So you’ve decided to try one of these on-demand dog walking apps.
Last year I did over 1,000 walks on Wag and Rover and without doing so intentionally the amount of walks I did on each were almost perfectly even. If you’re not using both of these on-demand dog walking apps, you’re potentially walking only 50% of the pups you could be!
Regardless of which one you started with, here are some similarities, differences, and nuances between being a dog walker for the Wag and Rover apps.
How Both Dog Walking Apps Work
Just in case you’re not familiar already, it’s important to very briefly explain how both of these apps work:
Wag is like Uber, where a dog owner requests a walk and all nearby dog walkers are notified. Whoever responds the quickest gets the walk.
Rover is like Yelp, where a dog owner searches through various dog walker profiles and then selects one to message and set up a walk with.
How Wag & Rover Commissions Work
Let’s just get it out in the open: Wag takes a 40% commission and Rover takes 20%. If you started with Wag, this will be welcomed news. For you Rover walkers, before you scoff at the idea of walking for Wag because of the high commission they take– stick around.
Why? Because they both average out to about the same amount of income at the end of the day. See how below.
How Dog Walking Rates Work
The next big income-related difference is how these apps determine the rates they charge for a standard dog walk. The market rate for a 30 minute dog walk is somewhere between $15-25 dollars. I believe Wag charges dog owners $25 in crazy places like San Francisco, $20 in more typical cities, and $15 in rural areas. Rover suggests similar pricing, but the key difference is that YOU get to set your own rates on Rover.
Quick tips for setting your own rates on Rover: Start at $20 for 30 minutes and see what other walkers in your area are charging. Then, adjust accordingly. If you do a search and most walkers are charging $15, you’ll have to play ball with them until you can differentiate your services to justify a more premium rate. You can do this by collecting lots of ratings and repeat bookings. I’ve found that once you get a few of these rolling in you can quickly break away from your competition and really stand out on Rover’s search algorithm. We will get more into that in another post.
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How Tips Work On Wag & Rover
The other major income-related difference is that Wag gives dog owners the ability to tip, whereas Rover has no sort of option to do so through the app. Of course they could leave you a cash tip, but that is not very common.
With Rover enabling you to set your own rates (and keeping in mind that the market rate for a 30 minute dog walk is $20) let’s assume you charge $20. That minus Rover’s 20% commission means you’ll get $16 per 30 minute walk. Wag on the other hand takes their 40% commission, meaning you get $12 per 30 minute walk, BUT you also get an extra $1 bonus for snapping a photo with the dog wearing the Wag bandana and with you wearing your own Wag swag.
In regards to tips, for the most part you will see owners tip $2 on a 30 minute walk, so that brings you to a total of $15 per 30 minute walk with Wag ($12 + $1 + $2). Now there is the possibility of someone not tipping at all, and unfortunately that is pretty common, but it tends to even out with the other dog owners that are very generous and tip $4 for a 30 minute walk.
Despite the financial differences, it all comes out in the wash, meaning you should absolutely be on both apps!
Now that we are past the financials, let’s dive into some of the logistics.
Signing Up To Walk Dogs
With these software startups, things change rapidly, so I’m sure the process has changed, but here’s what it was like to get onto both Wag and Rover a little over a year ago:
With Rover, you just created an account, filled in your profile details, and then requested a few endorsements from friends or previous clients. Then, you waited 24-48 hours for your background check to clear. After that your profile was live and ready to accept bookings.
With Wag, you filled out a moderately long questionnaire, were then contacted for a very brief phone interview a few weeks later, and then scheduled yourself to attend an orientation– which was really just a glorified handoff of your Wag swag (bandana, T-shirt, business cards). At the orientation you also paid for your background check and smiled for an iPhone photo that would later become your Wag profile photo. I believe the background check cleared as quickly as Rover’s did, but it was another couple of days before Wag activated you to be able to pick up walks.
Note: Both background checks were something like $15-20 each. Something else to point out is that the money doesn’t go to either Wag or Rover, rather it covers the cost of the third party background checking service. No need to worry about this upfront fee being a scam.
Getting Your First Dog Walk
Something that you can’t escape on either platform is that both have an equally, painfully slow start, meaning it takes a while before you start regularly getting booked to walk dogs.
