Have you ever thought about getting a pet sitter for your dog? Or maybe you’re looking to do some pet sitting, to earn a side income?
Either way, this interview with Meghan and Collin Funkhouser is a great resource to get started with.
Meghan and Collin are the hosts of Pet Sitter Confessional, a popular podcast for pet sitters. On Pet Sitter Confessional, they talk candidly about their experiences as pet sitters and speak with others regarding theirs.
In the interview, we discuss all things pet sitting; from the benefits of getting a pet sitter, to the craziest pet sitting story that Collin has encountered from nine years in the industry.
Will: This episode of “The Dog Show” features Meghan and Collin Funkhouser. Meghan and Collin are the hosts of “Pet Sitter Confessional,” a popular podcast for pet sitters. On “Pet Sitter Confessional,” they talk candidly about their experience as pet sitters, and speak with others regarding this.
In the interview, we discuss all things pet sitting, from the benefits of getting a pet sitter to the craziest pet sitting story that Collin has encountered from nine years in the industry. Collin and Meghan, thanks so much for coming on “The Dog Show” today.
Meghan: Thank you for having us.
Collin: Yes, thank you. We’re excited to be here.
Will: It’s great to have fellow podcasters on the show. Actually, I think you’re the first podcasters that I’ve had on, so, excited to speak to some people with some microphones and a little bit of background in the space.
So your podcast is all about pet sitting, and you’ve been pet sitters for over nine years. So you’ve essentially been looking after other people’s dogs for, you know, almost a decade now. But do you have your own dog?
Meghan: We do. Yeah, he’s a 12-1/2-year-old dachshund named Coby. And we have been married and we were married in 2012. And three weeks into our marriage, we were watching a Saturday morning cartoon, and it was all about the top 10 dog breeds.
Collin: In the United States. And at each break, we’d kept looking at each other and being like, you know, big puppy eyes being like, “Oh, we’ve got to get a dog. We’ve got to get a dog.” And there was a dachshund rescue nearby where we lived, and we went and we checked them out, and Coby was the first dog on the right, and we just fell in love. And he’s been the absolute best dog. We couldn’t have asked for a better dachshund.
Will: Oh, that’s cool. So did you get him as a puppy as well, or?
Meghan: No, he was actually four years old when we got him.
Will: Okay. Okay, that’s nice. So, it was a rescue kind of thing, or was this like an owner who was just giving him up, or?
Collin: Yeah, it was kind of weird. The owner had him for four years, and then she got a new dachshund, and the two didn’t get along, so she gave up Coby, which I think is pretty…I don’t understand. I’m glad she did, because that means we got him, and we absolutely love him. But, you know, I felt like that was kind of an interesting reason to give up your dog.
Will: Yeah, yeah. So, was there something that drew you to dachshunds, or was it more so that was just like that kind of popped up at the time and that was a good opportunity?
Meghan: We both actually grew up with dachshunds. I had, I think, two or three when I was younger, and…
Collin: I had one growing up named Physgig, that was just the best dog. We loved her so much.
Will: What is it about the breed that draws you to it, or like what makes him so different to other breeds?
Collin: I think they have a very unique look. I mean, their body structure, their stature, and they’ve got these weird quirks, you know, the way they grunt whenever they get a little bit older, it’s just really cute. And they’re really smart too. I just love them. And they’re so small. They just kind of are a little interesting mix of a bunch of different characteristics that I find fascinating, and just the big personality that they each have.
Meghan: Well, and Coby has really broken the mold of dachshund stereotypes, because he is the most calm and docile dog that we have ever had.
Meghan: Through our pet sitting nine years he’s been around so many other dogs, and with our kids growing up, and he just…
Collin: He rolled with the punches. He takes them and he’s just, yeah, super calm and mellow, which is kind of a different thing for dachshunds.
Will: Yeah, that’s interesting, because you also said the previous owner had some issues with them not getting along, the two dogs, so that would have been my next question, you know, whether or not he got along with other dogs, but it sounds like it’s been all right from that point of view.
Collin: Yeah, yeah, we couldn’t ask for a better dog to do this while pet sitting with.
Will: Yeah, I mean to be fair, dachshunds are that one breed of dog which always kind of bark at my dog when we’re out.
Collin: Yeah, he does bark, he does protect our house, he’s very good at letting us know when things are outside, and we’ll say that he’s a good protector.
Will: So when you’re pet sitting someone else’s dog, you’ll have them in your house with Coby and stuff like and it’s all okay?
