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In Seattle, it can be harder to become a dog walker than a babysitter

(Photo by Joseph Pearson, Unsplash)

There are plenty of dog lovers out there who, for whatever reason, can’t have a dog and KIRO Nights talk show host Zak Burns is one of them. So he decided to fill the dog sized hole in his heart by taking on a side hustle as a dog walker and sitter through

“Rover is the nation’s largest network of pet sitters and dog walkers,” explained Rover’s director of on-demand dog walking operations, Jenna White. “We allow pet owners to go on our website or use our app to find a five star sitter anytime they need someone to take care of their pet.”

So Burns went online to start the approval process.

“First time that I contacted Rover about being a dog walker was in September of 2017,” he said. “I got approved to be a dog sitter about three months later. What I really wanted to do was be a dog walker. That process took, in total, eight months. Eight months for me to get approved.”

Burns wasn’t annoyed or trying to bash Rover, but he was pretty amused that the approval process to be a dog walker was so long and arduous.

“Bryan, one of the guys in management here, sent me an article from the ‘Wall Street Journal’ that said it’s actually harder to get approved by Rover…less people get approved than people who apply to Ivy League universities,” Burns said.

So as the months went by, and Burns waited to be approved, he decided to conduct an experiment.

“This is how much more thorough Rover is for pets than some sites are for babysitting. Just to compare the two, I decided to apply to a babysitting site. It took six days. Six days to be approved and I spoke to no human beings whatsoever to get approved to watch human kids.”

White said Burn’s eight month wait was highly unusual. But Rover is the first to admit that becoming a Rover dog walker is a very thorough process.

“Dogs are family,” White said. “You see that in Seattle and around the world. So at Rover we take safety really seriously. You most likely won’t meet the dog or the owner beforehand. So we really want to make sure to set the walker up for success when they go to meet that dog.”

“Especially because with the dog walking, I’m going into people’s apartments without even meeting them,” added Burns. “So they are putting a lot of faith into Rover’s process. I know if I was going to let someone into my house, I’d want to make certain this was a decent person.”

So let’s talk about the process of approval. First, the prospective dog walker creates an online account. There are videos to watch and quizzes to take. Then there’s a phone interview and a background check.

“After that we meet you in person,” said White. “That’s done for every single on-demand walker across the country.”

There’s also an in-person harness test. A Rover employee watches each applicant put the five most commonly used harnesses on a stuffed dog.

“I failed the harness test!” laughed Burns. “I got two wrong out of five. Had to go back, retake the harness test, finally passed.”

“What we find is almost a quarter of them are not ready to properly put on a harness when we meet them in person for the first time,” said White. “So we do allow a second take but after that you are not currently eligible to become a walker on Rover.”

Lucky for Burns, he passed the second round and was approved to be a walker and a sitter.

“Only about one in five [people] who start the process to become a sitter end up going live on our platform,” said White.

While Burns is enjoying his dog walks, he has retired as a dog sitter.

“I had a dog that was with me for four days,” he said. “It was a one year old Husky and it did not come as described. The dog exclusively pooped inside the house, despite that I was taking him on hour long walks. As soon as it would get back [in the house] it would look at me, bark and then just poop. My laptop was sitting on the floor open and it pooped on the keyboard. The worst one square foot in the entire apartment to poop and these were colossal, colossal poops. Like, you would weigh them in terms of pounds.”

In the Seattle area, about 80,000 people are signed up on Rover, either as clients or dog walkers.

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