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Is This New Website A Big Threat To Pet Sitters? [Video]

I was enjoying my morning coffee earlier, as usual, reading through the Google News headlines to see what the day had in store.

One of my custom news sections has all pet sitting industry headlines and stories, and one in particular caught my attention.

It was an article from the Los Angeles Times spotlighting the new start-up, DogVacay.com.

One thing from the article in particular ruffled my feathers and prompted me to make this quick video.

Make sure to watch at minute 1:53 in the video to see exactly what got me going – and tell me if you don’t agree with my stand.

Now It’s Your Turn…

Also, discussing the site Dog Vacay in general, I’d like your thoughts on this:

1) Do you think sites like this are your new big competition?

2) Do you now have to start differentiating yourself from these sites, just like we work hard to separate ourselves from the kennel service or ‘kid next door’?

3) Do you currently offer in-home boarding?

4) If not, will you consider adding it?

What do you make of all this?

(Here is a link to the original Los Angeles Times article.)

Leave your comments below, and as always, thanks for being part of our community.

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About Joshua Cary

Joshua Cary is an all around good guy. He is a filmmaker, web builder and business owner. He is a pet sitting business trainer, coach and instructor and has a passion for helping pet sitters build a strong business through a strong website. Joshua is also the co-founder of the Association of Pet Sitting Excellence (you should really check that out).

  • Michelle Romano

    Joshua — thanks for the heads-up about this new “service.” I personally think it’s a bad idea on many levels. First of all, the client doesn’t know anything about the person taking in the pet! Are they dog-saavy? Who’s to say the host home care giver is at work all day and keeps your pet in a kennel anyway?

    I wonder what the $15 low-end fee gets you? That’s VERY LOW! And what does $85 give you? Will that allow a pet sleeping in bed with the host or what?

    Are these hosts pet first-aid certified?

    I don’t offer in-home boarding because I don’t have the room and that’s my choice.

    I appreciate you bringing this to our attention. Pet sitters UNITE – and don’t frequent this new website! I definitely see problems with this in the future. BAD IDEA!

  • http://twitter.com/whiterockpets Tiffany H Manson

    I don’t see this as any more of a threat than the kid next door.  I offer bonded, insured, NAPPS certified, care.  I KNOW animals – their needs, signs of things not right, and what needs to happen if all is not right.  I make sure potential clients know that I’m an expert.  I service pet PARENTS, I turn down pet OWNERS.  Pet owners will go for this type of arrangement.  I’m not at all concerned about the type of clientele I look for.

    • Joshua Cary

       Hey Tiffany,

      You hit the nail on the head with this one.  It’s simply about establishing ourselves as the expert, and simply as another dog owner who can babysit your dog.  Educating our potential clients with our skills and knowledge is job number one.  Some pet owners may not realize that being able to recognize certain signs in their pet can be the difference between life and death.

  • Jody Smith

    Joshua,
    Thank you for heads up, I assume this is similar to Rover Overnight?

    I am not sure I think of this as a threat to my business, but more something people will use and then come to us after a bad experience.It is weird that they have such a huge price range.

    I take a few clients dogs into my home. One at a time, and I charge anywhere from $65 to $75 for an overnight. I do not have a dog myself and this works out great. I only do this for a select group of customers with smaller dogs.

  • Bella

    Jody – Yes sounds like Rover. There are a few like this here in Az. They don’t ever last… usually the company isn’t structured so they have enough hosts homes bc they don’t build it strong. At least… that is what has happened in Arizona.

    It was tacky for her to knock our industry. Shows that she has no class, confidence, or solid business plan. It doesn’t sound like she has a good outlook on her business yet.

    This isn’t competition any more than the day car or boarding facilities are. Make your business solid so that it is untouchable and you won’t have competition :)

  • http://www.mypetsbuddy.com/ Miranda M.

    I think there are types of clients for each situation–and I think there are more than enough of them to keep us all busy.  My pet sitting clients primarily do not want the hassle of transporting their dogs to and from, and don’t want then exposed to other pets and potential illnesses.  So whether it’s a host home or a boarding kennel, neither would appeal to the clients that want their pets cared for safely in their own home–where their smiling faces are there to welcome them home.

