Looking For A Side Hustle?
Need extra money? Looking for a side hustle that offers flexibility in your schedule?
Have you thought of boarding dogs in your home?
If you’re a dog owner then this is an easy side gig to incorporate into your life.
How I Started My Own In-Home Dog Boarding Business
At the time, I had a two year old son, two older children, ages 10 and 14, a husband, and a golden retriever.
We would dog sit our friends’ golden retriever when they went on vacation, and likewise when we went out of town they would reciprocate the favor.
Then I had another friend who had 2 goldens, and was desperate to find someone to keep her goldens while they went away.
She said they were “easy,” so I said to bring them on over and I would keep them.
I did that a couple of times for her, and then she just looked at me, and said, “You know…you should DO this!”
Most folks, given the choice, would prefer NOT to put their dog in a commercial kennel.
Yes, your pet is safe and cared for, but it’s not the same as letting a dog be with friends or family in a real home.
Commercial kennels make the dogs stressed out, they don’t get the attention and love they need, and the dog owner feels guilty leaving them there for the duration.
Being a Professional Dog Sitter
I had reached a time when I was looking for some sort of gig to supplement the family income, but I was still trying to be a stay-at-home mom.
Finding some sort of at-home job while you’re a stay-at-hone-mom is one of the most difficult challenges there is.
With my friend’s suggestion to be a dog sitter, my husband and I took that thought and mulled it around our minds for a few weeks.
Be a professional dog sitter? Hmmm. I had never thought of that.
What Kind Of Dog Should You Board?
The more we thought about how extra dogs would fit into our home and family life, the more we thought that we really don’t want to board just any kind of dog.
The dogs would have to be kid-friendly with my 2-year old toddling around.
I wouldn’t want questionable temperaments, or loud, barking, yappy dogs.
I get that dogs bark for various reasons, but if I was going to keep multiple, random dogs in my home then I didn’t want it to be something that was annoying or a chore.
Aggressive natures were a definite no-no too.
So the more we thought about it, the more we thought, why not just keep golden retrievers?
ONLY golden retrievers.
Heck, we had a golden. I had one before this one.
Goldens were the only thing I knew.
They were top-notch family dogs, even-tempered, predictable, friendly “people-dogs”, and I would pretty much know what to expect.
“Just Goldens” it is!
My new side hustle was born.
Surely there were enough goldens out there to make a client base.
I didn’t need a dog in my home every day. Just the random client to make some supplemental money.
The Dog Boarding Side Hustle “Business Plan”
You Need A Fenced Yard
At first I didn’t even have a fenced yard!
You need a fenced yard to obviously be able to let the dogs go out and do their business.
Trying to take multiple dogs out on leashes to go potty just doesn’t work for very long.
Soon after starting up, we had a dog client whose parents were both doctorate students and needed to travel overseas to separate countries.
They had a golden named Dylan (the top photo on this post) and he came to live with us for 10 months while they were overseas.
Dylan “bought” our fence. He was a great dog.
You Need to do Research
What Do Dog Boarders in Your Area Charge Per Night?
Check out your competition, commercial and at-home.
Then understand your value in your area and charge accordingly.
You are in a specialized niche, so don’t under price yourself!
Also figure out the max number of dogs you can manage in your home.
You Need Advertising
Vistaprint.com is your friend! They are a reasonably priced online shop to help you market your business.
I set up a cheap $5 a month website on Vistaprint to be able to direct people to information on our dog sitting business.
I designed and ordered 2-sided cards in mass quantity from Vistaprint. On the back I was able to offer a small snippet of info on us, so the card could serve as a mini brochure.
I also designed and ordered magnets for advertising on my van.
I can’t tell you how many people found me from sitting in traffic, or being parked in a parking lot with my car magnets.
They take a picture on their phone and call me later.
Spreading the Word:
I got rolls of magnetic tape, and cut them into small pieces.
Then I put the magnets on a blank area on the back of the business cards, and drove around and placed them on mailboxes generally within a 10 mile radius of my suburban area.
I picked neighborhoods that were affluent enough that they would be vacationers who could afford to board their dog.
Want to spread the word even more?
Consider putting yourself on Rover.com or Kudzu or any other pet sitting website.
Do you have a community newspaper or local bulletin board?
What about contacting your local “rescues” and advertising yourself?
