By Vanessa Voltolina
Before setting off on that island getaway or action-packed tour, there’s still one big question that all pet parents must consider before saying bon voyage: Who’ll watch your pets?
As the pet population and spending continues to grow, dog owners have more options for vacation care than ever. According to the American Pet Products Association, U.S. pet industry spending reached around $51 billion in 2011. The number of insured pet-sitter business is already at 10K nationally, and from 2010 to 2020 the number of animal care and service workers is expected to grow by 23%. So if your go-to move is usually traditional kennel boarding, it may be time to consider another option — in-home boarding.
In-home boarding works like this: Pet owners search for a registered home nearby, namely through national website services catering to this need. It’s 24-hour care in the hands of trusted professional for an affordable rate.
Most in-home boarding sites are free to browse, and they perform background checks on canine hosts to ensure they are qualified to watch your dog. When a pet owner finds a sitter or host that’s a match, they work with the service to connect with sitter and ensure that the potential dog watcher is a good fit for Fido, based on location, personality and daily routine. Payment is worked out through the service, and the pet parent brings the pooch over to the host’s house before they leave for vacation.
In-home pet boarding services offer dogs individual attention, regular walks, trips to the park, and the opportunity to socialize with other dogs in the household. They can also keep up with your pet’s regular routine — including eating schedules, bathroom breaks, grooming necessities, and daily exercise requirements — so your pooch has less anxiety while you’re away. If your pup isn’t the easiest to handle, you can even opt for in-home pet boarding with a professional trainer!
A number of national websites, such as DogVacay.com and Sleepover Rover, are culling perfect environments for pet owners to search for in-home pet sitters. DogVacay.com, founded by Aaron Hirschhorn and his wife, was born after the two experienced firsthand the stresses of finding trustworthy sitters at affordable rates for their two dogs. “DogVacay’s sitters offer in-home care, and most charge less than $25 per night,” says co-founder and CEO Hirschhorn. Kennels, he notes, can be anywhere from $35-$70 per night, depending on location.
While price is certainly a consideration, how your dog will be cared for while you’re away is paramount. One DogVacay online reviewer (out of thousands of satisfied customers), Ethan C., said that his dogs “...who usually hate boarding of any kind (and make us feel horribly guilty about leaving them) came back exhausted from their play and walks, and looked at us as though we'd taken them away from a romping good time.”
Hirschhorn adds that DogVacay isn’t just about connecting owners and sitters, but also ensuring quality through pet sitter reference checks, reviews, phone interviews, online training, and insurance policies (for both pet sitters and pooches). “During the pet owners’ time away, we also provide them with a daily email updates that include a picture of their dog,” says Hirschhorn. The in-home dog boarding service also provides a no cost, no obligation meet and greet for the pet and potential sitter to see if it will be a good fit.