Posted on 4th Feb, 2015: Planning a vacation is always a lot of fun, unless you are a pet parent. The worry and anxiety about where your dogs will be and how they’d feel without you keeps you from not only enjoying the planning bit, but also when you actually go on your vacation.
But what if your dog could go on a vacation too while you’re away? An Indian startup called Waggle makes that possible. Modeled on a popular start-up in the US called Dogvacay, Waggle allows you to find the perfect host for your dog while you’re away. All of these hosts are animal lovers and either have pets of their own or have had pets in the past. Currently located in six cities (Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Noida) in the country, Waggle helps you find a family that will care for your dog as much as you do and shower upon them all the attention and love they deserve.
Started by a couple (Arjun & Samira, Arjun is a software engineer and Samira is an Economics graduate - both working full time on Waggle) with a gorgeous golden retriever named Zoe, Waggle came into being because of their own necessity and paranoia. A lack of suitable boarding options to leave their dog when they traveled turned out to be a grueling experience for both of them. The options available were either to leave their dog Zoe at a kennel or to take her with them when they traveled, which wasn’t always possible. That’s when they decided to start this online platform called Waggle. Over an email interview with Gingertail Samira says, “Waggle was started in Feb 2013 when we launched our website. We started off with only 4 hosts in Bangalore. Since the concept was brand new, it took us a while to get hosts signed up. We also had a ton of technical issues and the processes were incomplete – no payment gateways, etc. Today, we have over 100 hosts across the major cities in India and our processes are more streamlined making it easier for customers to find the perfect home for their puppy.”
Once you reach the site (www.waggle.in), you can search for hosts that are close to your house, read about them (their space and what the stay includes) and their reviews and look at some of the pictures they’ve posted. Once satisfied, send them a request with your dates. Once the host accepts the request, confirm the booking on Waggle. Lead time is roughly a week, because the hosts are families just like yours who are doing it for the love of dogs. They may also have regular day jobs or may be traveling and may not be able to immediately respond to your request.
All the hosts listed on Waggle are verified by their highly skilled team of experts to ensure that they are genuine dog lovers with sufficient experience in taking care of dogs. That gives you the liberty to travel in peace knowing that your dog is safe and having a great vacation. To confirm a reservation, you must pay the total charges for the reservation through Waggle. Waggle will periodically settle the host charges directly with each host after the reservation has ended. The cost per day ranges from Rs. 250 to Rs. 900 (depending on whether it’s an apartment or a house), mentioned next to each listing on the website.
While browsing through their website, we found some really interesting descriptions posted by the hosts including, ‘Welcome to Mac’s world where you will find a joyful day filled of fun and treat. We stay in an apartment which is located near Sarjapur Road. We are office goers and my brother is a college student. He is a good canine trainer too. All of us are passionate about pets. My furry boy Mac loves to play all day. We will love our guest equally and Mac will love them even more.’
These descriptions make it clear that these hosts aren’t in it for the money. In fact, most of them insist that they meet you and especially your dogs before they are ready to host them. If you miss them too much, you may even request your host to send you pictures everyday or have a chat with you to see how your pooches are doing. The users so far have been extremely supportive of the venture, shares Samira over e-mail, “A large percentage of our clients are repeat customers as once you have boarded your dog using Waggle, you wouldn’t want to board your dog in the conventional places. We have hardly marketed Waggle – all our efforts have been concentrated on organic growth through SEO and Social Media. This still remains to be the strongest customer acquisition channel for us.”
Even if you are not tech savvy, you can still find a host for your dog, says Samira, “There have been some cases when people have been unwilling to follow the process online. If it’s a genuine issue, like in the case of elderly people, we can even help them out with finding a home for their dogs.” Waggle strongly recommends all hosts to insist on a pre-visit before the actual hosting. This helps them determine whether they can manage the visiting dog while also familiarizing the guest dog with the host’s house.
God forbid, while you are away, in case of a medical emergency, Waggle helps the host find a vet in their area and decide with them what needs to be done next. Alternatively, you may leave your vet’s contact with them, along with a list of any dietary needs that ought to be followed by the host. Explains Samira, “We had a case where the visiting dog suddenly developed a rash and Waggle liaised with the vet and the host to provide proper medical care to the guest dog. There was another case where the guest dog was peeing inside because of the stress of being in a new environment even though he was housebroken. We helped the host by providing tips on calming the guest dog such as nose work (you cut up treats into tiny bits and scatter it around, the dog uses his sense of smell to find the treats and it provides good amount of mental stimulation), slow leisurely walks at the dog’s pace (again all the sniffing provides mental stimulation which in turn calms the dog), calming food like chicken rice, and making sure the guest dog has a comfortable place to sleep in, undisturbed. Hosts gain experience by hosting more frequently. We want genuine dog lovers who are experienced and will take care of the guest dog like their own., We are strongly against those that tie/lock/cage/keep them outdoors.”
On the other hand, if you are interested in hosting, you may sign up on Waggle’s website and list yourself. You would be required to fill out details of your experience with dogs, how many dogs you have at present and the level of care and services a visiting dog can expect. Post that, someone from Waggle’s team will come and meet you along with a well-designed questionnaire to determine your level of competence in taking care of the guest dog and once approved, will give you some valuable tips on acclimatizing new dogs to your home. Says Samira, “Once a host is approved, we provide training material that covers a number of issues that can arise during a hosting. We also have a blog which has helpful posts on boarding tips, introducing dogs to each other and lots more.” Quality of hosts is the core value proposition of the platform which is essential to ensure a hassle and trauma free stay for both dog and his parent and the team ensures that they only get genuine dog lovers on the platform, according to Samira, “We want genuine dog lovers who are experienced and will take care of the guest dog like their own., We are strongly against those that tie/lock/cage/keep them outdoors.”
Waggle currently provides home boarding services only for dogs including both pedigree and our beloved Indian dogs without bias.
They have been receiving a number of requests for boarding other animals and they are currently exploring that possibility so keep an eye out if you have a cat or a rabbit at home.