I did some advertising through my local golden retriever rescue group, and a little on Craigslist. I had my most success through the mailbox magnets, the car magnets, and word of mouth.
Set Up An Email Address:
You need to create an email just for your business.
You Need Supplies
Dog Food Bowls: It’s handy to have them on hand, so clients don’t have to pack up their own.
Dog Water Bowls: I have one regular sized one for when I’m only boarding a couple of dogs.
When I get to the 3-dog mark I generally break out my large feeding water bowl, so I don’t have to constantly refill the smaller bowl.
Dog Beds: There’s no need for a client to bring their personal dog bed. They never sleep in it.
Inevitably a different dog will hijack it.
The dogs will settle into whatever bed you have if they want to.
And they’ll find your sofa, and your chair, and that rug over there. They all find a place.
Baby Gate(s): You decide. Do you want to grant access to your entire house to the dogs?
Or do you want to limit access to your upstairs or certain areas?
Consider baby gates.
I have one that I can easily put in place and take down as needed.
As much as I enjoy the dogs, I can’t have 4 of them following me throughout the entire house constantly.
Extra Leashes: Some folks leave leashes behind. It’s nice to have a couple extras on hand.
Water Squirt Bottle: Yes, it’s true. I do have to use a squirt bottle once in a while if dogs need to stop (fill in the blank). It gets their attention and restores order.
Plastic Store Bags: Save your grocery store bags! You’ll need them for poop patrol on your dog walks.
Shovel: You’ll need this for poop patrol in your back yard!
Cleaner/Disinfectant/Deodorizer/Paper Towels: Have dogs, have occasional messes! This is self-explanatory.
Vacuum Cleaner: Oh my, yes. Again, this is self-explanatory.
Your First Customer Calls!
Great! You put yourself out there, and now potential clients are calling.
I got general information over the phone about the client’s dog, and answered any questions.
I also directed them to the website and to my Facebook page to look over additional information.
Then I would set up a “meet-and-greet” for the client and their dog to come over.
This is a great time for you to check each other out.
When we first started the business we had our dog, Zach.
He was a mellow dog that got along with all dogs.
He wasn’t the alpha, and was happy to step aside for the one who wanted to be.
So meet-and-greets were done with Zach around, and that can be telling.
You get to see how the new dog interacts with another dog.
The truth is revealed!
A well-adjusted, well-mannered dog will easily handle another dog, while a more difficult, improperly socialized dog will reveal itself.
You will now know what you are possibly getting yourself into.
But you also have to know that a first meet up isn’t a total indicator of a dog’s behavior.
He’s excited to be in a new place with new smells, and when his owner is gone and he’s actually boarding, he does settle in and settle down.
The meet-and-greet also lets the client see where you live and the environment their dog would be in, and the dog gets to sniff you out and check out all the smells of his possible boarding home.
You’d be surprised how much you can gather from a meet-and-greet.
I’ve never said, “No, I don’t think this is going to work” after meeting a dog, but I’ve had the occasional apprehension about some dogs.
My dog-whispering intuition could tell that this dog or that dog was a bit ill-mannered or could be problematic.
I’ve even had the occasional dog start to lift a leg in my home on a house plant or the like.
Of course the client scolds them and they stop before “marking” our home, but it’s certainly a tell-tale sign that that’s a dog affected by the smells of the other dogs, and might have a problem in your home.
I figure every dog gets a chance to try it out, and see how they settle into our home. You can’t tell everything from a meet-and-greet.
The client leaves with an “Information Sheet” that I have created on my home computer.
I ask for all the pertinent info including questions on allergies, treats, possessiveness, sleeping habits, fears, and exercise, and other needs and requirements.
When The Dog Comes For Boarding
The Client Provides the Dog Food
The dog-owner is expected to provide their dog’s food while they are boarding.
Ideally I have found that it works best if the food is provided in individual baggies for each meal.
When you have multiple dogs at the same time, feeding time can be chaotic as they all get excited with anticipation.
It can be difficult to feed them as you gather all the bowls and feed each one.
The fur starts flying as they push around each other AND me, and food aggression can be a problem with certain dogs.
You have to be mindful and careful.
The Client Brings Back the Information Sheet
I get the filled-out information sheet and put it n a notebook to keep for reference.
This gives me the all the personal information and the vet name should an emergency arise.
As the dog boards I make notes on their sheet to remember certain facts about them to help me for future boardings.
