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 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 11 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 can 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 11 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 companies launch in Los Angeles this February, I am not concerned they will 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 walk your dog?
These are things I hadn’t considered. I don’t have dogs at this time but I’ll pass the info on to others! Great post!
I don’t have a dog but I would tend to agree with your reasoning. I would want to stick with a service I knew rather than a catch as catch can type of service.
Pet parents really need to be careful before letting just anyone provide care. There are so many things that need to be considered before you can hand over your house keys.
We agree it is better to use a service where you know the sitters and have a personal relationship with them. We are quite concerned about all the safety and security issues that will arise with services that offer an Uber type of service for dog walking.
I agree – some dogs would be fine with a stranger every time, but there are pups that, like humans, need more time to warm up. Dog walkers are some of my favorite people – and good ones are also dog handlers, helping to continue to train, remind us when we need a bit of a reminding, and after repeat visits get to know us towards anticipating what we’ll do (and help steer us away from trouble if it’s around)!
MattieDog, even for the dogs who may like being with a different person at each walk, we worry about the security issues letting numerous people into your home and having access to your house key 24/7. We also agree with you that with repetition, the best dog walkers can anticipate a dogs next move before it happens. Dog walkers with whom you develop a relationship are also tuned in to know if a dog is feeling off or unusual and can notify the dogs parents right away.
I agree; my dog and I need to get to know the person. It’s not easy trusting someone else with your dog and having someone different ever time would stress me out; not to mention my already stressed out pooch! (my husband would say “I don’t want strangers coming to my house – are you crazy?”)
My concerns would mirror yours with a dog walking service. I don’t like strangers in my home nor with my dog so I would be quite picky, for me and for my dog.
Thank you for making us laugh by sharing what your husband would say in response to using a service like uber for dog walking. I wouldn’t want a stranger coming into my house and walking my dogs either. It is one thing allowing a stranger to drive us but another giving them access to our homes and precious fur-kids.
This type of business model really scares us.
All good points to think about. I wouldn’t entrust a stranger to care for my dog no matter how convenient.
I definitely would not use a service like that. You are so right, they are our furkids. Secondly I wouldn’t want strangers to have access to my house! I like having a relationship with my sitter (or walker).
I wouldn’t use a service like this. I agree, I wouldn’t use an app to find a random babysitter, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable letting someone I didn’t know walking Rooney, let alone inviting them to the home to go pick him up.
We love seeing so many people agree with us on why we wouldn’t use a service like Uber for dog walking.
Thank you for sharing that you agree with us on this topic. It is scary to think this type of dog walking service launches in February in the Los Angeles area.
Thank you for sharing that you agree with us. Our main concerns are the safety and happiness of each pet and the security of each clients homes. We don’t understand how a service like Uber for dog walking will work without major problems.
This sounds like such an awful idea!
I can’t believe people would be crazy enough to sign up for something like this. I know I never would.
Thank you for sharing that you also wouldn’t use a service like Uber for dog walking.
Great post. I’m Janet from Pooch Buddies. My business is very similar to yours, covering a different part of LA. I agree with you 100%. I fear that most of the Zingy/Wag walkers would be hobby walkers, rather than professional dog walkers. I don’t think the majority of my clientele would trust this type of impersonal service. I certainly would never entrust my dog or my home to a stranger through an app & I don’t see a dedicated dig owner feeling okay with that either . You also hit the nail on the head regarding booking and last minute requests. My clients are a text away from a booking and we always go the extra mile to support last minute requests. It’s all about relationships. Delighted to see this post.
Hi Janet. Thank you for taking the time to comment on our article. It is great to hear from another professional dog walker sharing you agree with our concerns about using an on-demand dog walking service similar to Uber. Although we don’t have a specific phone app for Rufus and Delilah, if an established client would like a same day or short notice walk they can contact us by phone, email, or by logging into our online system. The safety of each clients pet and security of their home is of the utmost importance to us and we will do everything we can at Rufus and Delilah to ensure that.
I own Alpha Pet Care in Long a Beach, CA & I agree with you completely. Pet parents who use our service have a relationship with our company and with their regular sitter. Zingy & Wag! remove that layer of warm fuzziness and replace it with a smartphone app. Out of curiosity I downloaded their app and created an account. I couldn’t believe how expensive their services were! A 30-minute walk for two dogs was $38! I’m curious how much of that is paid to their staff and if their staff are properly treated as employees or independent contractors.
Clients prefer a traditional service because they offer a variety of services, dog walking grows to include pet sitting, overnight care and training. It’s a matter of convenience. And what exactly is the ‘Zingy University’?? Is that like the Olive Garden Culianary Institute supposedly in Italy where ‘chefs’ learn to reheat American-Italian factory foods? No thank you.