In another blog post I give the example of how starting on Wag and Rover is a lot like how Yelp works:
“When you’re hungry for a new burrito joint and see two spots nearby where one has 53 five star reviews and the other has no reviews at all, which place do you end up going to eat? Well, when you start on Wag and Rover you are the burrito joint with no reviews.”
When you start on both platforms, you don’t get any walks. It’s a bit confusing because with Wag you get TONS of notifications for walks, but owners don’t approve you for any of them. With Rover, you just don’t get anyone messaging you for a potential booking.
Once you do get those firsts couple of walks on each, things continue to differ a bit as well.
Once you get one walk under your belt with Wag, it’s like the flood gates open– suddenly you start getting approved for tons of walks. This is because dog owners look to see if you have any previous ratings before approving you, and if they see that other owners have trusted you in the past, they usually decide to trust you as well. It’s really as easy as getting your profile to show anything greater than ZERO reviews.
Rover on the other hand is a slower start, but once you finish your first walk, you’ll have an increased likelihood of getting contacted for another, and so on. More ratings and repeat clients improves this cycle even more.
What Dog Walking Demand Is Like
On Wag, demand means the amount of walks being offered up to walkers on a given day; there are lots of them. On Rover, demand more so means how long you could expect to be scheduled to walk a single dog. Once you get a dog booked on Rover, you’ll likely be booked to walk them anywhere between 2-5 times a week, indefinitely.
The way you should plan to start with both of these apps is by picking up as many walks as you can with Wag as you wait for Rover owners to start contacting you to set up something long term. As you slowly book regulars on Rover, you’ll begin to pick up less walks on Wag, or you’ll just use Wag to fill the occasional openings from one of your Rover regulars cancelling for the day.
The Benefits Of Meet & Greets
If you’re only on Wag, you might not be familiar with the concept of a Meet and Greet. Meet and Greets are when you get to meet the dog and their owner before doing any walks, and it’s usually at their home. This is absolutely critical for some dogs that are territorial or have issues warming up to new people. They’re the standard on Rover, but extremely rare for Wag.
What this means is that in the case of Rover, if an owner is willing or wants to invest time in getting to know you and getting their dog familiar with you, they are likely looking to use you frequently. This is great for you.
Unfortunately, the lack of these on Wag is often the cause for trouble. Many owners use Wag despite having dogs that are consistently hostile to new people coming into their homes. I really can’t explain why they do this, as it upsets the dog and it upsets you, but it does happen a lot.
At the end of the day, with Rover you know what you are getting yourself into, and you have the choice to not book a dog you are uncomfortable with. With Wag, it’s a roll of the dice….
Walking New Dogs Vs. Repeat Clients
Once you walk a dog on Rover, you’re very likely to be contacted by the same owner to walk their dog again, assuming everything went well. You have likely met the owner personally during a Meet and Greet, you’ve walked the dog before, you know their quirks, and you might even have a house key.
With Wag on the other hand, even if you do a phenomenal job and the owner leaves you a glowing review and a nice tip, they’re not likely to book you again. Next time they want a walk you might receive a notification that says “So-and-So wants YOU to walk So-and-So”, but in reality that message is going out to any and all previous walkers that they marked as a Preferred Walker on the app. If you’re not the first to accept the walk you end up missing out.
The bummer is that it’s not that the owner doesn’t specifically want YOU to walk their dog again, rather it’s just that Wag doesn’t provide a way to communicate directly with owners for future walks. They might add you as a Preferred Walker, which helps, but this would still require you to be by your phone constantly and also be available to walk whenever they might need it.
The way this is set up means no heads up and no ability to negotiate a time that works for both of you, even if it’s only something as small as a 30 minute difference. This is how Wag wants it because that is their business model. They sell walks as a commodity, meaning if someone wants their dog walked, Wag provides a walker without any headache.
No back and forth.
No coordinating and confirming appointments.
Simply stating “I want my dog walked at 2PM today.” is all the information they need to provide to have everything taken care of.
Pro Tip: If you regularly see an owner posting walks for their dog on a predictable basis, consider saving their phone number and contacting them after your next walk to see if they want to set up something with YOU on a regular basis. 9 out of 10 times this will earn you a regular client.
