Dog Walking Guide

Smiling professional dog walker with dogs on leash on a walk in the city

Finding the right caregiver for your fur baby introduces a new kind of magic to your life. Dozens of dog walking apps and websites tout exceptional services, but a few stand out. You can find a dog walker in as little as 15 minutes by using one of these apps. They connect you with local, background-checked, trained pet walkers ready to care for your pup. 

Each one of the following dog walking services makes finding, scheduling, paying, and communicating with potential caregivers easier than it’s ever been. There are so many options to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start.

This blog compares four of the best dog walking services. They all offer pick-up/drop-off notifications, detailed walk reports including GPS maps of routes, photos from the visit, immediate feedback capabilities, and cash-free transactions.

Rover vs. PetBacker vs. Barkly vs. Wag! Overview

Rover offers in-home and on-demand dog walking, but it’s generally more expensive than the other three services. PetBacker provides many benefits, such as having an online booking system that allows clients to book no matter where they are located.

Wag! is a dog walking service that really gets to know you and your pooch to help you find the perfect match. Finally, there’s Barkly Pets, a fast-growing platform that offers competitive pricing and flexible scheduling. Which of these services would suit your needs best? 

Dog walking on leash in fall park holding orange toy in mouth

Rover

Rover is the big dog on this list, and it’s the most popular walking service in the United States. It’s easily the largest network of pet sitters and dog walkers globally. With over 130,000 dog walkers available and serving every major city, it’s easy to find someone whom you trust to take care of your pup.

Rover was created at a hackathon by Phillip Kimmey in 2011 (a college student at the time). In 2013 venture capitalist Greg Gottesman set out to help Phillip grow the company and eventually acquired funding from Microsoft. Gottesman found the process of finding, vetting, and scheduling a dog walker very tedious. This experience inspired him to create Rover, an online platform that connects dog parents with vetted caregivers in their neighborhood.

How It Works 

You need an email address, password, and phone number to sign up for Rover. You can also use your Facebook, Apple, or Google account to log in. After creating a profile for your pet, Rover asks you a few additional questions about their personality and what type of walks they like.

You’ll then be asked to provide information about your preferred dog walker, such as their experience with pets, whether they have experience with first aid, etc. After you sign up, you’ll answer questions about your pup’s primary attributes, including weight, age, breed, etc.

After that, you’ll see a list of available dog walkers in your area—and the starting price for their services per walk. The caregiver profiles display reviews, profile pictures, and brief biographies for each potential caregiver.

From there, Rover will recommend different walkers that would be the best fit for your dog. You will be able to find your dog’s caregiver ratings and reviews on their profile page and see what breeds of dogs they are willing to take care of.

If you want to use a provider’s services, you will send a request, which will appear in your “Pending Requests.” You can click on it and see what’s required. If it’s a good fit, you can book it. Rover allows you to use your phone to text rather than chat through the app. 

Payments, Fees, and Guarantees 

Rover uses an automatic payment system that charges your card after each walk. There are no fees to sign up, and you can expect to pay around $15 to $40 for a single stroll. Rover does not charge until five minutes before scheduled walks begin (unless otherwise noted).

You’ll be able to see the total cost of the walk before you book it, and there are no cancellation fees. In addition to the hourly rate, you must pay a 5-7% booking fee capped at $25. Rover offers a money-back guarantee policy if you’re not completely satisfied with your walker. The platform has a variety of payment options for users: per-walk, package deals, or subscription services. They also provide an opportunity for you to leave tips within the Rover app. 

When you book a walker through Rover, you will be prompted to enter your payment information (credit card or PayPal). You will not be charged until after your walk is complete. Rover provides coverage for pet owners and walkers of up to $25,000. Their policy serves as a reimbursement program covering certain out-of-pocket medical costs for property damage to the pet owner’s home.  

Female Dog walker enjoying with dogs while walking outdoors

Caregiver Requirements 

All Rover walkers must pass a rigorous screening process that includes an application, interview, profile review, and safety check before they are allowed to work with clients. Walkers are also subject to an enhanced background check. You must be at least 18 years old to work on the platform.

