Erin Colshan needed a dog walker during her regular weekend trips with her husband and didn’t want to hassle with the traditional methods of searching for someone.
She had heard of Wag, a mobile app-based dog-walking service that launched in 2014 in Los Angeles and made its way to Orange County late last year, and thought: What could be easier than a few finger motions on an iPhone?
Wag works like Uber and Lyft, which allow people who need a ride to summon drivers with the push of a button on an app. Dog owners can similarly schedule walks and bathroom breaks for their dogs through Wag, even at a moment’s notice.
Colshan became acquainted with Haleigh Valenta, now her regular dog walker, in November through the app.
For Colshan, who has three dogs, Valenta is the answer to her problems.
“It’s really great for us because we can trust Haleigh and know she’s really great with animals and knows our dogs’ temperaments,” said Colshan, 29, of Orange.
Of course, as with the ride-share companies, people who contact Wag may not always know who they are going to get to walk their dogs, though they have access to bios of Wag walkers through the app. If the clients have more time, they may meet and screen the people to ensure their qualifications.
Colshan lucked out. She has managed to successfully request Haleigh when she needs a walker, and they have built a trusting relationship.
Wag was founded by Joshua Viner, who formerly owned several technology startups, and Jason Meltzer, founder of the L.A.-based dog-walking service SurfDog LA.
Viner said he felt like there was a need for a service like this.
He said that before launching Wag, he was looking into getting a dog, but working full-time made him wonder if he could give the animal the care and attention it needed.
“I looked around to see if there were any services that provided help for busy people with dogs,” he said. “There weren’t really any services around like that, so I thought if I could create a service where, with the push of a button, a professional caregiver would come to my house and help me with my dog by giving him a walk, that would be great.”
As their dogs are being walked, users can follow along on a live GPS map on the app.
Viner insists he hires only the best people with animal-care experience. He said many of the walkers are dog trainers, vet techs and animal shelter volunteers.
Applicants go through a multistep process, including an online application, phone interview, background check, in-person interview and test before they are considered for Wag.
But once accepted, Viner said, the workers, though independent contractors, are treated well and have flexible schedules.
Valenta, 21, who studies criminal justice at Cal State Fullerton, said the flexibility is great for when she needs extra time to study.
“We want to cater to dog walkers and to dog owners,” Viner said. “Both are very important to us. We just have an extreme high value on the quality of life for walkers, and we understand they can be busy. It’s up to the walkers when they want to work and how often they want to work.”
Sam Young, manager for the company’s Orange County and Los Angeles markets, said Orange County is an ideal area for Wag.
“I think what really excites us about the Orange County market is they love their dogs, and it seems like they were begging for a service like this,” he said. “We have a lot of walkers ready to serve here.”
Wag, which is available in the App Store for iPhones, also donates 10 cents per mile walked to the Best Friends Animal Society, a no-kill shelter in Los Angeles.
Walks for one dog are $20 per half-hour and $30 an hour. Add $5 per additional dog. For $10, Wag walkers will simply take a dog outside to relieve himself.
Viner said the goal is to take Wag — which also serves Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Seattle — nationwide.
“We want to make it easier to own a dog and save as many dogs as possible,” said Viner, who owns two golden retrievers.
For Valenta, it’s all fun.
“I just love dogs so much,” said the Fullerton resident. “I get paid to play with them. It’s awesome. They say if you do something you love, you’ll never feel like you’re working a day in your life. That’s how I feel.”