involved for those payments was anywhere from an hour to a few days. Zina’s note: Currently, Jennie charges $25 for one night of boarding, $12 per drop-in visit, and $15 for a walk.
The site does take 20% of the rate listed. Although that seems like a lot, I find it worth it in the long run. Through the website it is easy to have people find my services (I don’t market myself at all), easy to get paid (I can link it to my PayPal), and they offer insurance. Zina’s note: One of my friends also set up an Instagram profile marketing her services, which is one way to find more clients.
Would you recommend this to someone else looking for a side hustle?
I would totally recommend this to people who love dogs (and/or cats). I do think it is a great side hustle, but you really have to care about animals (and not mind cleaning up after them!).
A lot of my dog clients have been dogs that wouldn’t do well in a typical boarding situation (separation anxiety, elderly, etc.) or dogs that have lots of energy that need to be checked in on and played with during the workday. So for those that require a visit during the workday, it does require you to have flexibility in your work schedule.
Zina’s note: If you want to try out Rover as a client, check out this link. You’ll get $25 off your first visit!
What’s your advice for someone looking to make money as a dog walker/sitter?
First, make sure you have enough flexibility in your work schedule/lifestyle to have it make sense. Second, you will be dealing with people from all walks of life. And you will need to be able to make them feel at ease leaving their best friend in your care. Customer service is a large part of this job. So, if you like dogs but hate dealing with people, you might consider a different side hustle.
Third, while I know that fanny packs are possibly considered uncool by some crowds, they come in handy for checking in on/walking dogs. I keep dog supplies (poo bags, treats, small toys, etc.) and my supplies (keys, phone, wallet) in mine and always have my hands free for taking care of the doggos. Zina’s note: I use a fanny pack when walking my own dogs! You can find cute ones that won’t embarrass you (or your dog).
Fourth, if you’re thinking of having dogs stay with you, puppy proof your house. And make sure you’ve stocked up on cleaning supplies (accidents happen, especially in this business). Zina’s note: I’ve tried expensive urine removers, but now I just use vinegar and water in a spray bottle with a generous heap of baking soda afterward. Cheaper and easier to use.
What are the pros and cons of dog walking and sitting?
Pros: playing with doggos, getting to see lots of different breeds and mixes, brings more dogs into Wallace’s life/good for socialization, get to meet lots of dog people, get paid to play with dogs.
Cons: cleaning up dog vomit/pee/poo, I really can’t think of too many cons.
What to Know About Side Hustles
Every side hustle, whether it’s a dog walking business or a freelance writing gig, has expenses. For example, when I need a new laptop, I can expense it as part of my business. If you’re going to start dog walking, save and document everything you buy, including cleaning supplies, doggie beds, trash bags and more. You’ll want to save proof of purchase as well.
That’s because when you earn money outside of a traditional 9-5 job, you have to pay taxes on your earnings, usually between 20-30% of what you earn. However, you can deduct your expenses from your earnings, which will minimize how much you owe in taxes. Take a look here for more information on how Rover handles sending out tax information.
You should also consider how much time you spend on each side hustle. Are you making a decent amount per hour? Or is it starting to affect your regular job or your family responsibilities? Don’t let the prospect of a few dollars impact your life negatively.
However, I have to say as someone who’s done dog sitting in the past, it’s a fabulous way to make money. You don’t have to do much besides walk, feed and love on the dog, the latter of which you can do while watching a movie! Plus, I love being around new dogs so dog sitting was always a treat, especially before I got my own dogs.
The best part of starting a side hustle is that if you try it and hate it, you can quit without any repurcussions. So go ahead, sign up for Rover and let me know how it goes!