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Is Pet Sitting Certification Really Worth It Anymore?

How many times have you read online that pet owners should find a pet sitter who is certified?

Push play above to listen – Read below for transcript

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So, where do you stand on the matter?

Let us know by answering a few simple questions.

1 – Are you pet sitter certified?

2 – If yes, what was your motivating factor for becoming certified (marketing, knowledge, or both)?

3 – If No, why have you chosen not to become pet sitter certified?

4 – Do you find that being certified has been an advantage to the success of your business?

Please feel free to share anything else on the subject you can.

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About Joshua Cary

Joshua Cary is an all around good guy. He is a filmmaker, web builder and business owner. He is a pet sitting business trainer, coach and instructor and has a passion for helping pet sitters build a strong business through a strong website. Joshua is also the co-founder of the Association of Pet Sitting Excellence (you should really check that out).

  • Nicole

    I am certified and require my hired pet sitters to become certified as well. This brings up an Interestibg thought… Honestly I’m not sure how much of that learned knowledge is applied on the job and I don’t think people hire us because we are certified. Maybe it’s just a big waste of time (and money).

    • Joshua Cary

       Thanks for your honest input, Nicole.  Your comment then begs the question… Why continue to require your sitters to become certified then?  And out of curiosity, who pays for your sitters to become certified, you or them?

  • Tami

    I am not certified and also looked into it and weighed the cost to the thought that after 18 yrs of pet sitting non of my new clients ever asked me if I was nor turned me down (that I know of ) because I was not. Now yes I have to admit I’d love to add that to my brag book but at $$$ is it really worth it? Or could I use that money somewhere else like I would love to do the Pet Tech hosting Program. Is that the kind of certification you are talking about?

    • Joshua Cary

      Hi Tami, so it looks like you have properly weighed the pros and cons for your own personal situation, and that your decision is working for you.  For the sake of this topic, I’m talking about all kinds of pet sitter certification courses available.

  • houseboundhounds

    I have considered becoming certified in the past but never did it.  I guess I followed my gut feeling that I didn’t need it to be successful.  I do believe however that continuing education is extremely important as a business owner.  Being an entrepreneur is basically a self taught adventure.  I think you can stand out as a professional without the need for a certificate.  

    • Joshua Cary

      I completely agree!  I think here ‘continuing education’ and ‘becoming certified’ are indeed two separate things.  We must always continue to learn, train and educate ourselves as small business owners, pet sitters, and entrepreneurs.

      I’m excited that you brought up the word entrepreneur in this context!

  • Maryjo

    I’m not ceritified.  I was a veterinary technician for 8 years and have an Applied Science Degree in Veterinary Assistance.  I think the fact that I have worked in small animal clinics is certification enough.  I do think it is important to keep up with pet education because it is always changing.
    I do get a lot of clients with special needs pets because of my background and I think it makes them feel more comfortable.  I also agree with houseboundhounds that you can stand out as a professional without being certified.

    Mary Jo

    • Joshua Cary

      Hi there Mary Jo,

      Do you make it known on your website and/or marketing materials that you are a vet tech with 8 years experience?  I’m sure your clients must feel safe with that.

      and, yep, like I mentioned, I know plenty of successful pet sitters with no formal certification.

      • Maryjo

        Yes I advertise my experience in the animal field on my website, brochures, flyers, anything and everything.  I also make a point of mentioning it to clients that call me looking for information about our services. My background has helped me build a successful business and I’m so thankful for that.

  • Sue

    Hi – good subject. I am certified and have only been in business a short while so am not sure yet whether it’ll be a help or hindrance in terms of finding clients – I hope a help. However, I did not initially take the certification for marketing purposes, I did it to ensure my knowledge of the industry was up to scratch – and i was not disappointed; it has improved my knowledge regarding the care of different sorts of pets enormously. It also covered first aid, animal health and behaviour. All great stuff! Now if you already have a vet qualification or pet first aid or are an animal trainer or behaviourist - you may not find the certification process as useful as I did. But if you are coming to the industry fresh – with just past experience of looking after your own and your friends’ or relations’ pets, you may find it useful. I think certification also shows a commitment to your business – on a personal level as well as a marketing one. The certification I took, also gives the an explanation of good business/office/marketing practices ie the nuts and bolts of running a pet sitting business which I found very helpful. True, all of this information can be found elsewhere but to find it in one convenient place in course format made it more valuable to me.

    • Sue

      Oh – PS – I am applying for a business loan and the certification is a big tick in the box for that application process.

      • Joshua Cary

         Wow, do you already have plans on how you intend to invest the money into your business?

