How this dog trainer expanded his business by creating a reactive dog paradise with his land

When Francisco and his wife were looking for a home to call their own, they knew that having lots of outdoor space was more important than the square footage of the actual house. “My wife and I got married and decided to buy a house,” Francisco said, of his Michigan property known as The Farm. “This one came on the market and it was just perfect because we were living on 10 acres and this one was around 20.” With ample room for the couple and their five dogs, the space was also used to conduct Francisco’s dog training and boarding business, although it took a sizable amount of work to make that a reality. “It had a pole barn in the back which was perfect to board dogs and do classes and consults, and we just went for it. Many of the dogs we train are not able to go to regular boarding facilities.”  

Using a tractor borrowed from a friend, the pair spent the next two years fencing the entire property, including the expansive wooded area that’s part of it. “We just started building it up from scratch, really because nothing was done,” he said. “We usually work with aggressive dogs so having this big area gives them a lot of opportunities to do things.”

Great minds think alike 

Specializing in reactive dogs, Francisco put the room to good use, and even had some to spare. 

He came up with an idea to utilize the space during unused hours, simultaneously generating extra income through little additional work while providing a service to dog owners nearby. “We have our Facebook group and I posted that I was renting the field for 20 bucks, and a woman told me about Sniffspot,” he said. “I went online and I signed up for it. That’s how I came across it, actually, through one of my customers.” 

Francisco finds that going through Sniffspot provides him with a streamlined system for payments and structured scheduling, allowing him to focus on his primary business. “In terms of operations, the nice thing is that the scheduling is very simple, I just have to check and make sure when people book,” he said. “Sniffspot kind of gives it the order and the structure to make it more smooth.”  

A reprieve from the norm

Being a dog trainer who works mostly with dogs who have reactivity issues, hosting with Sniffspot also allows Francisco to enjoy a side of dogs he doesn’t always get to see in his line of work. “People who have dogs with no issues don’t really go to a dog trainer, so watching people having fun with their dogs is something I seldom get to see,” he said. “That’s really, really cool.” 

In addition to new guests using his space for hourly visits, some of Francisco’s current clients also rent the area to offer their own dogs some downtime in a large and safely enclosed space, which is hard to make happen at many public parks. “Most of my customers cannot go anywhere with their dogs because they’re reactive, and most of my customers are older, so it can be hard to handle big powerful dogs that react,” he explained. “So this is pretty much their only choice.” The wide open space and stress-free environment, for both the owners and their dogs, often brings out a rarely seen side of reactive or stressed dogs, who don’t often get the chance to be themselves. “People can come here and they can relax. They can enjoy their dogs because when they rent the space, there’s no one there,” he said. “They see their dogs exhibiting behaviors they have never seen before, like the dogs splashing in the water or just running and having fun. They see natural behaviors like pointing and stuff like that. That’s a really fulfilling part of it.” 

Managing both businesses 

For Francisco, staying on top of Sniffspot visits, dog boarding, and training consults and sessions is made fairly easy thanks to the ample space his property provides. Separate play and boarding areas allow him to keep his client’s dogs completely separate and undisturbed when visiting dogs arrive, avoiding triggers that could cause them to react. For the most part, adding Sniffspot to his existing dog business generally requires only small and manageable tweaks in his schedule. “I sometimes rotate boarding dogs, and sometimes I’ll close Sniffspot for blocks of time if I have consults and things like that,” he said. “It’s nice because it avoids all kinds of issues.” 

One thing that is especially helpful in managing his business is the Sniffspot clientele, who he says are respectful of both the space and his process. “The people that come are very respectful of the times, they don’t really show up early or anything, so it’s not very disturbing in terms of the operations we have here,” he said. “That’s been very nice, that people come on time and they leave on time. I haven’t really had to do anything about cleaning either, I just provide a garbage bin.”

Plans for the future 

For now, Francisco will continue to do what he’s doing, boarding and training his regular clients, while using the space to earn extra income when it’s not in use for work purposes. The money he earns hosting with Sniffspot generally goes toward improvements to the space, or savings, which he predicts will accumulate to more in a short period of time. “I’m pretty sure if I were able to just have this field for hosting it would be fully booked — the amount of people visiting is increasing now, and the weather is getting better too which helps a lot,” he said. 

As the days get longer and his Sniffspot guests continue to show up, Francisco hopes to make some changes to the space to help keep dogs engaged and entertained during their visits. “I’d like to offer more things to do in there,” he said. “We would like to make a really nice agility course for the dogs to play in there, and would like to add more things in the landscape to make things more enriching and so they have more variety of activities to do.” 

