I just want to walk your dog

Last week I was able to share some information about Wag, the Uber of dog walking. There are many pros and cons to using this app, and there are also many pros and cons to working as an independent contractor for them.

In my presentation, I mentioned that one of the main issues I have with Wag is the competition that exists to get a walk. Even when I open a notification for a walk right away, it disappears immediately. I did some searching to see if this was a common issue with walkers, and I found that almost every review on Indeed.com made some reference to this problem. Here is the first one you see that explains it perfectly:

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What makes this problem worse is that customers prefer to get more experienced walkers, but you need walks to get experience. Sounds like a dilemma, doesn’t it? It can get pretty cutthroat when the app is oversaturated with people who needed a side hustle and just want to hang out with your dogs for pay.

As a side note, I think it is 100% worth it because of the one “pro” you see in this review. Time with dogs is the greatest reward for being a fast button-clicker and getting lucky. Even though I am happy with my decision to work as a walker, there are a few more issues on my end that any potential future walker should know.

Safety

Wag does not have any protection for walkers. If you go to a customer’s house and there is a violent dog or any other unsafe situation, there isn’t much they do. On top of that, many users have said that their live chatline is always busy and it’s hard to get a live person to talk to when its sole purpose is to give walkers a resource when they run into an issue. Yikes.

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Another issue with the app is that you can’t see walker notes before you accept a walk. These notes usually tell you about the temperament of the dog, the type of collar, how to get into the owner’s house, etc. This can pose a problem because of the above information. Walkers are not protected. If you accept a walk with a dog that has an aggressive temperament, too bad. If you accept a walk with a dog that has an unsafe collar, too bad. If you accept a walk with a dog whose owner is home and going to let you in and that makes you uncomfortable, too bad. This seems like an easy fix to me, yet it is still an issue with the way the app is set up.

Pay

Walks with Wag can be pretty expensive, but the pay for Wag isn’t what you would expect. As I mentioned in my presentation, Wag takes a 40% cut of the earnings. This is pretty high compared to Uber and Lyft or Airbnb, which take only about a 15-20% cut. This means that for a 60-minute walk, which costs $30, walkers only get $18. But for what? It’s clearly not going towards the app or customer service.

tenor

These problems bring me to my overall point. Walkers cannot make a living off of this job. The issues with (1) oversaturation of walkers, (2) safety issues, and (3) low pay makes it very difficult for someone to be able to make good money doing this. The whole reason I applied was that I thought that I could make some extra money in between jobs and classes. Even so, my schedule never seems to line up with dog walks that are close to me and if it does, I move too slow and someone else gets the walk. This is fine with me because I am not using it as my main source of income, but I would imagine it would be extremely difficult if I was.

I always have said that hanging out with dogs is my dream job. I guess that’s probably anyone’s dream job. That made Wag very attractive to me. But there is always a catch, right? Of course, every new company has its issues, and these are just the ones I have noticed. But the real test will be to see if anything changes in the coming year. Until then, I’m just going to practice shortening my notification response time.

 

 

9 comments

  1. As a dog owner that uses a dog walker a couple times per week, I enjoyed hearing about this topic in your presentation and blog. Do you think a potential issue could be lack of users / walks-requested instead of over-saturation of walkers? Related to @katietisinger post on trust in the digital era, I wonder if trust issues are resulting in slower user growth compared to walker growth.
    My fiance and I have a dachshund that we’ve had since she was a puppy. It may sound weird to people that don’t own dogs, but we pretty much view our dog as our kid. I can’t imagine trusting someone I haven’t met, or someone new each day, with caring for my dog. The meet-and-greets with recurring walks on Wag help the trust issue, but I think you said there might be only a 1 month commitment. We’ve developed a close relationship with our walker, who we have had for almost 2 years.
    I’m sure this is an issue Wag and others will continue to battle and try to find innovative solutions for.

    1. It definitely also has to do with a lack of users as well. That’s why they try to get us walkers to do a lot of advertising by buying merchandise and walking the dogs in a Wag bandana. The reason I think they lose customers, though, is because of that lack of trust and the fact that you can’t really request a specific walker. And yes, the recurring walks are a 3-month commitment, but I think if it were me I would prefer to try and develop a relationship with a walker on the app, then take my business outside as someone mentioned after my presentation. This would also fix the problem with high commission charges. Thanks for your insight!

