5 min read

Do You Have What it Takes to be a Dog Sitter or Boarder?



So you want to become a dog sitter or boarder? Whether you’re already a dog walker or you’re a first-time Pet Caregiver on the Wag! app, there’s a lot to learn before you can become a sought-after dog sitter or boarder. There are also some essential skills and important knowledge you need at your disposal to help set you up for success.

So before you sign up for your first sleepover with a furry friend, let’s take a look at what it takes to be a dog sitter or boarder.

A love of dogs

Let’s get the most obvious point out of the way first: if you’re going to provide 5-star overnight care for dogs, you need to absolutely LOVE dogs. When you adore spending time with puppers, you’ll look forward to each and every sitting or boarding service. You’ll also be attuned to each dog’s needs, likes, and dislikes, and provide them with a loving home environment.

And let’s face it, some aspects of dog care — picking up poop, for example — are far from glamorous. But if you genuinely cherish the animals in your care, those gross jobs become a whole lot easier.

Dog care experience

It’s one thing to love dogs, but it’s another thing entirely to know how to look after them properly. That’s why previous dog care or pet parenthood experience will go a long way toward ensuring that your services are in high demand.

The more time you spend around dogs, the more you learn about their care needs. That means stuff like how much exercise they need, the importance of lots of human attention and interaction, the right diet, and how to ensure a safe home environment.

If you’ve never had your own dog before, maybe now’s the time you welcomed your own furry family member or fostered a pup in need. If that’s simply not possible, look for other ways to boost your pet care experience. Ask friends and family members to let you spend more time with their dogs, and build your experience as a dog walker before graduating to overnight care.

Related: How to Transition from Dog Walking to Sitting and Boarding

dog sitter wearing green shirt petting a golden retreiver standing next to their pet parent in a living room

An understanding of dog body language

One of the key skills any dog sitter or boarder should have is a basic understanding of dog body language. In other words, you need to be able to pick up on the visual cues that a pupper is happy, excited, nervous, anxious, or even frightened.  

When you can tell how a dog is feeling, you can respond accordingly — remove them from a stressful situation, for example, or offer treats and gentle pats to help soothe their nerves. And when you can do that, you’ll be able to quickly build a strong bond with every dog in your care.

A willingness to get your hands dirty

Dogs are furry bundles of awesomeness, but they’re not always the neatest creatures going around. So if you’re going to be an excellent dog sitter or boarder, you’ll need to be prepared to get down and dirty.

We’re talking picking up and throwing a tennis ball that’s dripping with slobber. We’re talking being smothered with kisses from a pupper whose breath isn’t exactly minty-fresh. We’re talking getting dog hair all over your clothes (and your furniture, if you’re a sitter). And we’re of course talking picking up poop.

If you’re not willing to tackle the unpleasant jobs, you might not be cut out for sitting and boarding.

"Pawsome" people skills

You might be surprised to learn that being a dog sitter or boarder is often just as much about communicating with people as with dogs. For a pet parent, finding someone they can trust to look after their pup while they’re away is a daunting task. They want their fur-baby to get the best possible care, so they’re not going to leave them with just anyone.

And this is where good communication skills — written and verbal — are a real asset. These skills come in handy to help you find out exactly how to provide the best care for each dog. They also ensure that you and the pet parent are on the same page about when, where, and how you will look after their fur-baby.

If you can communicate clearly, listen carefully, and respond to any messages in a timely manner, you’ll be well on your way to getting repeat customers.

Related: How Often Should You Send Pet Parents Updates?

A flexible schedule

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that pet parents often need overnight care for their pups on the weekend. So if you love Friday night happy hour at your favorite bar or spending Saturday evenings going to the movies, it might be time to re-think your social calendar.

It also helps if you’re willing and able to accept last-minute requests. Sometimes life hits us with the unexpected, and a pet parent might find that they need to go out of town for a night or two urgently. If you’re able to come to the rescue and give their pup 5-star care at a moment’s notice, they’ll be sure to keep you in mind the next time their pupper needs to schedule a sleepover.

black, white, and brown long-haired dog sitting on a beige couch next to a dog boarder wearing a green shirt and blue jeans

Optional (but good to have): Training and qualifications

There’s no nationally recognized qualification you need to become a pet sitter. And while Wag! will test your pet care knowledge before you can offer overnight care on our platform, there’s more you can do to boost your pet care skills — and help make yourself a sought-after sitter or boarder in the process.

One "grrreat" thing you can do is enroll in the Fear Free Pet Sitter Certification program to learn how to decipher dog body language, understand problem behaviors, and find humane training solutions.

But that’s not all you can do. For example, you might like to complete pet first aid training so you know exactly what to do in an emergency. Alternatively, maybe you’d like to take a dog training course, or even just spend some time volunteering at your local animal shelter. Anything you do to bolster your canine care qualifications and knowledge can only be a good thing.

A dog-safe home (if you want to be a boarder)

As a dog boarder, you'll welcome other people’s fur-babies into your home for overnight stays. So it goes without saying that you’ll need to be able to provide a safe and hygienic environment for all your sleepover guests.  

That means it’ll need to be escape-proof to stop any furry Houdinis in their tracks, free of any hazards that could get a curious pup into trouble, and spotlessly clean. It’s a big deal for any pet parent to let their pup stay in a stranger’s home, but if you can show them that their pet will be in a safe and comfortable environment, they’ll feel much better about leaving their dog overnight.

Reckon you’ve got what it takes to be a boarder or sitter? Sign up now to become a Pet Caregiver with Wag!.

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