My Ex is a pet sitter that does walking also and was a vet tech before starting her business.. I also worked with her for a few years and meeting her standards was not always easy to do.. She is one of the best in her field and while there are also other very good dog walkers they were definitely fewand far between with most that I see being questionable at best. I fully agree with all the points you lay out as I already see many walkers who don’t know what they are doing and those are the same people that would most likely end up working with services like this.. On the group walks subject just recently while at a dog beach 3 dog walkers showed up each with at least 10 dogs (I have photo’s of all of this) and just after they passed us this brown lab dragging a leash showed up and was a nuisance to all in our area who were playing fetch with dogs (we had 5 goldens there ourselves with 2 people) and after about an hour of this we saw the 3 walkers and there 3 dozen or so dogs passing by again on there way out and stopped them asking if they had lost a dog to which there were certain they had not,,, After describing the dog and its leash they did another head count and it turns out they had lost it and about an hour had passed and they never knew and were leaving without it.. Lucky that dog just wanted to play fetch and hung around where we were and had not taken off any other dirrection as it could have and lucky we stopped them.. We even had to catch and return the dog to them as there hands were literally full… We do pack walks but never with so many that we can’t keep track of them as these people did… A walker has to know there limits and not just throw a bunch or to many dogs together… Im sure those were good dog walkers who just exceeded there limits… There is an art to working with dogs this way, as a walker I know as I have spent years learning from a real pro and Im still a novice (although way better then many I see working in the field).. I know every interaction we have with customers and there dogs we have an obligation to not only live up to the highest standards but also set an example of how to do things right I do agree with all views you expressed…
Thank you for the time you put into your comments about why we wouldn’t use a service like Wag or Zingy to walk our dogs. There is a misconception that walking dogs is easy and anyone can do it. Caring for clients fur-babies and their homes is not something just anyone can do no matter how much they love pets. We agree that there is an art to working with dogs and like you, we want to provide the best service including exceptional care and customer service to all our clients and their pets giving them complete piece of mind when they are unable to be home with their fur-kids.
I can’t speak for Zingy but I’ve used Wag and you actually get pick which dog walker you want from their roster and meet them before your first walk, for free! And they don’t send a different walker every time, you can make that walker your priority walker and all your requests are sent to them. If you don’t like the walker you picked the first time, you can pick another one and do it all again. Kind of cool 🙂
It’s definitely not for everyone, but for people with busy lives sometimes convenience wins out.
Hi There Rufus and Delilah,
My name is Roman. I used to work at a zoo and grew up on a farm with many many animals (as well as having numerous animals of my own). I know what you mean about dogs not just being a dog, that they are your children. I’m a 30 year old gay man, and the likely hood of myself having kids is slim by all means. So my children are my pets. That being said, that’s why I’m a Dog Walker with Wag. I’m not trying to go against anything your saying, I just wanted to give a professional review and shed some inside information about the company that you may not know. First, you are not going to lose any of your clients to Wag. Wag is a personal one on one walking app that is first set up by a meet and greet so that you and your pet can get a good fit for a walker of your choice. As you said, not all dogs and humans are right for each other so this is why it’s extremely important for people to schedule the meet and greet first before you ever allow someone to enter your home while you are gone and also before they take your child for a walk. The walks for the “On Demand” part that you refer to is a great service when used correctly. As you said, it would be strange to let someone you never met to enter your home and take your child- So that’s why the “On Demand” service is primarily used for clients that are already established. All the other walks done by Wag Dog Walkers are pre-scheduled to fit the schedule of the dog so that he or she may be on the same “Poop & Pee” schedule and has a regularly maintained schedule. This keeps the mentality of the dog in a happier mood when they have a regular schedule day to day. Now, as far as the dog walkers who work for wag: I was actually impressed by the hiring process. I was expecting it to be a lot easier and a lot less wait to get started. It actually took me about 3 weeks before I was able to get started walking. There are interviews, background checks, and you are questioned on the knowledge of animals and experience. As I said before, I worked at a zoo, and also on a farm. I thought my experience alone would have been more than enough to get hired- but it wasn’t. It was the total package of everything together that determined whether or not I would be a Wag Walker. Yes, the training isn’t as long or as strenuous as yours without a doubt. But keep in mind, we are doing One-On-One Walking and we do not let off leash. You have to remember there are huge amounts (And I mean HUGE) of people who work as dog walkers and dog sitters who do one on one walking as they don’t have a license and they have no one to hold them responsible, majority of them are un-insured, and unless you are going to do a background check on each dog walker you interview to make sure it’s a good fit for your dog you’ll be out of a lot of money and possibly enabling a criminal into your home without knowing. (I’m curious if professional dog walkers are ever background checked etc or if that’s something that people don’t even think of). With wag, you do have all this covered, insurance, background check, and people with experience. And like I said before, you don’t have anything to worry about with Wag taking clients from you at all. The only people who use wag are people who typically don’t ever walk their dog while at work as they don’t like the idea of their dog being in a truck with other dogs, or off leash in a dog park without their supervision. This was created to help those dogs out who don’t get a chance to get out at all. I’m just trying to think of the bigger picture to help out the fur babies. As I said, I’m just a walker. I am not trying to promote wag or anything like that. I just wanted to give a fair and balanced view of a company that you may not have that much experience or knowledge about. Help keep you credible. 🙂 Hope all is well and you and your pups are having a Fantastic 4th of July weekend!
Wow. My wife & I have been in the Pet Sitting business full time for over 30 years.
I can’t agree more with the comments. What a awful Idea for a business model & what is with the name?We are located in San Diego and Zingy has launched down here also. No mention in the San Diego Union. A lot of billboards & bus benches though. This is a classic Kick-Starter type business from someone who has no background in the field of Pet Sitting. Can you even fathom how much money this company is burning through! Plus charging $38 for a 1/2 hour walk. Two years from now nobody will even remember Zingy. Example: PETS.com (super bowl sock puppet) now no where to be found.
Dennis & Sonya
PET PALS Pet Sitting
Although we realize some people may find businesses like Zingy appealing for their last minute dog walking needs, we agree this isn’t for every pet parent and there are safety issues that worry us. It will be interesting to see how these businesses grow or change over the years. We are not at all concerned about these types of on-demand dog walking services taking clients away from us.