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DogVacay CEO Aaron Hirschhorn Discusses Results of the State of US Pet Travel Survey


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Just in time for peak summer vacation season, DogVacay, the leading online home dog boarding and pet services community, recently released a comprehensive survey of the challenges and stresses that pet owners face during this time. The State of Pet Travel in the US survey was conducted online within the US from May 20-22nd, 2013 and involved 2,341 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 1,423 are pet owners.

The survey produced some surprising results, as well as some more expected outcomes. In all, it seems that whether a pet owner travels with their furry companion or leaves them in the care of someone else, there remains a significant level of stress and guilt in the process, leading to pet owners not fully enjoying their vacations.

Aaron and Rocky (2) (Small)We were able to discuss some interesting results of the survey a bit in an interview with CEO Aaron Hirschhorn:

One fact that I found funny was the amount that people smuggle their pet into a hotel or, even, an airplane. Also, having children in the family made it more likely that the family would try this.  Why do you think having kids makes people more likely to smuggle their pets?

“Having children certainly makes you more creative! Actually, we thought this finding was pretty surprising as well. Although our survey didn’t cover why families smuggled pets, I do know kids love their furry siblings, and pets can keep the kids entertained on the road while taking a little of the burden off parents. Also, there’s cost to consider. If you’re paying for an extra hotel room for the kids or extra plane tickets, families might be trying to cut the cost of paying for their pets’ stay as well.”

You mention the difference between dog and cat owners and the varying amounts that they worry about their pet. Dog owners seem more likely to travel overnight without their dog, but they worry more and feel guilty about having family and friends take care of their dog. On the other hand, cat owners worry less and feel less guilty but also seem less inclined to be apart from their cat. So, what do you think explains the difference?

“I think when it comes to traveling frequency, it might just boil down to the age old dog vs. cat person stereotypes – many people may think of dog lovers as adventurous and cat lovers as a bit more introverted. When we look at the worrying and guilt factor, I think it makes sense. Naturally, dogs require more care than cats by needing daily walks, exercise, bathroom breaks, and more, and owners might feel they are burdening friends or family with this level of care and commitment. Leaving your dog in a kennel or daycare and not knowing whether or not they’re getting the level of attention you would give them can also be a cause for worry. Cats on the other hand are generally more low maintenance creatures, so owners might feel the burden on the caretaker isn’t as demanding.”

The results indicate that pet owners worry about their pets a lot. They worry about the airlines handling their pets or worry when they leave their pets in the care of someone else. Is their worry founded? How often are there problems in such cases?

“As a pet owner myself – our family has two dogs – I do think some amount of worry is founded. Most people see their pets as members of their family and want them to receive the same level of care and attention that they would at home. As for airlines, our survey found that 75% of pet owners don’t trust airlines to care for their pets in cargo or checked baggage! While I can’t speak to how often problems arise, I can say we’ve had customers come to because their pets have had unsatisfactory experiences with both kennels and with travel in general whether it be problems with airlines and/or hotels. “

I found it interesting that pet owners who use kennels tend to travel for longer periods than those who use family or friends. Why do you think this is?

“I think it might go back to our guilt factor, and it might be a chicken and egg situation – not that those who use kennels choose to travel longer, but those that choose to travel longer end up using kennels because of limited alternatives. If a pet owner decides to travel for an extended period of time, they likely do not want to burden their loved ones with caretaking for that long. Therefore, they might choose a kennel for a longer stay.”

What are pet-friendly hotels doing that the pet-friendly airlines are not that explains the difference in satisfaction rates?

“The difference might come down to level of service, and we’ve seen many hotels stepping up their offerings. A trend has emerged in some pet-friendly hotels actually offering luxury packages for their furry guests – everything from spa grooming to room service to personal playtime on the beach! Many travelers who choose to bring Fido along on their trips are indulging in their pup’s vacation experience as well.”

Explain the rationale behind DogVacay. What motivated you to begin this unique service?

“My wife (who was then my fiancée) and I started DogVacay after looking for a better option to kennel boarding for our own dogs. After picking up our two dogs from the kennel they were staying at during our two-week vacation, our dogs were disoriented and clearly didn’t have a good experience. We wanted a better alternative for our upcoming honeymoon trip, when we would have to leave them again. So, we thought, what do dogs really want? Just to have attention and affection, to sit on a lap and to sleep on a couch, really. We actually put up a Yelp listing – Aaron’s Home Dog Boarding! We watched more than 100 dogs in our own home in less than eight months to test out the concept. The money we made proved our concept and even wound up paying for our wedding and part of that honeymoon! We soon after officially launched to gather a community of hosts like us across the country.”

How do you choose the hosts and ensure they would be a good temporary home for pets?

“Finding great, qualified hosts is extremely important to us. We have a five step vetting process, from the potential host filling out a profile with their qualifications, photos of their home and more to a phone interview with a member of our screening team of dog experts. Once they are approved, they may begin hosting dogs. Only one third of applicants receive approval, making the process is very thorough. On an ongoing basis, we also have a ratings system on the community’s website, so customers may rank their hosts and leave comments for future customers.”

Have you had any problems and what are the satisfaction rates with your own program?

“Overall, both our customers and hosts have been very satisfied with their DogVacay experience, we even have plenty of dogs who are repeat customers. Pet parents have left tens of thousands of reviews, and the average host rating is 4.97 out of 5 stars. Our concierge team closely monitors our community, and pet parents can easily send feedback. The hosts’ businesses rely on their reviews and ratings, so anything less than top-notch service could compromise their businesses. Because we thoroughly vet our applicants, our community is truly composed of dog lovers doing what they love, so customer satisfaction is always high. “ 

Any other comments or tips for traveling with or without pets?

“The most important tip I can give is to make sure you’re leaving your pet with a person they will be comfortable with to ensure they have the most enjoyable pet-cation possible. At, we offer complimentary “Meet & Greets” with potential hosts, so you can meet that person before your trip, and your dogs (if the host has one, too) can interact as well. If you’re bringing Fido along, offers a comprehensive list of pet-friendly airlines and their corresponding policies and surcharges. has a great database of pet-friendly hotels across the country. “


You can read more about the survey on the State of Pet Travel in the US here: DogVacay Press Release

If you are interested in a unique home option in place of a kennel or in place of requesting family or friends’ help, you can check out DogVacay‘s options in your area.