For anyone considering adding Sniffspot to their own pet care business, Francisco encourages making safety and fun their top priorities. “Safety first,” he said. “Make sure your dogs cannot get out and that everything is secured well.” Other than that, remembering that those hours booked are for the dogs will ensure positive experiences for everyone. “Make it interesting, keep it clean, and have activities for the dogs,” he added. “You don’t have to spend a fortune, just make things fun and safe at the same time.”

How this Bellingham retiree is meeting locals and helping dogs with her yard

When Jill retired in the middle of the pandemic in 2020, she realized she could go anywhere and do pretty much anything she wanted. Where did her heart lead her? To Bellingham, Washington, in the same town her daughter calls home. “I had lived in Olympia for over 30 years, but my kids are both pretty much up near Bellingham,” she said. “No one was meeting at restaurants or doing all the things we used to do, so I decided to move.” 

Aside from being within close proximity to her kids, having some space of her own for her and her dog to share was important to Jill, which she was able to make happen with the home she chose. “I have a dog so a fenced backyard is important to me.  That’s  one of the first improvements I made on my home,” she said of the now fully enclosed space she has listed as a Dog Paradise on the “Back Forty.” “It’s a 40-year-old home that’s had very few improvements  so we had to update it and the yard. There are about five trees on the property and a couple of plants and that’s it, so it’s perfect as far as running and playing.” 

Using her time for good 

Now retired and living in a new town, Jill was left to find something to fill her days, which wasn’t a terribly easy task during a time when the world was discouraged from socializing in public spaces. “My daughter is here, but she works full time and has a busy life, and so that meant I had time on my hands, and wanted  to meet people,” she said. Not exactly sure how to meet that need, she was presented with a solution after learning about Sniffspot, which would allow guests to visit her space while still maintaining distance for health and safety reasons. “I’ve met a number of people, all of them nice, and it’s just been a great thing for me and the community. I thoroughly enjoy the people who come to my backyard.” 

Jill was a bit surprised that renting a backyard on an hourly basis so that their dog could run and exercise was something people were actually willing to do. “I told my daughter I was amazed that people pay to bring their dogs here — I wondered if  $8 or $12 an hour several days a week may impact them,” Jill said. “But she said ‘no, that’s just the cost of having a dog, we recognize that and we pay for services  like that.’” With a need for space to run their dogs and a willingness to pay for it, and ample space to share, Jill has continued to host dogs and their guardians, which has been mutually beneficial for everyone.” 

Slow and steady 

Jill just started hosting in January of 2021, and has seen a regular growth in bookings since then. “My expectations were honestly quite low, I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. During these early days she couldn’t help but notice a trend in her clientele, and credits the increase in bookings with the fact that her space is fenced and secured, allowing visitors to rest easy when there. “What I found is that the majority of people who come here are people who are either fostering or have recently adopted dogs and they need to build trust. They need to train their dogs and know that they’re not going to run away from them,” she added. “There’s a local dog trainer who is recommending my Sniffspot to people for that reason.”

Not only are dogs getting the benefits of having an outdoor space to play and run freely, Jill states that the people who book with her are also allowed a brief reprieve from a locked-down world, in which they get to visit with and even socialize with other people in search of connection. “I have one woman who comes pretty frequently, and one day I noticed her behavior was different. She was on the phone a lot and then the next thing I know, there’s another woman walking up to the house,” she recalled. “I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it was a meet up. If you’re having your first meeting with somebody in a pandemic you can’t go to a restaurant, and you may not want them to come to your house, but you can come to this place and play with the dogs for hours. I’ve seen other couples have date nights here with their dogs. I love that my backyard provides a safe place for people.” 

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about how your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

Jill’s secret to success 

Doing things because you truly love to do them,, is the ultimate key to success,. “Well, the location is pretty good — I think I’m about the only Sniffspot in the Bellingham area, and several of my people that come here walk over, so that’s nice,” she said. “I also always make sure that there’s fresh water available, and I check the yard a couple times a day to make sure that everything is clean.” Personal touches seem to go a long way with her guests as well. “The first time people come I put a note out on the gate to welcome them, and if they’ve given me their dog’s names I write the people’s names and the dog’s names and I have a little welcome sign in my backyard, and a few toys.”