Meghan: Yes, yeah, we do an initial meet and greet, where the owner brings the dog over, we get to know the dog and his or her schedule. We introduce Coby to the dog and make sure everything’s okay. And that’s how we know that the dog is okay to come into our home to stay.
Will: Okay, cool. So, the “Pet Sitter Confessional,” which is your podcast has been going for over 80 episodes now, so, you’ve built up a really long list of great content, and, you know, you’ve covered so many interesting topics. I guess what I’m interested to hear is how did you get into the pet sitting industry as well? I mean, you’ve talked about your love for dogs over the years and all that kind of stuff, but how did you start doing pet sitting?
Collin: I’ll let Meghan take this one.
Meghan: So, in 2012, we took a Dave Ramsey class, and he talks all about, you know, his baby steps of saving money, paying down debt, and making additional streams of income. And so one day I was just googling, you know, extra ways to make money and dog sitting came up. And so I was like, “Hey, let’s try this.”
Collin: Yeah, yeah.
Meghan: And so we just, we started it. Yeah, that was my idea. And then Collin’s idea was starting an aquarium business.
Collin: Mine did not work, hers is like we’ve done extremely well. That’s fine, that’s fine.
Will: Both to do with animals, which is nice, so…
Meghan: Yeah, we both have science backgrounds, and so we love animals and ecology and just discovering all the interesting things about nature and getting to know each dog’s unique personality.
Will: Interesting. Yeah. So, when you actually have pets over, is it sometimes multiple pets from different owners, or is it just one pet?
Collin: Yeah, so we will have at times multiple pets from different families that come in and mix. And that’s why, as Meghan mentioned, that meet and greet is so important, because we’re doing some temperament testing, we’re talking to owners about their schedule, are they a grazer? Are they good with kids? Are they gonna be a good fit for us and other dogs? So if someone comes to us and they say, “My dog, Fido, does not get along with any other dogs.” Well, we’re not gonna be a good fit for you.
Meghan: We would then suggest house sitting or drop-in checks.
Collin: Yeah, or some alternative, but yeah, they do mix together and kind of work together as a group when they’re over at our home.
Meghan: We primarily provide boarding and daycare right now, because we have small children and that’s just what works out for us. When we first started out, we were doing house sitting and drop-in checks.
Collin: And dog walks too.
Will: Okay, so, yeah, the full lot. But I guess it might, yeah, it does complicate it more if you’ve got your own dog and kids as well, so, makes it more complicated. So actually, most of the listeners of this show are predominantly dog owners. So for example, if they’re, you know, they’re obviously dog lovers, they’ve got their own dog right now, or maybe they’ve got a couple of dogs. But if they’re looking for some additional income on the side, and perhaps thinking about getting into pet sitting, what are some things they should be looking out for? Like, is it something you’d recommend they do, or, and how would they get into that industry?
Meghan: So, yes, the more pet sitters and dog walkers, the better.
Collin: Yeah, there’s plenty of pets out there to care for, and I think one of the first things to do if you’re interested in it is to start with friends and family, ask to pet sit for them, ask if you could care for their pets while they’re at work, while they go on vacation. And start local, and start getting those reviews and those referrals, because that’s where it really starts.
As you build up more, as you start branching out, making sure you get insurance to cover yourself and your clients is both a very marketable thing to have, but also just protects you. Right? And that’s really important.
And then just start slowly building, you don’t have to go out and get…you’re not gonna get 50 clients that first day. But I think starting with friends, people you know, that trust you, that can write good reviews for you will really help get you set off on the right foot.
Will: Yeah, so I mean, it’s definitely something as a dog owner, I mean, there’s always times where you think, well, I can’t do that, or I can’t go away because, you know, I’m looking after my dog. But if you did have a pet sitter that you trusted, and I think the only way to really develop that trust is, as you said, start with a friend group and kind of work your way out from there, build up the credibility, that kind of stuff, so…
Collin: Yeah, absolutely.
Will: So, what are the most common reasons that someone would get a pet sitter? I think I just touched on a couple of them such as like going on holiday, but what are some of the main reasons that you see?
Collin: Right. So when we think of pet sitter, we think of this is a dog walker, they’re doing daycares, drop-in, house sitting, boarding. And there’s various reasons that an owner would request one of those services. So holiday, going on vacation is one of the first ones that people think of when they come to mind, when you think of getting a pet sitter. But there’s also…
Meghan: There’s long days at the office. So, a lot of people request dog walkers, you know. They come between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., let the dog out in the middle of the day to go to the bathroom, and some play. There’s also special needs, so, post-surgery, or there’s ongoing medications that are required at certain intervals during the day, you can have a pet sitter come over and administer insulin shots or just a pill.