Walkers also need to follow an ongoing pet care education and pass the Rover walker certification. The Rover website states that it charges a 20-25% commission fee for each booking, and caregivers cannot earn more than $1,000 a month. According to Indeed, dog walkers can land a job with Rover within a few days if they are experienced. If not, Rover provides newbies with the option to take a one-month training course.  

Pros and Cons  

With Rover, you can find a regular dog walker or hire someone on-demand. There are no signup fees, making it easy for new users to enter their information and find a dog walker in a few minutes. One drawback is that Rover’s services can be more expensive than the others. However, you do get what you pay for.

The app is user-friendly and offers many different features to communicate with your walker or dog sitter. Since it’s so popular, there are many walkers to choose from in your neighborhood, and it’s a good bet you can find someone quickly.

The $25,000 insurance coverage is also a notable feature, but you should still have pet insurance, “Rover recommends that all users have adequate pet insurance to cover the costs of veterinary care,” states the site. Another downside is that Rover is more expensive than some of its competitors. Lastly, because Rover is such a large company, it can be challenging to get in touch with customer service when needed. However, they usually respond within a day or two, according to reviews on the App Store. 

 Pros

  • No signup fees
  • Easy to find sitters in your area
  • Payment and booking handled on the app
  • Reservation guarantee
  • Offers face-to-face meetings
  • Reimbursement program

Cons

  • 5-7% booking fee
  • Customers sometimes report problems with the app

PetBacker  

Singapore-based PetBacker is a relatively newer pet care service that offers flexibility in payment options. The company has been around since 2017 and currently operates in over 45 states. PetBacker provides various pet care services such as boarding, pet taxis, and various in-home services.

What separates PetBacker from its competitors is its online booking system. It allows users to book caregivers from a wide range of different countries worldwide. They have a widespread network of pet sitters and dog walkers available on-demand or for pre-scheduled walks.

The services also offer a money-back guarantee if you’re not completely satisfied with your experience. It’s ideal for world travelers! PetBacker is available in over 70+ countries. Top countries listed on PetBacker’s website include the US, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sweden, Finland, and over a dozen more. 

How It Works  

You don’t need to make an account to get started; you can simply browse the Petbacker network and choose an individual walker or let the app find a match after you sign up. There are no fees to sign up, and all you need is your email, Facebook, or Google account.

After creating a profile for your pet, PetBacker will ask you some additional questions about your pet’s personality and what type of walk you’d like. PetBacker offers a full suite of services if you need a pet sitter as well. Still other services include pet photography, veterinarian care, and training.

Once you’ve chosen the services you want, PetBacker recommends up to five different caregivers that will be the best fit for your dog. Caregiver profiles are thorough, with plenty of information on caregivers’ skills and stats. One feature on the profiles to pay attention to is a list of animals that caregivers own and what breeds they are familiar with.  

If you want an in-person interview, you will have to make a deposit. Otherwise, you can book a walk right away. When you are ready, you can schedule an on-demand walk or make plans later. Once you have booked a walk, the PetBacker app will notify you with the caregiver’s photo, name, and bio. You can add any specific instructions or needs that you may have for the walk.

Communication is available directly through the app if you have any questions, additional instructions, or changes to your plans (e.g., if you’re running late). During the walk, you can ask your caregiver to send pictures and updates to see what your pup is up to.

GPS gives you live updates on your dog’s location (as with all the apps discussed). The app will generate a complete “report card” detailing helpful information about your pet’s care at the end of the walk.  

woman walking a dog in a field at sunset

Payments, Fees, and Guarantees  

The average price for a single 20-30 minute walk ranges from $15-30, but prices may vary. PetBacker has on-demand rates and subscription rates, each with its own benefits.

On-demand: On-demand care requires no appointment for clients to book their pet’s walk at any time of day or night.

Subscription: If you have regular needs for a dog walker, you can sign up for a monthly subscription.