  • http://www.cats90210.com/ Rita Reimers

    Since my business is Cats Only, this type of site won’t affect me. Cats don’t really board well so we don’t offer boarding services anyway, and if we have a client who needs to board for fumigation reasons or something like that, I know a cat boarding facility that I recommend. The really think the fact that this DogVacay site does not say the dog will be the only dog at the home will turn some people off, so I don’t think it will be much competition for private dog boarding. People won’t want to take the chance of their dog getting into a fight and getting hurt by another dog, or worse being exposed to other diseased or parasites that other dogs may be carrying..

  • http://www.comforts-of-home-petsitting-and-services.com/ Crittersitter49

    We have a business like that here.  I have not had contact with them or experienced any direct conflict.  I do not offer home boarding and won`t be adding it.  I was concernced about the same issues in looking at the advertising.  One point I`ve always stressed in my discussions with people about my in-home services, is that I`m only caring for their pets when I`m there>all my attention is ON THEIR PETS, unlike a boarding situation.

  • Vicki H.

    Hi Josh, thanks for bringing this to our attention. It’s sad that new businesses feel the need to differentiate themselves by attacking professional sitters (we can assume Dog Vacay fed that sentiment to the writer of the article). That’s just petty insecurity. When I’m chosing a new service provider, if I see them attacking their competition I move on to the next choice.

    I do some boarding in home, and accept only one family’s dogs at a time. That means I have the time and conditions to give those one or two dogs close attention, integrate them into my own pet family, and allow them to nap wherever they want, get plenty of exercise, and eat their usual diet. I’m not worried about Dog Vacay or any other supposedly cut-rate competition. I offer a premium, highly customized service, and the kind of people who call me aren’t looking for rock-bottom pricing. They’re looking for the best care their pets can get.  I think there’s a niche for everyone, and I’ve never worried about competition of any kind. In fact, I refer lots of clients my own pet sitters can’t handle to other sitters in my area. This philosophy has paid off for me in a thriving business.

    • Joshua Cary

      Great attitude, Vicki!

      I, too, think competition in other pet sitters should be embraced.  And I love that you see first-hand that your potential clients are not looking for the lowest price.

      Has your competition ever returned the favor?  How’s the relationship going?

  • Anonymous

    We offer this service and these days it’s all about price. I’m always having to explain why we are the better alternative: experienced pet care professionals, bonded, insured, etc. etc. I do see this as competition because of the price. I’m always reminding people that you get what you pay for. Unfortunately something bad is going to have to happen before people realize that they should have used professional pet sitter from the beginning!

    • Joshua Cary

       Hey, thanks for stopping by and adding your comment.

      Price will naturally be something that we will always have to work with (just like most other service industries).  Keep this in mind though: The lower price will not always win more business, and will certainly not remain more profitable.

      There is also plenty to be said for the higher priced service appearing the better option in many pet owners’ eyes.  The perception is that if something is priced higher, it must be better.

      Keep looking for those pet owners who understand and appreciate your education and ability and you’ll do great.

  • Blueindia

    The company shows “insurance” in its ad but the terms of service are so confusing, I can’t tell if they actually have the right kind of insurance needed for dog boarding.  It says that Vacay is not liable or responsible for any damages of any kind.  Isn’t that what insurance is all about?  Any client who reads the terms of service will more than likely leave the site to look for a company that has real pet-sitter, boarding, insurance. 

    I don’t think this company or any like it will be a threat to “real” pet sitter companies.  The kind of clients who really care for their animals will look for quality over price.  Like many of the other comments made, I think the general public will see this as a cheap alternative and will look for quality pet sitters who are certified and know what to do in an emergency.  I don’t see this as a threat at all and I believe they will bomb in the end.

    • Joshua Cary

      Wow, very interesting find on the “insurance” front.  I wonder how many pet owners will actually read the terms of service.  I don’t know if they will bomb, per se, because if they have plenty of money to market, they could easily find enough pet owners to use them.

      I do not think they will become the demise of the professional pet sitter as we know it, either!

  • Greeneyedbab

    Hello! I do offer in home boarding and we do let our clients know that we board a few at a time. Our clients are very happy with our services. now to be completely honest I do charge one client $15 per day. But she also does boarding for up to 3 months at a time. I think that this company should not talk about pet sitters in a negative way because those pet sitters work very hard for there money! This company is no more competition than craigslist. I always put my trust that the owners looking for pet care will weed out the low quality and go with affordable, caring, professionals. The way we separate ourselves from the others…simple…come visit our home and meet our pets! We off pick up and drop off at all hours. That way you can always see our environment :)

    • Joshua Cary

       I think offering one of your long term clients a great deal like that is wonderful.  Nothing wrong with long term discounts!

