How Much to Pay Pet Sitting Staff
It is important to seek the advice of a Payroll Service, licensed HR Professional, or an Enrolled Tax Agent before hiring any staff. Read our article, Preparing for Your First Payroll for information about how to get this professional advice.
The first place to look when sorting out how much to pay your staff is the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Pet sitter and dog walker hourly pay is reported by the BLS under Animal Caretakers, occupation code 39-2021. You can view the (rather interesting) full data here.
As of May 2021:
- The average pet sitter and dog walker hourly wage is $14.19
- The median pet sitter and dog walker hourly wage is $13.75
Here is how pay breaks down by percentile:
As you can see from the table above, pay for pet sitters and dog walkers ranges quite a bit:
- $10.28 on the low side
- $18.63 on the high end
This data from the BLS should only be considered a starting point. If you are in a more urban area where the cost of living is higher, you will need to pay closer to the 75% and up percentile. If you are in a more rural area where the minimum wage and cost of living is low, you might be able to pay closer to the 25% percentile.
Research Local Pay Rates
It’s also important to research pay rates in your area for similar jobs to get a good idea of what you should pay your staff. Search local ads for similar positions on Indeed, Craigslist, and other job boards, and make a list of your competitors’ advertised pay.
Jobs with similar pay are:
- Other pet sitters and dog walkers
- Kennel technicians
- Vet technicians
- Shelter technicians
Be aware, some pet sitting companies will fudge their pay numbers way up. For example, one local pet sitter in my area always advertises $14-21/hr + tips. While it may be the case that a sitter could make $21/hr if their visits are short and very close to one another (and the employer pays a flat rate per visit), a staff member’s average pay per hour is sure to be closer to the lower number.
Example Pay Breakdown for a Set of Visits
Let’s take a look at this example to show all of the components of a pet sitter or dog walker’s pay.
In this example, the sitter has three visits. Here is how the pay breaks down for someone receiving $15/hr for their time, and $0.42 per mile for a mileage reimbursement.
Time at visits:
- Visit #1 = 30 minutes
- Visit #2 = 60 minutes
- Visit #3 = 40 minutes
- Total time at visits = 2.16 hours
- Total pay for time at visits = 2.16 hours X $15 = $32.5
- Drive #1 is the commute. No pay or mileage reimbursement
- Drive #2 = 13 minutes
- Drive #3 = 5 minutes
- Drive #4 = 8 minutes
- Total paid drive time = 0.43 hours
- Total pay for drive time = 0.43 hours X $15 = $6.45
- Drive #1 the commute. No pay or mileage reimbursement
- Drive #2 = 4.5 miles
- Drive #3 = 1.6 miles
- Drive #4 = 3.8 miles
- Total miles driven = 9.9 miles
- Total mileage reimbursement = 9.9 miles X $0.42 = $4.16
Total Pay for This Set of Visits:
- Pay for time at these 3 visits = $32.5 + Employer Paid Taxes + Workers Compensation Insurance
- Pay for drive time, one way = $6.45 + Employer Paid Taxes + Workers Compensation Insurance
- Mileage reimbursement = $4.16 (Tax free)
- Total Cost = $43.11 + Taxes + Workers Compensation Insurance
How to Calculate Profit Per Visit Based on Visit Price and Sitter Pay
It’s important to know how much you will make from each visit, based on:
- How much you charge minus how much it costs the business to complete each visit
You can use the Pricing and Pay Spreadsheet to compare how much you will make from each length of visit, based on:
- How much you pay staff per hour
- How much you charge for each type of visit
- Average drive time between visits
- Average miles between visits
- Cost of employer paid taxes per visit
- Cost of worker’s compensation insurance per visit
If you are already enrolled in the Hiring Course, this spreadsheet is included in your downloadable document pack.
Download your FREE Pet Sitter Pay Spreadsheet!
Be sure to check out the other tabs of the spreadsheet for a payroll calculator.
How to Use the Sitter Pay Spreadsheet
At the top of the spreadsheet you will see a section labeled:
- Pay per hour – A
- Pay per hour – B
You can put in different rates for A and B and compare how different:
- Hourly Pay
- Mileage reimbursement
- Average miles between visits
- Average drive time between visits
affects your profit per visit.
Then take a look at the far right column in this spreadsheet. The last box calculates how much you will make per year based on:
- Average profit per visit
- Number of visits completed in a year
This is the number that really matters—how much you will make at the end of the year based on visit price and cost to complete. You can play around with the numbers in this spreadsheet until you find:
- A price your clients will pay
- See our article, How Much to Charge for Pet Sitting and Dog Walking for help with setting your prices.