        • Sue

          I simply need a better vehicle because I’m adding dog-walking to my services and will need to transport to and from the dog park for some of them. So the funding is to tie my over so I can get something bigger :) The fact that I have invested in the cert however, made my business advisor very happy – he was looking for a full on business commitment and saw it in that process I guess.

    • Joshua Cary

      Sue, it sounds like you are the perfect example of how a pet sitter could personally benefit from a certification course.  Regardless of how it might appear to your clients, it sounds like you are way ahead of the game because of taking the course.  Good for you!

      Finally, you bring up an amazing point that I try hitting upon often: Many things can be found online for free.  But, what is it worth to have everything presented to you in one place – and by a reputable source – rather than wasting your time scouring the web for pieces of the whole, without any real knowledge of the source’s reputation?

      Good to see your comment here.

    • Kimberly

      Hello, I live in a town of about 50, 000 and there are NO pet sitting services available unless you board your pet at a Vet clinic, which I could never do. I love my pets so much and couldn’t imagine their confusion and fear being locked in cages around strangers. I totally see the need for pet sitters since I’ve had cancer and have had to make arrangements for the last 5 yrs every time I travel to Cancer Treatment Centers of American in Chicago…often. I was wondering where you received your training, the cost, and time frame to do the course and be certified. I definitely want all the extra knowledge I can get to give the best care possible. If you dont mind emailing me any info you have I would appreciate it so much. It’s Kimberlyfae1@yahoo.com
      Thank you :)
      Kimberly

  • http://www.comforts-of-home-petsitting-and-services.com/ Crittersitter49

    1) I am not pet sitter certified.  I always wanted to be, but couldn`t afford it.  I have however, taken various training classes that I felt would enhance my skills.

    2) If I had become certified, it would have been both to enhance my skills and a marketing tool.

    3) Again, cost.

    4) I firmly believe that the more training you have, the better prepared you are.  I talk to people frequently who would like to pet sit and I always recommend that they work at building on their skills. 

        While I understand that the Associations are looking to enhance their reputations with the membership of a select few of the best, I don`t feel that they have done much to assist the average sitter.  I`m glad to see local networks springing up, as I feel its a great way to monitor the level of capability and provide the training and advice needed at that local level.  I think Sue has a good point about how useful the training course is for those with backgrounds that cover much of what is being taught.  Also, I do not see a real opportunity to build on those training skills with re-certification.

    • Joshua Cary

      Thank you for your detailed reply.  Can you please expand a bit more on what you mean by “associations are looking to enhance their reputations with membership of a select few of the best”?

      Also, I too believe that local networks have the capacity to be a driving force in some markets.  (The topic of local networks is, of course, a big topic in and of itself – perhaps an upcoming post here!).

  • Crittersitter49

    Josh,
    Just read the rest of the posts and I think you got some great responses. 

    I just wanted to add that, for my clientele, the most important factor was how prepared I was to handle an emergency situation, what my skills were in that area and what kind of backup-if any- I had to cover me in an emergency.

    • Joshua Cary

      It’s such a powerful thing when you can identify the most important factor to your own clientele.  Since you’ve discovered that, is it dominantly displayed on your website?

  • Rita

    No I am not pet certified. We sit only cats, so there is alot of training in the certification process that doesnt apply to my company. Very expensive to go through this when most does not apply. I would like for us to be pet cpr certified but we’ve been unable to locate a place to obtain this ceritication that is local.

    • Joshua Cary

      Very interesting point, Rita, that most certification programs provide only a small portion of your niche.  Perhaps someone should consider creating a cat exclusive certification.

      Regarding a local place for pet cpr training, have you looked into PetTech?  I did a quick search for nearby classes and found at least one they hold in Los Angeles.  Visit this link and type in ‘Los Angeles California’ (or your city) into the search field: http://www.pettech.net/schedule/webfindc1.php

  • Vicki H.

    I’m not certified. When I started my business over 10 years ago there was no certification program available. I probably wouldn’t have taken it anyway because I have very good business sense and a lifetime of experience with all kinds of animals. In all these years of doing business I’ve been asked only once if I was certified. I don’t think it’s something the public even realizes is available, so I don’t even consider it a marketing advantage. And I have a flourishing business.

    • Joshua Cary

       It sounds like, Vicki, that your life and business experience has allowed you to bypass the need for certification.  And this is the most important statement you made on the matter:

      “I don’t think it’s something the public even realizes is available, so I don’t even consider it a marketing advantage.”

      Imagine that.  So, I suppose your general thoughts are that certification could be beneficial on the education level only – not the marketing level.

  • Carmen R.

