Dogs are man’s best friend. It’s hard to disagree with this statement, as 44 percent of Americans own a dog. Actually, nine in ten Americans say they consider their pet to be a part of their family. So dogs are even more than best friends. No wonder pet owners pay a lot to take care of them. The US pet industry was worth $86 billion in 2017.
All dog owners know that taking care of puppies isn’t always easy and fun. In fact, it can be quite difficult sometimes. Seven in ten Millennials would eagerly take time off to care for a new pet if their employer offered. People take getting a pet seriously — especially getting a dog. And as there are lots of office workers among dog owners, lack of time for walking dogs is a common problem. No matter how busy you are, your dog has its needs. It should be fed and it should be walked on time.
That’s the reason why digital solutions for dog walking have appeared. Previously, dog owners had to find dog walkers ahead of time, as dog walking businesses worked offline. But that wouldn’t help much if a dog owner unexpectedly had to stay late at the office, for example. On-demand dog walking works great for planned and unplanned dog walking services.
There are a few Uber for dog walking apps in the pet care industry already. But not all of them have achieved success. Some inexperienced web and mobile app development companies may focus solely on implementing core features like messaging, maps, and online payments. But viable platforms, of course, value users, so they focus on pet safety to attract dog owners. Safety and trust are the milestones of pet care services. So we’re going to talk about how to develop an on-demand dog walking app that can earn users’ trust.
How dog walking platforms work
First of all, let’s check out how dog walking platforms work. We’ve chosen Rover and Wag! as examples. The purpose of these on-demand dog care services is to connect dog owners with available dog walkers via mobile apps and websites.
Both Rover and Wag! check dog walkers who apply to the platform to ensure they’re reliable. We’re going to talk about that a bit later. Dog owners register on the platform and provide their home address as well as their dog’s size and age.
After registering, dog keepers can find walkers nearby and book walks immediately or on a scheduled basis. If a dog owner knows they usually work late on Tuesdays, for example, they can schedule Tuesday evening walks for their dog on a regular basis. If a dog owner suddenly realizes they’re late for walking their dog, they can immediately schedule a walk.
Live GPS tracking allows users to track their dogs while they’re walking. Dog walkers also share photos and provide updates to dog owners while walking. This helps owners keep track of their pets as they’re being walked.
Of course, dog owners can meet with walkers to get to know each other and to introduce the walkers to their dogs. These first meet-and-greets are important, as dog owners should choose walkers in part depending on a dog’s reaction.
If a dog owner is satisfied with the walker they meet, they can start using their services. Both Rover and Wag! users pay for the walking service online. On average, a 30-minute dog walk costs $15–25 depending on the city. Rover charges walkers a fee of 20%, while Wag! charges 40%.
To ensure both dog walkers and owners that a platform is trustworthy, dog walking platforms also provide online and phone support so dog owners know that the platform will intervene if there are any difficulties.
Features that solve problems of trust and engagement
Obviously, people will choose a platform that’s safe for taking care of their pets. Just saying, “You can entrust your dogs to our walkers” isn’t enough, though. You have to build mechanisms that make your platform safe and credible. Below, we highlight some features that can help to fill the trust gap.
Dog walker background checks
Both people who have experience in dog walking and those who don’t will apply to your platform to earn money. And it’s your platform’s responsibility to check all of those users to make sure that dog owners can trust you.
Dog walkers should provide detailed information when they register. A walker’s profile should include:
- Personal information including a photo and their name, age, and gender. Users can also register via social media so that they aren’t anonymous and so dog owners can check the social media accounts of a potential walker.
- Address. Walkers have to add their addresses so that dog owners can find the nearest walker.
- Phone number and email. Rover, for example, asks walkers to add not only their phone numbers but also phone numbers of emergency contacts.
- Basic info. Dog walkers have to describe themselves. You can also let walkers share video introductions.
- Experience. Users who want to become walkers have to describe their previous experience with dogs and provide certificates if they have any, such as for pet first aid, veterinary school, or dog behavior specialist training.
- Price. Dog walkers should be able to choose the price for their services.
- Schedule. Time is crucial for dog owners, so they should see when walkers are available.
