Updated: Mar 10
The beauty about the age we live in is that we have have so many options that we never had before in human history. We don't have to go to the local mom and pa shop if we get substandard service. We get to vote with our dollar and support the people who we perceive to give us the most value for our money.
As pet parents, we have never seen a better time or more variety than now when it comes to our pet care choices.
You need your dog walked during the afternoon while you are at work.
You do a Google search from your smartphone for "Dog Walkers in Virginia Beach" and are overwhelmed to find 53,700,000 results. Rover, Care, and Wag pop up as well as a whole list of local dog walking companies and solo dog walkers in Virginia Beach. That is a whole LOT of choices. 😲
Where's a dog parent to start??
Don't worry, I've gathered the facts for you and put them into this handy informational resource so you can make an informed decision, based on areas that are most important to you. 🙌🙌
I'm going to break it down by a few types of costs- $-$$$ cost per 30 minute walk, whether they're insured, background checked, experienced, & peace of mind value.
Dog Walker Costs in Virginia Beach
Neighbor or Friend
Typical Cost: $-$$
Insured? Not usually
Background checked? No.
Trained in Pet Care & Safety? Not usually.
Uses IRS Compliant W2 Employees? No employees.
Many of us have head a friend or family member drop by to care for our dog. They like to spend time with pets and sometimes will do it for free or very little money because they just enjoy being around dogs. They have very little if any overhead expenses so they are very budget friendly.
The advantage of this is you actually know the walker personally so the trust is already there.
They'll let you know on occasion how you your pets are doing if you ask but typically just drop by and take your pup for a walk.
While some people are entirely responsible, others aren't and can result in doors being left open, dogs getting lost or hurt, sinks left running, the dog walker getting hurt on your property, or worse. This can add up to liability issues for you and can be quite costly.
They often have other jobs with limited availability and your dog's walks happen around their schedule at their convenience.
Always make sure you completely trust a neighbor or friend and that they are dependable before leaving your furbabies in their care.
On-demand Dog Walker Phone Apps or Hobbyists (Rover, Wag, etc)
Typical Cost: $$
Insured? Debatable. Always ask walker if they carry their own liability insurance (outside of phone app company).
Background checked? Sometimes. If they are, it's usually a minimum of social security number, name, terrorist watchlist search, sex offender list search, criminal database search, and previous address history.
Trained in Pet Care & Safety? Varies by walker.
Uses IRS Compliant W2 Employees? No, independent contractors* only.
These types of dog walkers are actually considered Independent Contractors* in the sense that they work for themselves and are not employed by the third party company (ie Rover or Wag) even though that is where they book or get their clients. This often means they do not carry their own liability insurance.
On Demand Dog Walker Phone apps typically have a user guarantee if something happens, but this is not the same as liability insurance. If you look closely at the terms, you'll find it is in the best interest of the company, with very little consideration for the walker or the client.
You usually get some kind of report to how your pet is doing via the phone app along with a photo of your pet and sometimes GPS data.
They too often have other jobs and walk dogs for extra money. That may mean they have limited availability and your dog's walks usually happen around their schedule at their convenience.
Professional Dog Walking Companies
Typical Cost: $$-$$$
Insured? Yes, and often bonded as well
Background checked? Yes, usually pros will run a more detailed check for social security number trace, name, previous address history, associated counties, national criminal record databases search, terrorist watchlist search, sex offender list search, and sometimes more.
Trained in Pet Care & Safety? Usually certified in Pet First Aid/CPR (but ask the company specifically), trained in pet care, and trained what to do in certain situations if they are a reputable company.
Uses IRS Compliant W2 Employees? Some use employees, and some use independent contractors*
Professional Dog Walkers are usually trained pet specialists that are fully licensed to conduct business in the city of Virginia Beach, carry liability insurance, are often bonded, and sometimes certified in Pet First Aid & CPR.
They provide your dog walks around yours and your dog's schedule. You provide them with a window of time you'd like them to come, and they show up consistently and dependably. Not only can you expect actual customer service from a pro, you can also look forward to timely report cards, if not sent in real time, that include photos of your dog and sometimes GPS data.
Professional companies vary across the board in price often depending on:
Amount of training, knowledge & skill (some do continuing education)
How long they've been in business
If they are a solo walker (meaning they work alone; may not have backup and no labor expenses)
If they are a company with a team of dog walkers to cover each other to ensure availability for customers (companies with teams have added expenses & labor costs) - Whether that company uses IC’s* (it’s cheaper for the company have IC’s than employees) - Whether that company uses W2 Employees (employees come with higher expenses associated with staff training, supplies, liability insurance, worker's comp insurance, unemployment taxes, payroll taxes, & payroll services).
Overhead costs (liability insurance, website, phone, taxes, CPA/Payroll/Tax services, etc)
Reputable professional companies will have positive reviews on Google and a long term social media presence.
Most importantly, they will be prepared to handle the worst of situations because they've been trained what to do and have policies in place for when such occasions should arise. They may have even experienced them before. They know what symptoms to look out for or if something is not right with your pet.
That peace of mind from locally trusted, skilled, and experienced professionals comes at a cost.
* A Note About Independent Contractors:
Rover, Wag, and some Professional Companies use what are called "Independent Contractors."
This means that while you are paying the initial company, the walker who has an agreement with the pet sitting company is not actually employed as the company's staff, and is in actuality its own business entity where that individual pays self employment tax. They should carry their own liability insurance.
Under this IRS classification, the company you're booking with has no control or say over how the dog walker carries out pet care services, how they conduct care, nor can they train or coach them.
This is not to say that the dog walker will not do a good job, but it is something you should know while informing yourself about your decision. (Paw Love Dog Services only hires W2 IRS complying employees- never ICs so that we can always train and do ongoing coaching with our staff to ensure a high level of quality care for our clients).
If this is important to you, ask the dog walking company you are considering whether they use IRS Compliant W2 employees or independent contractors. If they use IC’s, make sure the walker caring for your carries their own liability insurance.
So there you have it. I would suggest writing questions down to ask your prospective pet care provider.
Whomever you end up choosing to walk your beloved furbaby (though I do hope it's us! 🤞) the important thing is to make sure you trust them completely while also keeping in mind... you get what you pay for.
If you are looking to set up dog walking with us, please click here to create your account.