My guess is you have heard of Rover, WAG and Thumbtack. When you Google, “dog walking” or “pet sitting”, they appear at the top of the page – touting pet sitting, dog walking, and boarding services for lower than average rates. After talking with members of my community, many of them are using this service; however, is that really as good as it sounds? I like saving money and I’m sure you do too; however, there is a time and place for being thrifty.
Did you know that Rover, WAG and Thumbtack are NOT dog walking/pet sitting companies? Instead, they are tech apps that connect you with independent contractors offering pet care services. Now that you understand the distinction, below are a summary of four differences between Tailored Pet Services (TPS) and a tech app (TA).
(1) Applicant Screening
• TPS: Screens its applicants with a 5-step process (20 question application, phone interview, in-person interview, ride-a-long to see how they interact with dogs and federal background check).
• TA: Anyone can be added to the list. No screening process. For Rover/Wag, I couldn’t find confirmation if they use state or federal background checks (if they only do state, you could accidentally hire someone who has a criminal history in another state). Thumbtack doesn’t require a background check.
(2) Independent Contractors Versus Employees
• TPS: I hired employees so I can direct them how to perform the work and shadow my employees to compliment things they are doing correctly and offer suggestions on how to provide better pet care.
• TA: Independent contractors cannot be told how to get the job done.
• TPS: New employees complete shadow training by myself and our leads. We have a 30-page handbook with our policy and procedures which I remind employees every few months to ensure pet/client’s home safety. In addition, I bring in experts in their field (i.e. dog trainers) to teach employees on pet care
• TA: No Training.
• TPS: Bonded and Insured through Hartford with an insurance policy with maximum coverage in case of pet injury
• TA: Rover = only 30-days after injury, WAG = couldn’t find any data, Thumbtack = not required to be insured.
More details about each of the differences below.
Did you know that these companies allow pretty much anyone joins their site? That means pretty much anyone could be sent out to take care of your pet including someone with a criminal record. It is almost like the “Uber” of pet sitting. You don’t really know just how professional they will be while caring for your pet. While we do believe most people who decided to sign up don’t have negligent intentions, they don’t always have the proper training needed. Tailored Pet Services new employees receive hands-on training from the company owner or a senior team member before they can walk dogs on their own. During the 2+ days of training, the employee is shown how to put on the leash/harnesses, instructed on how dog’s personality traits could influence behavior on walk and shown where to walk them to ensure their safety. Continuing education also takes place at staff meetings where the company owner brings in experts like dog trainers to educate employees on dog behavior. In addition, all employees are required to pass Pet CPR & First Aid Training.
Independent Contractors Versus Employees
Notice I mentioned “independent contractor” above. Every one of the people listed on Rover, WAG and Thumbtack sites are independent contractors. Many people don’t understand the difference. The Balance provides the following definitions below:
• “You can assign duties to an independent contractor and impose a deadline and work product, but you cannot tell that person how to get the job done”.
• “When you hire an employee, you get the advantage of being able to completely control and direct that person’s work during work time, to train the person in the way you want the job done, and to require that person to work only for you.”
You may be wondering why it matters that you want someone who is “trained” on how you want the work done. When you hire TPS, our employees are given a three page summary of how to care for your pet: personality quirks, what they are afraid of, how they like to be touched, commands you use, etc. They are expected to follow the instructions outlined. If they don’t, you can contact me (owner) directly and I will go into the field with the employee for additional training to ensure changes are being followed. When you hire someone from Rover/WAG/Thumbtack, they aren’t allowed to tell their independent contractors how to do the job. Another advantage of hiring a company with employees like TPS is the walker/sitter only works for TPS. Why is that an advantage? The owner asks all the clients when they want their walks completed and makes a master schedule to ensure everyone is accommodated. When you hire a pet care independent contractor, they work for multiple clients so you may get “bumped” by another client. At TPS, our goal is to walk your dog at a consistent time on the days you request. Depending on how busy your IC is on a given day, you may not have that luxury.
Emergencies, accidents and mistakes can happen to anyone at any time or at any place which is why Tailored Pet Services employees are required to complete a Pet CPR & First Aid Training class. In addition, we have emergency training, policies and insurance that covers you no matter what. What makes us unique is we even have an employee who was a vet tech for 20+ years who we rely on for guidance on pet-related health issues. In summary, you get a true, competent, pet sitter or dog walker checking on your pet, not just someone looking for a part-time job.
While doing research for this article, I came across the following story about Rover that broke my heart:
Sarah found a sitter she really liked and booked her multiple times; however, her dog Monty was bitten by another dog on the eye. After Sarah took Monty to the doggie ER because his eye was bleeding, they said the bite went through all three eyelids and were concerned that it hit his cornea. Unfortunately, it was extremely infected so they couldn’t tell until the infection was taken care of. Then Rover contacted Sara and offered to pay for the medical expenses within a 30 day period. Even though the injury was on-going, Rover only reimbursed Sarah the costs within the first 30 days and denied everything outside the month window. Due to the injury, he received while under the care of a Rover sitter, he is permanently blind in his eye and she’s expected to pay for the rest of the medical expenses accrued due to this dog bite.
I find this article upsetting for two reasons:
(1) Monty shouldn’t have been exposed to another dog. At TPS, we only care for dogs from the same household at one time. During walks, we cross to the other side of the street if another dog approaches. We also do not take our canine clients to off-leash parks because we can’t predict how the other dogs in the park will react. When we board in our homes, we do a trial run first to ensure our pets get along with the furry client and pets are kept separated unless a human is in the room (we are continuous to evaluating pets’ behavior to prevent any hostility).
(2) Medical expenses: we pay for the cost of ALL medical expenses as a result of vet visits during our care. Currently, we’ve only had four situations in seven years where this has occurred: twice when the pet was at the end of life, one because he was scratched on the nose and once because a client ate a tennis ball.
Why are we telling you this?
We aren’t trying to scare you with horror stories so you don’t hire a pet sitter. Instead, we are trying to educate you regarding the care you seek for your pet. The prices these tech companies offer can really be too good to be true. We’re not trying to bash the competition, we are concerned about the safety of pets in the care of untrained sitters.
When one pet sitter or dog walker fails, our whole community feels it. Places like Rover, Wag and Thumbtack do have quality sitters, but how do you know that you are getting one that is confident and knowledgeable in case of an emergency? When you get a sitter that thinks “Hey, this could be an easy way to make some extra cash…I mean, dogs are cool.” you aren’t exactly getting someone who has your pet’s best interest at heart. They aren’t trying to harm your dog, but they just are not the right person for the job.
Think of it like this: Would you hire someone who “just LOVES cake” but has no real experience to bake your wedding cake? We didn’t think so which is why it is so important to hire a professional and well trained pet sitter to take care if your furry baby.
Needless to say, we are proud of our Tailored Pet Services team. Tailored Pet Services started in May 2011 with just me caring for our tailored clients and grew to over 100+ weekly visits with 6 professional pet sitters and dog walkers. Still not convinced we are the best company to care for your furry baby? Visit our About Us page and get to know us a bit or visit our testimonial pages for some great personal stories from our clients. If you live in our service area (Bothell 98012, Edmonds (98026), Everett, Lynnwood, Mill Creek and Mukilteo), please contact us so we can get to know you and your babies!