You should also test potential walkers to ensure they can walk dogs without accidents. For those who are new to such a service, provide learning materials. The Wag! platform tests its walkers on dog handling expertise. This involves a quiz on general dog care and safety. For example, there are different types of collars and harnesses. Dog walkers have to be informed about them and pass a test to ensure they can properly secure different collars and harnesses.
One test when applying may not be enough. Encourage walkers on your platform to improve their skills. Share useful materials and ask walkers to pass intermediate tests sometimes. A walker’s profile should show which tests they have passed.
Your platform should also have a support center that can help walkers with any problems and questions . This way both dog owners and dog walkers will know that your platform will get involved and help if something goes wrong while walking.
Updates on walks
To trust your platform, dog owners should be informed about anything that happens with their pets. Implement notifications into mobile apps and send text messages or emails to users of the desktop version to notify them with walk updates. Let’s see what kind of information you can share with dog owners.
- Time. Dog owners should know exactly when the walker comes to their house to take their dog for a walk. It’s also important to know when the walker returns the dog back home. Walkers should use your app to provide the start and stop times.
- Map. Wag! and Rover provide live GPS tracking. That’s how dog owners can check how far their pets went during the walk and see the total distance they covered.
- Pee, poo, food, and water breaks. Well, let’s keep in mind the reason dog owners request walks on your platform. The dog’s needs are the priority. Dog walkers should notify about what dogs do and when during the outing.
- Photos. It’s great if dog owners receive photos of their pets while they’re walking so they can see for themselves that everything is fine with their favorite family members.
- Dog walker’s note. All the notifications above are important, but a note from a walker is also vital. Your platform can provide questions that a walker has to answer, such as “Was the dog gentle?” and “Did the dog meet any other dogs while walking?” Or it can be up to the dog walker what to report after the walk.
For the safety of your dog walking services, it’s better to avoid cash payments. You should implement online payments, which are handy for dog owners as well as dog walkers. Online payments also benefit your on-demand dog walking platform, as it makes taking fees easier.
Read also: Mobile App Payment Gateway Integration
Ratings and reviews
Users should be allowed to provide feedback on each other. Dog owners should rate the service that walkers provide. This is another mechanism for providing a safe platform where dog owners trust the services they book. Community feedback may take several forms such as reviews, ratings, votes, and comments. Dog walkers should also provide reviews and ratings of their walking experience so that all users can trust community feedback.
Advanced mechanisms to ensure dogs’ safety
It’s harder to attract dog owners than walkers to your on-demand platform, of course. And if you don’t have dog owners ready to pay for walking services, dog walkers also won’t join the platform. So you should create a value proposition focused on dog owners.
Wag!, for example, implemented a feature that’s almost like stories on Instagram. Dog walkers share live videos while walking. All users can see these live videos. And that actually fills the trust gap.
[Wag! shows current walks]
You could also let dog owners describe their dogs’ specific needs so they can be sure they’re met. For example, some dogs may need to drink water while walking, while others may get some treat after they come back home and then stay with the lights on after 6pm. Dog walkers should know how to treat each dog, as each is different and special.
Another question that emerges is how do walkers get to the dogs? Wag! offers a free lockbox to its users so walkers can get a house key after they receive the passcode to the locker. Rover, on the other hand, requires a key handoff between walker and dog owner.
Even implementing all of the features we’ve already described, there still can be some risks. That’s why you should offer extra guarantees to your platform users. Rover backs each booked dog walk with the Rover Guarantee. It’s the platform’s commitment to users in the rare instance when something goes wrong during a walk. Rover covers reimbursements up to $1 million per incident.
On-demand dog walking app development may seem quite easy at first sight. But don’t forget that such a platform has to work flawlessly both on mobile devices and desktops. And it’s crucial to implement features that ensure safety, as otherwise it may be hard to attract dog owners to use your platform repeatedly. However, if you succeed in filling the trust gap in your dog walking app, you can create a trustworthy and popular platform with lots of users and scale by providing more pet services, such as by adding dog sitters to your platform. Contact us if you want to discuss developing a prosperous pet care platform.