A California company is expanding it's dog vacation-care business into Halifax.
DogVacay hooks up dog owners with vetted and insured dog lovers in cities across Canada and the United States offering home boarding while you're on vacation.
Aaron Hirschhorn, founder and CEO of the Santa Monica-based business said DogVacay only expanded into Canada a few months ago and already has 500 hosts signed up.
So far, three hosts have been approved in Nova Scotia, one each in Halifax, Chester and New Glasgow.
Hirschhorn said the idea for the business came about out of a personal need to find a place to house his dogs Rocky and Rambo when he and his wife Karine went on vacation.
He traditional boarding is expensive, and dogs are usually caged for most of their stay. The couple believed there had to be a better option.
"So, we opened up our own home and called it Aaron's Home Dog Boarding. We put up a listing on Yelp and started getting calls," Hirschhorn said
In just eight months, the Hirschhorns had taken in over 100 dogs, and the business was born.
Launched last year, DogVacay has 8,000 hosts in the U.S. Hirschhorn said their vision is to make dog care safe and easy for owners who don't want their dog spending days in a kennel while they're on vacation.
But not just anyone can be a DogVacay host.
Hirschhorn said applicants are subject to "extensive quality control" that includes phone interviews, reference and background checks and training.
"We only accept about one-third of the applications we receive," he said. "You have to have experience caring for dogs, and you have to be doing this for the right reasons."
Halifax host Linda Smilestone said when she learned about DogVacay she knew it was a service she and her partner Shawn could offer other dog owners.
Having years of combined experience caring for dogs - they currently have two senior dogs of their own, Caine and Rudy - Smilestone felt they had a lot to offer.
Living near the Halifax Common, Smilestone said her four-legged guests would get lots of walks and love.
"We are a drop-off centre for all of my friends' dogs now," she said. "They sleep on the bed with us or with the other animals."
Hirschhorn said hosts come in all walks of life including retired dog lovers, stay-at-home moms and professionals who can't commit to a full-time dog, but want to care for dogs on a short-term basis.
Hosts are provided with comprehensive insurance through DogVacay that covers everything from emergency medical care to any damage that might occur, as well as 24/7 customer support.
To access DogVacay services, dog owners can sign into the website free of charge to browse the various hosts listed and what they have to offer.
If you like what you see, you can email the host to make a reservation or to schedule a meet and greet in advance.
"We really encourage that. It's a chance for you to meet the person and get a sense of how they interact with your dog, and see their home," Hirschhorn said.
Hosts create their own profiles, set their own rates and decide which dogs to take and when.
DogVacay handles the boarding payments electronically and takes 15 per cent of the booking. The boarding price includes daily photos emailed to you of your dog while you're away. They also offer a 100 per cent money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied.
Hirschhorn said they are looking for hosts in the Halifax area and throughout Nova Scotia.
"DogVacay is a great opportunity to add income doing something that you love, while also creating a great experience for local dogs and their guardians," he said.
"With nearly 35 per cent of Canadian households owning nearly six million dogs, hosts like Linda offer a personal and affordable alternative to kennels."
To learn more about becoming a host or to find a host, go to http://dogvacay.com.