Safety, as evidenced by the fenced-in perimeter of her yard, is of utmost importance to Jill,. “I have some potential  trip hazards, so I got orange paint and spray those areas  ” she said. “I like to provide people with the ability to just exercise the heck out of their dogs and play with them in a safe, clean space. That’s my community piece.”

Staying engaged with her guests on her Sniffspot profile further extends that sense of community, where she’s able to express her gratitude to her visitors while gathering ideas about what she can do to make for a better user experience. “I’ve read Sniffspot’s checklist, so a number of the things I’ve done have been because you guys have said you might want to do this, like you might want to put a sign out welcoming them, so that sort of thing helps,” she said. “I do ask guests to post pics, and if they posted pictures I try to write back and thank them.”

Soft plans for the future

Because Jill loves what she does, she aims to do more of that in the future, with little need to change much else, although she is open-minded to ideas. “I’m not sure I see much changing, 

In the meantime, Jill will continue to use her earnings to maintain the space,“It’s nice extra change in the pocket and I put it into a separate account,” she said. “I need to spray a preservative on the whole fence, and what I make in six months of hosting at Sniffspot will pay for that. It’ll be nice to know that it’s been paid for by this.”

For now, Jill plans to keep doing what she’s doing, and providing a space where everyone can enjoy some time outside, herself included. “Because of the pandemic and because I’m retired, I’m home much more than I ever used to be, and I love sitting here in my living room and watching people pull up and get their dogs out of their car.” she said. “I give people privacy, but I do occasionally look through the back window.  I enjoy seeing dogs and their guardians playing and running around the yard. I love it.” 

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about how your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

How this Pacific Northwest landowner transformed their unused land into a dog business

When Grace started out as a host with Sniffspot, she gave herself one month to feel it out and see if it might be a fit for her and her husband. “I watched this video about Sniffspot and thought our property here would be a good thing for it,” she said, of the fully fenced nine acre space she shares with her husband. While she was excited at the prospect of hosting dogs on their land, her husband took some convincing to give it a try. “As soon as he came home, I said, ‘hey, look, this is as good as our property, and it’s just sitting there doing nothing.’ I asked him if we could try it for one month and if he didn’t like it then fine, I’ll close it because we have that option.” 

As it turned out, it didn’t take nearly a full month to see if their hosting venture might be a success. In fact, it didn’t even take an entire day. “I went live and after a few hours I got the first booking and that got me all excited. That’s how it started.” Today, their space, listed only as a hike up the mini forest, is earning the couple regular, extra income with little work involved, and has hundreds of five star reviews from happy guests who’ve brought their dogs to roam around the hidden gem. 

Plenty of space to share  

Years ago when Grace’s husband showed her the plot of land now reserved for hosting guests, she fell in love with it right away. “It’s so peaceful up there, it’s not busy,” she said, comparing it to the city she used to call home. “You can really walk around and this is really nice.” Although they both had ideas for the space, utilizing the vast area was a process, and for years they used the woods to host family and friends for camping trips and casual gatherings. “He introduced me to camping, and I have a big family, so he created a campground for us, and every year my family and I would get together in the summer and camp,” she said. Despite enjoying the peace and serenity the property had to offer, Grace couldn’t help but feel like more could be done to share the space with others who also appreciate quiet time away from it all. “We were the only ones enjoying it,” she said. 

As timing would have it, Grace saw an ad for Sniffspot not too long after adding dogs of her own to her life. Knowing how much she enjoys her own time in the woods with her four-legged friends, opening up the land for other dogs and dog owners to explore just felt like the right thing. “They were talking about dogs and I have a dog now and I watched this video and it just clicked,” she recalled. “I thought, why not share it. It’s just sitting there idle, and at least there’s extra income in it.” 

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about how your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

Managing multiple side hustles 

Sniffspot is a source of supplemental income for Grace and her husband, and not their only endeavor in the world of short term rentals and hosting. Also actively renting her space to campers on Hipcamp, Grace does her best to manage both pursuits, which she says is made easier thanks to the nature of hosting with Sniffspot. She credits the flexibility in booking, a lack of cleaning up, and the general user-friendliness of the site and the overall natural independence that comes with taking your dog for a walk in the woods with this ability. 

Additionally, Grace’s success as a hosting was made so thanks to the beautiful forest around her, and listening to what does and doesn’t work for her guests based on their reviews. “I just got lucky because of the way the property is set up,” she said. “I didn’t have sanitizer before, but now I put a little sanitizer out. We also added another outhouse, so now there’s one down below and one at the top. And we’re always repairing fencing and taking up the clutter, like dead trees.” 