- Sitter pay that is high enough to prevent turnover
- A gross profit margin you are comfortable with
Be sure to note, the profit per visit is calculated as gross profit margin, the profit before your fixed and variable expenses. So, be sure to leave room in your margin to cover these expenses.
Common Fixed Expenses:
- Website costs
- Pet sitting software
- Phone system costs
- Software subscriptions
- Office expenses
Common variable expenses:
- Pet sitting insurance
- Pet sitter supplies
- Credit card processing fees
- Lockboxes / Keys
Lastly, you will need to update the numbers in this spreadsheet to match your individual situation. Every company will have different numbers for employer paid taxes and workers compensation insurance. You will also need to set the prices for your visits to match your market, and pay a competitive wage in your area. For information about how to set your prices, see our article How Much to Charge for Pet Sitting.
See below in this article for more information about how to estimate your employer paid taxes and workers compensation insurance. Also, if you need help using this spreadsheet, please book a coaching session with us.
If you are not sure what your visit price and pay should be, you may want to reach out to a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Enrolled Agent (EA) in your area.
Paying a Flat Rate VS Exact Drive Time and Mileage VS Paying a Percentage
Since the pay for a pet sitting or dog walking visit is made up of three items:
- Pay for time at the visit
- Pay for drive time
- And pay for mileage reimbursement
it can be a challenge to pay the correct amount and estimate the labor cost of every visit. This makes it difficult to set your prices. Luckily there are a few options for figuring exact pay or calculating an average pay. Here we will cover the pros and cons of each.
Paying Exact Mileage and Drive Time
Nowadays, modern pet sitting software such as Precise Pet Care or Time to Pet can track your staff’s:
- Exact hours worked
- Exact drive time
- Mileage between visits
You can then generate a payroll report which includes the information needed for your payroll software:
- Total hours worked
- Miles driven for the mileage reimbursement
Instructions for setting up mileage tracking in Precise Pet Care:
Instructions for setting up mileage tracking in Time to Pet:
Even though these tools are available, your staff may find them cumbersome to use. As an alternative, you could choose to use paper forms and have your staff turn in their drive time and mileage for each pay period. Although, this can also increase your administrative time and costs.
- You don’t overpay or underpay for any visits
- Works well for large service areas when drive time is inconsistent / varies
- Easier to pay and charge for visits that are farther away than usual
- Sitters trust they are being paid the correct amount every time
- Adds office work / administrative time
- Tracking exact mileage can be cumbersome for staff
Paying an Average Drive time and Mileage
If your service area is consistent, which makes the drive time between visits consistent, you may choose to pay an average mileage and drive time. Paying an average drive time keeps things simple. You pay a flat rate for each visit length and each flat rate includes the average mileage and drive time.
All modern pet sitting softwares will allow you to pay a flat rate per visit and you can generate a payroll report that includes:
- The total amount you need to pay each staff member
- The total number of visits completed by each staff member
You can then enter these valves into the second sheet in the Visit Price and Sitter Pay Spreadsheet, called “Payroll Calculator” to split the sitter pay into pay for time at visits, mileage, and drivetime.
Lastly, even if you pay exact mileage and drive time, it’s important to know your averages, because these numbers will help you set your prices and pay. At the end of the year, your drive time and mileage will boil down to an average anyway. You can use your averages based on historical data to project your future earnings, using the Visit Price and Sitter Pay Spreadsheet.
- Keeps administration time and cost to a minimum
- Sitters do not need to spend time tracking their mileage and drive time
- Makes it easy to know your labor cost
- Might not be suitable for a large service area when drive time and mileage is inconsistent
- Sitter’s might feel they are not getting paid enough for long drives
How to Find Average Drive Time and Average Mileage Between Visits
If your pet sitting software is tracking your drive time and miles, you should be able to pull a report that will show the miles driven and drive time between client’s addresses. If you are not able to retrieve this data from your pet sitting software, you can use two random client addresses and enter them into Google Maps.
If you find the distance and drive time between 60 random client addresses, that will give you a usable average that is statistically significant. If you don’t have 60 addresses to calculate an average from, using 20-30 addresses will give you a good average to start from.
