Love dogs? Wag, a Los Angeles-based dog walking startup, matches people like you with dog owners. The service works a lot like Uber, Postmates, or TaskRabbit — when dog owners request a walk on the Wag app, it pairs them with a “Wag walker” nearby. Then the walker shows up, walks the dog, and drops him off safely at home.
A 30-minute stroll costs a pup’s humans $20 ($25 in San Francisco), and an hour costs $30. Wag walkers get paid after every walk, but the company takes a portion of the cut. And because walkers are technically contractors who aren’t employed by Wag, they don’t get taxed initially and have to pay part of their dog-walking income back to the government at the end of the year.
So after Wag and Uncle Sam take their cuts, how do Wag walkers’ earnings compare to what professionals make? We talked to dog walkers to find out.
Wag co-founder and CEO Joshua Viner told BuzzFeed News that “on average, a walker makes around $17.50 per walk.” Private professional walkers, however, can make between $20 and $40 – and, because they don’t need to pay Wag a cut, they keep more of that cash for themselves. Plus, if a professional walker takes on multiple dogs at a time, which they often do, their payment increases with each furry four-legged creature.
Wag only lets you walk one dog at a time (but you can walk additional dogs from the same household for an extra $5 per dog). And while professional dog walkers do have to purchase their own equipment and transportation, Wag replenishes any equipment needed, such as treats and doggie bags, for no additional charge to their walkers.
At a dog park, two professional walkers in California’s Bay Area told us that they can make $30,000 to $80,000 in a year. If a Wag walker was able to do 5 consecutive one-hour walks, 5 days a week, making $17.50 per walk like Wag’s CEO estimated, they would earn about $22,000 annually. A Wag walker would have to take on 5 different dogs in a 5 hour span to make the same amount that some professional dog walkers make in an hour by walking multiple dogs at once – and the Wag walker has to be lucky enough to find dogs within a close radius of each other.
And though you might think anyone could walk dogs for Wag, it’s not the easiest job in the world. You have to have skills. Before you can be an approved walker for Wag, you have to pass an online multiple-choice test that includes questions like, “How can you tell if a dog is nervous to the point of being aggressive?”
Ultimately, Wag is worth it if you are a student or looking for something part time. But if you’re trying to make a living walking dogs, you would probably have to start your own private business.