Collin: Socializing their pets too. If you have a brand new puppy and you’re trying to get them socializing, used to loud noises, new people, other dogs, it’s a great way to do that.
Also enrichment and exercise. For some working dogs, some hyper dogs, active breeds, it’s really important that they get that energy out. And puppies too, right? A tired puppy makes a happy owner. But enrichment, so that they don’t get bored and you can keep training and working with them too, are all reasons that most people will be looking for a pet sitter.
Will: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. And I probably didn’t think about all those micro reasons, you know, just the day to day things. You know, I was thinking more on a large scale, like I need to go away on holiday for two weeks or something. But those micro reasons are almost more beneficial I imagine to the dog, as you said, like stimulation is huge, just walking the dog, getting their energy out for the day and making sure they’re not, you know, anxious at home or all those things that you talk about. That often results in, you know, other behaviors, like destructive behavior at home and things that you don’t like, so…
Collin: Right. Like if you have a pet that is, has extreme separation anxiety, like they’ve been diagnosed and you’re thinking about giving them medication, a midday walk will do wonders. Right? If they go out and they just work them hard for 30 minutes, an hour, in the appropriate manner, you know, not in excessive heat and all that and doing it safely, getting that energy out really does help them bring them back down, calm them down, and will reduce some of those behaviors.
Will: Yeah, absolutely. So if I, let’s say I wanted to look for a pet sitter, I have used a pet sitter before. In my example, they didn’t have any other dogs with them, maybe it’s my dog is over-excitable to put it nicely. But how would I go about it? Like, what’s the best way to find a pet sitter if you don’t know a friend that does it, or if you’re looking for someone that, and I think the big thing for me as a dog owner, and I imagine a lot of dog owners, is that trust element. How do you find a pet sitter that you could really trust?
Collin: Yeah, I will say that finding a pet sitter and a pet sitter looking for a new client is kind of one of the most awkward speed dating events you’ll ever go through. Because you are building trust, you’re having this deep relationship.
And so, regardless of what listing service or collecting agency you try and go through, like it really is a personal selection, but there are, you know, making sure they’re insured, bonded, part of a pet sitter association, that shows that they’re taking a little bit more initiative, that they’re going for some secondary education.
Meghan: Yeah. And also, I think a big thing is asking your friends who they use and who they get referrals from. So do at least one meet and greet with the pet sitter before the stay to really get to know them like we talked about a few minutes ago.
Collin: Yeah, because you’re trying to make sure that they’re a good fit for you. Right? And again, it’s that awkward speed dating aspect of this, you want to make sure that they’re going to be meeting your needs, your expectations, and that there’s no miscommunication of that. Like the pet sitter is gonna want to do the best care that they can. But if you have mismatched expectations, you’re really gonna set yourself on the wrong foot.
And so doing at least one meet and greet as Meghan said, possibly multiple if you have continued questions, and then just talking to them about their services, and really digging into those reviews and referrals about them.
Meghan: And also making sure that they have a backup sitter as well. Discuss emergency plans in case anything were to happen while you were away. Give them your contact information, and making sure that, you know, you set the pet sitter up for the best experience that they can have with your dog.
Will: Yeah, that’s a great point. Actually, I never even thought about, you know, what would happen if that pet sitter wasn’t available, or, you know, if something happened to them while they were looking after your dog as well. So there’s lots of things to consider there.
I really liked, Meghan, what you mentioned in terms of asking friends, that’s an immediate trust referral there. You know, even if you just, maybe they’re a Facebook friend or something like that, you know, just asking people in your community who else has used pet sitters before, so, that makes a lot of sense.
What are the real benefits of getting a pet sitter? I think we…Collin, you mentioned a few of them previously, in terms of like the stimulation you can get during the day and all that kind of stuff, but, is there anything we haven’t talked about yet which would be worthwhile mentioning?
Meghan: I think training. So, not all pet sitters are trained in dog training, but they can enforce those basic commands and the structure in the dog’s life. Especially if you have a puppy, and you are trying to really get on them about, you know, learning the commands, sit, stay, a pet sitter can reinforce those while you’re away.
Collin: They’re giving you peace of mind for specialized care that you may have, you know, but pet sitters understand that your dogs are your children, they’re a part of your family, and they bring knowledge, they bring experience that will give you peace of mind that they’re getting the best care possible.
