Maria Miao in her private dog park and backyard, PETme. Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Residents sniffing around for a new dog park to explore might be surprised to find the answer in another person’s backyard. 

Similar to the Airbnb process but for backyards, some people in Guelph and Wellington County have started using a website and app called SniffSpot to rent their backyards as private dog parks to pet owners who might not have access to land or don’t want to take their pets to a traditional dog park.  

Ranging in price from $5 to $15 per dog per hour, there are currently private dog park listings on SniffSpot in Guelph, Guelph/Eramosa, Erin and Puslinch. 

The owner of a fully-fenced, 0.6-acre backyard, Guelph-based financial advisor and self-proclaimed dog lover Maria Miao said she started renting her backyard to pet owners to help people spend more time with their dogs. 

“I don’t really care about the money part…I’m so busy, I work from home but I don’t have a need to spend a lot of time by myself in the backyard,” said Miao. 

Starting her business in January 2020, Miao said most people prefer to come after work or on the weekends and she’s hosted everything from training sessions to dog birthday parties.

“The owners and the dogs really enjoy the privacy here,” said Miao. “I just had a lady who celebrated her dog’s first birthday and … it was just one dog but there were so many people that had come over to celebrate her puppy.”

Moving to Erin from Brampton two years ago, Rose Pike the owner of Gryphy’s Playground and Cookie Jar in Erin said her fenced 0.25-acre yard felt like “a waste of space” without a dog to share it with. 

“I’m not able to have dogs myself now. I don’t have the stamina. I’m 54 and I have arthritis. So walking a dog right now is not something I could do,” said Pike. “But (I thought)…if I can provide a private quiet exercise opportunity for whatever dogs need it, then I’m more than happy to be part of that.” 

Joining SniffSpot in March 2024, Pike said she leapt at the opportunity to rent her backyard- naming the business in honour of her old dog Gryphy who she believes would’ve benefited from using a private dog park, especially when they were based in the city. 

Miao said many of her customers have told her they started looking for a private dog park because they live in apartments, have anxious pets or ones untrained around other dogs so they couldn’t use a normal park. 

“You don’t want to take your dog to the dog park and risk that they’re going to be harmed,” said Pike. “It’s like kids. The parents, the dog owners, once you take (your dog) out, you’re responsible. You’ve just got to be aware of what your animals are doing.” 

While the business started slow because of the pandemic, Miao said she now welcomes between 10 to 20 visitors a month on average, a mixture of new and repeat, from across Wellington County and the GTA but is hoping the word spreads so more people know this is an option. 

“It’s about helping the dogs and also helping people to get out of the house,” said Miao. “A lot of people nowadays live in bachelor apartments and have depression…and I’m just trying to help people so they can get out of their apartment and spend a couple of hours with their dogs and enjoy the sunshine.” 

By Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 14, 2024 at 05:15

This item reprinted with permission from   GuelphToday.com   Guelph, Ontario

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