      I find it amusing, though, that sites like this can turn anyone at the drop of the hat into a ‘pet sitter.’  Simply register on the site, and boom, you are a pet sitter?!  Not so sure about that path…

      Keep your trust alive that those who appreciate the professional role of the skilled and trained pet sitter will find you.

  • Maryjo

    We have something similiar called Rovernight and I don’t feel like they are competition. We don’t offer boarding and don’t plan on it in the future.  I wonder how they can insure each pet at different houses and do they check vaccination records for all pets.  Are background checks available for these host sitters?  What if they have kids and one gets bitten? There are so many questions and I see the potential for some bad situations to come out of this service. 
    In my experience clients are more concerned about the quality of care more than price.  They are not shopping around for pet care service to see who will be the cheapest.

    • Joshua Cary

       Hi there Maryjo,

      You pose all the right questions.  How exactly does your Rovernight service work (I love the title!)?

      Yea, it almost seems like the company behind the site is very hands off.  How can they assure all those things?  It almost seems like after the site introduction between pet owner and pet host, they are no longer in the picture – outside of taking a small percentage of each job.

      • Maryjo

        Rovernight is an online community of pet owners that will watch each others pets while they are on vacation at no charge. The only obligation a member has is to care for other dog/s as much as or more than the care that they have had for their own dog. I think it has to be an overnight and not just leaving your pet for the day or anything like that.

          They do have a great title I will agree with that.

        • Joshua Cary

           Very interesting concept.  It’s fascinating that it is a no-profit community of pet owners who can reply on each other for dog care, but the end result is much the same as DogVacay, right?  Non-professional pet sitters watching another owner’s dog.

          • Maryjo

            Yes that is exactly right. 

    • http://twitter.com/hscouple House Sitting Couple

       Hi Josh,

      Actually posted an article on the subject myself ( http://www.thehousesittingcouple.com/2012/03/dogvacay/ ). I don’t see them as competition being honest. I think a house sitter is a much better option as you get home minding and pet minding, rather than just one.

      Still I think it’s a useful service for those who don’t know about house sitters :)

  • houseboundhounds

    I think a lot of pet owners who hire dog walkers, use professional groomers and make a special trip to an all natural dog food store would not feel comfortable using this type of service. I do believe there will be people who will go for this, but not the ideal client I am looking for.  I do offer this service in my business and it is very popular but think the very important issue of being insured would play a huge role in whether some pet owners would go for this.  

    • Joshua Cary

       I totally agree with you on the “not the ideal client” you are looking for comment.  It’s great to know that you can see the difference between the types of clients who would choose a professional pet sitter like you over a service like DogVacay.  Thanks for your comment!

  • Julie Fredrick

    Not a threat at all. There are plenty of dogs to go around! Most of my clients have multiple pets, so getting a pet sitter is actually a very economical alternative. Different people want different things. My business is exploding and it’s hard to keep up with the growth. I am more than happy for certain types to “seek other alternatives” My favorite thing to say to people I can help.

    This is no different than people advertising in-home boarding on Craigs’ List…appeals to a certain client…usually not the same client who will seek out a professional pet sitting company.

    • Joshua Cary

       I couldn’t have said it better myself, Julie :)  “Different people want different things.”

      That’s what it really comes down to.  We can’t serve every pet owner equally.  If our prices are on the high end, we will naturally weed out those who don’t want to spend.  If our prices are on the low end, some will judge the quality of our work on that figure and look elsewhere.

      We can’t make all pet owners our ideal client.

  • Lanette

    Hmmm, very interesting concept.  I live in a rural community about 60 mi. west of Chicago and have never heard of a service that I feel is “commercializing” pet care….instead of “personalizing” it.  I do offer in home boarding and have been finding it a very popular option to kenneling.  In fact, I just recently got licensed through the Illinois Dept. of Ag!  I don’t feel that this kind of company would hinder my business since my growth has been through the power of referrals.  It helps that I have a private lake in my back yard for the dogs to swim in the summer!  LOL 
    I love all of the comments about this topic and to hear how other professional pet sitters are just as passionate as I am about caring for other animals!  I especially love the “pet parent” comment…as opposed to “pet owner”!!

