Sniffspot is the Airbnb for dogs. Here is what it is.

When we pulled up to the gate of a wide open grassy field tucked away at the end of a dirt road, I tried to check my phone to make sure we were in the right place. But, since the owner of the space told me it would happen, I had no service. Luckily, I had saved a few screenshots of the list and quickly identified a lone tree stump and some scattered dog balls. I knew I was in the right place.

This place was a gated lot in Montara that I booked on Sniffspot, the Airbnb to find your dog a private space to play. I had spent $20 to let my mini schnauzer be king of this estate near the San Mateo County coast for an hour, sniffing and fetching at his leisure, undistracted by random dogs coming to sniff his butt. . Although Archer, a 22-pound regular SFGATE donorfell under a tree after just 20 minutes, he said his overall experience was positive.

San Francisco is one of the most dog-friendly cities in the country, with plenty of off-leash areas and parks for dogs to explore, but for shy or reactive dogs – or people who don’t want to deal to a dog the jokes of the park – having a private space to enjoy them can seem like the salvation.

Courtney Beck, a Sniffspot host in Oakland, has two dogs of her own that she says love going to the dog park. But, she says, she knows plenty of dogs that can’t take advantage of those spaces and still deserve to be off-leash for exercise. Her brother told her about Sniffspot about a year and a half ago, and she thought his backyard in West Oakland would be perfect to host. She put her space on the platform and almost immediately started getting bookings.

“We don’t use our yard very often,” Beck said. “I thought, what a great way to help people who can’t take their dog to a dog park or just don’t want to go to a dog park. People really appreciate being able to take their dog somewhere they feel safe.

Her yard is fully fenced and she put a keypad lock on the side door for guests to use. After hosting for more than a year, she has many people who regularly use the space, including a woman who comes every week with her three dogs. She said she typically gets two to three bookings a week and makes about $100 a month. While that’s not a lot of extra money, she says, it does help with yard maintenance, and she’s just happy to give dog owners another place to go.

She’s never had a negative experience with a visitor or her dog, and she said she’s surprised more homes in the area don’t list their space. The Bay Area is quite rare on the lists – at the time of publication, there was only one in San Francisco and only four in Oakland.

Archer performs at a Sniffspot venue in Montara, California.

Tessa McLean

Sniffspot founder David Adams said the Bay Area has been slow to grow, but that’s not uncommon for dense cities where not everyone owns a car. When Adams first launched the service in 2018 in Seattle, he thought most of his customers would be people like him — people who live in high-rise buildings looking for a place to play for their dog. What he quickly discovered was that 70% of their users have their own job site. “It’s not a yard replacement, it’s a walk replacement,” Adams explained, noting that taking your dog to a new environment allows him to act more like before being largely domesticated and living. in the towns.

The company now has more than 2,000 Sniffspots listed worldwide, and Adams said they’re steadily growing every year. He said that ideally he’d like everyone to be within walking distance of a Sniffspot, and he thinks it’s only a matter of time before the Bay Area has a lot more guests, d especially since they are so familiar with platforms like Airbnb.

Just like Airbnb, or Swimply, which lets users rent people’s private pools, hosts set their rates, and Sniffspot takes 22% of the sale. Sniffspot takes care of customer service and provides liability insurance for hosts.

Robyn Heller had a friend who visited her Oakland home with her dog a few years ago and the friend asked her if she had heard of Sniffspot. She hadn’t, so her friend encouraged her to try it because she had an ideal space. Heller said she thought “why not?” and nearly three years later, she constantly rents out her garden to furry guests an average of 10 times a week.

Companies like Sniffspot are no longer anomalies, Heller said, and people are growing more comfortable with experiences like this. It has 178 reviews and an average of 5 stars for its fully fenced garden in the Glenview neighborhood.

“I’m not doing this to make a ton of money. I want it to be accessible to people,” Heller said. “I have a good job, it’s really fair to provide the service.” Heller charges $10 per dog per hour and says she averages between $200 and $300 per month.

Her garden also has a table and chairs for guests to use while their dogs run around. Some people even reserved the space for a few hours and had a picnic while the dogs played. She also once hosted a dog birthday party. Although Heller doesn’t have a dog herself — she has two cats — she said that after fostering so many dogs over the years, she thinks she’ll have one soon.

When our time was up, I closed the iron gate to the Montara field and headed back to town, Archer panting happily in the back seat, hanging his little head out the window. We’re lucky to live in a dog-loving city with plenty of off-leash space, but for a shy guy like mine, an hour without someone trying to sniff your ass is heaven.

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