PetBacker processes the payment before the walk, and there is an $8 same-day booking fee. If you cancel less than 24 hours before the scheduled walk, you’ll be charged a 50% cancellation fee.

PetBacker provides insurance coverage for every job free of charge, with the option to purchase additional coverage. Be sure to check the terms of service to ensure you are eligible. Another thing people like about PetBacker is that they give back to the animal community. If you donate to a charity through PetBacker, you’ll get a 5% discount voucher.

Caregivers and Customer Service  

PetBacker has one of the most thorough review systems of any dog walking service. The profiles give you a ton of information on caregivers and provide free insurance coverage.

Caregivers make an average of $10 to $15 per hour, and the platform charges a 15-25% commission fee. More experienced caregivers can make a lot more. To become a dog walker for PetBacker, you must be 18 years old and live in an area where you can legally work. In addition, you must pass a background check conducted by the platform.

Profile badges give you an indication of how trustworthy and experienced a dog walker is. They indicate the number of repeat customers, how many jobs have been completed, experience, skills, the caregiver’s pets, responsiveness, and a lot more. During the walk, caregivers can provide you with updates through photos and chat.  

Pros and Cons  

The app is extremely user-friendly and convenient. If you don’t want to use the app, the website is easy to navigate, and you can find a dog walker immediately. You can choose a dog walker that lives close by, has experience with your breed of dog, and shares similar interests.

Rates vary from market to market, but you can use PetBacker to find a dog walker just about everywhere you go. If you want to take your furry friend with you on vacation, the “Airbnb” and “Uber” of on-demand pet care can come in handy.

Premium insurance is a helpful feature. There is top talent on the platform, and PetBacker provides a money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied. One downside to using PetBacker is that there can sometimes be a waitlist to connect with a provider in your area. Additionally, reviewers have reported that PetBacker’s customer service representatives can be slow to respond and not as communicative as people would like.

Pros

  • Easy to compare and book walkers
  • Great for globe trotters! In 70+ countries
  • Highly rated on the App Store
  • The pool of top talent to choose from
  • Offers a full suite of services
  • Free insurance

Cons

  • Communication can only be done through the app
  • Choices can be limited in some areas

Barkly Pets

Washington, D.C.-based Barkly Pets is the brainchild of three buddies who lived in the same neighborhood: Dave Comiskey, Chris Gonzalez, and Jim Camut. As busy pet parents, they realized they could no longer rely solely on one another for last-minute help with each other’s dogs. Barkly Pets started in 2015 in just four cities but has rapidly expanded to all 50 states. That’s a testament to how simple it is to use.

As of now, it’s mainly used in densely populated areas. Barkly doesn’t have as many employees as other platforms because it doesn’t offer as many services as the others mentioned in this guide. Instead of branching out, Barkly Pets differentiates itself by giving owners the white glove treatment.

The platform is exclusively for dog walking, and caregivers are expected to pay attention to detail. Although they expect a great deal from service providers, it seems the dog walkers are happy to oblige because Barkly is commission-free. The company’s website states, “This has led to a much higher quality of care and standard of service than others in the industry.”

How It Works  

The app is designed to let you see all the dog walkers in your area, filter by price, and schedule a meet-and-greet. You can book a walk anytime between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. You do need to sign up before you can access Barkly Pet’s platform. After you enter your zip code on the website or app, you’re given a list of pre-screened and insured dog walkers.

After you’ve found the right person, just enter your payment information, and you’re good to go. Caregivers are paid through the app. A one-hour stroll will set you back between $30 and $50. Each dog walker is trained by Barkly in person, and owners may pick from a list of profiles or be assigned one by the company.

Before selecting a walker, you can read their bios, see pictures of their past work, and look at customer reviews. At this point, you can add a custom checklist for things like feeding instructions, medications, or special needs. So, if you want your dog to take his or her meds, walk a specific route, or drop off a present on your annoying neighbor’s doorstep, you can tell your walker to make sure it happens. Not that you would do that!

