Pets bring much joy into the lives of millions upon millions of people—young, old, families, singles—they’re just plain therapeutic! No matter where you live there are pets in your community. Over 72 million homes have pets, according to the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association National Pet Owner’s 2011-2012 survey. In 2012 Americans are spending an estimated $53 billion, four billion of which is for pet services, such as grooming, dog walking, and other services described in this article, providing opportunity for part and full-time income. Where dog and cats are not permitted in rented homes or condos, you can find fish and birds and reptiles. Every human environment can make way for a number of types of pets.
There are more than a dozen different ways that you can serve the pet-owning community. Some of the more common pet services are dog walking, pet sitting, pet training, and pet grooming. Pets are such a major factor in our lives that an increasing number of psychotherapists are adding pet bereavement counseling either as a focus for their practice or as a specialty.
With pet sitting, you can take at least two approaches, provider or agency. As an agency for pet sitters you prescreen and schedule sitters for clients, which requires building a large client base. A more upscale version of pet siting is “pet nanny,” which involves devoting full attention to one owner’s dog or other pet. A pet sitting service can specialize, such as serving people getting married and can work with other pet professionals, such as groomers to prepare for the wedding. To get an idea about what pet sitters charge, check sites like Tail-Waggin Walks.
In urban areas dog walking is common and can keep a walker busy most of the day at as much as twenty dollars per dog for a half-hour private or group walk. It is not uncommon to see a walker with five or more dogs out for a morning or afternoon stroll, and then see the same walker with five more dogs at a different hour the same day. Dog-walking services can keep pet owners updated on what their via maps and GPS. An example is Swifto, a dog-walking service in Manhattan. For more about what dog walkers charge, check sites like Pet Business Experts.
Sometimes dog walking, pet sitting, and plant sitting are rolled into one job when a regular customer is out of town. We recently used a pet sitter who combines pet sitting with babysitting. Pet sitting should include playtime, feeding, and walking, the latter two on the pet’s regular schedule. This requires clients to trust you, so references or a bonded agent will help you develop business.
If you have or acquire experience training pets, you can also offer that as a service. Pet training is not only for dogs but also cats and even monkeys. Cats can be trained to walk on a leash and capuchin monkeys are used to assist people with disabilities.
There are a number of pet services you can develop on wheels, such as teeth cleaning, grooming, and transportation. The most obscure of these three is transportation, which can take the form of a pet taxi or pet moving services. Very busy people cannot find time to take themselves or their pets to the doctor. They will take the opportunity to have their pets transported to and from appointments when needed. For this operation you will need a number of cages of varying sizes and an appropriate vehicle. This business is best in an urban setting.
Another mobile service that focuses on pets but has very limited contact with animals is pet food and product delivery services. In this business you can also take several approaches. Homes with large pets need large quantities of pet food not typically sold in local stores and not very easy to transport. You can provide food, such as dog treats and ice cream from a truck, much as a food truck does. Chicago’s Fido To Go is an example.
Are you a party animal? Do you enjoy working and playing with animals? There are at least three businesses here: show and demonstrations, animals in your act, and pet therapy services. Schools, clubs, and other organizations are always looking for educational and entertaining demonstrations, particularly of more exotic animals. If you like children as much as you like animals and you have a party act, consider adding animals. There is always the old rabbit trick!
If you like the idea of helping the ill, the lonely, the disabled, and other isolated people, you might consider pet therapy. This involves providing calm, friendly animals for a limited period of time in a setting where they are usually not found. While pet therapy is widely accepted, it is difficult for institutional settings, small or large, to properly care for animals. This is where you enter the picture, not only providing the animal but also supervising.
Some pet owners do not like to clean up after their pets, but they do like to use their backyard. Enter the pooper scooper service to do yard clean-up of their dogs messes. Some pet owners do not like to clean up after their pets, but they do like to use their backyard. Enter the pooper scooper service. Several times a week for a reasonable fee of fifteen to thirty dollars a week, you will scoop the poop, providing a clean yard for your customer. Some people earn over fifty thousand dollars a year providing a pooper scooper service. This may not be something you want to make a career of, but it may help as supplemental income during a transition. Have a flyer describing your service with a pricing schedule (number of times, weight, and number of dogs). You’ll also need to purchase pooper scoopers and trash bags and arrange a disposal site. You can list your service on the Web at www.pooper-scooper.com.
Home Care for Pets Post-Surgery
Veterinary surgery is common and, like people, animals often require extra care after discharge; the owners may not be able to change bandages, administer medication, and perform special exercises for any number of reasons. Offering a pet ambulance ties in with this service. This form of pet care can most successfully be developed with one or more veterinarians making direct referrals.
Massage and Bodywork for Animals
Pet owners are turning to alternative medicine for their pets as well as for themselves. We have used such a services ourselves for one of our dogs. Some massage schools teach animal massage and at least one school, the Northwest School of Animal Massage in Fall City, Washington, focuses on training people to do massage for animals. This specialty has a trade association, The International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork.
If you’re a photographer, there’s also pet photography. You can add this onto an existing photography business or an existing pet business. It should be a fairly easy sale to someone who is already purchasing services for his or her pet. Artists can also specialize in pet portraits.
Bereaved owners are having funerals for their pets. This is accompanied by pet caskets, headstones, and burials.
Making specialty products for pets has been a way for some people to produce an income in a satisfying way. For example, Steve Mondazzi makes coffins and other pet bereavement products in his home and sells them from his Web site, www.petsweloved.com. Offering specialty products not locally available but recommended by area veterinarians is another way to create income. Other products with demand include earth-friendly pet products accessories and organic food.
This menu of business possibilities is for an animal lover and extends to additional services like acupuncture, swim classes, and psychic readings. The ideas in this profile include both inexpensive startups and some that need capital investment. There are jobs for those who enjoy working with their hands and those who just want to be around animals. In pet services there really is something for everyone.
The key attributes for a career with pets is a fondness for animals and a natural ability to relate to them; not to mention skill at communicating with humans about their pets. As Ellen Price of Pet Sitters International told us, “The dogs can be happy, but they’re not writing the checks.” Any experience in a veterinarian’s office will help, as will experience with farm animals or in a pet shelter. Experience in nursing homes or hospitals will assist in developing a pet therapy operation
You can learn more from the sites of associations:
- American Dog Trainers Network
- Association of Companion Animal Behavior Counselors
- Association of Pet Dog Trainers
- National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, Inc.
- National Association of Dog Walkers
- National Association of Professional Pet Sitters
- National Dog Groomers Association of America
- Pet Sitters International The Cat Fanciers’ Association
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