Using Google Maps to calculate the average drive time and mileage between two client addresses
Paying a Percentage VS Paying Per Hour
Some folks talk about how they use a percentage of the visit cost to set their pay. This is backwards, because sitter pay should not be based on how much you charge. The cost of an employee or independent contractor is by the hour.
What you charge per visit should be based on what your clients will pay in your market. Sitter pay should be based on what you need to pay to retain talented workers in your market. These two numbers are completely independent of each other.
Also, keep in mind, if your payroll cost is $100,000 per year and you decide to increase your pay by even 1%, that will add $1000 to your payroll expense each year.
- It’s easy
- Small changes in percentage have a large impact on your bottom line
- If you increase your prices your pay also needs to go up
- Often the percentage of pay is an arbitrary number and falsely claimed to be “industry standard”
How Much are Employer Paid Taxes?
Every company’s employer paid taxes will be different. You will need to work with an EA or CPA to set up your payroll tax account and unemployment insurance in your state. Once you get those accounts set up, the state will set your exact percentages.
However, if it’s helpful to you or you’d like a ballpark estimate to enter into the spreadsheet above, 14-16% of the taxable portion of an employee’s pay is common.
How Much is Workers Compensation Insurance?
Again, every company will have a different cost for workers compensation insurance. You will need to get a few quotes from various workers’ compensation insurance brokers before choosing the best option for your company.
Be sure to check if your state has a State Funded Option. These tend to be much cheaper than private insurance. As of 2022, the following states have state funded workers compensation insurance:
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
There is a chance private insurance might be cheaper than your state fund, so be sure to get a few quotes from private insurance as well. One of the best places to get a quote is from your Payroll Service. Both Gusto and Quickbooks Online offer competitive pay-as-you-go workers compensation insurance.
Use the links below to quote from:
You should also reach out to an EA or CPA in your area. They will likely know which insurance companies offer the best rates in your state.
But again, if you want a ballpark estimate for your workers compensation rate, you can estimate 2% – 4% of sitter pay.
How Many Hours to Offer
One thing that keeps many pet sitting agencies from hiring is the fear that you will not be able to keep an employee busy. However, you do not need to guarantee full time or even consistent part time hours to dog walkers and pet sitters. Many people are happy pet sitting or dog walking for just a few days per week, or just a few hours per day.
Hiring someone to help out for even a few hours will give you the much needed time off you deserve, and significantly reduces your chances of getting burnt out.
At our company, our busiest sitters and walkers averaged 20-35 hours per week. Our least busy sitters and walkers worked around 5-10 hours per week. Having a mix of staff, with some working more and some working fewer hours, is a great way to go. After a while, you will find your staff can take care of all of the visits, while you stick to office work and the visits you enjoy and which fit your schedule.
How a Mileage Reimbursement Can Save You Money
If you hire employees, you may need to offer a mileage reimbursement. These regulations vary from state to state. This is another good topic to cover with your CPA or EA.
In most states, if your sitters are driving their personal vehicles to visits, you will need to ensure their pay does not drop below minimum wage when figuring in their cost of gas, car maintenance, and vehicle depreciation.
The IRS sets a maximum rate you can reimburse staff for mileage.
It is beneficial to offer a mileage reimbursement because pay for mileage is not taxed. Neither you nor your employee pays payroll tax on it. So, offering a mileage reimbursement is one way to get more money into your staff’s pockets.
I pay $0.42 cents per mile, and bring my sitters’ pay per hour down a little bit to cover this cost. I use the spreadsheet above to calculate these exact figures.
For current guidance on how much you can pay for mileage reimbursement, see the IRS Issued Mileage Rates.
The Shift Towards $15/hr and Beyond
As of 2022, there is a major shift towards service workers demanding higher pay, and it’s likely this trend will continue. The cost of living has increased substantially over the last 20-30 years, while wages have not kept up. So much so, it’s difficult for service workers to live off of a minimum wage. As an employer, you can’t expect talented workers to stick with your company if you do not offer fair and competitive pay.
In many more populated and expensive areas, employees seem to consider $15/hr to be a fair wage. There are many reports demonstrating that if you can pay above $15/hr, you will attract more talented workers.
As of 2022, in my company (located in an affluent area in northern Colorado, USA), I am starting sitters at:
- $0.42 mileage reimbursement
- + tips
In the next couple of years, I expect I will need to bring our pay up to continue offering a competitive wage. For context, as of 2022, Colorado’s minimum wage is $12/hr, while rent for a two bedroom apartment in the area is between $1300-$1500.