    I think another point to consider in this conversation is the push for regulation of the pet care service industry coming from outside the industry itself. As an industry we have been able to provide care without certification for more than 35 years. But there is some legislative actions that could change the way we do business.

    Consider the effects of “guardianship” on our industry – which could allow for not only the costs of the pet but also pain and suffering. That could be awarded in cases where it is perceived that an animal was harmed by “negligence” while in our care. What will our insurance companies start to require before they will insure us and how will that change our insurance rate?

    Also there is legislation that has come to the floor in some states that would move our industry under the veterinarian medical board. What could this board require of us and how will that effect our businesses?

    • Joshua Cary

      Hello Carmen,

      Thank you for bringing such a valuable angle to this conversation.  I am spinning with all sorts of thoughts, ideas, questions, etc. about the possibility of regulating our industry.

      Legislation on any level would take our businesses as we know and turn them on its side.  We could then have the debate whether that would be good or bad for pet sitters.

      A move that would place us under the vet medical board?  What?!  That can’t be good.  Can it?

  • Katy L.

    I’ve been looking to get certified in pet first aid and cpr. Ideally I’d like the certification to come from the Red Cross but surprisingly my local chapter doesn’t seem to be offering this. (I’m in Los Angeles). I’d like to know if there are any other reputable programs or organizations that I can go to for this. Pet Tech Saver maybe? Is such a thing as an accredited/non-accredited program for this sort of thing. Are all certifications considered equal?

    • Joshua Cary

      Hi Katy,

      I would say Pet Tech is an excellent choice to get certified. I think the biggest benefit of getting certified is for the self-knowledge and training it provides you. So, in that regard, look for and go with the one that you are most drawn towards. Let us know how your search ends up. Thanks for stopping by!

  • ourpetsitter

    Entering my 21st year in pet sitting, I’ve seen this industry grow from “you do what?” “Can you really make a living off of it?” Believe me, I heard worse insults, and still do from time to time (by people NOT saying anything after I explain what I do for living, is even worse). But I’ve learned to let it roll off my shoulders, long ago.

    Any how, I’ve discovered the greatest benefit to keeping my business alive and kicking is joining a professional pet sitting organization & asking for their advice. Moreover, attend any conferences one can afford to do so. That’s where you’ll get the latest and greatest of, well, anything to do with pet sitting field. It will benefit the business, over all the most.

    Pet sitters are a chatty bunch, and love to brag about their businesses. Conferences are a sure fire way of finding out what works and doesn’t and even keeping permanent mentors. Learning what business programs that might benefit one’s business.

    Several years ago, I purchased a course (at a cost of $265 +/-) & discovered the course so poorly written that if I dare try and use portion’s of the course manual in a medical emergency, alone, I’d be in a whole peck of trouble. The medical portion was designed by vet’s/vet tech’s (so you get the picture).

    My policy (and it doesn’t budge) on medical emergencies require: 1. a medical professional (not me) 2. good old common sense 3. attempting to reach the pet owner & 4. quick action on the pet sitter’s part 5. let’s not overlook, good ol’ fashion “luck”. it does NOT include attempting to play “vet tech” because of a course one took and passed six year’s ago.

    In this ever growing litigious society in which we all live and work, a pet sitter who attempts to perform some medical procedure (no matter how small) may/probably/eventually be staring down the barrel of a business law suit. After, this lawsuit, if the owner is spiteful, ( if you’ve not encountered one, rest assured, you will) you’ll receive a legal notice that you, not your business, is entangled in a personal lawsuit. And, unless, the business is incorporated, a personal lawsuit is an entirely different “animal” — oh sorry! No, & I repeat, no — your homeowner’s and business insurance will not cover this rather sticky little problem. You’re left out to hang in the wind all by yourself. Furthermore, should the judgement fall on the other side of the tracks, the judgement has be paid – period.

    That’s if, of course, you’re not incorporated. Then judgement comes from all you’ve worked hard for: you car, your house, any land you may own, etc.

    Personally, I would think long and hard before I perform any medical procedures I learned from a program. It looks good on paper and that’s where it should stay.

    On the other hand, courses on marketing, designing one’s own website (effectively) & then the “how-to’s” of working the website to Google’s page one, line one are vital… All of which can be performed, with a little elbow grease and charges are little. One can explain these courses or certificate/degrees and it informs the pet owner of the dedication the business owner has to this field of work.

    • Joshua Cary

      Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your insight. Wow, more than 20 years in the biz, huh?! I’m sure you have seen it change in ways we can’t imagine. And, I always say we are still in the infancy stage of this industry. It’s only going to grow much much bigger. And the more we can continue to learn and educate ourselves, the better we will remain.