Some of the money she’s earned from hosting goes into keeping the space as visitor friendly as possible, in addition to adding to her family’s savings. “When it was raining here so hard every day the parking lot got really wet and muddy, so you have to spend money on putting gravel down,” she said. “But my husband always says ‘you have to spend money to make money’.” 

Easily working toward a bright future

For Grace, what makes hosting so simple is due in no small part to the fact that her guest’s satisfaction is her satisfaction. For those visiting her space, the personal touches start when they arrive, and continue after they leave. “When they’re new I read their message and see if the dog is reactive or not. Then I welcome them and show them their welcome sign, which they love, and I show them where to go and tell them a little bit about the place,” she said. “I send everyone off with a little goodie bag too, with Milkbones for the dogs, and a little candy or some treat for their people too. And they love that.” 

While her visitors, two-legged and four-legged alike, walk away exercising, content, and with a sense of being appreciated, the same happiness applies to her with each visit. “It’s fulfilling work, because I look out the window and I see the parents of the dogs and the dogs going in and they’re not smiling, and then once they come back they’re all excited and happy,” she said. “And that makes me happy too, to see everybody happy. That, and you know you would trust them. There’s something about these people that have dogs, they’re nice people.”

With things on a steady incline, Grace hopes to continue to provide exceptional service to those in search of a quiet space to enjoy a few hours with their best friends. “I’m just gonna go with the flow,” she said. “I could only improve so much, so I’ll just see if people keep feeling our spot, try to include as many amenities that I can provide, to keep being friendly,” which is advice she offers to anyone else considering hosting a space of their own and earning money with every visit.  

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about how your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

How this popular kennel found a profitable new business with Sniffspot

If there’s one thing Janice knows and understands well, it’s the needs of dogs and their owners, and how to meet those needs. No stranger to the petcare game, Janice, a dog trainer herself, has been running a successful dog boarding and training facility just 30 minutes north of Seattle since 2001. When business slowed down a bit during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Janice looked into additional ways to bring in more income by using what she already had available to her. 

“People had told me about Sniffspot in 2019 and said I should rent out one of my places,” she said. “I have five acres and don’t use all of it all the time, so I thought: side money. At first I dismissed it because of the time management involved, business was doing OK so I didn’t want to add more to my plate. Then I looked into it more last year because I was desperate for money.” Fortunately for her, and for countless dog owners in the area, Janice’s choice to add Sniffspot rentals to her existing business proved lucrative, bringing in high margin income with little associated expense. 

Working with what she’s got 

Janice now hosts Emerald Field, a fully fenced in acre of land that’s attached to her boarding facility. With the world just starting to open back up again and people antsy to get out of town, Janice finds herself busier than ever. Fortunately, her work as a host with Sniffspot didn’t require any additional investment in her space, and takes up a relatively small amount of her time. “I didn’t make any improvements for Sniffspot, I just offered what I had,” she said. “I had already built a pretty secure fence for the boarding business because I can’t have people’s dogs run loose. That seems to be very important to some people.” 

janice

Janice’s spot has grown organically since she opened it. She attributes her success to location.  “It’s not too far from civilization, I’m fairly close to the freeway and not too far out of Seattle city limit,” she explained. “I didn’t have any signage up at first, but I do wish I did. I was thinking about it and then Sniffspot mailed me a sign, so I don’t need to add anything, I just used that one.” 

First time visitors are asked to stop and chat for a quick check in with simple instructions for how to find and enjoy the space. “I just ask them to stop the first time, and I think that’s pretty common for people to chat with the host the first time they come out,” she said. “I basically just tell them how to get there and to look for the sign at the entrance of the driveway.” After that, repeat visitors are welcome to just show up during the time that they have booked, allowing her guests to enjoy privacy while she can focus on her own business without needing to be involved with the spot visitors.

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about how your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

Making it work 

When Janice started on Sniffspot her first priority remained her boarding business. One thing she does to ensure that she handles her business properly is by asking for a bit of notice before visitors arrive to allow for ample time to open gates and set up a safe visit. “I use it for the business, and now that we’re so busy I just need more notice,” she said. Compared to running her boarding business, however, hosting with Sniffspot has been a seamless addition, and not much additional work. “Sniffspot is a lot less work, it’s much easier. I just need to make sure it’s kind of sort of clean and that people have access, that’s really all I do,” she added. “I have two fields that I use on this property for boarding dogs, so I let people use it after 3:00 PM. And there are quite a few things that I need for the business that also works for Sniffspot, like pick up bags, and water access. That takes a lot of construction to build but I didn’t add it for this — I need to have water access myself so that’s already there, like the fencing. So really the only thing I need is to know when people are coming.” 

