Understanding Pet Sitting Certifications

Michael Grenier
Michael Grenier April 3, 2024

A Guide To Help You Decide If Pet Sitting And Dog Walking Certifications Are Right For Your Business - Updated for 2024!


Over the past few years, there has been a massive uptick in the demand for pet care professionals. More and more, people are relying less on their neighbors to take care of their pets while they’re away, and they are instead reaching out to professional dog walkers and pet sitters. Luckily, dog walking and pet sitting have continued to be very popular professions for animal lovers who enjoy spending their days with pets and want to make a living doing just that, so pet care professionals aren’t few and far between.

However, with so many new people getting involved in the pet care industry, we often get asked about the various pet sitting certifications available to dog walkers and pet sitters. Most commonly, new pet care professionals want to know if they need to be certified to begin with in order to be a pet sitter and what steps they need to take to become certified. In this post, we’ll help you to answer these questions and help you to determine if becoming a certified dog walker or pet sitter is the right decision for you. We’ll also review the different types of certifications available to professional pet care providers and what benefits they can provide to you and your business.

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Do Professional Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers Need to be Certified?

First off, we’re going to tackle the question of if a pet sitter or dog walker needs to be certified. This is a great place to start when thinking about pet sitting certifications, but the question you need to pose is slightly different. The question that dog walkers and pet sitters should be asking is, “Do I need a license, a certification, both, or neither to run my business?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (part of the U.S. Department of Labor), distinguishing between licenses and certifications can be confusing for many people.

The key differences are that a license:

  • Is awarded by a governmental licensing agency
  • Gives you legal authority to work in an occupation
  • Requires meeting predetermined criteria, such as having a degree or passing a state-administered exam

On the other hand, a certification:

  • Is awarded by a professional organization or other non-governmental body
  • Is not legally required in order for you to work in an occupation
  • Requires demonstrating competency to do a specific job, often through an examination process

license versus certification comaparison

Now that the differences between a license and a certification are more apparent, the first question a dog walker or pet sitter should ask themselves is: “Do I need a license to operate as a pet sitter or dog walker in my city and state?

The best way to answer this question is by contacting your Secretary of State, as well as your city or town hall. If they don’t have the answer for you, they should be able to point you in the right direction of who does. To determine your State Secretary's correct contact information, search “Secretary of State contact info” and include your state name on Google.

Another tool that you can use to help you determine what licenses you might need to acquire for your business is the Small Business Administration's business license tool. Typically, the type of licenses you need will depend on where you plan to conduct your business. For example, different licenses are required if you plan to run your pet sitting business out of your home as opposed to operating out of a separate office or boarding facility.


Some states and cities do require you to have a business license for your dog walking or pet sitting business, and they may even have some additional requirements for you depending on the type of services you offer. Hence, it’s essential to do some research on your local regulations. For example, if you provide pet transportation, some places require you to have a specific type of vehicle or a permit. Ensuring you have all of the proper documentation you need is paramount to ensuring you have the authorization to be recognized as a legitimate business.

Whether or not you need to be licensed to begin your dog walking or pet sitting business, you want to make sure that your business is bonded and insured, no matter what. These items are essential for providing necessary legal protections for you and your team and giving your pet parents the extra peace of mind they deserve. For more information on how to become bonded and insured, we recommend taking a look at our Definitive Guide To Pet Sitting Insurance.

After you determine whether or not you need a license, the next question that usually comes is: “Should I get a dog walking or pet sitting certification?” Remember that, while not legally required to work as a dog walker or pet sitter (as cited from the Bureau of Labor Statistics), it may still be a good idea to take the extra steps to do so, as it can be a great boon to your company’s reputation.

Benefits of Becoming a Certified Pet Sitter

While having specific certifications might not be required to run your pet care business, it still might be the right choice for you to pursue. There are many benefits to being a certified pet sitter, and it can elevate you and your business to the next level.

Having an industry certification (not just those for dog walking or pet sitting) can often demonstrate to prospective clients that an individual or business is committed to their craft and to upholding exceptional professional standards. As a result, the value of your business and its services will be raised in the eyes of existing and prospective clients. When the intrinsic value of your business goes up, that will be reflected in your company’s reputation, as well, and it can be a great selling point to advertise on your website. Pet parents want to know that they are entrusting their pets to someone they can trust, and having certifications promises a certain level of reliability and experience that puts people at ease. It’s also an effort that won’t go unnoticed by current clients, who would no doubt be thrilled to know that the people caring for their pets are continuing to hone their skills and broaden their horizons. Doing so well establishes your passion for the animals in your care and your commitment to excellence.

Aside from being a draw to your clients and a boost to the credibility of your business, obtaining a certification can also help you learn relevant skills and training that you may have yet to achieve. Depending on what type of certification you pursue, additional perks may become available to you, such as access to other pet sitters, ongoing education, discounted services, annual conferences, and more. Upon completing most certifications, you will be provided with a badge to post on your website as a way to prove your qualifications to clients.

Some of the additional benefits of being certified are:

  • It shows your clients that you take your profession and the welfare of their pets seriously.
  • Some certifications allow you access to resources, events, and communities that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to access. For example, Time To Pet has been lucky enough to participate in the last few conferences for NAPPS and PSI (see more about these organizations below), and we can share that the community of pet care professionals in both organizations is incredible! Everyone is open and willing to share information and advice with fellow professionals in the industry.
  • Certifications like Pet First Aid and CPR can be critical and even give you the necessary skills to save a pet’s life. We recommend reviewing our blog post on Pet First Aid for Dog Walkers and Pet Sitters for more information.
  • Being certified can help you stand out from your competitors. Many pet parents will readily choose a business committed to the continual education of themselves and their staff and who is actively investing in bettering their business.
  • Learning about your industry is a great way to stay on top of new trends, grow your business, and expose yourself to new skills and opportunities.

