Wednesday, October 1, 2014

DogVacay Experiences

Almost a year ago, I joined with the idea that I could easily look after an extra dog now and then in our home.  
This adorable gang of Keeshonds (including two that didn't make it into this picture) are regular customers when their owner is out of town.  I go to their house 3 times per day, feeding, playing and giving medications. (One of them is diabetic and gets insulin injections, the elders get pain, incontinence and arthritis meds.)
That was when we just had Dot, who is so easy going she'll accommodate just about anything, including strange dogs taking up residence in our house.  We did have the cat, who slightly complicates matters, but he is easy enough to partition off in his own section of the house.
Chelle joined us for daycare one day while her family had a party and didn't want her to have all the stress of people coming in and out.
 Then we got Taco and I thought I might never even get to have my first Guest Dog because I wasn't sure he would be as accepting of other dogs as Dot is.  But he LOVES other dogs.  Taco is our resident puppy-wearer-outer!  Our Guest Dogs have an awesome, tiring stay because Taco keeps them busy and engaged.  This helps them sleep well at night and be happy and relaxed, not anxious during their stay.
Taco playing the gracious and outgoing host.
I do about 50% boarding in our house and 50% pet care visits to other people's homes to look after their pets there.  There is another DogVacay host in the area that only boards small dogs, so we find most of our clients are in the medium to large category.  Which is just fine with us!
This is what most days with a large, young, playful guest look like.  A pack of dogs, playing happily and wearing each other out.
We have had, for the most part, great experiences with our DogVacay Guests.  I like that the site provides insurance in case an accident happens and I need to take a Guest to the vet.  I like that it is a national site that directs local traffic to me specifically.  We recently had two dogs from Wisconsin stay in our house for daycare while their owner was attending a conference here in town.  There is no way they would have known about my service without the DogVacay website.
Isn't this little guy a doll?  He was one of our Wisconsin visitors.
The Concierge (as they call their customer service) is always easy to get a hold of, either on the phone or through email.  I always get a polite, helpful response.
Doc is just a baby but still awesome!  He has another Flat Coat brother and a Chocolate Lab brother.  I visit them all in their own home when their owner is away.
Still, I am not completely happy with DogVacay's web services for Hosts.  I wish there was a way to customize my site but they offer zero customization options beyond adding pictures.  For example, the largest button on the site (and the one that people most often click on) is the "Make a Reservation" button which is for overnight reservations at the regular rate.  But almost no one wants that, everyone has special requests, circumstances, situations and questions.  So I'd like the largest button to be the one to contact me and ask questions.  Not an option currently on DogVacay.
Yoli, a repeat guest and queen of the head tilt!
I'd also like to be able to send an attachment when I send someone a message through the site but this is not currently possible.  I have a form for them to fill out including their pet's regular daily schedule, complete contact information and a letter for them to sign for the vet authorizing me to request emergency care for their pet.  I have to print this out and get it to them before their pet's stay so they can fill it out and bring it instead of just attaching it to a message.
Tittle lives with the Keeshonds and needs daily medication rubbed into his ear.

There are some other problems with the host dashboard, issues with Custom Quotes (their way of dealing with special requests/situations like daycare, hourly rates, etc.),  and there is no easy way to view all past Vacays in chronological order or get a list of your customers so you can send out a mass email about availability/specials/etc.  For the 15% they take out of every booking, I feel like the site is not quite as useful as it easily could be.
Taffy is an adorable older lab who could pretty much take care of herself if she had thumbs to open the door.
I have met some really fun pets and their people through DogVacay!  And we've had (mostly) fun with all the pets that have stayed with us or that I have gone to visit.  We have only had two what I would call bad stays.  Smaller dogs that just didn't enjoy being away from home (eg. not sleeping on their owner's bed every night).  They were not bad dogs, they were just uncomfortable.  I made suggestions to the owners on things they could do to get them used to being crated and being away from home and they were very receptive.  Show dogs (agility, obedience, conformation) are the BEST guests because they are used to being crated in numerous different locations.

So where do you dogs stay when you're out of town?  Do you think they good guests?  I'd like to think our dogs, being used to crating and travel and such are good guests.  And I'd hope the friend that we board our dogs with would tell me if they weren't!

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