Standing Out From Your Competition
Because of the way Rover works when it comes to booking, it’s all about creating a profile that stands out from your competitors. You can add additional photos, you can elaborate on your previous dog experience. You can even write in detail about how you are the #1 dog lover on the planet. My point: you really get the opportunity to sell yourself.
With Wag, you can only edit a short paragraph about yourself, so it’s hard to stand out other than having lots and lots of ratings.
Supply Of On-Demand Walks
In the context of this post, Rover should really be broken up into two different apps. There’s regular Rover, which is the service that allows you to book dog walks and boardings, and then there’s their on-demand/Quick Match service which is essentially their version of Wag. While it is the same offering that Wag provides, it’s so new and less known for both owners and walkers that there are very few walks offered each day.
Because there aren’t as many walkers available to pick up walks, owners post less walks, and then because there are less walks offered, less walkers sign up for this service. It’s a chicken and egg problem, and one that Wag has already solved, which makes them the go-to for on-demand dog walks.
So– when Rover mentions they have an on-demand service for walkers to use, keep in mind that there’s not much business on it (yet). I would recommend signing up for it anyways, as it might eventually pick up, and there’s really no cost or reason not to.
Using The “On My Way” Feature
When it’s close to your scheduled walk time on Wag, they have you estimate your ETA and hit a button that sends a message to the owner stating that you are on your way. Originally I wasn’t too fond of this required action on the Wag app, but now I’ve come to really like it. The owners receiving a notification that you an en-route brings them peace of mind and confirmation that you will be there as scheduled.
Rover doesn’t have this feature, and in several instances where I was 5 minutes behind schedule I would receive a text from the owner asking if I was going to be there to walk their dog today… As a result, I now manually text owners on Rover that I am on the way, and it works like a charm. It would be nice if they added in this feature, but they currently don’t have it.
How Quickly You Should Respond To Owners
What is really interesting about Response Time on both apps is that they are extremely important, but in different ways.
For Wag, Response Time is how quick you can open up the app to accept a walk as soon as it pops up. That’s on you, and the quicker the better or else you simply miss out on the chance to walk a dog.
With Rover, Response Time refers to how long it takes you to respond to a new booking inquiry. Rover calculates an average of your time to respond and posts it on the top of your profile. They break it down into something like “less than 2 minutes”, “15 minutes”, “less than 30 minutes”, “1 hour”, etc. The quicker you are, the better it looks on your profile, but it also helps with your placement in the Rover search results (much like how Google search works).
I’ve found that when owners go to book a walker on Rover, they will message several walkers, and even if they have a hopeful favorite, it really comes down to who can respond and set up a Meet and Greet first. If an owner goes to your profile and sees a long response time, they might even choose not to contact you at all, even if your profile is the best in regards to how many ratings you have, your pricing, how many repeat clients you have, etc.
Gaining Access To A Dog’s Home
The standard for Wag is to provide dog owners with branded lockboxes to put on or near their front doors. It is pretty rare that an owner doesn’t have or use their Wag lockbox, and when they do not have one the key is usually hidden nearby.
Rover does not provide these by default, but I have seen a few branded ones on doors before. Going back to how owners booking you on Rover are likely looking to make you their go-to walker, I would say 8 out of 10 times the owner gives me my own copy of their house key to hold onto. In both cases, home access is pretty well taken care of.
Use Of Company Swag
As a Wag walker you are well aware that in order to get the $1 bonus for each walk you must snap a photo of the dog wearing a Wag bandana and you are supposed to be wearing some sort of Wag swag, whether it’s a branded shirt or hat.
On Rover you don’t need to do or wear any of that stuff, which while it isn’t a deal breaker, it’s definitely nice to not have to do.
Writing Post-Walk Reviews
On Wag, you can use a regular template and change out a few words because you’re likely walking a different dog every day. While you should leave genuine and truthful reviews, you’re really trying to win the favor of the god’s (the owners) so that they mark you as a Preferred Walker and leave you a nice tip.
Rover is a bit trickier because you are likely walking the same dog on a daily or several times a week basis. Pretty quickly you start to run out of ideas for things to say because it’s a regular routine. I try to find something unique that happened to write about, and I’ve heard of other walkers writing the review from the perspective of the dog.
At the end of the day, the owner’s get that the reviews can get stale because it’s a required part of using Rover, so don’t beat yourself up, but if you can keep them fresh and creative the owners will absolutely love you.