Reevaluating for the future 

janice

Janice originally measured her businesses by how much revenue they contribute. By that measure she always prioritized her kennel, because it brought in more revenue. However, recently she has begun to realize that Sniffspot is much higher margin than the kennel, so maybe Sniffspot is actually more profitable. “I have to pay a lot of employees to do the boarding, but I don’t have to pay a lot of employees to do Sniffspot,” she said. “I could do a lot of it myself, so I actually need to re-evaluate that part.”

In the meantime, Janice will keep doing what she loves and does best by offering her services to dogs and their guardians, even enjoying some crossover in clientele, and making for even more additional income. “Some of my Sniffspot guests have now become customers,” she said. With the world starting to get back to normal and her boarding and training business booming, hosting allows her to dedicate the time she needs to her existing endeavor, while still earning additional income without the hassle of making too many changes to her day to day routine. 

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about how your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

How this retired couple is supporting their community with their yard

Hal and Colleen haven’t had dogs of their own for a while. Having shared their home with canine companions for 35 of their 42 years together as a couple, the big yard at their house began to feel a bit empty, but adopting a new dog simply isn’t in the cards for now. “We’ve had dogs almost all of our life,” Hal said. “When we both retired we started traveling more and we’d be gone for a month, so it really wasn’t feasible to have another dog.” 

Regardless of their time available for a dog of their own, the couple knew they could still put their beautiful outdoor space to good use while simultaneously offering a helpful service to their neighbors and get to enjoy the company of canines. “We have a big yard here — we don’t have any kids, we don’t have any dogs, and so we might as well use that for something,” he said. “And then we saw a Sniffspot flyer at my brother in law’s house, so I thought, why not?”

Managing expectations for the better 

The pair went into the venture not having known any other hosts with the service, and had no expectations around the experience. “We started it last year without any idea how it would go,” he said. “We didn’t know anything about it so we just learned it as we went.” Keeping an open mind and a positive outlook, the couple’s hosting took off pretty quickly thanks to positive guest experiences and word of mouth referrals, and has earned them almost $5,500 in income so far. “One person came and then a couple more and then as time went on we became extremely popular,” he explained. “Most weekends we’re completely booked. It’s just really snowballed, which is fine with us because almost all of our customers are repeat people and they know the routine. 90 to 95% of our people are repeat guests.” 

Part of offering an exceptional experience is allowing guests to use their time in the yard however they please — with privacy and safety being Hal’s top concerns in terms of customer service. “The yard is fully fenced, and I use four foot by eight foot white lattice on six foot tall metal posts to section off the yard,” he said. “We meet first time visitors at the front door, and I’ve got some signs out about where to go in the yard, where to drop off the poop bags, and where to find the water. There are table and chairs out there so we just let them come in the yard. We’ll say ‘hi’ if we see them but let them have the yard to themselves. I don’t really have to do anything.” 

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about how your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

Using their yard for good 

Beause this pair loves to travel together so much, adding a new dog to their life may not be practical, but this couple loves to see any canine friends using their space to enjoy the great outdoors. “We’ve been here at our home in Federal Way for 44 years now. It’s about an acre and I’ve sectioned it off so the dogs have about half an acre,” he said. “Some dogs just go completely crazy here which is fun to watch, and the owners we’ve had here have been good people — they’re just really happy to see a place like this because they were so unsatisfied with the off leash areas.” 

Recognizing a preference to have private spaces to run and work with their dogs became apparent to Hal almost immediately, and he welcomes all types of dogs to his home so that they may have their individual needs met. “A lot of people have dogs that are reactive and would never take him to a dog park, so we let them over here,” he said. “We also have people whose dog trainers are sending them here, and they work with their dogs out in the yard, or rescue dogs from other parts of the country or from overseas. They want an area where once they let them off the leash they know they’re not just going to run off.” 

While pretty successful from the start, Hal credits his achievements to two simple aspects — a secure yard, and good advertising. “We have a big yard and make sure it’s safe with a six-foot tall fence,” he said. “And we have lots of good pictures of the place. So some of these other places are little backyards, and the pictures aren’t very flattering, so if I had to give advice I would tell anyone posting on Sniffspot to take some good pictures, because people want to know what it looks like.”  