Will: Yeah, I think, I mean, both of those are great examples. So the training for me is, again, not something I thought of straight off the top of the bat, but like it’s, you know, reinforcement is so important when you’re training a dog to do something new. So being able to have someone there potentially during the day, as you mentioned, and reinforcing those things. Like sometimes if you’re busy and you’re at work all day and you don’t see them and then you come home and you give them their dinner or whatever you do, you might skip over that reinforcement of the important things you’re trying to train your dog. So, having a partner there that can help with that could be extremely helpful for, number one, training a puppy, but also overcoming behavioral issues later on in the dog’s life.
Collin: Right. We really think that pet sitters are a partnership in helping care for your dog, like that’s…We really believe that they can come alongside you and help you and on that. Like, pet sitters are a wealth of information and knowledge.
Professional pet sitters constantly getting information from the Pet Sitter Association, looking up articles, staying up to date on the latest pet care recommendations. And so if you have a question as an owner, and you have a good pet sitter that you have on your pet care team, you can ask them questions, and most of the time they’re going to know it, and if not, they’ll find it out for you, and they have those resources on hand.
Will: I guess it’s tricky as the pet sitter if there is a dog that potentially has some behavioral issues, and the owner is looking for a pet sitter to help with that. On the flip side, then the pet sitter may not be able to take that dog in because they’ve got other dogs or other pets that they are sitting as well. So I guess that’s probably a bit of a challenging situation.
Meghan: Right, yeah. But each pet sitter is different. You know, how many times dogs are going to be able to accommodate in their home? Or if they…I mean, some pet sitters just strictly do house sitting and drop-in checks. It really depends on what services they offer.
Meghan: Each pet sitter offers different services.
Collin: And that’s that specialized care. You have a dog with a very specific neurological disorder, or maybe a behavioral condition, talk to multiple pet sitters and ask them, “How are you going to care specifically for my pet?” And see what kind of answer they give.
And if they don’t know, ask them, “Are you gonna do more informa…Are you gonna do more research?” And you can talk through that process with multiple ones to make sure it’s the best fit possible. Because not every pet sitter has all the same experience, knowledge, and background. And that’s fine, that’s good actually for pet owners, because that means that there’s a breadth of options for you to meet your specific needs.
Will: Are there any downsides to actually using pet sitters do you think that owners should be aware of? Or is there anything that owners should, I guess, explore further before going down the path of giving their dog away for a short period of time, a long period of time?
Meghan: I don’t think there’s any real downsides to hiring a pet sitter. However, you have to make sure that you find the one that fits your personality. You have to, at the meet and greet, you have to line out expectations of communication.
As pet sitters, we see some owners don’t really want updates and pictures of their dog throughout the day, they’re just like, you know, “We’re on vacation,” like, we’re, you know, “See you later.” And we find that some owners really, really want, you know, every few hours an update and pictures. And so, as the owner, setting those expectations with your pet sitter of, “I would like pictures of my pet, that would bring me comfort while I’m away.”
Collin: Right. You wanna be aware, as I mentioned, that not all sitters are the same. And so, it’s really important, as Meghan mentioned there, that you’re getting the one that meets your needs and your expectations. And it’s when you hear of bad stories and bad outcomes, and a lot of times that’s when those expectations were not matched up, there was a miscommunication, misunderstanding of what was expected for the care. And pet sitters wanna try and avoid that at all costs, like we want to do as best as we can and do right by the owners. And so, when those expectations are lined up, both people are gonna walk away with a really great experience.
Will: It really sounds like it comes back to that initial, as you said, establishing a partnership with the pet sitter and getting to know them, and making sure that you can trust them and setting expectations, all that kind of stuff in the initial couple of meetings.
Because like, again, like there’s always things that you’re bringing up that I didn’t necessarily think of to start with. But the things that will happen during the actual sitting, you know, giving them photos or whatever it is. All of those things are things you could, owners could be asking to start with just to make themselves feel more comfortable going through the process.
Collin: Right. And seeing what else do you want done during the stay? Do you have expectations that the mail is going to be brought in, the plants are gonna to be watered, that other things are going to be done around the house? Or during, if the pet is staying with somebody else, you know, what are you going to be doing? How are you going to be doing it?
And those are good questions to ask. Don’t be afraid to ever ask those questions. I know that can feel kind of blunt or you’re like, “Ooh, I don’t…You know, they’re professional, just let them handle it.” If you have questions, pet sitters love talking about what they do, and they’ll be more than happy to tell you about how they’re gonna do it.
Will: Yeah. Okay, so, now something fun. We’ve been doing all the serious stuff about pet sitting and what owners need. Tell me the craziest story about a dog that you’ve had from your pet sitting experience.
