Nowadays, you can get nearly everything via an app: movies, taxi service, a room to sleep in, groceries delivered to your house, etc. So it’s no surprise that has extended to the world of dogs, with walking and pet-sitting services now available with just a few taps on your phone.
Dog Services On-Demand
It’s all thanks to Uber-like apps, such as Rover and Wag, which allow dog owners to find potential walkers, sitters, and boarders in their area. Much like Uber or Lyft, the companies behind these apps don’t have dog walkers and sitters on staff. Instead, they act as the middlemen and pair local dog walkers with dog owners. It’s all part of the growing trend of digital service apps.
"That's just the world we live in now," Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker told the "Washington Post." "People are used to using apps in their daily lives. This includes everything to do with our pets, from finding a pet sitter to managing our pet's health records."
How Dogs Are Big Business
It’s no surprise that tech companies are looking at dogs as their next business ventures. The American Pet Products 2017-2018 Survey found that 60.2 million households in the U.S. have dogs. The amount owners spent on their pets topped $66.75 billion in 2016 and is projected to reach $69.36 in 2017. Out of that, pet owners are projected to spend $6.11 billion on pet services in 2017.
There’s plenty of demand for such services, too. A 2008 study from the "American Journal of Public Health" found that only 23 percent of dog owners walked their dogs 5 or more times a week. Whether that’s due to their busy schedules — as most Americans work 44 hours a week — or another reason, most people can’t meet their dogs’ exercise needs. Traveling pet owners may use services that link them with pet sitters, so they can have their dogs cared for at home while they are away.
These app services might also increase dog ownership by helping people be responsible dog owners and meet the needs of their dogs even when they are very busy. That’s the main reason the co-founder of the Wag app created the service.
“Uber had had a lot of success, and the on-demand marketplace was growing in popularity,” Jason Meltzer told the "Washington Post." “[And I thought] if I have something like this, I could have a dog, too.”
Why Quality Control May Be an Issue With On-Demand Dog Services
Despite the simplicity of the service — where dog owners can hire and pay someone directly on the app — there have been calls of concern from traditional pet service organizations. “When a ‘pet-sitter’ or ‘dog-walker’ can be found in one click, it's vital that pet owners understand that not everyone that has an online profile is a reputable, qualified pet-care professional,” Patti Moran, the founder of Pet Sitters International told the "Washington Post." “It's essential that convenience not override quality, and technology not undermine professionalism.”
The websites for the Rover and Wag apps say that the companies vet the dog walkers and sitters before they’re listed on the app, but do not list the vetting process itself on their websites. They do provide insurance for both the dog owner and dog walker/sitter, however, which covers injuries and property damage. With Rover, dog walkers and sitters can also enroll in a Rover Protection Package. The package gives them access to online veterinary services and a special badge that “show[s] pet parents their pet's safety is your number-one priority,” according to the website.