      In regards to conferences, I completely agree. In fact, I just help the first ever PetSittingOlogy live event and will continue it in 2013 again. See the details at http://petsittinglive.com – Thanks!

  • notsobigspender

    No I’m not certified. That’s because the cost of certification for the sites I’ve looked at is prohibitively expensive. I have to turn people away as it is. HOWEVER, I feel I could learn something. If one feels they know all there is to know, they probably need a reality check. If organizations made it more reasonable to become certified, I’m sure more people would – BOTH for the knowledge it would bring them AND to have the accreditation. (For a few years, I was a member/had affiliation with a pet sitting organization. Did it bring me more clients? NO. I find the single biggest factor in having clients select someone as a pet sitter, over another person, is CLIENT REVIEWS. People will even pay more for their pet sitters than they would to have their child tutored….that’s sad.) I’d like to have the logo that I’m certified but the organizations that provide training need to bring the cost down.

    • Joshua Cary

      Hey there, Thanks so much for your feedback and insight on this topic. I’d love to know what price points you came across that were a bit high for your taste? More than the $250-ish mark? Also, would it be valuable to you if a certification program gave you direct access to ask questions to working vets and dog trainers? Thanks!

      • notsobigspender

        The prices were much higher than $250. $250 was close to the starting point for affiliation only, not certification. Actual certification started at $395-$600. Having access to a veterinarian to ask questions would not affect my interest in becoming certified because pet owners prefer the advice of their own vets. What would I need to have vet access for, as a pet sitter? What DOES influence potential clients is the amount of five-star feedback one has. This is the FIRST thing potential clients mentioned to me when speaking to me about retaining my services. Until having pet sitter certification becomes a “status” symbol or is recognized as having value, clients will not put any stock in it. Even when I had affiliation with a pet sitting organization, potential clients never mentioned that when speaking to me. So I never renewed my affiliation dues. I believe in building up my client base/positive feedback and just had some business cards printed recently…..much, much cheaper than affiliation and certainly much cheaper than certification. Perhaps the cost of certification differs in various parts of the country….that would be interesting to find out.

        • Joshua Cary

          What programs were charging $395 – $600? I’d love to take a look. The “access to Vet” question was referring to giving you access (not your client, as they would want to hear from their own). Many pet sitters love gaining access to a vet to get their medical and health questions answered. Vets are a wealth of specialized knowledge that many pet care professionals are not schooled in. That’s one reason we like to have a vet as a featured speaker at our annual live industry conference. I do hear more and more often that “associations” are becoming less valuable to the business owner since ongoing training and education can be found outside of those membership walls.

      • notsobigspender

        Josh, I forgot to mention, I also have a pet sitter contract. I offer a contract to clients but they are extremely uninterested. Potential clients do not want to be bothered with reading length of the agreements or being bound by anything. One client said I “looked like an honest person”. In today’s world, that won’t get you anywhere, because many people look honest who aren’t – thankfully, I am honest. My contract covers just about everything but all they want to know is what you can do, how much experience you have, what your other clients have said about you, and how much you charge :-)) NOT in the order of importance :-)

  • notsobigspender

    Josh, you were inquiring about the more expensive pet sitter certification programs which I told you about, with prices being $395 and up. I got the impression you didn’t quite believe me and you asked specifically for me to give you an example. NAPPS charges $405 for members ($160 + $245) and $402 for nonmembers ($395 + $7 shipping). THIS IS OVER $400 which does not include the membership fees which must be renewed annually. All of this is beyond what my wallet can afford. I completely understand (and did previously) that the “veterinarian association” would not be for my client, but only myself. I too have my own vet for my pets and can ask whatever I like – also have a large pool of well-educated people who have a great deal of experience training and caring for animals. I doubt that NAPPS offers that either. What they would need to do is do something about either the certification fee or membership fee to make it more attractive. Continuing education is another thing the demand. I didn’t even get that far looking into what the cost of that might be. But $400 is definitely where I stop being interested.

    • Joshua Cary

      Hello again, Thanks for the specifics. And of course I believed your feedback, I was more curious to know who was charging that fee. I appreciate the dialogue, and understand cost is a big factor in these types of decisions for continuing education.

      • notsobigspender

        I would definitely consider becoming certified, including participation in continuing education, IF the cost was not so prohibitive. Even then, I’m a little bit leery because of the so-called certification I was in the process of getting to become a tutor. I paid over $300 for the materials and passed all my written exams. I had SOME hours of practical experience but not all that was required. By the time I got more clients for tutoring, and looked into adding to my hours of practical experience, they discontinued the program!!!! THIS IS AFTER MANY OF US SPENT ALL THAT MONEY. As I said, I’d have to think long and hard about “online certifications” again.

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