Adjusting Scheduled Start Times
On Wag, when you have a booking on your calendar you realistically don’t have any ability to adjust if necessary. If something comes up or you can no longer make it at the scheduled time, you need to submit a Cover Request, which is where the walk is removed from your schedule and tossed back into the system for someone else to pick up. Even for something as small as seeing if you can move the walk back or ahead 30 minutes is particularly difficult to do.
On Rover, this is something you can negotiate or contact the owner about. If you have a Monday – Friday walk at 10AM, and you have a dentist appointment that you need to go to at the same time it’s usually pretty easy to contact the owner to see if they are cool with you coming an hour early or an hour late.
Also, when it comes to being a bit late, on Rover you just shoot a text to the owner and you’re good. With Wag, you get automated text messages mentioning that you are late, and they become more frequent and anxiety-inducing the later you are. In reality, they’re a bit scary but nothing will really happen to you unless you are insanely late, at which point Wag will give you a call to see what’s up.
Ultimately, Wag is not flexible and Rover is flexible as long as you don’t abuse it. With Rover, if you do abuse it the dog owner will probably look for a new walker…
What Your Schedule Might Look Like
If you’re on both apps, what you will begin to see is that Rover is your source of routine, predictable walks and Wag will become your go-to for filler walks; walks you pick up to fill the occasionally empty slots in your regular dog walking schedule. This tendency can be a good or bad thing, depending on your schedule.
If you’re looking for a more regular schedule of walks, then Rover will be great for you. On the other hand, if you have an unpredictable schedule, such as being a college student, and you want to pick up walks here and there, stick with Wag.
Wag lets you avoid making long term commitments by picking up mostly one-time walks, whereas most Rover owners are looking for someone to walk their dog on a regular basis for the foreseeable future. The longer term the better because it’s better for the dog, and it’s valuable to the owners because they can count on a familiar, trustworthy person in their home every day.
Dog Walk Cancellations
This is an issue lots of walkers have with Wag– lots of cancellations from dog owners. They can happen immediately after you book a walk. They can happen anywhere between when you get the walk scheduled and just before you’re heading out to it. The worst case is when an owner cancels on you just before you hit the “On My Way” button, which means you don’t get the $10 cancellation fee.
Once in a blue moon an owner will text you to let you know why they’re going to cancel a scheduled walk, but most of the time you’ll just randomly get a notification from Wag stating that your walk on X day and X time has been cancelled.
This goes back to the concept of dog walks on Wag being a commodity. Unless an owner has built a relationship with you from previous walks, they don’t really feel an obligation to give you any sort of courtesy.
With Rover, cancellations are a rarity, and that’s usually because the owners will have you modify the booking on your end if they need to cancel. Rover owners tend to be good about maintaining their personal calendars, so they will let you know if they are working from home on an upcoming Tuesday or if a holiday is coming up and they won’t need you to come by.
Information About The Dog
This is a BIG difference between the two. When you go to book a walk on Wag you don’t get any information about the dog’s behaviour or other random notes that might be helpful to know. Sometimes the dog breed won’t even be listed and I’d say 1 of every 3 bookings doesn’t even have a dog photo. You don’t get access to any notes – from the owner or previous walkers – until AFTER you book the walk.
Let’s say you prefer not to walk very large dogs because your ability to control them is a concern for your size. You might not know the size of dog until after you read the notes, where it might say “DOG IS ENORMOUS AND PULLS SUPER HARD”. You then need to decide if you’re going to roll the dice and try to walk that dog, or take the penalty and put in a Cover Request. Neither outcomes are particularly ideal.
An even worse, and more common scenario is not knowing about a consistently aggressive or hostile dog before picking up a walk. You’ll pick up a walk, and when you go to head out to it and hit “On My Way” you’ll gain access to the notes. The notes might say “Will try to bite you when you put harness on.” You might even see multiple notes confirming this which makes you wonder, “Why is this dog on the app if it has issues with new people…?”
The unfortunate answer is… no idea.
So, if you read one of these and don’t want to risk getting bit, even if you get a hold of Wag support, they’ll tell you to submit a Cover Request, which is a penalty to you… This is something they really need to fix, but as of right now this is how it is.