Making things easy with Sniffspot 

One thing Hal and his wife appreciate about Sniffspot is the safety it provides, especially when inviting strangers to his home. “We have friends that wouldn’t use Craigslist because they’re afraid of letting somebody come to their house,” he said. “But when people show up with their dogs using Sniffspot, they’re kind of verified by Sniffspot, and they have to have a bank account and know how to use the site. So we don’t worry about any of that.” Additionally, last minute bookings and cancellations are easily done through the site as well, which takes the burden off of him to be available if he’s not. “If people cancel the only way I know that something is going on is if I get an email,” he said. “Sniffspot does all of that.” 

Plans for the future 

With new fencing separating parts of his yard and a steady roster of repeat clients visiting their yard, the only plans this couple has in their immediate future is to take a long vacation, while still earning as they relax far away from home. “We’re leaving for Puerto Vallarta for a three week vacation and I’ve decided to leave the yard open,” he explained. “I could block it off, but we’ve got some people that are close by who are going to watch the yard for me and I have things set up.” When they come back home, the yard will open up to longer hours to coincide with the daylight. “Everything’s been really nice, we’ve met some nice people and are looking forward to summer time coming where each day or each week I can open it up further,” he added. “Now have the yard open till 7:00 o’clock and pretty soon I’ll move that to 8:00 or 9:00. So when people are off work, they can still come here.” 

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about how your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

How this rural Texas landowner is helping dogs through sharing her land

50 miles north of Dallas, outside of Denton, Texas, Sniffspot host, Carol, values several things in life, two of which are an appreciation for the outdoors, and seeing happy dogs. “I’m a senior citizen,” she said. “I’ve lived at my property for 20 years now, and have a total of 10 acres, which is fenced in completely.” With time on her side and ample space for her dogs to exercise, Carol has made the most out of country living. 

As a member of several dog-centric groups on Facebook, Carol noticed a trend in posting — people complaining about their local dog parks, but who had no other solution for exercising their dogs. “I see constantly people complaining about going to dog parks and their dogs being attacked,” Carol said. “I guess couple of years ago I saw a sponsored ad about Sniffspot I thought that sounded interesting. I looked into it and I realized here’s the way I can help people that don’t like dog parks or have dogs that don’t do well at dog parks. So I thought I’d give it a try.” 

A steady growth   

With several acres of unused land and the desire to provide a solution for dog owners in need of open space for their pets to roam, Carol took a leap and signed up to host, which took a little time to take off. “I signed up, and for a while I didn’t get any customers,” she said. Eventually, things picked up after a regular visitor utilized Carol’s space, which is listed simply as a “Rural Yard.” “I’ve got a husband and wife with their two dogs that have been coming every weekend since the first of the year. It picked up from there.” 

Since then, hosting has been a steady endeavor for the retired landowner, who most enjoys seeing people and their dogs enjoy the land that she’s called home for two decades. “I’ve met very nice people, I enjoy having them,” she explained. “I like to see them having fun without having to worry about their dogs being attacked or their dogs running off.” A lifelong dog lover, Carol also understands that not all dogs particularly enjoy the company of other dogs, especially in dog park settings, which can be overwhelming for some canines. “Some dogs don’t get along with other dogs, so their owners don’t have to worry about their dogs attacking somebody else’s dog either,” she added. “They seem to have a good time and that’s all I want — for people and their dogs to have a good time.”  

In addition to providing dedicated dog owners with the time and space they need to give their dogs exercise in a safe setting, Carol also enjoys allowing her canine visitors the opportunity to be themselves, whatever that may look like for them. “With the visits, the dog owners can see a different dog then they normally see,” she said. “That’s because they can run and play and investigate, since I live rurally. I have a pond, so the dogs can go swimming. There are rabbits, there’s armadillo, sometimes you can smell the skunk who lives nearby, so there’s a lot of different things for the dogs to explore, and I think people see different dogs when they get home. It’s not always the dog they came with.” 

