When Airbnb launched five years ago, it revolutionized travel. Instead of paying upwards of $200 a night for a decent hotel room in places like New York, San Francisco or Miami, people could rent a spare bedroom or sofa for a fraction of the price from a local who may likely share insider advice on where to go and how to best get there.
Now several services exist that are designed for your dog. That’s right — tens of thousands of people around the country are opening up their homes or offering to sit for your pet at your home.
Here are three online services that provide a great alternative to a kennel stay for your precious pet while you're out of town.
With more than 25,000 approved sitters in 4,300 cities across the United States, Rover will likely generate a well-stocked list of dog sitters in your area. In fact, Rover says it has about 1,000 sitters in each of the 20 largest U.S. cities.
Rover shows people near you who either want your dog to stay at their house or would like to dog sit in your home. You can filter search results according to price range, whether you want your dog to stay in an apartment or house and whether you prefer sitters who have or don’t have pets of their own.
Profiles of dog sitters include self-descriptions and answers to questions such as “How long have you been a dog lover?” and “Do you have reliable transportation in the event of an emergency?” Profiles also include reviews from dog owners and how much sitters charge for services such as dog walking. They also include cancellation policies, which dog sitters set themselves and range from flexible (full refund if cancelled before stay) to strict (full refund only if cancelled more than seven days before a stay).
Once you decide on a dog sitter, it’s just a matter of sending him or her a reservation inquiry that tells the person when you need help, as well as information about your dog and any questions you have. If the dog sitter agrees to watch your pet, you pay for the reservation up front.
While you’re away, dog sitters can upload photos and videos of your dog to the Rover platform via the web or a Rover app for iOS and Android. All stays come with insurance that reimburses up to $2,000 of emergency vet care in excess of $200.
Rover, which has more than 150,000 pet owners enrolled on the site, says fewer than 20 percent of people who apply to be a sitter are approved.
If you can't find a host to your liking with Rover, your next stop should be DogVacay. Since the platform launched a little over a year ago, the company says it has already facilitated hundreds of thousands of overnight stays among its over 10,000 hosts.
Host profiles include a self-description, reviews, dog boarding rates, and descriptions of property type including whether or not the home has an outdoor area, 24/7 supervision and emergency transportation. It also includes the dog sitter’s cancellation policy, which can range from flexible (a full refund if cancelled at least three days before a stay) to strict (no refund after booking).
DogVacay hosts upload daily photo and video updates to the site so that dog owners can see how their dogs are doing. Every stay includes free insurance, which covers $2,000 of emergency vet care for guest dogs after the first $200. The platform also features a concierge service that puts you in touch with groomers, dog walkers and trainers as well as help with last-minute dog sitting needs.
DogVacay’s host vetting process includes an online application, a phone interview and onboarding call, verification of references, online video training and testing and unedited reviews of hosts posted to the site.
DogVacay sells gift certificates, as well.
If sending your dog off to stay with strangers isn’t something you’re comfortable doing, Spotwag might be for you. It uses your social networks to ask friends and followers if they can watch your dog while you’re away.
To help friends know what they’re getting into, you sign in to Spotwag with Facebook to create a profile for your dog where you can upload a photo and indicate your pet's breed, birthday, gender and size as well as whether she or he is spayed or neutered, housetrained and good with children and other pets. You can also write a bio for your dog, brag about any tricks he can do and outline his feeding schedule, special needs and emergency contact information.
Scheduling a request for help is only a matter of completing a simple form that tells friends when you need help and what you’ll give them in return (such as a bottle of wine, money or just your gratitude). The request then posts to your Facebook wall. You can also tweet a link about your request to Twitter.
Spotwag is free, and you can use it to find friends who will watch cats or other creatures, as well.