Dog-Sharing Becoming a Popular New Trend for Busy Owners

People share all kinds of things – clothes, recipes, music… but now they’re sharing something else – dogs!

When Kathleen McDonald moved from San Francisco to Toronto to finish her master’s degree, she found she had little time to care for her four year-old Labrador retriever Harrison.  Doggie day care can run upwards of 50 dollars per day, and she didn’t want to have to send Harrison back to California to stay with a friend.  Unsure of what else to do, she turned to the internet.

McDonald placed an ad on Craigslist, calling for help from dog lovers.  She received a few responses, but no one seemed to be a good fit.  She discussed her dilemma with her neighbor, Australian exchange student Davina Rimmer, who agreed to take care of Harrison.  Rimmer put the word out that McDonald still needed some help.

Soon, Harrison’s timeshare dog-group expanded to six.

“Harrison has a strong foundation, but he’s also got a great social life,” McDonald said.

McDonald isn’t alone in her dog-sharing deal.  These kinds of arrangements are becoming more popular with busy North Americans who can’t afford the expense of professional dog-sitting services.  While they’re busy, dog lovers who cannot have their own pet are able to spend time with and care for dogs that might otherwise spend their days lonely and cooped up.

However, McDonald doesn’t leave Harrison with just anybody.  She screens potential sharers as carefully as she would a potential date.

“It’s like a checklist. They’re well groomed so they can take care of themselves and my dog. Check.”

Not everyone feels sharing a dog in this manner is healthy.  Consistency is key for well-behaved pets.  People might want to feed them at odd hours, or have differing opinions on appropriate behavior.  Is hopping on the couch acceptable?  These inconsistencies can cause confusion in dogs, which may lead them to stop listening to their owners.

Shaswar Arahman, a canine behaviorist at the Toronto Humane Society, said, “I have a hard time getting a family on the same page for training a dog the same way, so if it’s a dog that’s shared between three strangers it’s difficult to get to that point for them all to handle the dog properly.”

Arahman said about 80 percent of people who adopt a dog to share will end up returning it to the animal shelter.

But not everyone has this problem.  Rachel Nichol and Jennifer Bachler share 15 month-old English bulldog Elsa.  Nichol is the primary owner, and is responsible for the costs.  But the two read the same dog books, and enforce the same rules.

“A dog is a lot like a child. It needs the comfort of strict rules and limitations,” explained Nichol.

Many prefer to more intimately know who they’re sharing their pet with.  “I wouldn’t do this with just about anybody,” Bachler said.

McDonald feels differently.  “You can just see it in their eyes, you know?” she said.  “Trusting strangers is the definition of making friends.”

3 thoughts on “Dog-Sharing Becoming a Popular New Trend for Busy Owners”

  1. I did something a bit like that with my dog when I was working full time and living alone in a 1 BR condo. A few dog park friends Who lived nearby exchanged keys with me and whenever we needed help, or just for the fun of it, we’d take turns leaving our dogs at each other’s home during the day and the home owner would take them out when she got home so the guest dog’s owner could work late. It worked very well!

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  2. It works for me our family dog (who is essentially mine) still lives at my parents house but comes to stay with me on the weekend. My yard is too small for him to spend all day in while I’m at work. He is very happy with the routine now, he knows that I come and pick him up on Friday afternoons and at around mid afternoon Sunday he looks at me as if to say, ‘I need to back home now’.

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  3. This is a highly beneficial practice for socialization and stimulation. Just like children, most dogs enjoy hanging out at a friend’s house. Play time, adventure, and special attention. My last little buddy would howl with joy when I’d bring him to spend time with his little girlfriend and her awesome mommy, while this mommy got to run errands without the guilt of leaving him at home alone and bored… then we’d do it all over again with his lady-friend at our house. It was a joy. “It takes a village to raise a child”… and sometimes a dog too.

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