Owners can view walks using the app and view photos and real-time updates. After each walk, walkers must submit a play-by-play account of everything the dog did on the walk. You have the option of tipping your walker if they have done an excellent job.  

Portrait of a woman running a dog walking service

Payments, Fees, and Guarantees

The app offers a variety of payment options, including monthly, yearly, and per-walk rates. You can also add extra services provided by caregivers. Short walks range from $15 to $25 in most places. Rates for one-hour walks start at $30, depending on the location, with an extra $5 for each additional pet. An hour-long walk costs about $30.

It should be noted that Barkly Pets doesn’t offer insurance coverage. If you want coverage, you’ll have to buy your insurance, which goes for walkers as well. Barkly Pets follows the rule that dog owners should interview, meet, and observe a dog walker before hiring them. If you don’t want to go through the meet and greet, you can bypass it by contacting customer service. They are available 24/7 by phone or through the app. Customer service hours for live representatives are between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays. 

Caregiver Requirements  

All dog walkers are required to pass a thorough hiring process, including face-to-face interviews with one of Barkly’s managers, who will also make sure walkers follow all safety protocols when caring for your pets. The screening process asks potential employees why they love dogs, if they work well under pressure, how often they exercise each day, what type of breeds they’re most comfortable around, and many other questions related to being certified as a dog walker.

Barkly Pets has very high satisfaction ratings on Indeed. The meet-and-greet is encouraged, and caregivers often form long-term relationships with their clients on the platform. Caregivers love Barkly Pets because it’s the only commission-free dog walker app on the market.

It’s run more like a union than the other services, attracting top talent and creating more competition. Walkers can set their rates as long as they earn more than $100 per month. The only fee Barkly Pets charges is a membership fee of $8.50. You must be 18 years old to apply and pass a background check to work at Barkly Pets. 

Pros and Cons  

Perhaps the most unique selling point of the platform is the ability to create checklists that walkers must follow, a feature customers seem to love. Walkers also provide highly detailed reports. They don’t offer coverage for mishaps, which might be inconvenient if you don’t have pet insurance. Still, Barkly Pets does offer easy options to connect to a variety of third-party pet insurance providers.

This can be a good thing if you are looking for more comprehensive coverage. The meet and greet feature is helpful if you want extra peace of mind. Meeting your dog walker in person is probably a good idea anyway. The apps do a great job of matching you with a compatible caregiver. Still, it’s ultimately up to you to ensure your pup is safe, especially if you don’t have pet insurance.

Although Barkly Pets doesn’t have as many caregivers as other platforms on this list, it’s grown fast thanks to its commission-free business model. This is why some of the most experienced walkers are drawn to Barkly Pets. That being said,  it takes more work on your part than the other apps to find the right caregiver. Additionally, some people don’t like that you have to sign up before browsing the platform. 

Pros

  • Ability to create detailed checklists
  • Walkers are required to provide detailed reports
  • Encourages long-term relationships
  • Commission-free model attracts top talent
  • Offers ongoing training courses for caregivers
  • Highly rated on Google Play and the App Store

Cons

  • Average costs are higher than other options
  • Smaller pool of caregivers

Wag!

Wag! is another heavy hitter in the dog walking business with over 315,000 caregivers. In addition to all the publicity, the platform’s flexibility helps it stand out against its competitors. Wag! offers dog walking, pet sitting, veterinary care, and training services throughout the US. Wag! providers typically offer 30 and 60-minute walks.

This popular service made a lot of noise when it debuted in 2015 by recruiting celebrities to promote the brand. Big stars like Olivia Munn and Mariah Carey vouched for Wag! with more than a few adorable social media posts with their pups. This quickly put the Silicon Valley startup firm in front of a large audience. 

How It Works  

As with Barkly Pets, Wag! requires that you create an account right away. You can either use your Facebook, Apple ID, or Google account to sign up. After you sign up with Wag!, you will be prompted to enter basic information about your dogs, such as their weight, height, breed, and age. It also asks for medical history and any other related information.

