Illustration of a dog sitter with two dogs

The Beginning.

Back in circa 2016~ I heard of an idea of people making money by taking care of other people’s fur babies. It was a distant idea for me as I am scared of dogs plus I haven’t really been around dogs except when they bark at me. In Malaysia growing up, we have a lot of stray dogs and parents always told us to stay away and run away when you see them. They love to chase you especially when you are on a bicycle. I am particularly scared of dogs because my grandfather had a big farm with big dogs. This particular one is in a metal cage chained up, so we are told not to reach in by any means. One day, me and my cousin decide to walk over and look at the dog then suddenly she decides to reach in. Needless to say she got bitten and when she pull her hand out, blood was shooting out so I ran up the hill to tell grandfather and never went back down…at least for awhile. Fast forward to 2018, my wife was looking for something to do while she is in between careers. So I suggested her to join Rover and be a dog sitter since she have been asking to have a dog. I figure instead of owning a dog why don’t we help take care of other people’s dogs? So she agree and signed up and we got our first fur guest back in November 2018.

The Takeover.

While my wife continued to be Rover, she didn’t get much traction after November 2018 and at that time, I was hands off with Rover. Come to find that she did received a few requests here and there but didn’t really got around it. We had another booking in May 2019 with a sweet dog and that changed my perception of fearing dogs. I always thought they look very cute and not all dogs are the same. So I took over in June 2019. The business is there but because she was either not responding quick enough or the booking didn’t worked out.

The Strategy.

When the decision to take over came about further back way before June 2019, I still have some fear with dogs but decided that this could be a good business to get into plus my wife loves dogs. So for awhile I was reading and watching my competitor’s profiles, pricing and the dynamic of their descriptions/bio. I studied closely on what services people are providing like dog boarding, day care, dog walking, drop in visits and etc. I would read into how people word their descriptions as this is very important for first impression and giving the confidence for your potential client to approach you with a booking request. Rover requires potential clients to set up a booking request in order to communicate with the dog sitter. It’s mainly to increase the chances of getting booked and Rover can get their percentage cut when it all booked. The strategy is really simple, create an attractive pricing, a comprehensive description depicting you as a sitter and respond quickly to booking requests.

The Business.

I did a research before and during when I first started taking over from my wife and what I have found is that the pet industry did fairly well during the 08-09 Great Recession. While many industry did take a hit like entertainment specific to Las Vegas, the pet industry hold steadily thru the recovery years. If you think about it, no matter what the economy looks like we still have to eat and food production will still continue right? Same goes with pet hospitals, pet food, pet products and of course dog boarding. In Rover, there are many income streams within the app besides dog boarding such as dog walking, drop in visit, house sitting, dog grooming and also dog transportation fee that you can provide. All of them will increase your revenue no doubt but there will be extra work and finesse. For me, I like to provide only dog boarding and day care. The reason for that is because it will eliminate complexity in your business. In business, streamlining your process will make or break your business. I choose to have only dog boarding and day care is because I wanted to limit my liabilities. If you look closely, both boarding and day care is basically the same thing except boarding is a 24 hour commitment and day care is a 2-8 hours commitment. Transporting, grooming or drop in/house sitting are potential liabilities waiting to happen because of the unknown variables that may occur. Never commit more than you can if you are doing this on your own. Limit your liabilities is key.

The Evaluation.

The way Rover structure the booking process is that they will funnel potential clients into looking at each profiles. When the client decides who the potentials are they will then create a booking request just to contact you as a dog sitter. Rover does encourage the potential clients to request a few dog sitters at the same time. In my opinion, I don’t prefer Rover approach on this. My reason is simple, if you really do care about your pup, you would narrow down to the one sitter. This way the percentage of me being booked will be in a higher percentage. It just feels sloppy sometimes when a client calls you another name and definitely didn’t read your profile or reviews. It might sounds like they are just looking at the pricing and no the sitter. In the initial booking stage, we also review the guest’s profile containing questions and answers that will be crucial for you to determine if the guest is a good fit for you. If you encounter a request and the pup’s profile isn’t filled, I would kindly ask the client to fill it in so that we can read more on the guest prior to the meet and greet.

The Meet.

