The digital age finally is hitting the pet care industry. It seems like there are more dog walking and petsitting apps than there are rideshare apps!
How is a responsible dog owner to choose between the wide selection of dog care services available? Or what about going out on your own to find dog walkers – is that the better route? It’s a jungle out there, but getting the best walker for your dog is worth the work.
For the purposes of this article, I’m just going to compare the dog walking services of Wag and Rover – the major contenders in the dog walking app space. We’ll be sticking exclusively to dog walking for this one. Pet sitting is a whole other beast with a variety of other apps and things to consider.
There are many other dog walking services out there, but Rover and Wag are the biggest and most likely to be near you! Supporting a small, local business that has highly trained walkers is always my first choice – but this isn’t always an option.
First off, I’d like to congratulate you on looking into a dog walker for your best friend. Many of our dogs spend 8 or more hours per day just waiting around the house, which isn’t much fun for your pooch.
Finding a reliable person to take your dog out for walks is a great way to improve your dog’s life. Nearly all dogs need at least
There are several types of dogs that particularly benefit from having extra walks:
High Energy Dogs. Dogs differ in the amount of activity that they need per day. My 2 year old border collie needs far more energy outlets than my friend’s 9 year old great dane. If you’ve got a young and active dog, hiring a dog walker is more worth your money.
Dogs with Behavioral Issues. The vast majority of canine behavioral issues can be resolved with increased exercise, so more walks can often mean a better behaved pooch (and less damage to your decor).
That said, dogs that struggle with major fear or reactivity might not be helped by your average walker. If this is your dog, contact a trainer and ask if they provide walking help along with their training!
Small Dogs. It’s also important to think about your work schedule. Many small dogs can’t “hold it” for a full work day, let alone if you have a happy hour or late meeting tacked on at the end of the day! That’s why many small dogs should really get regular midday walks, even if their energy levels aren’t that high.
Very Old or Very Young Dogs. Dogs at the beginning and ends of their lives also aren’t as skilled at “holding it” throughout the day. Puppies in the midst of potty training really benefit from getting walks every few hours. Not giving your young puppy enough potty breaks is a great way to really prolong the potty training process. No one wants that! Older dogs often start to lose control of their bladders, particularly if they have any of a wide variety of medical problems that manifest in bladder issues. More walks can save your dog some dignity and help prevent accidents.
Dogs Whose Humans Have Irregular or Long Hours. The first dog that I ever walked professionally belonged to a firefighter. He worked two 24-hour shifts per week. Izzy clearly couldn’t hold her pee that whole time. Her owner needed help feeding, watering, and walking her just a few days per week. Even if you’re only working 8 or 10 hour shifts, it’s a good idea to look into getting a walker. That’s a really long time for Fido to hold his pee!
The bottom line is that most dogs would likely benefit from more walks. Most of us are too busy to double their daily walking routine, even though our dogs really could use the added exercise. If you’ve got the cash, paying someone to help out is truly a win-win!
Dog-lovers can sign up as dog walkers and then come give your dog anything from a quick potty break to a nice, long romp in the park (in fact, if you don’t own a dog but adore them, being a Wag or Rover dog walker is a great job opportunity).
On your end, this usually means you’ll have to have a key hidden somewhere that your dog walker can access. Wag offers a free key lockbox for your walker to use. Rover requires a house key handoff between owner and walker.
Dog walking apps like Rover and Wag make finding a dog walker easy just by using your smartphone. You probably could book a walker for Fido while you’re in the elevator – they’re that fast and easy!
Both services do some background checking with their walkers, letting you rest at ease knowing that your pooch is in the right hands. You can also contact multiple walkers at once, ensuring that Fido will get out today, no matter what!
This quick booking and ease of use can be quite a contrast when compared to finding and hiring a private walker on your own. In college, I walked dogs for people by putting up fliers and advertising on Craigslist. While this was great for me (I kept all of my profits), it can pose a conundrum for the dog owners. What if your walker gets sick? What if you need a second walk on Friday and your walker has other plans?
Both Rover and Wag have a huge network of walkers, so you’ll never be left high and dry. However, you still can use the same walker over and over if you and your dog like having that personal connection.
Rover and Wag will also work on your computer. You don’t need to use the phone apps if you don’t want to. Sometimes I prefer using a computer over a smartphone so that I can spend more time researching walkers and getting more in-depth information.
Although getting a midday dog walker is great for many dogs, it’s not the best option for every dog. Think twice about pursuing a midday dog walker for your dog if:
Your dog isn’t super friendly. While there are lots of great walkers out there, it’s important to not confuse dog walkers with dog trainers. Many people who work full-time with dogs still have no clue how to handle dogs that are shy, reactive, or aggressive. If your dog is wary of new people, tends to bark or lunge on leash, or has other behavioral concerns, don’t look at an app. You want a consistent, dog-savvy walker.
