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A home away from home for pets

DogVacay.com connects vacationing dog owners with one of the site’s 8,000 professional dogsitters

Posted: January 26, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 26, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Mary and Sue Brown play with, from left, Copper, Chloe and Crush in their Canyon Country home on Thursday. The two have been DogVacay.com hosts since August 2012 and have hosted eight different dogs, some which have come back to their home multiple times.

 

While the owners are away, the dogs will play.

That’s the concept behind DogVacay.com, which offers dog owners an alternative to boarding or pet sitting while traveling.

“My wife and I have two dogs. We’d always had this problem when we traveled, trying to find a place for them to stay. If we put them in a kennel for a week, it would be north of $1,000 and they’d spend 23 hours in a cage,” said DogVacay.com founder and chief executive officer Aaron Hirschhorn. “We were scratching our heads, trying to find a better solution.”

That solution was DogVacay.com. Launched a few years ago, the national online registry now has 8,000 DogVacay.com hosts, who offer pooches a chance to enjoy all the comforts of a home environment.

“We have a mix of professional pet sitters to people who grew up with and love dogs,” Hirschorn said.

“DogVacay.com is focused on quality. Our providers take an online test and we are adding background checks and advanced training.”

Mary Brown and her mother Sue of Canyon Country have been DogVacay.com hosts since August 2012.
Since then, they have opened their home to eight dogs, many of which have been repeat visitors.
Canine houseguests enjoy the run of the place, including a doggy door that opens to a large backyard and couch time in the living room.

“If the dogs sleep in crates or beds at home, those can be brought along for their stay, but we have beds here that they can use,” Mary Brown said. “They usually just hang out wherever we are and sleep in my room at night.”
DogVacay.com hosts set their own rates, which average between $15 and $50 per night.

“You as the pet parent decide what’s best for you. A Chihuahua would probably be OK at a one-bedroom apartment, while a hyper Vizsla might need a bigger house with a yard, which would cost more money,” Hirschhorn said.

Dog owners start the search by entering their zip code in the DogVacay.com host registry to find the best fit for their pooch.

“Our network is so large, we can accommodate unique situations. We recently found a one-story host home with a former vet tech for a 14 year old dog that wasn’t dog-friendly and needed injectable medications,” Hirschhorn said. “We have hosts that specialize in pit bulls or have separation areas for dogs that don’t like other dogs.”

All guest dogs are covered by DogVacay.com insurance at no extra cost for the length of the stay.
“Let’s say, God forbid, there was an injury if a dog jumped off the couch or got stung by a bee. Our insurance covers your dog and the host dogs for any kind of emergency,” Hirschhorn said. “It does not include pre-existing conditions.”

A night at the “Brown Family Doggie Retreat” runs $30 and includes walks in the park. Mary Brown, a former veterinary volunteer, can also dispense oral or injectable medications.

She first discovered DogVacay.com while reading an article about making income while working from home. The idea instantly appealed to her.

“I’ve always loved dogs and wanted to work with them,” Mary Brown said. “I think this is a better alternative to boarding. The dogs are more comfortable in a home environment, with a family and a lot of attention. If they’re staying at home where someone just comes in and feeds them, they sometimes get lonely and won’t eat. ”

The Browns have hosted sibling sets and kept a guest dog for up to two and a half weeks. All guest dogs must get along with the Brown’s rescue dogs Copper, a Spaniel mix, and Chloe, a Chihuahua mix.

“Usually, Chloe and Copper ignore the visitors the first couple days, but by the end of the visit, they love to play with them,” Mary Brown said. “I love having all the dogs here.”

On days when Mary Brown, a full-time student at College of the Canyons, has classes, recently retired Sue Brown fills in.

“We never leave the dogs alone,” Sue Brown said.

The Browns use the proceeds as DogVacay.com hosts to take Copper and Chloe to agility class.

“It’s part hobby, but it’s a little bit of spending money, too. It’s been really fun, an all-around win-win,” Sue Brown said.

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