My process is when a potential client reaches out, I will coordinate a meet and greet at the earliest as possible. I live in a secured gated community so this makes it even safer to meet clients that are basically strangers. During the meet, I have 4-5 standard questions that we will ask every client about their pup. The main objective of the meet and greet is to get to know your potential fur guest(s) in person. For me, I am looking at the guest’s mannerism, behavior, temperament and if the pup likes me or not. The secondary objective is to get to know the client itself. You want to see how the client treats their own pup and to evaluate the person if the client potentially will write you a bad review. I am always careful at evaluating in order to make sure that it will fit our lifestyle and our environment. It is also a great opportunity for the client to evaluate you as a dog sitter. I have encountered a few potential clients that contacted us thru the booking requests and when we suggest a meet and greet, they are reluctant to meet. For me, that is a red flag. We do have a few that comes from out of state clients and they have a legit reason why they couldn’t meet so we will ask our standard questions and a few more. At the end of the meet and greet, let the potential client know that the next steps in your process. Word to the wise, see if you are able to close the booking then and always leave a thank you message.

The Schedule.

After everything is set and done. It’s time for the stay. Due to the calendar in Rover not being sophisticated enough to display our fur guests in color coding, I use Google Calendar. This gives me a monthly view of all the booked fur guests that will be arriving and leaving. Here is the one secret that no one will tell you but it is the ultimate truth. You are not in a dog sitting business but a scheduling business. Schedule is king. Optimizing your occupancy each month is the steps to success. One of the difficulties is matching fur guests from different families. Currently I am only taking fur guests that gets along with other dogs and non aggressive. Predicting energy level is crucial as well. You want to match energy level with all of guests in order to minimize ruckus.

The Stay.

This is when the real work happens. Prior to the stay, make sure to set yourself to be successful each time. I will always remind clients to bring their pup’s food, snacks, bedding, food bowl(s) and anything that will make them feel like home. There isn’t much to speak on this topic besides providing great care to your guest(s) and also always in communication with the owner. Always remember to leave the client a few messages daily updating them so they don’t have to ask you for any updates. Now, there are some cons during the stay such as diarrhea, night time roaming (sleepless), noise sensitivity, chewing of household items. So asking the right questions are the main key to eliminate future headaches during the stay. Diarrhea can be a few different reasons such as kibble change, coming right after a road trip, eaten something that is blocking their bowel movement and etc. What I have mentioned above had happened before and the only solution is to deal with it directly; wipe after them. The pros are plenty and it is an endless list of it. The one that I found the best is the never ending laughs taking care of them.

The Review.

Review is a crucial key to continue to be in favor of the algorithmic gods. It is very important to receive an end of service review from a first time client as those counts the most towards algorithm based on experience. One of my process is to always writing a thank you message to your client no matter what. Always thank them for letting you take care of their fur baby and ask appropriately for a review. A strong customer service before and after goes a long way in developing a great client relationship. Rover had recently added an important function to enable your clients to tip thru the Rover app. Just like anyone that provides a service, I love to be able to feel gratified and the tip can offset Rover’s cut which in my case is 20%. I always feel so happy to get something from our beloved clients and there is a direct link of asking a review with getting a tip on the app. So go figure.

The Worth.

You might want to ask yourself if taking care of fur guests is worth your time and effort. This can only be answered non other than yourself. I can tell you that I love doing this and the pros outweighs the cons. You do have to account for the time that you have to stay at home and missing some life moments such as going out to eat whenever you like, vacation time during off seasons, wear and tear to your flooring and the dog hair/dust resulting in more cleaning after. Best advice is to plan ahead, hold your Google Calendar as your life depends on it. When you do want to go somewhere, plan way ahead and don’t be afraid to block your calendar. I have met so many walks of life and meeting people is one of my favorite thing to do as I am personable. Many will say “do this for the money” but what I would tell you is do this for the love of dogs and money because the reward you get from all the memorable moments is the bonus in life that can’t be monetary.

The Link to your dream gig:

After reading all these and you feel like you want to give it a shot, please click this link and join the Rover community of dog sitter. This will help me tremendously by using this link to enroll. It’s not red pill or blue pill situation, it’s an access to doggy style.