Did you know that dog walking services through phone apps that are popping up in different cities across the country like Uber for booking car rides and Tinder for scheduling dates? Dogs are not just pets, they are our fur-children. Would you use a phone app to hire a baby sitter for your children and give them access to your home not having met them first the way you order a car ride from your phone? I believe an overwhelming number of people would say no. So, why would anyone use a service like Uber on demand to book a dog walker do this for their fur-kids?
When I first heard about these types of dog walking companies, I understood how the convenience of requesting a dog walker on demand through a phone app may sound appealing, but what made me worry are the different trust, security, and safety issues that can arise if a different dog walker is gaining access to your home and dog(s) each time you submit a request. Also, the more I thought about it, if you are an established client with a dog walking service, most can be available for last minute requests. There may be an additional fee but these last minute/short notice requests, similar to these Uber on demand companies, may also be submitted from the convenience of you smart phone by making a phone call, logging into their website, or sending an email.
On one of these dog walking companies website home page, they make the below proclamations to lure in clients.
What separates us from the pack is the fully transparent, seamless and frictionless nature of our service. We enable real-time track and trace so pet owners know where their pet has been walked and we guarantee no pack or off-lead walking. Further, peer-to-peer reviews and star ratings ensure full transparency.
However, what they claims separates them from the pack in a positive way is something they have to offer in order to deal with trust issues due to sending a different dog walker upon each request. If you work with an individual dog walker or dog walking company with whom you establish a personal relationship you shouldn’t have trust issues. Yet, the only way a service like this can gain your trust when you only meet someone from their company when you first sign up and a different dog walker comes each time you submit a request is with their real time track and trace. Furthermore, most professional dog walkers do not walk dogs off-leash or in packs. We do this for the dogs safety. Plus, there is no reason for a dog walker to believe another person’s dog will listen to them off leash no matter how well they are trained and there is no guarantee that even the friendliest of dogs will always get along. There are dog walking services, however, that offer group or pack walks but that isn’t for every dog. Lastly, all dog walkers should offer existing client contact information for new clients to check references rather than just sharing written reviews and ratings. I would prefer to speak directly to the references. If I could only read peer-to-peer reviews, I would want to read them on a neutral site like Yelp or Google+ where the company being reviewed doesn’t have any control of the reviews being shared.
The biggest problem I have with these companies is they depersonalize something that is so personal and precious to me. I’ve poured my heart and soul into perfecting Rufus and Delilah over the last 13 years making sure our clients and their pets always have a great experience. Being 100% committed to our clients’ happiness, we regularly find ways to better our services. Let’s face it, our dogs are a part of our family. At Rufus and Delilah, we have a thorough process we go through when signing up new clients allowing us to custom tailor each visit to each clients and dogs’ needs. Clients complete a detailed profile allowing us to best match them with a dog walker, who will be the right fit for their needs and their dog(s) needs. We then meet each client and their dog(s) for a complimentary consultation and they meet their dog walker. We review their client profile with them, in detail, identifying any missing information in order to guarantee their dogs get the best care in their absence. When the walks start, the dog walker will leave a daily note including any specific details upon the clients request. If the client would like to know where their dog(s) went on the walk or their arrival time, the dog walker can include it in the note. If the client would like to trace the movement of their dog, they can purchase one of many gadgets or GPS tracking dog collars like TAGG that will track their dogs movements when outside their property and will send them notifications. Yet, with over 13 years experience dog walking, I’ve never worked with a client who requested physical proof of where their dog was walked.
A few other reasons I wouldn’t use a service like Uber on demand to book a dog walker are listed below.
- I would not be comfortable allowing different dog walkers, who I haven’t met, access my dogs and home each time I need a walk. I would prefer a more personalized experience allowing my dogs and me to develop a relationship with the dog walker (whether it is with one or two dog walkers) rather than a pack of dog walkers.
- Not every dog walker is the right match for every dog. Dogs can be picky about the people they like. Some dogs don’t like men while others don’t like women. Sometimes finding the perfect fit for a dog can be a question of matching a dog with a person with a specific energy. Other examples of things that can lead to a mismatch is if the dog walker is wearing a hat or sunglasses, has a high pitch voice, walks too slow, can’t walk fast enough, or isn’t strong enough for the breed. I worry that services like these may send the closest available dog walker when receiving a request rather than doing a thorough screening processes ensuring the right dog walker is being sent for the client’s dog(s).
- Many dogs take time warming up to new people before trusting it is okay to leave their home with them. I wouldn’t want to cause undue stress to a dog if a different dog walker was coming each time to take him or her on a walk.
- For security reasons, I worry about how each dog walker will gain access to each client’s home and how many different people will know how to access a client’s home at any given time. Will you have to leave a hidden key or a key in a lock box to help with the convenience of a Uber on demand dog walker being able to fill immediate and short notice requests? Alternatively, will you be required to set up a digital code to unlock your door? What happens if a service like this stops using a dog walker who knows how to find your keys and/or use your house alarm, or if the key is missing from the hiding spot, or lock box or if the digital code won’t work when the dog walker arrives? Or, what if someone is watching and sees the code or where the walker is accessing the hidden key?
- What happens if there is a problem with your dog(s) or home when you return from your day or evening out? Will the dog walker of the day be reachable?
When these Uber on demand to book a dog walker companies launched in Los Angeles in February of 2015, I was not concerned they would take away clients from Rufus and Delilah or other well established dog walking services with a proven history of top quality and personalized dog walking services. There will be pet parents who will find a liking for each model and style of dog walking service. My main concern is that each clients dogs’ best interest and safety, and the security of each client’s home will be a top priority.
Would you use a service like Uber on demand to book a dog walker for your pooch?
*This article was updated in May of 2017.*