As I read more into personal finance, one thing kept popping up: the side-hustle. Ideally, this was something you could do in your spare time to earn a little supplemental income. While the idea seemed intriguing, I come home after work exhausted, barely able to conjure up the effort it takes to make dinner let alone take on a side business.
When a friend first told me about Wag!, he was beaming. He had done his first walk with a buddy who used the Uber-like dog-walking app for his primary income. They had just finished walking the cutest lab puppy (he showed me some pictures of course) and explained how easy the app was: you get pinged that there is a dog in your area, you can accept or decline depending on your convenience. I decided to try it out. Warning: lots of dog pictures ahead!
Mr. Mechanic and I have decided not to get a dog in the short-term, since it simply wouldn’t be fair to get a furry companion and then leave it at home for over 8 hours a day while we both work full-time. Besides, having a pet will limit options while we are renting and potentially moving again in the next year. We want to wait until we have a yard or park nearby for the pup to play and for one of us to spend more time at home. However, we are both huge dog people.
My first foray into the dog-walking app world was when I tried to find local dogs to walk while I lived in England. A friend told me about a site called BorrowMyDoggy where you could sign up to walk other peoples’ dogs. Signing up was free, but I ended up never using it because you had to pay in order to contact people. While I love the opportunity to walk and play with dogs, I’d rather not pay for the privilege of doing so! When I got home, I downloaded Wag! which ended up also not being free: there is a charge of $20 for the background check.
Signing up was more annoying than I expected. There is a separate app for Walkers compared to the regular one for dog owners. I noticed that in the reviews of the app lots of people were warning that there aren’t any walks available– that is very true. It will probably be pretty difficult to grab a walk if you don’t live or work in a bigger city. Notably, the buddy who used Wag! for income also lived in the middle of San Diego and found it easy to find walks, so I’m sure it heavily depends on the city.
After covering the fee for the background check, I stayed in the red for nearly six months. I was extremely picky about the walks because I didn’t want to drive, preferring walks within a mile radius. Also, the walks generally get picked up in the first five seconds they are posted, so I had to actually be looking at my phone when the notification came in and immediately assess and accept a walk.
Lastly, I didn’t get the first few walks I tried to book. It turns out that as a dog owner, you can specify that you would rather have a “Preferred Walker,” so with no walks under my belt (and therefore no ratings) it was tough to get started.
One afternoon I was fiddling around with my phone when a walk popped up. I flicked open the app and there was a pit mix looking for a walk as soon as possible. I didn’t have anything going on, so I requested the walk and to my surprise I got the job! I scrambled to get the directions and pull on my shoes to get there as soon as I could. When I arrived, the dog was barking madly, slamming itself against the glass of the front door as I scrambled to get the lock open. Wag! dog owners are sent a free lock box that they can attach to their door with a code sent to the dog walker once the walk is established. For the first five minutes of fumbling, the lock didn’t open. I almost gave up when finally the back compartment opened up and I got the key.
There are notes for each dog left by previous walkers that are extremely helpful. For my first walk, the notes warned me about the dog’s “leash aggression,” and advised walkers to bring their own lead.
It was very good to know because I felt more prepared when the dog tried to drag me along the trail. After the first walk and my first five star rating it was much easier to book walks.
The second dog’s notes mentioned that he loved treats, which was made evident by his girth when I walked in the door. He would only go on a walk if there was a treat in front of his face, otherwise he would plop down and refuse to move. A third dog’s notes told me of his barking and growling when you walk through the door– indeed I thought he might attack by his gnashing, but just like the notes said, as soon as you snapped on the leash and left the apartment, the dog transformed into a well-behaved walker.
All-in-all, I am pleased by this small step towards side- hustling. It’s really not much in terms of income but can cover a couple of small expenses.
I do about 3-5 Wag! walks a month because the availability is quite scarce, especially with my restrictions on time and distance. It’s great to earn money to go on a walk I wanted to take anyway, and I get some much-needed time with friendly dogs.
I hope to pick up other side-hustles that also coincide easily with “work” I would do anyway. It would be great to start picking up writing gigs on the side, or flesh out the dog walking so I am taking a dog out every day after work. With the surge of the gig-economy, apps make it easier than ever to pick up work on the side for supplemental (or maybe even full-time) income.
I have heard about similar services like Rover for dog walking. I’m open to trying it out and see how it compares. So far, Wag! has been a fun way to get some exercise and my dog fix, and I’d recommend it for others depending on your time and schedule. Conclusion: I’m wagging all the way to the bank!