Solution: Find a good trainer near you and see if they know of any behaviorally savvy walkers. Many trainers partner with dog walkers that can serve behaviorally challenging dogs.
Your neighborhood is less-than-savory. I used to live in a neighborhood where my dog was regularly charged by off-leash and aggressive dogs. I carried citronella spray and used it several times to keep dogs away. Walking Barley was not fun and probably wasn’t even safe. It’s not really fair to expect a dog walker to navigate a sketchy neighborhood.
Solution: look into the alternatives to walking listed below. Depending on the issues of your specific neighborhood, you also might be able to selectively hire a local who knows the area. If you’ve got a yard, you can just hire someone to come over and let your dog out for playtime and a potty break without the walk!
It’s 120* outside (or there’s other extreme weather). Extreme heat makes giving your dog adequate exercise challenging. The danger of burning your dog’s paw pads or giving your dog heatstroke isn’t worth it. Likewise, you should stop and think if it’s super cold or there’s a big storm.
Solution: find a weather-appropriate outlet for your dog. Swimming is great in the summer, and short walks paired with indoor playtime can work in the winter. Talk to your walker about booties, cooling vests, water bottles, and jackets to help your dog cope with temperature extremes.
Remember that there are tons of possible dog walking services depending on where you live. I’ll just highlight two options here: Rover and Wag. While each of these services also covers overnight pet sitting, that’s a whole other topic! For now, let’s just focus on services where a stranger comes to your home, takes Fido out for a jaunt, and returns Fido after 30-90 minutes.
For this article, I actually scheduled a walk for my border collie Barley with a walker from Rover and another from Wag. I’ve used Wag before but forgot my password, so I had to create an account from scratch. Rover lets you log in with Facebook, which is a plus as far as convenience. I tried to keep the comparison fair, but there were hiccups with Wag since I had to create a new account.
Rover is the original dog walking app. It was founded in 2011, is available in 10,000+ cities, and boasts over 85,000 sitters.
One thing I especially like about Rover right off the bat is that the interface is easy to use and looks really nice. I went ahead and booked a walk for Barley to see how Rover would perform in this matchup. Here’s how it went:
Basic information. When you arrive at the homepage, you can select from a variety of dog care types (drop in visits, overnight stays, walks, daycare, or boarding). You then input your zip code, some information on your dog, and the general schedule that you need.
The Walkers. After inputting this basic information, you’re ready to select your walker. Rover presents you with a list and map of walkers with the following information prominently displayed:
Selection. Based off of this basic information and the handy map, it’s easy to select a walker. I had the choice of what seemed like hundreds of smiling faces who wanted to take Barley out for a walk. Even in Denver (a city that’s getting absurdly expensive), walks were mostly in the $13-$17 range.
I chose Andrea, a woman who apparently lives in my building! When you click on a walker, it takes you to their full page where you can learn more about the walker. She looked awesome, with a few repeat clients and a great response time.
Contact. I hit the “Contact Andrea” button. At this point, you’ve got to log in or create an account, or else you can’t continue. Next, I had to tell Rover if I wanted this walk to be a one-off walk or a recurring event. I chose a one-time walk. It also confirmed that Barley the border collie was getting the walk, not some other dog (in the event of multi-canine households). I put in a brief message to Andrea and checked the button saying that I’d like text and photo updates on Barley during his time out with Andrea.
As soon as I submitted, Rover asked if I wanted to reach out to other walkers. Why not? So I also messaged Amy, Selena, Rebecca, and Margaret, who were also in my general area.
Response. Andrea got back to me almost immediately – and my phone buzzed! I really appreciated that Rover was helping us communicate via text message, rather than forcing us to message through a custom messaging system (which can often be cumbersome). This was just too easy!
Andrea and I confirmed, and then I spent the rest of the day responding to the other walkers. Almost all of them responded and about half of them had time to walk Barley. Since I’d already booked Andrea, I just turned them all down.
The Walk. Though Barley was silent on the subject, I think he enjoyed his walk with Andrea. I came home to a happy and energetic border collie, per usual. Andrea sent the requested photos and relayed that Barley had peed on his walk. The actual walk seemed relatively anticlimactic – which is definitely a good thing!
Overall, Rover was super easy. I loved the interface. Hiring a walker felt clean, easy, and fast. I loved being able to see reviews and whether or not the walker had a background check on the first page. I also appreciated how easy it was to choose my walker, especially since so many of them were so close to my house!
