Should you become a Wag walker? If you are trying to achieve and financial independence, you have likely thought about side hustling. I wanted to write a post to tell my readers about one side hustle that I found worked really well for me: Dog walking with the dog walking startup Wag.
Dog walking always intrigued me, but I finally decided to make the plunge when I decided to head off to business school and realized that I would want as much saved up as humanly possible to get through those two years. Dog walking ended up saving thousands of dollars purely from this side hustle alone.
If you are a fan of the outdoors, incredible amounts of flexibility, and dogs, you should consider dog walking with the startup Wag. Being paid to be outside in the beautiful weather with a pup is an unbelievable feeling!
If you are unfamiliar, you can think of Wag as an Uber for dog walking platform. Pet parents can get on demand dog walkers and pet caregivers at the push of a button.
There are a few things that caught me off guard when I started, that I wish I would have known. You should be aware of several key points before deciding to give Wag walking a try. Read on to see my fully transparent and fully detailed account of what it was like for me as a Wag walker.
If this already sounds to good to pass up, you can sign up for the walking app here!
7 Things You Need to Know Before Becoming a Wag Walker
1. How Much do Wag Walkers Really Make?
This is probably the question most people came here for, so let’s get this out of the way.
Here is the payment structure (as it was when I was a Wag walker)
|30 Minute Walk||1-Hour Walk|
In addition to the above, every so often when the Wag app is unable to fill a walk, they would offer walk bonuses to make sure they were able to fill each and every walk. Occasionally, Wag will even offer so called “full fare” walks, where the walker keeps all the money that the dog owner pays for the walk (i.e Wag doesn’t even take a cut, they just want to fill the walk).
For 30 minute walks full fare was $20, and for hour long walks full fare was $30. I found that somewhere between 60-75% of my Wag dog walks resulted in a tip.
Overall, there is quite a wide range in the amount you can expect to be paid for a Wag walk. I once was paid only $9 for a base fare 20 minute walk with no tip, and I have also been paid $39 for an hour long full fare full tip walk. Your strategy as a Wag walker should be predicated on getting as many of these $30+ dollar walks as possible. There really is not much difference between the effort required for a short walk and a long walk, in terms of the time you ultimately will be required to commit to the walk, but more on this later!
2. Is Wag Walking Safe?
My answer overall is yes, with some caveats.
If you are the type of person thinking of becoming a Wag walker, I imagine you are generally comfortable around dogs. To some extent, you should know what to expect if you’ve been around dogs enough.
However what might be new even for folks who love dogs is the experience of encroaching on the dogs territory as a complete stranger when their owner is not home. This can cause certain dogs to get defensive and skeptical. After all they don’t know who the heck this stranger is in their house!
Some dogs will be super happy to see you and know exactly what you are there for. These experiences are great! Other dogs just need a little more reassurance and time with you before they will let you put the leash on. In these cases you will have to be gentle and approachable, and skilled at calming them down.
There were only 2 or 3 instances where I felt like things got messy and the situation could potentially get dangerous. In these cases I would usually simply sit on the ground and let the dog become comfortable with my presence. Once they seemed more approachable and recognized I posed no threat, I never had any problems.
3. How Much of a Time Commitment is Wag Walking?
There are two sides to this. One distinctly positive, and one distinctly negative.
First, being a Wag walker is extremely flexible. Frankly, by the end of my time as a Wag walker I would usually only do walks when they were bonus walks, it was really nice weather outside, and I had nothing else to do. If you don’t do scheduled Wag walks you will be able to completely control your own schedule.
Secondly, and unfortunately, Wag walks take much longer than you would expect. Thirty dollars for an hour walk, this does NOT equate to a $30 per hour pay rate.
When you take into account leaving your home, getting in your car, driving (biking, walking etc.) to the walk location, figuring out how to get into the apartment or house, and getting the dog leashed up and out the door, an hour long walk can easily take up two hours of your time.
Wag will try and present your pay rate as better than it truly is by only taking into account the time you are actually out the door with your dog, but you should see through this.
4. What Did you Wish You Knew Before Becoming a Wag Walker?
Here are some miscellaneous lessons that I wish I learned earlier!
- Literally the hardest part about being a Wag walker is actually getting into the residences. Nearly every place I went had a different set of instructions for how to ultimately get in and see the dog. Lock boxes are common and usually frustratingly finicky, sometimes they tell you to see the attendant at the front desk who is on his lunch break etc. All these are time wasters.
- You are required to take a picture and submit a “report card” for every walk, which is reasonable, but takes time and if you forget to take a picture of the dog it can spell trouble for you.
- You will need to try your best to avoid other dogs while on the walk.
- Depending on your location, finding consistent walks can be a challenge. Sometimes only one or two reasonable walks for you to accept could appear on a given day. This is highly dependent on your location.
- There is a reasonably extensive background check that that all walkers and pet caregivers must undergo.
- In addition to dog walking services, you also will have the opportunity to provide overnight care, which is also fun and often pays better than walks!
5. Is the Wag App Easy to Use?
I have found that the functionality of the Wag app is quite intuitive and user friendly having regularly been able to get on the phone customer service and talk with (gasp!) a real human in five minutes or less.
Personally, I have found that the Wag app does unfortunately freeze up quite a bit, and sometimes this can cause a lot of frustration when trying to start a walk and get credit for your time.
The app also tends to get software updates very frequently for some reason, which can be a bit frustrating.
6. Tips For Treating Wag Walking as a Business
There are a couple of pro tips that I wasn’t aware of when I first started dog walking on Wag.
Run your Wag walks like a serious business:
- You can deduct expenses you incur in order to walk dogs with Wag from your taxable income. These mainly include gas for miles driven to walks, and parking fees.
- Referring other walkers and pet parents to the platform can be a great way to scale your income from Wag quickly! If you are interested in becoming a Wag walker by the way, be sure to use this link!
- Part of Wag’s terms and conditions of being a walker require not going “around the middle man” so to speak and going off the Wag app to book walks. So, if you think you might be able to pocket more of the cash from your walks directly by connecting with pet owners on your own, that is a viable option as well which may result in higher profits for you.
7. Overall, Should You Become a Wag Walker?
Here is my verdict, if the following is true for your situation:
- Like the outdoors
- Love man’s best friend (obviously)
- Have a reliable means of transportation
- The weather in your area is reasonably nice
- There is a sufficient volume of Wag dog owners in your area. I have found New York and D.C more promising than Chicago for instance.
Then, you should give using Wag a try. Overall, I found that I genuinely enjoyed my time in pet care with the dogs and getting outside. For me, this was a very rare opportunity to be able to do something that I genuinely would have done even if I wasn’t getting paid to do it.
When you get the chance to get paid to do something you would happily do for free, jump on it!
If the above holds true for you, go ahead and sign up here!