Rent a Dog!

This morning while eating a bowl of cereal at LA’s new cereal bar (only in LA) I was flipping through a mag called Business 2.0. There was an article about the top 10 trends to watch in 2008– one of which was dog rentals.

 Literally, someone has started a company which rents dogs to those who want a dog, but not full time either due to expense, space or time. The company is called Flexpetz which according to them, lets you bask in the unconditional love of man’s best friend without the trouble of having to take care of it.

The owner, Marlena Cervantes, is a former behavioral therapist and says that she has seen first hand the postive effect that interacting with a dog can have on people with health problems. But oftentimes these people are unable to take on the responsibility of dog ownership.

However well intentioned Ms. Cervantes may be in her efforts to bring cheer to those with health problems, has she considered the ill effects that this is going to have on the poor dogs?

Those who sign on with Flexpetz pay $120 per month which includes food, toys and a bed.  Members are required to rent the dogs at least twice a month.  When the dog isn’t rented out it’s in a cage-free day care center.  Potentially that’s 15 different homes a dog could visit a month!

So, the poor dog doesn’t ever get used to one location as it’s traveling around everyday, doesn’t have a place to call  it’s own, doesn’t have a guardian to give it’s unconditional love to… I really feel sorry for the dog! I don’t think the service is good for the dog (for obvious reasons) or for the dog renters.

The reason that humans love dogs is because dogs give their owner unconditional love. They wag their tail for you when you walk through the door and they do absolutely anything to be with you.  We always love our own dog more than someone else’s dog because someone else’s dog doesn’t jump as high when they see you or wag his tail quite as much.  Who would want to rent someone else’s kid? (unless you’re a grand parent!).  If this kind of service were available for human children, it would be outrageous.  Of course the child would end up with deep-rooted psychological problems… well, so will dogs.

In fact, most dog adoption agencies won’t let prospective adopters “test-drive” the dog even for a night as it would be too stressful on the dog.

Furthermore, there a numerous organizations out there which bring friendly dogs to hospitals, orphanages etc. to cheer up those in need. They are called therapy dogs.  in fact, dogs are quite often used in therapy. Typically this involves visiting hospitals, care facilities, nursing homes, etc. to cheer up patients. Wouldn’t that be a better option to get your daily dose of dog cheer? Visit

And for those healthy people who want to rent a dog– go to a dog park instead. 

I really hope that Flexpetz does not become one of the top 10 trends in 2008.

What do you think? Please let us know if you think this is as bad of an idea as I do, or if there is some merit.

For ideas on bonding with your own dog visit

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  1. I’m not so sure about the ill effects of this, perhaps when viewed from the human perspective it sounds cruel however if you look at this from the position of a dog, basically a modified wolf, then surely their ancestry is one of wondering from place to place with no fixed home. I appreciate that they are pack animals and this concept seems to regularly rupture the pack but maybe the dog has a larger capacity for connection than we give him credit for… maybe he just appreciates being loved no matter how many humans do the loving…and who knows all the new stimulii might be good for a dog. I’m not sure that this is cut and dried as you suggest…any canine behavioural therapists out there who can offer more insight into this question?

  2. I have studied canine behavior at the Canine Behavior Academy in Marin, CA. I have also worked with many “problem” dogs through the local humane society as well as in private behavioral consults.

    My personal opinion on this new venture is that while any dog that is loved by a human being (or many human beings) is a lucky dog, being moved around from “owner” to “owner” is a bad idea. My reasoning for this is that when a dog is put into an unfamiliar environment it is extremely stressful on the animal.

    Generally it takes at least a week for even the most mellow dog to settle down enough to start exhibiting his or her true personality. When first brought into a new home owners may notice the more obvious signs of stress: whining, shaking/shivering, bolting for the door, listlessness, lethargy and so on. Educated dog owners will also notice the subtle signs of stress: lots of lip licking, yawning, excessive shedding and “whale eye”. Of course, once the dog got used to that specific home those symptoms of stress would most likely subside. But what about the next home? And the next?

    At some point the dog will not be able to deal with these stress levels and may develop serious behavioral issues later in his or her life. Then what will happen to the dog? You guessed it-it will be put up for adoption because it’s no longer useful to the company. Hopefully it will go to a shelter that has a behavioral program in place so that he or she has a chance of being rehabilitated. I not, the dog would be euthanised.

    There are a few types of dog personalities that may be able to adjust to numerous environments and people, with no real “home base”. However, finding dogs with that kind of temperment and resilience is extremely difficult.

    I sincerely hope that this woman realizes the disasterous effects that her business may have on the dogs she is planning on renting for her own profit. I would strongly recommend that she speak to a canine behaviorist in her area to re-evaluate her plan.

  3. Hey Casey,
    thanks, that sheds a lot of light on the subject, You are absolutely correct it’s so easy to look at dogs as a commodity..hey here’s a great business opportunity…and forget that they are living creatures with millions of years of evolution build into their genes.

    All the best


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