Key Management Ideas
As a dog walker or pet sitter, you’re primarily providing service when your clients aren’t home, so you’ll need a key or other secure and reliable way to enter their houses. These are some of the most common ways pet sitters manage keys and/or home access:
Keeping a Key on File – Your company gets a copy of the client’s key and keeps it to access the client’s home whenever they need service. It’s a good idea to ask clients to give you at least two copies of their keys in case their regular sitter is unavailable and another staff member needs to provide service or in the unlikely event that you lose their key. With this method, you’ll likely end up with many keys to keep track of, so make sure you have a good system for labeling and tracking keys. Never label keys with the client’s personal information, such as their name or address, in case the key was to get lost or stolen. Most companies label each key with a unique code to identify and track them. Labeling keys with the pet’s name can also be helpful for quickly finding the right key when you’re at a client’s home, but since you’ll likely have some pets with the same names, you won’t want to use pet names as your only key identifier.
Using Lockboxes – The client has a lockbox attached to their doorknob or another area outside their home and gives your company the code to the lockbox. The advantage of this method is that your company does not have to manage and track keys or deal with exchanging keys between sitters. However, since you’re not always in possession of the keys, there is the risk that you could arrive at the client’s home and find the lockbox empty because the client or someone else who had access to the lockbox forgot to put the key back. Some apartment complexes and condominiums also do not allow lockboxes, so you’ll need an alternate method for keeping those clients’ keys.
Electronic Locks – Some clients may have an electronic lock on their front door or garage door that unlocks the door when you type in a code. This can be more convenient than keeping a key on file or using a lockbox for the client homes that have them. If using this method, make sure to ask the client if the lock will still work if the power to their home is out, and make sure you have an alternate way to enter their home if it doesn’t.
Picking Up and Returning Keys Each Trip – Pet care companies typically do not use this as their primary key management system because of the time and hassle of coordinating key pick-ups and returns. But sometimes, you can’t keep keys on file or use a lockbox because of client needs or preferences. Since picking up and returning keys takes significantly more time than other methods of managing keys, it’s reasonable to charge clients an additional fee. When returning keys, it’s best to return them in person after the client has returned home. Sometimes, a client may ask you to leave the key in their home and lock the doorknob from the inside on your way out or drop the key through the mail slot, but if you do this and the client is delayed coming home for any reason, you won’t have a way to get back in to provide additional visits for their pets.
Whatever method you choose for managing keys, make sure it’s reliable and safe for you, your staff, your clients, and their pets. Allowing clients to leave a key hidden in an unsecured location, such as under the doormat, or the client simply leaving their home unlocked is not something you should allow as this risks anyone being able to enter and puts you and their pets and home at risk.
Many pet care companies will use some combination of the above key management methods, as your clients all have different needs and living situations. The most important thing is that you always keep the safety, security, and reliability as your top priorities in managing keys and choose a system that works best for you and your clients.