  2. Katherine, I really enjoyed reading your post and hearing your presentation. Before, I only heard about Wag from the perspective of dog owners. They were mostly positive about the app. They liked how it provided a map of the walk. The only downside was the price. So it was very interesting to learn about the app from a walker perspective and the problems you face. It seems to be that the biggest issue is a disproportion in demand (dog owners) and supply (walkers). There is no shortage of walkers and that is why Wag is not pressured to really take steps to improve safety and pay conditions. As Matt said, there seems to be a trust issue with the dog owners. I wonder if Wag will be able to overcome that. It might be just an issue of time as Uber and Airbnb also did not become popular immediately. However, it seems that Wag is currently mainly prioritizing owners’ needs and that might not be the best approach. After all, Uber became popular because it offered drivers better deals that taxi companies. It will be interesting to see how app develops in the future and what initiatives it takes on.

  3. Nice follow up on your presentation. I do think these problems are fixable with better design, but the question is whether the company has the time, interest, and resources to make them.

  4. To me it seems like the biggest problem with that app, at least on the owner side, is the trust. If I were a dog owner, there is no way I would trust random people to A) go into my house and B) take my dog on a walk. Additionally, the app (if I’m not mistaken) tracks where the walker is and does not in any way track where the dog is. I don’t know if this is an actual issue, but I feel like a lazy walker could just go for a walk and say that they have the dog with them.
    It seems like a very fixable problem on the company side though – a simple readjustment of where info shows up on the app for the walkers would make a world of a difference.

  5. Very interesting presentation and post, good to know there is such an cool app. Just as the walkers will wonder the safety issue, I think the owners of the dogs might also have some concerns of the safety . The owner may wondering the reliability of the walker, who might be dangerous to their dogs. In addition, the cost for the owner so high that they may choose some other means to walk their dogs.
    If Wag can imitate Airbnb, which bound the users’ account with their ID and have a review system that is visible for both owners and walkers. This might help people to mitigate their concerns of safety. I think if they can solve those issues, the App has huge market potential in the future.

  6. Great presentation and post Katherine! I actually just signed up for Wag and am working on my profile. I’ve been wanting to spend time with dogs for a while and make some small extra side money so this was a great option. I’m glad to have heard your concerns about the app and heard similar things when checking out the platform. I am curious to hear what walks you have done though because you said most of the one-off walks have been impossible to get. Do you participate in the recurring walks?

    A second thought I had was regarding if wag actually has the wrong idea for their platform. This is related to startups that don’t really necessarily understand the best way to monetize their app. They don’t have a smart platform for giving incentives customers to stay on the app for recurring walks. There are so many reasons to leave the app for cost reasons. Wag could change the recurring walk commitment timeline to longer, or offer discounts for people who stay on the app in recurring walks. I would say that Wag is a premium app because most people just walk their dog but people may stick around longer for the GPS benefits and Reviews and ease for scheduling. Would love to hear your thoughts!

    1. Hi Tucker, thanks for your comments. I’m happy to hear of someone else who has signed up! To answer your question, I have not done any recurring walks because my understanding from looking at them is that you have to be available at the same time on the requested recurring days. Most of the time, this is 12 pm. Because of my class schedule, I have been unable to request the recurring walks because of the time conflicts on several of the days. I think that Wag could fix this problem and probably improve their performance by allowing the walkers to request a meet and greet with the owners looking for a recurring walk. That way, the walker and the owner could work out a schedule that works for both parties. I think this would also help with the problem of a lack of trust as well, but who knows!

  7. Katherine, nice post! I liked your presentation, and I enjoyed reading this follow up post. I think uber creates a business model that can be scaled in a lot of different fields while it also generates a lot of issues. Personally I am not positive on this app. It does not create incentives for both users and dog walkers. It might sound dumb but dogs cannot give feedbacks to the dog walkers anyway… Certification of dog walkers remains to be a big problems, and I am intrigued to see how it will be rolled out.

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