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?