I might indicate where they like to sleep or that they’re a “barker” or a “jumper.”
Sometimes they are noted as a “toilet drinker” (that’ll teach me to keep the lid up!) or a “runner,” wanting to dart out any open door.
Each note helps me in the future.
You’re Boarding Now!
Now you have a dog. Or more than one dog.
I try to take pictures to post on Facebook and/or text a client while they are away, so they can see their fur baby.
They don’t need to bring their own dog toys. They can get possessive of those if another dog takes it.
Tug-o-war toys can work, and balls of course, but stuffed toys just get the stuffing chewed out of them and make a big mess.
Some dogs have occasional anxiety with their first boarding, but it usually goes away after they figure out that these new people feed them and walk them and let them out, and they’re not so bad after all.
Most all dogs adjust fairly easily and become repeat clients.
I have had a few I’ve had to tell they couldn’t come back.
Sorry, Your Dog Isn’t Working Out
I have had a few dogs here and there that I’ve had to turn away after a few times.
And it’s all because of pee.
I tried, but it just didn’t work.
One was just too excited and peed too often in too many places.
By the third time he just proved that he couldn’t contain himself, no matter how many times I gave him a try, so he had to go.
Another one just wanted to hike a leg and mark around the house.
Again, he couldn’t figure out how to stop, so I had to say, “no more, sorry.”
My worst case was a dog named Charlie.
He was very sweet and didn’t show any signs of misbehavior during his meet-and-greet.
His family of people were leaving him with us for 10 days.
Soon after his arrival he started marking every room.
And I mean every room in the house.
I’d walk in a room and see a spot.
Ugh! I was in a panic.
How are we going to keep him for 10 days with him peeing everywhere?!
We have to contain him somehow yet still let him live normally with us to some degree.
We have hardwood floors on our main level and rugs throughout.
We decided to block off half the main floor by shutting the doors on one side and baby-gating the other doorway.
With half the house turned into “Charlie’s space”, we rolled up the rugs, and spent time with him in his area.
When we were watching TV in the other half of the house we would bring him into the room with us, but kept him right under our watchful eye.
The 10 days passed, and I regretted having to tell the owner that Charlie couldn’t come back, but I had no choice.
People Want Their Dogs to Behave
Charlie was the exception to the rule.
People are actually mortified to find out that their dog didn’t behave in someone else’s home.
They want their dogs to behave.
And most do.
What I learned about Charlie makes me think he was really a victim of his living situation.
He came from a family with young kids and they wouldn’t let him be in the family room area with them.
Charlie was mostly kept in a separate room all by himself, not free to be a part of the family and the home.
I don’t think he was socialized correctly.
He also wasn’t neutered.
I learned my lesson there.
I think that had something to do with it too, so now I require that non-puppies be “fixed.”
What Else Do You Need to Know About the Dog Boarding Side Hustle?
Most dogs are great!
But they aren’t perfect, so if you have a brand new home, brand new floors, or brand new furniture and you like it that way then in-home dog boarding may not be for you.
You need to know that having multiple dogs in your home means fur will be about!
There will be occasional vomit, occasional pee, and yes, possibly occasional poop (twice in my 9 years).
Did I mention drool?
And the random water dribbles from the not so neat water consumer?
Dirt and leaves get tracked in.
Windows are decorated with little nose smudges.
We have lost a few flip flops to chewing, and a sheer curtain panel to a troubled dog who was going through changes in his home life. (While I should’ve been mad, it was actually kinda funny)
Your furniture, rugs and carpets will need wiping and/or shampooing.
Dog beds will need washing, and bowls will need cleaning.
You will be inadvertently scratched and stepped on by excited dogs (I learned to wear shoes).
If you pick big dogs to board, then they DO need walking and exercising, so plan on waking up and taking a morning walk!
It is a JOB, even if it just seems like “just watching” dogs.
The Fun Reality of This Side Hustle
You’re making money!
It’s an at-home business that offers a lot of flexibility.
It even allows you to have another job.
You get to be your own boss, manage your schedule as you choose, and take dogs when you want and when you don’t.
There’s no commute.
And best of all, you and your family get to enjoy many different dogs.
Consider in-home dog boarding as a side hustle!
Oh, and one last tip…you might want to check the bottom of those plastic grocery store bags before picking up after a pooch.
Some have holes!