For most dog owners (like me!), finding a place for your dog to stay while traveling can be a huge pain. You can put your dog in a kennel, but most of the time that means your best friend spends several days cooped up in a cage with only limited time to play. You can board your dog in a high-class puppy hotel, but that can get expensive fast. You could try to find a dog walker to board with, but unless you have your own, finding someone based on positive word-of-mouth can be difficult. Or you could find a friend to dog-sit, but let’s face it — not everyone is as responsible or as caring as you are with your dog.
So in the same way that Airbnb solved the problem of finding a place to stay that isn’t a hotel, and RelayRides connects users with cars that are otherwise going unused, Dog Vacay seeks to help dog owners find hosts to take care of their canines while they’re out of town. Using Dog Vacay, dog owners have the option of boarding their pups with qualified, loving caregivers who live locally — and at pretty reasonable rates.
Launching Thursday in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Dog Vacay has more than 300 hosts already in the two cities, all of which have been verified and pre-vetted. That’s just to get started, though: Like Airbnb, hosts are reviewed by users whose dogs stay with them.
The startup provides insurance and 24/7 phone support, and in exchange takes a service fee from hosts, which typically ranges from 5-10 percent of the booking fee, depending on the number of bookings a host has and the quality of their reviews, among other things. It also charges $1 per dog per day for all bookings through the site.
Dog Vacay is the brainchild of Aaron Hirschorn, former principal of Monitor Ventures, and is part of the growing portfolio of startups being launched by Los Angeles-based incubator Science Inc. “If you talk to people who have dogs, this is the single biggest pain point they have,” he said. But Hirschorn isn’t just the founder — he’s also an avid host, telling me in a phone interview that he and his wife had personally boarded about 100 dogs in the run-up to the public launch.