Which Pet Sitting Certification Should I get?

If you have decided that getting a dog walking or pet sitting certification is right for you, you will need to choose which certification you want to earn next. There are two main certification options for dog walkers and pet sitters — the National Association of Pet Sitters (NAPPS) and Pet Sitters International (PSI). If you also offer dog training, grooming, or professional kennel services, there are other certifications that you may want to look into pursuing instead, as NAPPS and PSI mainly focus on dog walking and pet sitting.

National Association of Pet Sitters (NAPPS)


The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters is an incredible, non-profit organization managed by a fantastic group of pet care business owners. The Board of NAPPS is a Who's Who of some of the best business operators in our industry and is very well-known nationwide. The NAPPS Certification that you can pursue is a broad-range, self-paced course covering a variety of relevant topics for dog walkers and pet sitters alike. As stated on the certification course’s homepage, some of the topics covered include basic pet care guidelines and typical health and behaviors displayed by many of the animals you might encounter as a pet sitter. Their certification takes about four to six weeks to complete.

To obtain and maintain the NAPPS Certification, pet care professionals must do the following:

  • Complete the NAPPS Certification Course within six months of enrollment
  • Coursework and exam completion with an overall passing score of 75% or better
  • The NAPPS Certification is good for three years. To recertify after three years, you will need to either complete 30 hours of continuing education or retake the exam at a discounted rate

The NAPPS Certification Course is available to both members and non-members of NAPPS. The course and certification cost is currently $245 for NAPPS members and $395 for non-members.

NAPPS also offers a variety of other Pet Care Certificate Courses, such as: Caring for Parrots, Caring for Senior Dogs, Complete Horse Care, Feline Behavior Issues, and many more! They also host a massive conference each spring for dog walkers and pet sitters all across the country! In 2023, the conference was held in New Orleans, while in 2024, it was held in Savannah, GA. Time To Pet is a regular attendee of these conferences, and we have found that they are always an incredible opportunity to connect with and learn from other pet care professionals around the country. It’s also a fantastic chance to get to see and speak with some of our customers face-to-face!

Pet Sitters International (PSI)

PSI Logo

Pet Sitters International is a highly well-known education association for professional pet sitters. Much like NAPPS, PSI hosts an excellent and informative conference that Time To Pet regularly attends. The conference took place in early October in Winston-Salem, NC, while the 2024 Pet Sitter World Conference is set to take place in mid-September in Niagara Falls, New York.

Their CPPS (Certified Professional Pet Sitter) certification is knowledge-assessed. It tests professional pet sitters on a general body of knowledge that they would gain through educational and professional experiences as a pet sitter. That means that there are no classes or coursework, but PSI will provide you with a study guide in order to prepare for the CPPS Exam.

The test you’re administered consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and may be overseen by someone of your choice (so long as they are someone that falls outside the role of significant other or relative).

To obtain and maintain the CPPS-Certified Professional Pet Sitter® designation, pet care professionals must do the following:

  • Be a member of Pet Sitters International
  • Successfully pass the CPPS Exam with a score of 80% or above
  • Agree to adhere to PSI’s Recommended Quality Standards and Member Code Of Conduct And Ethics, as noted in the PSI member and renewal applications
  • Obtain a minimum of thirty (30) continuing education hours (CEUs) every three years and apply for the certification renewal

The application fee for the CPPS Exam is currently $275. If you fail the test, a $79 retesting fee must be submitted within thirty days of receiving a failing score.

If you aren’t quite ready for the CPPS Exam, PSI also offers online courses and additional certifications for Pet First Aid and Professional Pet Sitting as a Career.

Additional Certifications

Besides NAPPS and PSI, there are numerous other online classes and certification programs that you can explore to further your knowledge and expand your business. Here are a few additional certification programs that might be relevant to dog walkers and pet sitters offering other services outside of the usual dog walking and in-home visits:

dog with graduation hat and diploma

Should I become a Certified Pet Sitter?

As you can see from the information and resources listed above, a wide variety of certifications are available to professional dog walkers and pet sitters. Each one offers unique benefits and commitments – whether that be time, energy, money, or some combination of the three. After doing some of your own research, you might decide that one or more of the certifications mentioned in this post is right for you. As we have previously established, becoming certified isn’t a bad idea at all. Pet sitting certification can be a great way to boost your company’s credibility and cause you to stand out from your competitors in the crowd.

Of course, there are a multitude of other ways you can make your company stand out to prospective clients. You could focus your time and energy on getting testimonials from clients, creating a referral program, building relationships with other pet care businesses, or learning skills on your own time. All of these approaches are great ways to encourage clients to engage with your company and help you build a solid reputation within your local community.

So, to ultimately answer the question of if a dog walker or pet sitter should become certified — well, it depends! It depends on you, the type of business you are running, the type of information you are looking to broaden your knowledge on, and how much time, energy, and money you are willing to put forth. If you have the time, energy, and money for it, however, it can never hurt to get certified, as it adds a lot of value to both you and your business and can help you grow in the long run!

Happy Sitting!

Make sure to check out our Time To Pet Academy and Blog for more great resources.

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