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about how your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

A typical visit

Every Sniffspot host has their own style of hosting, and Carol has found hers over the last several months. For starters, she always likes to meet new visitors the first time they arrive, to give them a lay of the land and so everyone can familiarize themselves with each other. “I try to be outside when people come so I can introduce myself,” she said. “Then I walk them down to where I have a freshly filled bucket of water for their dogs to drink, and show them the big, lined bucket to throw their poop bags in.” Carol also has a horse who stays in a dry lodge on the property. “If your dog will run the fence with them, he’ll run the fence with your dog, but I make sure people don’t let their dog get into the lot — he won’t intentionally hurt your dog, but there’s always a possibility an accident could happen,” she explained. From there, a quick visit to the pond, and a head’s up about the occasional tree stump ends the tour, at which point Carol leaves her visitors to enjoy their time. “The first time I like to meet everybody, other than that my dogs and I stay in the house for the time they blocked off. My yard is their yard for that hour.” 

Going above and beyond 

When it comes to Carol’s bottom line standards, one sticks out above all else — treating her guests as she would want to be treated. Not only does she implement this by offering her guests privacy during their visits, she also gives a heads’ up about preparing for certain conditions of the Texas landscape. “We’re in spring here in Texas, and sometimes it can rain a lot, so if I happened to get behind on mowing I’ll send visitors a note that says I haven’t been able to mow,” she said. “If the grass is long I would want to know because I wouldn’t want to come in shorts and flip flops and the grass would be up to my knees. I would be frustrated, so I try to be transparent about stuff like that when it happens.” 

Hosting with Sniffspot has further allowed Carol to show her guests care and respect. “This past weekend I had a client come book the time for 9:00 o’clock in the morning and I just peeked out the door to make sure everything was OK and saw that they were leaving. I asked if everything was OK, and their dog had got injured within 15 minutes of their visit,” she recalled. “So I wrote customer service and asked if we could refund their money. Sniffspot didn’t have to, but did, which I thought was really nice. If they had been here longer maybe I wouldn’t have asked, but I don’t think that that’s how I would want to be treated, so I try to treat the people that come to my yard the same way.” 

Plans for the future

For now, Carol has no huge plans to change things up at her place, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t open to hearing about how she could improve her guest’s experiences. “I’ve been thinking about sending my return visitors a short questionnaire to see what they want, and if anything might make it better for them,” she said. “To me, if I lived in town, just being able to come out here and let my dogs wander around where there’s no traffic and nobody bothering me while my dogs run and play, would be enough for me. But I don’t know what the clients want. The idea is for their dogs to have a good time — that’s the most important thing, and that’s what I want to do. I want to make sure the dogs have a good time and then their humans have a good time too.”  

In the meantime, Carol aims to keep things simple, and doing those things well, as that’s been working for her and her guests so far, and often results in return visitors, which lets her know she’s doing things right. “I enjoy meeting the people that come, and seeing the variety of dogs that people bring,” she said. “And I really enjoy it if the person comes back, because I like hearing people tell me that their dog had so much fun running and smelling, and knowing they would come back to enjoy more of that.”  

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about how your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

How this family is affording their dream property through renting it hourly to dogs

Thousand Oaks, California has been a safe haven for Sniffspot host, Jen, since childhood. Having grown up in busy Santa Barbara, Jen, an introvert from an early age, would seek out solitude and serenity away from tourists attractions and droves of people visiting from elsewhere. “My grandparents own 60 acres about a 30 minute drive from here, and I grew up spending every summer and every holiday visiting them on the ranch,” Jen explained. “In Santa Barbara, we wouldn’t go to the beach on the weekend because that’s where everybody was, so you’d find places off the beaten path where the tourists weren’t. For me, the ranch was just my happy place.” 

As an adult, Jen married her husband, Hugo, on that very ranch. A city boy born and raised, Hugo didn’t have the same childhood experiences as Jen, but grew to love the mountains pretty quickly. Their dreams of finding a home in the hills to share with their son solidified after years of living in town and spending hours a day commuting to and from work took its toll. Finally, a visit to Jen’s grandparent’s ranch in the mountains led them to a for sale sign on what is now their home, a 10 acre spot in the mountains that’s nearly off grid. 

While their home has been a dream come true in a number of ways, the upkeep requires a lot of work, which isn’t cheap. With a house in the hills that boasts picturesque views, and a willingness and drive to keep improving on their investment, Jen and her family looked to side hustles to bring in some income that could help them facilitate their dream. 