This is an aspect where Rover really shines. You know much about the dog you are walking ahead of time because you likely got all of the information you needed during the Meet and Greet you did. Additionally, 90% of the time all the info related to the dog’s behaviour is already written on the dog’s profile which you can read before even responding to a booking inquiry. For anything vague in the profile, you have the opportunity to ask as many questions as you want either before the Meet and Greet or during. Heck, if you don’t want to risk handling potentially hostile dogs at all, you can decline even setting up a Meet and Greet.
On Rover, if there is any situation you are not comfortable with you get the choice to decline it. Unfortunately this is a huge flaw for Wag and I’ve seen no indication that they are working to address the issue.
From what I can tell, the reason Wag doesn’t want walkers to have access to the notes before choosing to request an available walk is because if walkers see notes that might deter them from picking up a walk, that might cause a dog not to be booked at all. Now because satisfying dog owners is the clear priority for Wag (versus the walkers being a priority), they cannot risk this happening.
But seriously… if your dog is hostile to strangers entering your home– which is totally reasonable, why should you be using an app that facilitates this happening? A little bit of user education on Wag’s behalf would probably prevent some of this from happening.
How Helpful Customer Support Is
You can read all over the internet that Wag’s support is awful. They’re painfully slow…. So slow to respond that it is unusable. They can be rude and talk down to you. Basically, it’s been a crap show for a long time.
This is/was one of the biggest issues with Wag. I’m purposely unclear here because this has been a chronic issue and while they are saying and showing signs of being better about it, I won’t trust their word until I see consistent improvements.
With Rover on the other hand, I’ve rarely — rarely had to contact them, and when I have had to they respond immediately and you can definitely tell that the reps on the phone really want to help you. Of the few times I have gotten in touch with them they have solved my problem immediately and entirely.
How Payments Work
Wag pays weekly and then they will email you a snapshot of the payment, featuring the amounts paid from walks, from bonuses ($1 swag bonus), and adjustments. If you click further through to the third party payments dashboard, you can see each individual walk itemized.
Rover on the other hand pays out a day or two after the last day of a booking, so if you book walks for a month you won’t get paid until the end of the month. At that point they just shoot you the lump sum via Paypal with no sort of itemization. There are other ways to receive payment, such as getting a check, but you’ll have to look into the alternatives for yourself. Paypal is definitely the most seamless.
Despite being a bit more transparent and navigable with their payouts, Wag will make unmentioned adjustments without explaining what they were for. They also make mistakes occasionally. This means that you need to be vigilant and routinely monitor for any discrepancies between what you were actually paid and what you thought you were going to get paid.
At the same time, while Rover doesn’t provide nearly as much payment information as Wag does, I’ve also never had a discrepancy.
The benefits and shortcomings of one app seem to cancel out those of the other in this regard.
Both Have Referral Programs
Both apps have referral programs for bringing on new dogs/owners, but Rover also even has a referral program for referring new walkers to their service. Wag doesn’t have this, but they have alluded to eventually offering it.
Additionally both apps run contests for cash prizes or temporary increases to their referral bonus payouts, usually based on a seasonal change or if the other app is currently running a contest. You’ll find that the rivalry between both companies is obviously apparent, much like the one between Uber and Lyft.
Being Valued And Respected As A Dog Walker
This is something you will only really pick up on after walking for a while. Owners on Rover hands-down respect and value their walkers more so than Wag owners do. Part of it is systematic and part of it is organic.
The reason Rover owners value you more is for the reasons above. They invest the time to meet you personally. They value the consistent care of their dog. They likely book you regularly.
With Wag, the majority of walks are on-demand, meaning someone just wants you to give their dog some exercise because they can’t at the moment. That’s often the simple goal, and the result can be less-than-stellar reviews or no tips received. This might happen not because you did anything wrong or subpar, but they just didn’t see the value you provided because they weren’t there to see how great you were in caring for their pup. They’ve also likely never met you.
So that was a bit of a doozy, huh? Wag and Rover have a lot of nuances between them, but as you consider some of the logistical reasons why you might prefer one or the other, keep in mind that being on both ultimately means more dogs for you to walk.
More dog walks = more money in your pocket, so don’t shortchange your earning potential.
Have any other questions about the differences between Wag and Rover?
Ask them in the comments below!