I could see why Rover was so well known in the dog walking market The question is, how did the newcomer Wag compare?
Wag is newer than Rover, and this really shows on the website. Their homepage isn’t quite as clean and clear as Rover’s. Still, despite that, it’s not hard at all to get started.
Wag requires that you create an account right away, which irritated me a bit after using Rover. I liked how Rover let me pick my walker and essentially “sold” me on the services before I had to do any work creating an account.
Here’s how hiring a walker went on Wag:
Signup. I was initially irked that I had to create an account before looking at walkers – however, that irritation immediately disappeared. Wag forced me into creating an account for good reason – they asked really great questions about what my dog likes, doesn’t like, and any behavioral or medical concerns right off the bat. This wasn’t something I really saw in Rover.
As a trainer, seeing these behavioral and personality questions made me giddy! It really made me feel like Wag wanted to get to know my dog. I put in that Barley loves fetch and doesn’t love playing with other dogs (though he’s polite) and dutifully copied in my vet’s information. Once I’d put in all the required information, Wag offered to send me a free lockbox! Like all good Americans, I love free stuff. I reluctantly turned it down when I realized that I live on the second floor of an apartment that only has electronic access. My apartment won’t copy my key to put in a box. Maybe you’ll have better luck!
Rover only asks for “any additional details” after getting vet information. This is a far cry from Wag’s specific questions about what Barley likes and doesn’t like, his allergies, and behavioral concerns. I like how Wag spells out the relevant information for me! When I checked Barley’s profile on each site, his Wag profile was much more comprehensive.
The Walkers. The next page showed a map of walkers near me. While Rover showed a full page of at least 15 walkers near me, Wag only displayed 3. Obviously, this could vary in your city and you might have more Wag walkers near you than Rover walkers. For me, the pickings were a bit slim.
I clicked on the nearest walker and was floored. Instead of the measly 1-3 reviews of my nearby Rover walkers, this guy had 138 reviews! To be fair, he didn’t seem to have much competition being a big fish in a small pond, but it’s hard to even compare that gap in experience.
I didn’t have much information on Austin other than his 5-star rating, number of walks, and that he had a background check and was insured. I preferred Rover’s walker selection method, with better in-depth bios given on Andrea and the others. Despite the lack of a full-fledged bio, I was sold on Austin and chose him to walk Barley.
The Walk Options. The next screen displays several different walk options owners can select, bringing me to my favorite feature of Wag – the ASAP walk. If I elected to have a lockbox from Step 1, I could pick “ASAP” instead of “scheduled” for the walk. This comes in handy in emergencies and unforeseen situations.
To be fair for the comparison, I chose a scheduled walk. Like Rover, I was able to choose which days and times to walk my dog and decide if it would be a regular occurrence or a single walk. One difference worth noting is that Wag had more specific times available than Rover. Rover gives time frames (morning, early afternoon, evening) while Wag gives specific one-hour slots.
Payment. In order to proceed, I had to put in payment information. Rover also requires this, of course!
More Information. After giving some basic walk info, Wag asked a bunch more questions about parking, Barley’s triggers, and how to get into my apartment. Most of these are pretty standard dog walking stuff, and was found in Rover as well.
I loved being able to put in information about Barley’s habits, likes, and dislikes. Rover didn’t ask specifically about any of this stuff! I would like to know more about whether or not their walkers can handle reactive, fearful, or aggressive dogs. They ask all the right questions, but I’m not sure how their walkers are vetted.
Confirmation. Within about 30 seconds, I got a text letting me know that Jara would be by Sunday at 1pm for Barley’s walk. Awesome! Except wait… I’d looked at Austin’s profile. Could I not choose who walked Barley? She looked good, but only had 2 reviews instead of 138 and had 4 stars instead of 5.
I guess I can’t choose who walks Barley – but in that case, why show me my choice of walkers at all? Just a few minutes later, I got a follow-up text from “Carina at Customer Support” asking for more information on how to get into my home. In my rush to explain where I’d hide the keys, I’d forgotten to explain how to get in! I responded dutifully.
Payment Take Two. This is when I started getting really irritated with Wag. I could purchase “credits” for walks at roughly 90 cents per credit. The smallest package available was $90 for 100 credits. But how many credits earn a walk? Why can’t I just pay for one walk?
As far as I could tell, I didn’t need to purchase the credits. They were just an upsell offer that probably provides a better walk price for heavy users. So I decided to ignore the irritating credits. After some digging, I found that one 30-minute walk cost $20. That’s quite a bit more than Rover, AND I can’t choose my walker. I also have the option of a 1-hour walk for $30. The pricing was definitely a bit confusing overall.
