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An Alternative to Boarding: Vacation Homes for Dogs

An Alternative to Boarding: Vacation Homes for Dogs

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  • If the idea of boarding your dog at a kennel while you’re on vacation makes you queasy, and you don’t have a close friend or family member willing to stay in your home with your pet while you’re away, you might want to consider giving your dog a little “vacay” of her own.
  • is a website that connects hosts with dog owners who want to leave their pets in another dog lover’s home while they’re away. The site has a search function and other tools for pet owners to find and contact host homes in their area. It also offers certain peace-of-mind guarantees to dog parents.
  • If you decide to investigate a vacation home for your dog while you’re out of town, our recommendation is to choose carefully, look for hosts with a background in animal care or experienced professional pet sitters, and request a meeting with potential hosts at their home before making a selection.

By Dr. Becker

More and more dog owners these days are reluctant to take vacations that require leaving their fuzzy family members in someone else’s care. The more a pet feels like a member of the family, the less willing the family is to ‘park’ their dog like they park their car in the long-term lot at the airport.

Limited Options for Dog Care for Vacationing Families

Boarding kennels almost seem like cruel and unusual punishment for dogs accustomed to having the run of the house, getting lots of daily exercise, and sleeping in bed at night with their humans. Some pet owners report their dog’s personality seems different after being boarded.

And then there are contagious diseases to consider whenever your dog is sharing an institutional-type facility for several days with strange (unfamiliar) dogs. Bordetella bronchiseptica is called ‘kennel cough’ for a reason. (The bordetella vaccine, by the way, while required by many kennels, grooming shops and other pet care facilities, is ineffective and I don’t recommend it.)

The other side of this coin is that the vast majority of boarding kennels require “up-to-date” vaccinations – often several of them. If you don’t believe in submitting your dog to unnecessary re-vaccinations, your pet won’t be accepted at most boarding facilities anyway.

Hiring a dog walker or pet sitter to stop in twice a day for short visits also isn’t an option for many pet owners. Canines are pack animals and require more human interaction on a daily basis than pet sitters are typically able to provide. Some professional sitters will stay in your home with your dog while you’re away, but the cost can be prohibitive.

What If You Could Leave Your Dog in Another Dog Lover’s Home While You’re Away?

The owners of a new website called have set up a system to bring people willing to provide ‘vacation homes’ (called hosts) for other people’s dogs, and vacationing pet owners together.

According to co-founder Aaron Hirschhorn, who launched the start-up with his wife earlier this year, “We want this to be very different than finding a stranger on Craigslist.”

Toward that end, there are certain guarantees provided through for pet owners, including:

  • Up to $25,000 in insurance coverage for dog emergencies
  • A method for handling last-minute cancellations by hosts
  • Emergency veterinary care if required
  • Photo updates of your dog delivered either by email or via text message
  • 100 percent money-back guarantee if you’re unsatisfied with the host you selected

How It Works invites anyone who is interested to apply for a listing to host ‘vacationing’ dogs in their homes. Hosts set their own prices, availability and other preferences such as what types of dogs they are willing to take.

Dog owners can search for hosts in their area, ask questions of potential hosts, request a meeting, and make reservations and payments directly through the website. The site takes a 5 to 10 percent fee from the host’s earnings depending on the amount of activity he or she generates.

In order to make themselves more appealing to potential dog owner clients, hosts can agree to be phone interviewed by owners, verify their addresses and phone numbers, and list certifications like training in canine CPR. Most hosts post pictures of their home and yard with their profile so dog parents can see the actual environment their pet will be staying in.

Prices vary widely, but the average seems to be $30 to $35 a night. was officially re-launched around the first of March 2012, and some locations around the country already have hundreds of hosts signed up. So if you’re in one of those areas and think you might want to give your pet a little “vacay” while you take your own, it would seem you’ll have plenty of host homes to choose from.

My advice is to choose carefully. Look for someone with a background in animal care or a professional pet sitter who has been doing it for years. If your pet has special medical needs, insure potential hosts can care for him adequately.

Check out the pictures of the host’s home and make sure it feels comfortable to you. I also recommend requesting a meet-n-greet at the host’s home, with your dog, before you make your selection.