You can then add your payment information (credit card or debit card). Once you’ve added your payment information, you’ll have access. After you’re in, the app prompts you to enter your zip code so that Wag! can find walkers near you. Wag! will bring up a list of walkers in your area with information on background check status (passed or not passed yet), how many successful walks they’ve had, and more.

Wag! has a great GPS tracking system, as do all the apps. Walkers are generally able to be booked within 24 hours of when you want the service. Once you have booked a walk, your walker will arrive at your house at the agreed time. If, for some reason, your walker does not show up, Wag! will send another walker to take care of your dog.  

Dog walker with dogs enjoying in park

Payments, Fees, and Guarantees 

Wag!’s prices are straightforward with no hidden fees, and there is a wide range of time slots offered each day. According to Wag!, drop-ins cost “…$13-16 for a 20-minute Drop-In Visit.” For an experienced walker, you can expect to pay around $20 for one dog and $50 for three dogs. In addition to the service fee, you’ll be charged a $2.99 booking fee.

The platform works with time blocks of either 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or 60 minutes. Owners with multiple dogs will pay an additional $5 per walk, per pup, in addition to the base fee. Wag! accepts all major credit cards: Visa, American Express, MasterCard, and Discover. You can also pay with PayPal or Apple Pay.

Once you’ve chosen your walker, enter your payment information and schedule the walks. You pay for a walk on Wag! per session, and frequent customers can purchase a premium subscription. The Wag! Premium subscription is $9.99 per month or a one-time charge of around $100. The one-time payment gives you a 10% discount, so you’ll pay about $8 per month. Premium members don’t pay booking fees and receive other benefits, including priority access to top-rated caregivers. 

Caregivers and Customer Service  

On average, dog walkers who work on the Wag! platform make $13 to $17 per hour. Wag! relies on its employees who conduct extensive background checks on all potential caregivers and only allows those who pass to walk customers’ dogs.

Wag! offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee for all its services. The 40% commission fee is relatively high for a dog walking service. If you have an issue with your walker, you can contact customer service by phone 24/7.

For protection from unforeseen accidents, you’ll need to purchase insurance from a third-party provider, which can be good or bad depending on how you look at it. Wag! has a portal where you can find quotes for pet insuranceAll Wag! walkers must be 18 years or older and undergo a background check that includes identity verification, social security number, and address history.

Many of the top caregivers have current CPR and first-aid certifications. Wag! doesn’t allow their caregivers to walk dogs from multiple households. Pet caregivers that accept two services scheduled for the same block of time will have to choose one or the other. The competition is stiff on the platform. Unlike Rover, dog walkers can work as much as they please. 

Pros and Cons

Wag! likes to emphasize safety and offers liability coverage free of charge. It’s intended to protect your property and out-of-pocket expenses for medical services. This includes limited coverage for property damage to your home. You can find more information on their website’s Terms of Service page.

Another plus is that Wag! gives you good deals on walks for multiple dogs simultaneously from the same caregiver. The app also does a great job of matching you with a compatible caregiver. Wag! will provide you with a free lockbox if you aren’t home.

One thing users complain about is there are not many caregivers in suburbs and rural areas (although this is changing all the time), making it difficult to find someone at the last minute. This is less of a problem if you are in a medium to large-sized city. Either way, if there aren’t many walkers in your area, you will get whoever is closest.

The most significant selling point may be its walkers, who have access to ongoing training. They must go through an extensive vetting process that includes background checks before they can begin working for Wag! Another plus is that owners have 24/7 live chat support to ask questions about dog walking or scheduling walks. As far as the app, Wag! has excellent reviews on the Apple Store but not so great reviews on Google Play. 

Pros

  • Lots of options for types of walks
  • Liability insurance
  • Over 150K service providers
  • Caregivers can set themselves apart to go above and beyond
  • OS App is highly rated 
  • Transparent trust and safety policy

Cons

  • Starting prices can be high
  • Less variety when choosing caregivers

Tips to Ensure Your Pup Is Happy and Safe

These apps simplify the process of finding the right match. Still, it’s your responsibility to make sure your boy or girl gets the best caregiver for the job. Make sure that you agree with the platform’s rates and cancellation policy. Understand that not every app allows you to choose your dog walker; some will simply match you to a handful of people based on preferences.

