Rent a Dog?

NOT available for rental

Last week, I ranted about why I dislike puppy-themed corporate promotions, like the Puppy Bowl. I mentioned a new trend: “rent-a-puppy” apps and services. I don’t put these apps in the same category as Puppy Bowl and Uber Puppy, yet I am ambivalent about them.

I had a long email chat about these apps with a dog-loving but dogless friend. He works full time, lives alone, and does not have a dog because he does not feel that he could give the dog the attention and exercise the dog would need and deserve. An admirable, if lonely, choice.

We’d both read about Bark‘N’Borrow, an app (it’s not the only one … Borrow My Doggy is another) that allows dog-owning and dog-craving members to meet up and “rent” or share dogs.

I was going to write about these apps then, but I hadn’t made up my  mind  yet about what to say. I am still on that fence.

I am less ambivalent about Puppies for Rent, which is exactly what it sounds like: a rental agency for homeless puppies. They live in foster homes and can be booked, according to the website, up to a week in advance for rentals, until they are placed in permanent homes. Sounds too much like Uber Puppies for my liking. No thanks.

Why am I ambivalent about the borrow-a-dog apps? On one hand, if you do leave your dog alone a lot, the option of a regular, trusted person taking her out or hanging out with her could be appealing. Could be nice for the dog, too. And certainly I see the appeal for dog-deprived people like my friend. On another hand, it just felt wrong. Renting out your dog? Like a car or a spare bedroom? Weird.

On yet another hand, if you met the right person, it could solve your dog-sitting problems. On the other hand (I get four; we’re talking dogs, after all) what if something happened?

Maybe it’s not so different from hiring a dog walker or dog sitter. I have a great dog sitter whom I met through an online pet-sitter agency. I’d only hire a dog walker who had experience, insurance, and solid references — but it might be possible to find a person through Bark‘N’Borrow who met those criteria.

Media describing these apps talk about how good people feel when they get to interact with puppies and how nice it is for people who can’t have dogs to get to play with them. Sure, that’s all true. But does it justify the stress and potential harm to the puppies? In the case of the puppy rental, I’m pretty sure the answer is no. In the case of a loving owner who carefully selects one or two “borrowers” who might themselves develop strong bonds with the dog, if it is a dog like Cali who loves all humans …? Still not sure.

I have no good reason for my ambivalence other than the uncomfortable feeling that serving as wingman to find dates for my dog feels like crossing a line. Maybe I’m just not ready for the so-called sharing economy to include my family members. What do you think?

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5 thoughts on “Rent a Dog?

  1. I agree with the comment about not considering the dog’s well-being — and the dog’s feelings and experience. My work with several service dog organizations has made me think very hard about the connections dogs build with people and the damage we do when we switch them around to lots of different “primary” carers. That has to be part of the equation when we think about any type of short-term placement. Fostering is better than leaving dogs in tiny runs in a noisy, stressful shelter, but the number of placements should be kept as small as possible.

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    • Shelters would generally considering fostering an ongoing commitment as it frees up shelter space for other dogs, although some shelters may be prepared to plan around a pre-determined time frame. Having said that, I have to wonder at the person who wants a dog “for just a little while” as they are not considering the dog’s feelings at all. Again (re my earlier comments), dogs are not commodities which we can use whenever we feel like it, and return them when we get fed up with them.
      A dog’s mental capacity is generally considered to replicate a 3 yr old child. If we wouldn’t do something to a 3 yr old child, then perhaps we shouldn’t be doing it to a dog?

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      • Yeah, I’m not sure people who want a dog for just a while are taking the dog’s well being into account. I can sort of see a potential owner wanting one for just a while to see if they can handle a dog or not, but still, there are lots of books out there to help them with that decision.

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  2. It is a very complex area for discussion because of the numerous variables however, I would object simply on the basis that (for all the potential positives) we would be treating dogs as a commodity. Not acknowledging them as thinking, feeling and emotional creatures is part of the reason why shelters are at capacity and euthanization statistics are horrible.
    For all those who would argue in favour of “rent-a-pup” etc., I would have to ask whether they would agree to “rent-a-kid” for couples without children? How about “Rent-a Granny” for people without a grandmother? The issue becomes a question of “How far can we go with the whole concept of renting living creatures?” It would seem to me that we have to “draw a line in the sand” at some point and, once that has been agreed, than the line should be drawn at “No!”

    Sadly, some people will do anything for money (puppy mills, dog fighting etc). It should never be disguised as a valid service when, in fact, it is nothing more than blatant exploitation of another creature.

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