The Walk. This is where Wag really impressed me. I got a GPS map of Barley’s walk and markers where he’d pooped and peed (Wag calls this a report card). As a total data nerd, I loved this. My walker had wisely stuck to the pretty residential areas near me and avoided shopping malls and rows of bars that lie not far from my apartment.
So after trying out both services, who was the winner? Will Rover or Wag win top spot in my and Barley’s heart?
Rover has more walkers to choose from and offers a friendlier interface that’s easier to navigate. They also let you custom select your walkers, rather than randomly auction off your walk to the first walker that responds.
Wag gives more options for types of walks and really provides a great walk experience from the owner’s point of view, with their awesome GPS tracking and data-packed record of your dog’s potty breaks. As a trainer, I positively drooled over all of the great information that they gathered on Barley.
Wag has that fantastic on-demand option for owners stuck in a bind, which was a really nice feature to see. It seemed to be that Wag hires savvier walkers and tried to emphasize reliability and trust, but I couldn’t really discern if these walkers really were superior to those on Rover.
On the downside, Wag was also pricier than Rover and didn’t let me choose which dog walker I wanted.
Ultimately, it’s a close competition, but I think Rover wins this one. Still, it wouldn’t take much for Wag to catch up. With some price adjustments and walker selection options, Wag would beat Rover flat out in my book.
We’ve detailed the dog walking competition between Rover and Wag. But what if you don’t like either? What if you don’t think your dog is a good fit for an app-based walker? What can you do to help give your dog more activity per day? A few of my favorite other options include:
Day Training. If you can find a day training location near you, this is my absolute favorite way for dogs to get added exercise. Rather than the chaotic, kennel-cough filled madness of many daycares, day training is a small group class run by a local trainer. Many locations let you decide what your dog’s goals are. Your dog gets trained, exercised, and cared for – all for one price.
Bring Your Dog to Work. If you’re lucky enough to work at a dog-friendly location, bringing your friendly dog to work is a great option. This isn’t an option for many folks as most offices don’t allow dogs at all. Still, if you can swing it, it doesn’t get much better than this! Be sure not to pursue this option unless your dog is going to be comfortable lying under your desk, greeting lots of strangers, and being ignored in a strange place for hours per day! Remember that you’ll likely lose your privileges if Fido is naughty (and you might make enemies with the cleaning crew).
Work From Home More. This is the option that’s most realistic for me. I can’t afford to regularly pay for many of the services that I review. Instead, I work from home during my 3-day weekends so that I can take Barley out for 5-7 short excursions per day. Check out Tim Ferriss’s information on how to finagle a remote-work agreement with your boss. Your dog will love it!
Trade Services With a Friend. This is another option that I use often. Many of my dog-free friends are happy to take Barley out for a jaunt in exchange for a beer or ice cream. As a major extrovert who loves people, I’m happy to buy a drink for my friends and catch up. This still costs money, but it’s money better spent, in my opinion.
I also have a list of other dog walkers in my apartment complex. Sometimes I’ll ask if they can walk Barley on a Saturday (I work 10 hour days on Saturday) and I’ll take their dog out on Wednesday (I don’t work on Wednesday). This option works well if you plan on mixing it with working from home!
Running and Hiking Services. I know some dogs that could walk for days without being tired. If exhaustion is your goal and you’ve got an active best friend, you want to look beyond just walks. Hiring a high school cross-country runner or looking into a company that offers hiking or running services is a good bet. I ran with dogs for money in high school as a way to stay in shape for my fall cross-country season. Owners paid me $5-$10 per dog, which was a steal for them. But I was going to go running anyway, so it was a great deal for me, too!
There are tons of great options out there for midday exercise for your dog!
Rover and Wag are two of the biggest and best apps when it comes to dog walking, but they’re not the only options for getting your canine exercise.
Both companies offer easy-to-use apps, text support, and walkers with background checks. Both have insurance and seem to be good options for relatively “normal” dogs – if your dog has bigger medical or behavioral concerns, you might want to look elsewhere.
Rover and Wag are really awesome dog walking apps that are convenient for ensuring that your pooch gets the exercise he or she needs to be happy and healthy! Have you ever used Rover or Wag? What do you like about these services? What do you wish would be improved? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Have you ever used Rover or Wag? What do you like about these services? What do you wish would be improved? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Kayla Fratt is an Associate Certified Dog Behavior Consultant through the IAABC and works as a professional dog trainer through the use of positive reinforcement methods. She also has experience working as a Behavior Technician at Denver Dumb Friends League rehabilitating fearful and reactive dogs.