Collin: Okay, that would be me.
Collin: We were fairly new to pet sitting, and we’d been doing it for a little while. And we had this great client who had just…We absolutely loved and adored, and they were just so wonderful to us. They really took a chance on us when we first started, and so we loved every opportunity to go and sit for them. Well, they had a keyless entry to their house, and I knew the code because I was a pet sitter, and they had an alarm on the house as well. They never set it. Why would they? Like they were comfortable, and it was just kind of there for their peace of mind.
Well, they had given me the code saying, “Well, if we ever do set it, this is what it is.” I was like, “Cool, great, I have everything.” I go over for a drop-in on the dog, I open the door. And I hear this weird beeping that I’ve never heard before. And I realize the alarm is going off. And so, I rush over and I start punching in the code that they gave me. It was the wrong code, they had changed the code.
I enter it a second time, all of a sudden the voice comes through the box, and it was like, “Please identify yourself.” And I start freaking out. I’m basically brand new to this, there’s an alarm blaring. And he’s like, “Okay, well, the cops are on their way.” I’m freaked out by this, I rush out I get the owners on the phone. Cops pull up. I’m shaking, because I’m just like, “Oh, no,” like, here it is. I’m getting…Here it goes, this is it, I’ve got arrested, they’re not gonna believe me, “I’m the pet sitter.” “Sure you are, buddy, get in the car.”
And fortunately, because I had the owners on the phone I was able to hand it to the cops, and say, “Look, please talk to these people, they live here.” And everything is getting sorted out, but it was just so like unexpected and so shocking. And to be so new to it and sitting there going, “Oh great. The cops have been called. This is the worst thing, like I can’t believe this is happening to me right now.”
Will: So I bet you double check that code every time now.
Collin: So yes, so pet sitters should always double check and quadruple check their codes. And pet owners, if you change your code, remember your pet sitters, remember them.
Will: Yeah, 100%, yeah. Especially I mean, the last thing you want is the police coming over. I imagine there’s some…Well, I’m not sure if they might get a call out fee or something as well, plus all the stress that it cost you.
Collin: Right, right. And you know, it is exactly something that could have been avoided by double checking, you know, again, they had given us that code right at the very beginning of our care, this was many months down the road, and we just stopped updating it, why would we? “They never used it.” Well, until they did.
Will: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Okay, so, if dog owners had to take one thing away from this podcast interview about pet sitting, or about becoming a pet sitter, what do you think would it be? What would be your number one piece of advice?
Meghan: I think recognizing that pet sitting is really hard work. It’s not all rainbows and puppy cuddles, even though that’s what a lot of people think it is. Professional pet sitters are highly trained. We are super passionate. People who give 100% every single day. We love these pets with all of our hearts. And they really become like our family. Just as much as pet owners love their pets and the pets become their family, they become like our family too.
Collin: Right. Yep, I couldn’t say it any better. It really is. It’s hard work. We deal with a lot of poop. You might not expect it, but there’s a lot of that.
Will: Oh no, I expect it. I expect it.
Collin: Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. And just, pet sitters are so passionate about what they do. They love doing it. And they want to do the best possible job that they can. And they do think of your pets, your dogs as family members as well.
Will: Yeah, I think so just don’t take it lightly. Whether you’re the owner or the pet sitter, you just can’t take the idea of pet sitting lightly, because when looking for one you need to really establish expectations and make sure there’s training involved, and that they’re really dedicated to your dog.
And if you’re gonna become a pet sitter as well, you wanna be dedicated to the fact that, you know, you’re looking after someone’s dog who is potentially, you know, their livelihood as well.
Will: So it’s a big responsibility.
Collin: Yeah, they’re gonna treat it like a business. They take it that, it’s that serious. It is a legitimate business, and they’re gonna take it seriously.
Will: Cool. Okay. So, where can listeners find out more about the “Pet Sitter Confessional” and all the cool stuff you guys are doing in the pet sitter space?
Meghan: So, our podcast “Pet Sitters Confessional” is on every major podcasting platform, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, basically wherever you’re listening to this right now. And then, we are on social media @petsitterconfessional, pretty much on every platform, and our website petsitterconfessional.com.
Will: Perfect. So, I’ll share all those links in the show notes as well so everyone can access all the stuff you’re doing and check out the podcast.
Collin: Thank you so much. We appreciate you having us on and letting us hear about life of a pet sitter with your listeners.
Meghan: Yes, thank you.
Collin: No, thank you.
Will: Thanks so much for coming on the show.