  • Patricia

    I think the pet owners who will take advantage of this are the price shoppers who think they’re getting a better bargain at the level of a “teenager” looking after your dog as a summer job. If they think $10 a night is a bargain, well, you get what you pay for. The host will most likely pack dogs into the house (up to the max before they are then legally considered a kennel) so that they can make some money (come on, how would you make any money on $10 a night?). They will then realize that when their dog gets into a fight with one or two other dogs and gets hurt, the lack of liability insurance will leave the customer out in the cold. Those are the people that I would turn down as a client. I am not the cheapest in this area for a reason – we are highly experienced, tons of certifications and training, special needs experts,etc. – and I will not discount that experience to that level. These people are the “KMart shoppers” and I attract the “Nordstrom shoppers.” Not all pet owners are the same. When they get burned or their pet gets hurt, they will come running to us for our professional experience to care for their pet. I don’t think these models are going to last very long – if you are hosting pets in your home and are that cheap, then you are going to be doing that 24/7 in order to make any money at all.  Not a threat to me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joni.grant.5 Joni Grant

    I don’t see this as competition at all. My clients want their dogs / cats / horses etc. at HOME. We are bonded, insured, do meds, send pics and text updates and never, ever allow clients dogs to mix. So no, most of te folks that I service would not see this as an option.

    • Joshua Cary

      Hi Joni, So great to see you commenting here! Excellent to know that you have your ideal clients all sorted out. Keep up the good work!

  • Terie Hansen

    I also have been offering private boarding since the conception of my company. We take on only 4 dogs at a time, however I am working on hiring sitters who do not have pets of their own. These sitters will board one dog at a time(multiple dogs from the same family only). This service will be to fill the needs of pet parents whos dog(s) don’t play well with others or who have special needs. Currently we do a great deal of business from private boarding clients. I agree with many of the comments below, I am not looking for the price shopping client. My clients already hire us because they expect the level of care that comes with being an educated, licensed & insured professional pet sitter!

    • Joshua Cary

      Hey Terie, Happy to see you comment. Yea, we also do that one-on-one private in home boarding (one dog at a time) and it works great. Clients love that level of service. Hope you launch it successfully!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1042280164 JoAnna LeMaster McIntosh

    I just thought of something else after reading through the posts. I actually posted a question on my personal facebook page asking what people thought was a fair rate for overnight care in their home and explained the benefits. (I have a great relationship with a lot of my clients who are on my personal page, so I knew they would be honest) I had one person (not a client) who totally didn’t get it and I would probably never take them as a client anyway, but everyone else was very supportive of the services I offer. They even made points I had forgotten about. Most said that the prices I charge ($45-$55) were very reasonable, considering the costs for a kennel, extra charges for multiple dogs, bigger rooms or playtime and the vet bills once their pet came home and carpet cleaning. I left that conversation feeling like I actually undercharge. It was a huge eye opener for me. It confirmed that the service I offer my clients is a valued service they can’t get with a kennel or neighbor kid. It also made me feel really good that my clients respect what I do. They know I love their dogs and cats as much as I love my own. They know that when their pets are with me, they are spoiled rotten and returned tired and happy. They know that after a week with me, they aren’t going to be dealing with a dog who won’t eat or who has stomach issues from the stress of the previous week. I think most pet parents will see the value in what we offer, it is just finding those people and educating them on what we actually do. I live in Ohio and most of my clients are from out of the state. Those who have lived here their whole lives don’t seem to understand it as much. That is why I love my facebook page, because they see first hand what I do and how much I care about my pups! ;-)

  • Pawtastic Pet Care

    We are setup on dogvacay.com and some of the other pet sitting services sites however we have yet to pay for their services as we don’t see the value. The customer has to pay, we have to pay what value are they really offering the professional business? I can see personal pet sitters who may lack professional bonding or insurance or marketing skills? We discussed this on our blog as well at http://www.pawtasticmn.com

    Typically people who send us messages through one of those sites will end up searching online for our info and will contact us directly.

    • Joshua Cary

      Great to see you here. I tend to agree with your thoughts. Your site looks good, however, I couldn’t find a link to the blog. I’d love to read your stuff!

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