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Try-It-Out Tuesday: Make (and Save) Money With DogVacay

A little over a year ago, Aaron Hirschhorn and his wife left their two dogs, Rocky and Rambo, at a kennel in Philadelphia while they went out of town. Upon their return, they were handed not just a $1,400 bill, but a Rocky who — reeling from a bad experience — hid under a desk for two straight days.

Scarred by the experience, Hirschhorn and his wife started opening their own home to dogs so that other owners would have an alternative to the kennel. What started as a small side project with a simple Yelp listing soon exploded, and Hirschhorn calculated that he had netted $30,000 in a year’s worth of boarding dogs at his home. Soon thereafter, DogVacay.com was born.

Screen shot 2013-06-11 at 8.55.39 AM“We created this platform [so] you can browse the perfect host for you and your schedule and book online like a travel site,” he said. “There’s no overhead, and it’s half the price of kennel.”

DogVacay.com works for two separate audiences: for those looking to board their dog in a real home rather than a kennel), and those looking to make extra money by hosting a four-legged friend. For the former group, there’s a tab on the site in which you can search for open homes by zipcode and date; you can then narrow the search results by desired price, type of property (house, ranch, etc.), and whether or not you want a host with his or her own dogs. For those looking to be a DogVacay host, you first have to pass the application process.

“We’re not looking for people just trying to make a quick buck. [We want] people who really love dogs and doing this for the right reasons,” Hirschhorn said.

When Jay Koblenz of Orange County, California joined DogVacay as a host last year, his own dog had recently passed away. He and his wife were debating whether or not to get another dog, and decided to test the waters by dog-sitting.

“Once we got a couple of customers on the site, and referrals, it started getting really busy. Now we almost never have a day without a dog, and we often have to turn customers away — especially on holiday weekends,” Koblenz said. “I told my wife I wanted a second dog… I feel like I’ve now gotten 100 dogs!”

While the average DogVacay host makes about $1,000 per month, Koblenz estimates he and his wife make $2,000 through the site — he charges $30 per night and rarely has a day in which his isn’t boarding at least one dog, including weekdays. DogVacay hosts can set their own rates, so aspiring hosts in cities with a greater demand (think: New York City) can charge a nightly rate of $50 or more.

DogVacay will take a 15 percent service fee, part of which goes towards an insurance policy that covers all DogVacay hosts. The remaining balance is paid to the hosts via PayPal.

“By and large we’ve done surveys and I think money tends to be the secondary motivation,” Hirschhorn said. “People love doing it and the fact that they can make money doing something they love with no investment… that’s the real draw.”

Koblenz agrees with this.

“We set our rate at $30 a night. We’ve considered going higher, but… we wouldn’t want to raise rates and scare away potential customers. I’d rather be busier with the dogs,” he said. “I do this because I really like having dogs around. That’s a priority.”

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