Keep Your Pets Safe — Hiring Dog Walkers and Sitters
Which app is better to hire dog walkers and sitters? Have you gone back to work and are worried about your dog being lonely or needing a break during the day? Have you looked for local pet sitting or dog walking businesses in your area but are having trouble finding one that feels right? Many people turn to popular apps like Wag and Rover for their pet care needs because they are easy and quick. In this post, I will share my opinions on how to keep your pets safe when choosing an app-based platform, having used and worked for both for several years.
While both are third-party apps that put you in touch with independent dog walkers and sitters. They both provide liability insurance if something goes missing in your home or your dog is injured. Both run background checks on the independent contractors that provide the services. Both have booking fees that are passed on to consumers and both take a percentage of the walk fee from the walkers and sitters. While both offer online information to the walkers and sitters, it is minimal and basic. Neither provides any substantial training.
Both rely on a rating system to help promote better providers. Both have an extremely easy onboarding system.
Because both apps are very successful and have thousands of walkers, accidents have happened and dogs have been injured and killed while in the care of walkers and sitters on both apps. Many of these stories have made the news and been shared on social media.
Now, let’s go over a brief overview of each.
A Place for Rover Inc. was available in my area first. I heard about both of them in 2016. Rover was founded in 2011, headquartered in Seattle, and has approximately 250 employees. They take a 20% percentage of every fee from the walkers. They offer pet sitting, dog boarding, doggy daycare, dog walking, and pet drop-ins. Rover expanded to all 50 states in the US in 2012. In 2017, Rover bought Dog Vacay. In 2018, they announced plans to expand to Europe.
My experience with Rover has been good. The onboarding process as a walker and sitter was easy. I signed up online, submitted information for a background check, and had a working account in a few days. It took about 3 months before I got my first client because I had no reviews. Most customers prefer walkers with great reviews. So to start, my rates were very low. Getting the first few customers was hard. After I had a few good reviews, the requests started flooding in and I raised my rates.
Rover encourages sitters to meet the clients prior to booking services. With Rover, you see a list of potential walkers and sitters and can review their profiles and compare their prices, and read their reviews. The walkers and sitters set their pricing on Rover. The walkers and sitters also choose which services they will provide, determine the size of animal they can handle and can accept or decline any request. They can go on vacation whenever they want by making their profile hidden.
Payments for services are made online at the time of booking and held in escrow until the work is complete before the walker or sitter is paid (less their 20% that Rover keeps). The app rarely has problems.
The expertise and quality of care that is provided range from inexperienced novice to experienced pet care. This is why it is important to meet the walker or sitter in advance and read the reviews. Many of the walkers and sitters are walking dogs as a side hustle while working other jobs or going to school.
Liability Insurance is included to cover damage to personal property and accidents. But, no amount of insurance will replace your pet if the pet sitter or walker allows the dog to escape and run away or worse, gets injured or killed.
Because you will have this person in your home, taking care of your pets, I do encourage you to meet the walker or sitter prior to hiring them. Pay attention to how they meet your dog. Do they come in loud and want to go right to petting the dog? Or, do they come in with more neutral energy and wait for the dog to greet them? People that understand dogs, will not come in and force themselves on the dogs. How does your pet react to them?
Make sure that you have collars or harnesses that are hard to escape like martingale collars and make sure that the walker understands how to use your gear.
Have a camera in the home and at the front door. There are very affordable cameras available for you to be able to see how the walker or sitter behaves when you are not there. Buy a lockbox and have them leave the house key in the lockbox rather than keeping a key that can be lost or easily duplicated. If you are going to use the same walker or sitter regularly, and trust them, leaving them a key makes sense. Rover does not provide lockboxes.
I always assume my clients have cameras and it doesn’t bother me in the least. When I use a sitter myself, I have a camera at the door as well as a few inside my home.
Rover has been sued multiple times for the deaths of pets due to negligent care provided by sitters and walkers. Rover considers itself an advertising company for independent sitters.
Wag was founded in 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Olivia Munn is a spokesperson and investor.
Joining Wag takes longer than Rover. The background check took three months to process. When I joined in 2017, I still started the process online, but there was a mandatory in-person onboarding process where they took my photo and passed out a green t-shirt. I was easily the only person in the group over 40 years old. It took about a month to complete the process with Wag. As soon as my account was live, I started receiving requests and was able to earn cash right away. Both Wag and Rover apps pay weekly after services are complete.
Wag provides lockboxes.
When you request services on Wag as a customer, the request is pushed out to all the walkers and sitters in the area, the first person to accept the service is your walker. You can “favorite” walkers after using them and it will go to them first. But after an hour, the request will go to everyone, supposedly. The app goes down regularly and I often did not see requests that were meant for me as a favorite sitter until past the one-hour window and the walks were often already booked by another walker which was frustrating to both myself and my customers.
Meeting the walker or sitter prior to services is not necessary or even recommended by Wag. But if you are booking a sitting for a future date, it is available.
The majority of the Wag walks requested are for immediately needed walks whereas the majority of walks requested on the Rover app are for future dates and times.
Wag is more like booking an Uber or Lyft. You get whoever is fastest at clicking accept on their phone. This can come in handy if you have an easy dog that likes everyone and you are stuck at work and can’t get home. Wag is good when you need someone NOW and don’t plan ahead.
Wag sets the pricing even though they also consider themselves an advertising platform for independent contractors. Sometimes it is very low. For this reason, the expertise level of the average Wag walker leans more toward the novice pet care provider. They also keep a 40% cut of the fees. But, I had my first walk with Wag within a few days of my account going live. My lack of reviews as a new walker on the app did not hold me back. I was able to start working consistently right away. Once I was able to build up my personal dog walking business through referrals, I quit Wag because the fees were too high. Booking clients found on the app directly is grounds for termination and potential fines.
As a customer, you will get who you get. If you have a dog that is harder to handle and needs time to adjust to new people, Wag won’t work as well.
Pros- It is cheap and quick
Cons — Least experienced walkers and far less control over selection.
Pets have died while in the care of Wag sitters as well.
Rover has more experienced walkers and sitters. You can choose your walker or sitter from the start and they are accustomed to meeting customers ahead of time. It does require a little more planning in advance. Many new walkers and sitters are on both apps. As walkers and sitters gain experience and a larger client base, they will abandon Wag first because of the fees.
And the Winner is...
The best walkers and sitters often start their own dog walking and or pet sitting business separate from both apps as they accumulate happy repeat customers and gain referrals because they get sick of the fees and desire the ability to communicate directly with clients. If you want someone experienced, professional and dedicated to caring for your pets, responsibly, the private pet care companies have a tendency to have more serious pet care professionals. Look for one that is insured, bonded, and has an ongoing training program for the staff.
Always check reviews on Google and Yelp. Even private pet care businesses can cause harm to pets through negligence.
Of course, if you live within 5 miles of Tarzana or Encino in California, call me! I would love to meet you and your pets to take the best care possible of them.