Do Your Homework and Avoid the On-Demand, App-Based Dog Walkers

It’s a sad but true reality that we can’t travel with our dogs everywhere. Unlike us, your four legged friends prefer a familiar, stable and cozy environment where they can eat, rest, play around, and feel at ease in their own surroundings. Unfortunately, this means sometimes your pet will be left behind when you have more important things to attend to. This can be a difficult situation for both pets and owners, and might not sound that appealing, but there are professional pet care services, like ESP Pet Specialists, that will make it easier on everyone involved. A word of advice though, not all services are created equal, and more often than not, you get what you pay for!

At times, you are left with no other option than to leave your pet at home, and as a pet owner, it’s incumbent upon you to make sure your furry friend stays healthy and active. When you’re unable to be together, both of you can benefit by hiring the services of a pet care provider to look after your loved one when you can’t. For example, businesses offering dog walking services are becoming more and more popular every day, and a quick Google search will reveal many choices to choose from. Ultimately, connecting with dog walkers to exercise your loved one results in basically two options; app-based freelancers or professional pet care specialists from a locally owned and operated business. Finding the right fit can make a wonderful difference in your dog’s life, and in yours.

When making a decision, you want assurances knowing that your dog’s physical activity, health, and safety are a top priority. In the past, finding dog walkers was limited to referrals through friends, combing through classified ads, or employing a neighborhood kid. Today, it has become much easier to connect with someone offering dog walking services. Websites and online apps have given rise to a host of businesses championed by individuals and large corporations looking to make money. At the top of Google’s search results, you’ll find numerous dog walking specific apps like Rover, Wag, and PetBacker offering dog walking services in almost every community with thousands of “care providers”, on-demand convenience, and real-time updates while your pet is being cared for.

These startup pet care services connect gig workers with pet owners and herein lies a problem; You are essentially turning over the care of your loved companion to a complete stranger! Despite a large and loyal following, dog walking startups can and do present problems, and should be avoided. Most apps claim their dog walkers are subjected to an exhaustive vetting process including national background checks, which include searches for crime, terror watch list matches, and the sex offender registry, but with literally thousands of care providers, the reality is that it’s up to user-generated reviews to ultimately determine the merits of individual walkers. Oftentimes, background checks are incomplete. They fail to dig deeper on a local level, nor do they provide a real accounting of their vetting standards. This inevitably leads to a host of problems, and questions abound regarding exactly how these companies truly vet their workers. A quick search online will reveal many cautionary tales of in-home pet care or dog walks gone wrong, bad behavior,  and a chorus of complaints about some popular dog walking apps.

When these apps conduct business in a similar fashion to ride sharing apps, other pitfalls rear their heads! For example, anyone can offer their services without any sort of training, certification, or documentation. They may not be truly qualified independent dog walkers, and it seems little is done to determine whether these providers have any real world experience or expertise with animals, whether from a training or healthcare perspective. A true professional offering dog walking services should have proper qualifications and training. Hiring someone who just loves pets but doesn’t know how best care for them can, and has proven to be dangerous. There have been many sad stories of pets being lost, mistreated, stolen, and even deaths while under the care of a gig worker. App-based dog walkers may even pose a security risk to your property; Houses have been robbed, damages incurred, and sensitive information has been compromised. In short, letting a stranger into your home has the potential for a lot of risk!

Another downfall of working with app-based dog walkers is their lack of proper insurance or bonding to protect your home or your pet. Liability and workers comp insurance coverage should be foremost in your thoughts when looking to outsource dog walking services! Ensure that any business you’re considering offers the proper insurance or bonding to protect your home or your pet. Likewise, be certain of your coverages as well. If there is no coverage, or if limits are low and become surpassed should an incident occur, you could face legal and financial liability for any harm caused should your dog bite someone, for example.

The bottom line is that you and your dog deserve the very best, and choosing a dog walker should be a very selective process. Ultimately, the choice is yours as to who you want to hire and entrust to take care of your four legged friend. Avoid the apps! Dog walking, as you’ve seen, is oftentimes an unregulated profession and many consider it unskilled labor. The reality is that the health and safety of your dog requires a pet care services specialist with proper training, qualifications, and experience with breeds of all types and sizes, and definitely is something that should not be ordered on-demand. When you partner with professional dog walkers, it should be a personal and trusted relationship. Check for references, read reviews, ensure that they have adequate insurance coverage. Talk to other dog owners. Find out what specialized associations they are affiliated with or memberships they have. Once you start working with an experienced and professional dog walking service, both you and your dog will enjoy life a little bit more!

Remember, your dog is not just a pet, but instead is a beloved member of the family, and entrusting their care and well-being to an under-qualified dog walker is simply unfair. All of this sets the table for potential problems! Connecting with the best professional dog walkers for you and your pet’s needs is the best option, so you can rest assured knowing that their physical activity, health, and safety are a top priority while you are away from them.

Your pet deserves the best possible care from a true pet care professional. Evan Perlman is the owner and lead pet specialist at ESP Pets. After an early start with a local doggie daycare, Evan's love of working with pets culminated with his appointment as program manager providing pet services for United Airlines at Newark Liberty and O’Hare International Airports. The entrepreneurial bug then bit, and ESP Pet Specialists was born! View Profile

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