Skip to Content

How to say no to pet sitting customers

As a pet sitter, you can’t be available 24/7.

You deserve time off. You deserve to say no.

For some reason, though, pet sitters have a hard time saying no. I think it’s because we’re very nice people! We don’t want to let anyone down, especially our customers.

But if you can learn the skill of saying no, your business will be stronger.

I’ve been a professional pet sitter for almost five years, and I’ve learned to say no. Last week, I shared some advice on how to get more pet sitting customers. Today, I’m sharing advice on how to say no when you have more business than you need.

For more information, see my ebook on how do I start my dog sitting business?

Why you should say no to some pet sitting customers.

Yellow Lab curled up on couchYou deserve time off.

If you’ve blocked off a weekend or a week for yourself, you need to stick to it. Everyone deserves a vacation, even if it’s just one full day off.

Every time you try to take time off, you will probably receive pet sitting requests. This is a nice problem to have, but you need to politely turn down business in order to give yourself an occasional break. Then return to work refreshed!

Saying no allows you to offer a better service.

Fewer customers means more attention for each pet. You’ll build stronger relationships with the pets and the owners.

If you are rushing from one appointment to the next, you will be under constant stress. You might not notice a cut on a dog’s paw. Or you might not notice a cat threw up on the couch. You might even forget to lock a door.

However, if you take a smaller number of clients, you will have the time to give each pet the care she deserves. You’ll be relaxed, and you’ll have time to text photos or leave handwritten notes. Your dog walks will be relaxed and enjoyable. You’ll have time to clean muddy paws or cuddle up with a cat on the couch.

I can’t tell you how many pets you should visit per day. The ideal number will be different for everyone. I only recommend you take fewer rather than more.

You want to be loyal to existing customers.

By saying no to new customers, you have the ability to say yes to existing customers. It’s better to turn away the people you’ve never met.

Some customers will have unfair expectations.

Emergencies come up, and you should do your best to accommodate within reason. For example, an existing client might have to go to the hospital on short notice, so she asks you to check on her dogs.

But there are emergencies and there are “emergencies.” With some people, everything is “urgent” and everything is about them.

Some clients never plan ahead. They’ll call on Thursday evening and expect you to check on their dogs all weekend. Even if you have some openings, you may want to say no.

Sometimes you’ll even get last-minute calls from potential customers you’ve never met. They’ll ask, could you check on our dogs tomorrow morning? I recommend saying no. Tell them you’d be happy to help them out in the future, but you will need more notice.


Sometimes you have to turn potential customers away for safety reasons. Maybe their dog is aggressive. Maybe the person lives too far out of town and it’s blizzard season. Maybe the person lives in an apartment building where break-ins are common. Maybe you don’t feel safe walking dogs in certain neighborhoods. Whatever the reason, keep your own safety in mind and say no accordingly.

Some customers are not worth the time.

Sooner or later you will come across a customer who is not worth your time. Taking care of her pets is more trouble than it’s worth. Sometimes this is because the customer is flat out rude, and sometimes it’s out of her control.

For example, maybe she lives just a little too far from you. Or maybe it always takes an hour to clean up after her messy dog. Maybe her cat needs medication but won’t come near you.

She could be one of those people who always finds a reason to complain. Maybe she doesn’t pay on time. Or maybe she treats her dogs poorly and you worry about liability.

Whatever the reason, if it’s not worth your time, just say no.

How to say no to pet sitting customers

Remain polite.

Thank the person for her interest in your business. You don’t owe her an apology, but you owe her a thank you. Tell her you hope to care for her pets in the future, and recommend another pet sitter for the meantime.

Think about what you’ll say ahead of time.

Plan ahead of time what you might say, and practice saying it. You don’t need an excuse to say no. All you need to say is “No, I am not available at that time. Thank you for contacting me, and I hope to help you out next time.”

Create a waiting list.

Sometimes it’s easier to say no if you can put the person on a waiting list for the future.

Increase your rates.

You are in demand, so there is no reason not to increase your rates. If you charge more, a few clients will naturally drop off. With fewer people inquiring about your services, you won’t need to say no as often.

For more information on rates, see my ebook on how to start a pet sitting business.

Remember your priorities.

You set high standards because you offer the best service. You are the best pet sitter in your area. People seek you out among the competition for a reason. This allows you, in turn, to select the best customers. That means something different for each pet sitter because we all have our own strengths and specialties.

I focus on dog running, so my clients tend to be mostly medium to large, higher-energy dogs. Your business might be different. Maybe you focus on smaller dogs or cats.

Choosing your customers wisely gives you the opportunity to be happier with your business and to have happier customers.

Isn’t that why you started your business in the first place?

For more information on pet sitting, see my post on creating a basic business plan for a dog sitting/walking company.

How to say no to pet sitting and dog walking customers

Do you own a pet sitting business or other service-related business?

How do you say no to customers?


Wednesday 12th of February 2020

Hi, I am a pet sitter for a large local company, and the sitters are considered independent contractors. So, in theory, we can decide whether or not we want to take the jobs sent to us. But what do you do when the owner is abrasive and demanding and doesn't take "no" for an answer? I rarely want to turn down a job, but occasionally she will send me one that is 14-16 miles away from my home, and they may need 2-3 visits per day, and I just do not want to drive that far to make my cut of $12 per visit, not to mention the gasoline, wear and tear on my car, and all the time it takes to drive to/from the job. If I decline the job, she will reply with a reason as to why I should take it, and she just doesn't accept my answer. This is very frustrating and intimidating, so most of the time, I just end up taking the job because it's just not worth the fight.

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 12th of February 2020

I think you just have to be firm. Polite but firm. You can say simply, "No, I'm not able to take that job." You don't owe her an explanation. Or, you could say you only take jobs within a certain distance from your home. Not sure if your rate is negotiable, but that could be an option - take certain jobs but for $x amount.


Thursday 7th of March 2013

Hi Lindsay. Interesting points and good advice. I had to close down my boarding business 3 years after I started precisely for the reasons you suggested. I never got a break. I was busy all of the time. Just as soon as I would plan a small stretch off, I would get a call from one of my best clients. In the same vein, I lost a couple of good clients when I was too full to take their dogs, therefore, I knew the cost of saying NO. So I closed it down and re thought the whole process. When I re opened I posted on my website, "I am NOT available 365 days a year. I will be taking breaks, call for availability." That phrase may not mean much to potential clients, but it allowed me to take control and feel justified, instead of guilty, when I have to say NO. Thanks again for another thoughtful post.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 7th of March 2013

Interesting to hear your experience. Sounds like things are going better for you now! :)

Nancy's Point

Monday 4th of March 2013

I think lots of us have trouble saying "no". Even harder than saying "no" is not feeling guilty about doing so.

Thanks for the tips that are also relevant for other areas of life as well.

Ty Brown

Monday 4th of March 2013

It definitely takes a leap of faith to turn down customers. We're hard wired to WANT income so it seems counter-productive to turn it away.

I think you're right, though, that by turning away the wrong income you make room for more of the right income.


Monday 4th of March 2013

Hi Lindsay. I just want to add that your points can also apply for dog walkers that work for a company (as opposed to running their own business). Where I live, dog walking is hugely competitive (such that many companies require you to sign a non-compete when you are hired). Competition for dogs and routes is even high within a company, so when I am assigned a stop on my route that I do not want I'm not shy about bringing it up to management. Someone else will be happy to have the extra visit/money, and I am happy to not have the stress. I have turned down dogs for many of the reasons you state, including time issues, proximity, and owner issues.

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 4th of March 2013

Thank you, Amanda.