To ensure that you get a good match, fill out your profile and do your research. Be honest on your profile about your dog’s age, personality, health issues, and training. The dog walker needs to be able to handle your dog. If you have a big boy that likes to pull on the leash, you may not want someone who weighs about the same as your pup with spaghetti arms behind the leash.

Always consider unanticipated expenses, like if your dog eats a pair of underwear on the street and needs to have it surgically removed. This is where insurance comes into the picture. Maybe sign up for several apps in case of a last-minute cancellation.

Some services do not have comprehensive lists of questions about your pet and his or her behaviors, either. Try coming up with a list of your dog’s needs. For example, “High-energy puppy that requires a daily walk.” “Bushed elderly terrier on a brief stroll.” You could even build your doggie dossier and maintain it as your pet’s requirements change. 

Reviews

If you are looking for a pet sitter, thoroughly read the potential candidate’s profile and ensure that your dog is the type of dog they are willing to take in (e.g., house trained, socialized with children). Give your pet sitter all the information they need. Does your dog have allergies to anything? Does she take medication? Is she a runner? Leave clear written instructions so that your caregiver knows what’s required.

Read as many reviews as you can. More importantly, choose the walkers with the best reviews. You can’t rely solely on the profile, though, and sometimes you’ll just get a bad match. Always speak with the person before booking to ensure they are right for the job.

Interviewing Caregivers

The interview is the moment of truth. Don’t forget to bring your dog into the picture during the interview process. Consider how the dog walker interacts with your dog. Are they polite? Is it apparent that your dog welcomes them immediately?

Whether you pay a hefty sum for a dog or get one for free from a friend, the cost of hiring a regular dog walker can start at $1,000 a year and up. Bills can add up quickly if you are purchasing other services. Since you’re paying for this service, you would hope all your needs (and the best interests of your dog) will be met. 

Ask questions. A lot of questions! If you want a regular walker, it might be a good idea to go along on the first walk as a trial run. Ask specific questions: How long will you walk my dog? What steps will you take to ensure that he or she does not eat anything harmful, get off the leash, or get caught up in other animals’ fights? What are your qualifications and background? If possible, can you go along on a walk? If that seems like a bit much, you can simply attend the walk virtually with pictures and check-ins from your caregiver.

If at any time your dog starts to show signs of aggression, fear, anxiety, distress, or other conditions that you find problematic, let your veterinarian know before you jump to any conclusions—providing that you don’t have any evidence proving otherwise. If you ever feel like something is seriously wrong, stop working with that walker and report it to the platform so they can guide you. Instances like these are rare, but there are documented stories of lost dogs or worse. 

White Bichon Frise dogs walking next to its owners on sunny day.

Recap

Rover has more walkers to choose from and offers a friendly interface that’s easy to navigate. They also give you some freedom of choice when picking a dog walker. Wag! has a comprehensive questionnaire, but it will pair you with the first walkers that respond based on its algorithms. However, users highly rate its GPS tracking and data-packed record of their pets’ walks.

Barkly Pets is newer, but the business model brings in some of the most qualified walkers. The detailed checklist is excellent if you have a dog that requires special care or you just want to ensure that things go exactly the way you want them to. PetBacker is probably the best option if you are out of town or country. It’s also super easy to book and find good walkers near you. More than that, PetBacker ratings and reviews are verified by third parties, making it easy for you to find someone you can trust. 

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, your experience will depend more on the walker you end up hiring than the service you use to hire them. However, it’s a safe bet that you’ll find a quality walker on one of these well-known apps. Finding the right dog walker can be a challenge, but you will find someone perfect for your pet if you do your research and ask all the right questions.

Understanding the caregiver’s qualifications and having clear expectations regarding schedule preferences should make finding the best possible match easier. Once you find a great caregiver, you can trust that you and your pup will be jumping for joy. Date night, here you come, finally!

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