New options for 'Fido' when you head out of town

Dog owners can now find host families


For Marcus McDaniels, his dog Macy is, quite simply, part of the family. And when he goes on vacation, he wants her to have a good time, too.

"I just don't want her to be locked up in the house or in a kennel. I want her to be able to be free and running around," he explained.

So, McDaniels logged onto DogVacay.com, a service that connects owners with hosts who are willing to open up their homes to furry friends. 

"Our site is really at its core a matchmaking service. We have thousands of hosts, all over the US and Canada. You can schedule and book online, just like a travel site," said Aaron Hirschhorn, founder of DogVacay.com.

DogVacay  is one of many new sites, offering an alternative to a kennel or hiring a dog walker.  The site says hosts treat the dogs like family, and can provide more individual attention in a home environment that may be more comforting for the canines.  And, it typically costs about half the price of a kennel stay.   

"If you have a really large greyhound that needs a lot of exercise, we can find you a host with a giant yard or a ranch," explained Hirschhorn. "Let's say you have a special needs dog that requires twice injectable medications, we have a retired vet tech who can handle that situation for you."

Roxanne Moran is one such host, inviting an average of six to ten pooches into her house every month. 

"I really develop a strong relationship with the dogs," she said.  "I treat them just like I would my own dogs. I love the dogs that come here."

Dog Behaviorist Dr. Terri Bright says pet hosting can be a great option for certain dogs. 

"Some dogs might feel more comfortable in a home setting. They might enjoy the smell of cooking or being around people or lying on the couch," explained Bright, who us Director of Behavior Services with the MSPCA

But Bright does say, others might find it more difficult to adapt to a strange new environment. 

"That might make them nervous, it might effect their ability to eat their normal food, they might become very fearful and hide, they might even show some aggression," she explained.

Bright suggests you ask plenty of questions and set up an initial meet-and-greet before dropping off your dog.

"You want to see a certificate of insurance, you want to speak to other people who have left their pet there, you want to meet everyone in the home, every pet in the home and see them interact with your pet," said Bright.

As for Macy, her owner says she's had no trouble adjusting and loves her new home away from home.

"My dog loves it here. I've never had as much peace of mind," said McDaniels.

Experts also say before you book your dog, make sure the hosting site offers insurance coverage for any vet emergencies that might arise while you're gone.