I heard today that Rover.com is worth nearly $1 billion, and I felt compelled to share what it’s really like using Rover as a helicopter-dog-parent (helicopter parent — not a helicopter dog), and shed some light on the business practices that made them so rich and successful.
My dog, Moose, is part of my family, but sometimes it feels like he’s a piece of my ❤️. More specifically, he’s the piece of my heart with amazing athletic abilities, a language barrier, and poor judgement. When I travel without him, I want to ensure his safety, security, and basic needs — food, water, and bathroom breaks. Super extra bonus 🎉 if you can entertain or challenge him, clean up his eye-boogers, or even just peel your eyes away from your phone for a few seconds — which, to my surprise, apparently isn’t necessary when satisfying my dog’s basic needs.
Over the past few years, I’ve used 3 different Rover sitters for about 20 “drop-ins” and over 30 nights of “house sitting”, ranging from an overnight trip to a two-week vacation abroad. My experiences have mostly ranged from underwhelming to disturbing. Below, I’ll share some details about these experiences, how Rover holds sitters accountable (they don’t), and whether you can trust reviews on Rover (you can’t).
Top 10 Rover Sitter Fails
When I look for a sitter on Rover, I read dozens of sitter profiles and hundreds of reviews from past clients. I narrow it down to some top choices and invite them for a meet & greet (a.k.a. interview), with the goal of finding someone who lives near my neighborhood, has good communication skills, clear thinking, and a history of animal care. I finally find the perfect sitter, and I pay them at the upper-end of the price spectrum, in hope that I will get a more professional level of care. Despite all of my efforts, these are the biggest mishaps to-date:
10. Spent most of the drop-in visit looking at their phone.
9. Didn’t notice they were ripping up the grass with the way they were playing.
8. Forgot to fill the water bowl — it was completely dry when I got home.
7. Brought their own “treats” — who knows what they were.
6. Burned incense in our kitchen sink, leaving the house smelling awful for over a week — imagine my dog’s experience.
5. Forgot to lock the back door.
4. Finished a whole bottle of whiskey and all of my beer. I offered it, but I didn’t expect them to drink all of it. They did replace the whiskey — but I’m more concerned about their ability to perform their job.
3. Forgot to lock the lockbox — anyone could have used the keys to get into the house, or taken them.
2. Left my dog at home without a bathroom break for 9 hours. I don’t expect other family members to go without a bathroom break for 8 hours, so I don’t expect him to hold it for 8 hours either. After I brought it up with the sitter, it didn’t happen again, and I believe the sitter that it was an honest mistake — they were busy at work and lost their sense of time.
1. Intentionally deceived me about sleeping overnight. I was going out of town, and they agreed to “house sit” and stay overnight at the house. When I left town, I told them that the guest bed had clean sheets. When they were done house-sitting, they took the sheets off the bed and put them in the washer for me — how thoughtful! Later, I was checking the outdoor security cameras, and noticed that they had left every night around 10–11pm, and returned every morning around 7–9am. The betrayal! I had even declared recently to a friend that I didn’t want Moose to ever spend a night alone 😭.
How Rover holds sitters accountable. (They don’t.)
Rover.com does not provide Pet Care Services. … We make no representations or warranties about the quality of boarding, pet sitting, dog walking, house sitting, transportation, or other services provided by Service Providers (“Pet Care Services”), or about your interactions and dealings with users.
From the Rover Terms of Service, section 2.2. And in section 9.8, about Rover’s “Resolution Center”, they say:
…both parties agree that they are responsible for performing their agreements, and that Rover is not party to any such agreement and has no obligation to perform any term thereof (except to facilitate payments in accordance with this Section 9).
In other words, everything is based on your “agreement” with your sitter. Better get that in writing! On Rover’s page dedicated to explaining house sitting, Rover avoids defining the concept of “house sitting” with the precision of a laser cutter. The closest you get to a definition is that your dog “stays at your home”, and that — whatever it is — it happens “overnight”. I don’t think this page could be more maliciously designed to create a sense of trust while preserving a complete lack of accountability.
Whether you can trust reviews on Rover. (You can’t.)
Based on all of my disappointing experiences on Rover, you must think that I got all my money back, and that these sitters were just a few bad apples, or these weren’t their brightest moments. I’m absolutely certain that there are some extremely professional sitters on Rover — or that my expectations are too high — it’s “just a dog”, right?
Plus, this is what sitter reviews are for! So that I can help educate future pet parents about my experiences. Right??
Sadly — wrong. I have never left a negative review on Rover, or submitted a request to Rover’s Resolution Center. Let me explain:
- These Rover sitters have already demonstrated a lack of clear thinking, a lack of responsibility, or even an act of deception.
- These sitters depend on Rover for part of their income and livelihood.
- A bad review could ruin their career as a Rover sitter — damaging this potential source of income and livelihood.
- These people know where I live, have been inside my home, have a relationship with my dog, and know sensitive details about my security, WiFi passwords, etc.
Clearly, there is far greater risk than benefit in writing a negative review for a Rover sitter. It appears that the Rover review system is another part of the Rover service designed to create a feeling of trust rather than true accountability. This is a challenging problem for them to solve, and I don’t even think that anonymous reviews would solve it — it would be difficult to give any details without compromising my identity. Ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber have a similar exchange of sensitive personal information, such as my name and where I live or work — maybe they would be a good example to follow.
Instead, I’ll just look for a new sitter. Again. There are plenty more people waiting to “get paid to play with dogs.”