Dog Sharing Is A Fascinating New Craze – But Is It A Good One? Let’s Find Out!
The sharing economy has traveled far past the stage when it was a charming fad.
Today, we share vehicles, meals, homes, lawn equipment and even dogs.
Yes, dog-sharing is a real thing nowadays. f you worry that you don’t have the wherewithal to combine dog ownership with a full-time job, you can collaborate with another dog lover in similar circumstances in the new dog sharing economy.
But if someone says to you, “Hey, do you want to share my dog?” what do they really mean?
In this article, we take a close look at dog sharing to help you decide if this new trend is one you want to jump on.
What Is Dog Sharing?
Suppose you have a high-energy Labrador retriever. You have to be out of the home for several hours at a time on certain days. During these time periods, you have three options:
- Let your Lab stay home alone and destroy the couch yet again.
- Take your Lab to doggy day care (for a fee).
- Get involved in this new trend called dog sharing, where you find others free of charge who want to care for your dog when you can’t for the joy of spending time with a dog.
Which option do you think you would choose?
Dog Sharing: Who Pays for What?
As with any other aspect of the new sharing economy, dog sharing can be negotiable between individual participants.
However, as a general rule of thumb, the dog’s actual owner pays for everything the dog needs, including preventative and treatment veterinary visits, food, treats, toys, bedding, training, crates, etc.
But in many cases, the dog sharer will spring for food, treats, toys and bedding when the dog stays with them. You can work out an arrangement that is good for you both.
Dog Sharing: Good for You Versus Good for the Dog
What is really interesting about dog sharing versus other types of activities that fall under the umbrella of the sharing economy is that what is being shared is a conscious, living being, not a bicycle or a lawn mower.
This raises an important question: Is the experience of being shared as positive for your pooch as it is for you and her sharing carers? How can you know for sure?
The answer to this question depends quite a bit on context. For instance, let’s take the high-energy Labrador from the previous section. Now let’s add a new baby to your family. Suddenly, you just don’t have as much time to play with, cuddle, groom and walk your dog. You are thinking it may be time to relinquish your pooch.
Dog sharing can keep your dog in your family (and out of a dog shelter) in a productive way that also provides benefits for the individuals who are helping to take care of your dog.
You get relief from the endless to-do list. They get the joy, and well-documented, mood-lifting, stress-relieving benefits of spending time with a dog.
Dog sharing can also provide your dog with a known, trusted temporary “family” and “home” during times when you have to be away for a few days or longer. When compared with pet sitting, dog sharing can in theory provide more stability than using a pool of pet sitters or kennels with rotating carers.
When Dog Sharing Isn’t Advisable
While dog sharing may not always be positive, this can sometimes relate back to your particular dog’s individual personality.
Some dogs are simply more sensitive to any kind of change, including change of career and change of environment, than others. This is something you can always work with but not necessarily something you can cure.
In certain circumstances, it may be best to delay or opt out of dog sharing. If you have a very young puppy or an elderly dog, dog sharing may be too disruptive in terms of training needs or special care needs.
Also, if your dog tends to be quite noisy–barking, howling–you may need to work harder to find a dog-sharing situation where the extra occasional noise won’t make waves in the dog sharer’s community.
Dog Sharing for Dogs with Separation Anxiety
Could dog sharing work to help a dog with separation anxiety? This is the question more dog owners are asking today.
Let’s take another example to look at this question. In this example, we have the same high-energy Labrador retriever. But now let’s give her separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis, but there are three main issues that seem to stay fairly constant from case to case.
One is that the dog in question is anxious because of a separation from the person or people he is most closely bonded with: You.
Two is that distraction (treats, toys) can help ease that critical mass moment of anxiety when you leave.
Three is that separation anxiety is treatable through a process of desensitization (mixing up “I’m leaving” cues and not rewarding the dog with attention for anxious behaviors).
So where does dog sharing fit in with helping a dog to overcome separation anxiety?
According to veterinarians and canine behaviorists, dog sharing can address all three issues because your dog gains deeper socialization skills by bonding with other caring humans besides you and also receives a valuable distraction/desensitization at the time of your departure (the presence of the dog sharing human carer).
Here, the general consensus to date is that dog sharing can be valuable for helping puppies cope with separation anxiety. In this case, dog sharing isn’t unlike doggy day care or daytime pet walkers or pet sitters in its impact on your “home alone” dog.
Alternatives to Dog Sharing
Are there other options you can pursue if dog sharing isn’t formally available in your area or just isn’t something you feel comfortable doing?
There sure are. Here are the four most popular alternatives to dog sharing.
Having a dog walker come to your home to let your pup out to relieve himself, get some fresh air and exercise, and enjoy some human contact can be a great way to break up your dog’s long day when you are gone.
Doggy Day Care
Doggy day care can be pricey in its own right, but it sure can beat having to replace the couch every few weeks.
Reputable doggy day care businesses will maintain their own insurance, licensing and bonding of employees, “well dog” policies, and other protections that benefit both them and you.
One of the most popular is pet sitting, of course. This is more personal than boarding your dog at a kennel while you are gone, and the ratio of humans to dogs is generally in your dog’s favor.
You can choose to bring a pet sitter into your home or find a sitter who will board your dog at their home.
Bring Your Dog
When you have a trip planned, it can be worth researching pet sitting and hosting services at your destination.
You can opt for using a home-sharing service to find a pet-friendly home to stay in together or use a host family where your dog can stay.
Tips for Productive Dog Sharing
Safety–for you and for your dog–is usually the number one concern among those new to the dog sharing economy.
How can you find someone you can trust to share your dog with? How can you determine who is trustworthy in advance?
Here, there are a few approaches that work better, including using some of the newer dog sharing apps and sites that have sprung up over the last few years.
These sites often provide their own in-house vetting, insurance, background checks and secure payment options.
You can read reviews posted for each prospective share partner and even arrange an advance meet-and-greet.
Be sure to create a “doggie bag” of your dog’s favorite things–bedding, blankets, food, treats, toys and even something special that smells strongly of you–for his time away.
Do you plan to give dog sharing a try?
What do you think of the new dog sharing economy?
Please drop us a comment to share your story.
Resources and Further Reading:
Graham, L., 2015, “Millennials Drive Demand for Pet Sharing Services,” CNBC
Mendl, M., et al., 2010, “Dogs Showing Separation-Related Behaviour Exhibit a ‘Pessimistic’ Cognitive Bias,” ScienceDirect
Panter, L., 2017, “Does Your Dog Have Separation Anxiety?” Arun Veterinary Group
Robinson, L. and Segal, J., PhD, et al., 2018, “Mood Boosting Power of Dogs: How Caring for a Dog Helps You Cope with Depression, Anxiety and Stress,” Help Guide
Villa, N., 2017, “We Must Ensure Everyone Has Fair Access to the Sharing Economy,” World Economic Forum
Wisely, R., 2018, “Dog Sharing: Here’s How This Growing Sharing-Economy Trend Works,” USA Today