A side hustle with heart 

“I’m one of those people that is always looking for ways to make a little extra money,” Jen said. “There’s a reason we were able to buy this property and afford it, and it’s because it needs work, so we’re always thinking of ways we can make a little bit more extra money so that we can fix things up.” The couple started off renting their space as a location spot for the filming industry, which, while exciting, quickly proved that it wouldn’t meet their goals in the long run. “Our neighbors rented their property out for filming and so that was the first adventure. I started posting on all these websites for filming, and it’s really fun when we actually get one, but you’re lucky if you book anything, plus it’s usually last minute, so that’s not very sustainable and definitely not something you can count on.” 

Back to the drawing board, Jen considered the things that mean the most to her — peace, quiet, solitude, and time with her dogs, and wondered if other people might hold similar values. “To me, walking my dogs on a quiet morning down on our property with no leashes is my favorite thing, because the dogs take their time and I take my time. I just sit on the little benches that we have, and it’s the best,” she said. “So one day I asked my husband if he thought people would pay to come walk their dogs, and he’s like there’s no way people aren’t going to pay for that. I started researching and found Sniffspot and realized people do pay for that.”

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about how your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

Making things work

While Jen knew that her space was ideal for her own canine friends, she noticed that her property didn’t have what some others did — fencing. However, that didn’t stop her from trying, and she quickly learned that hosting could still work with the right guests. “The ones I could find were in backyards, and we don’t have fences,” she said. “I didn’t think we were very well set up so I don’t know how this was going to work. But we were willing to try it, and then we started getting all these positive reviews, and now I love it.” 

It was then that Quail View Ranch was formed. Spanning 10 acres, Jen’s spot features rolling hills, walking paths, native desert plants, and open areas where dogs can run as their guardians can take in beautiful mountain views. Sharing her space with dedicated dog guardians is a joyous experience for Jen, although certain types of visitors especially touch her heart. “I’ve grown up with dogs my whole life. Our dogs are our kids, so it’s really cool to see other people, especially the ones that write that their dog had never been to somewhere like this because they couldn’t,” she said. “Or people with scared dogs or reactive dogs, or dogs that they can’t take off leash anywhere.” 

Timid, shy, and reactive dogs hold a special place in Jen’s heart thanks to her own personal experiences. Knowing what it’s like to have a dog you may not be able to take just anywhere served as an even greater motivator for her to open her space to visitors who can relate. “All three of our dogs are cattle dog mixes, and they’re not typically very social dogs, they can be really skittish,” she said. “I would take one of mine to the dog park and she would come sit next to my leg and growl at every other dog that came near us — she didn’t want to play or walk around or do all that dog park stuff, she just wanted to be with me. So I get it because I know those breeds. I know those kinds of dogs. It’s so cool to be able to provide a place for those kinds of people and their dogs.”

Implementing feedback to provide exceptional service

In addition to empathizing with others over their dog’s behavioral quirks, Jen’s space has been a success thanks to her drive to provide great service. For her, that starts with highly detailed instructions for finding the area, as her space is off a dirt road, which may not be something everyone is used to. Once guests arrive, a warm welcome awaits them before sending them off to safely explore that area. “There’s a little table I have set out across from the parking area, and on there I put some fun things,” she said. “I took a Google Earth map and it shows them where they are with a pin to give them kind of a visual of the whole area to explore.” 

Additionally, Jen provides dog treats in a small jar, a trash can with pick up bags for guest use, and hand sanitizer. “And that’s about it,” she said. “Then then they just get to go.”

Offering guests an amazing hour or two in the hills is one thing, but Jen prides herself in her ability to constantly improve the user’s experience, which she does by reading feedback left by her quests. “I read everything,” she said. “For instance, there was some talk about there not being a restroom and it is something that’s been on my mind, because we are kind of a destination, so going somewhere with no restroom is taking a big risk. So we actually added a porta potty about a week ago, and I reached out to our previous visitors and one of them actually responded that they were so glad I did that.” 

Of course, upgrades come with a cost, but Jen finds ways to measure which costs are worth it, and why. “Obviously there’s a cost to that, but it’s kind of weighing the cost to the benefit,” she explained. “I also learned that somebody had done a promotional discount, so I actually did that and I sent it out to everyone who has ever visited our spot, and lowered my price from $18 to $15, and it paid off with repeat visitors. I’m not gonna give up on trying new things.”  

Finding the balance

Jen’s entrepreneurial brain will likely not allow her to stop seeking ways to generate extra income via side gigs anytime soon. In the meantime, she and her family have learned how to navigate a good balance between side gigs, and looks for practical ways they can improve on their Sniffspot rental even more. Fencing around the property is something Jen and Hugo are looking into to enhance visitor experiences, and hopefully attract new guests who feel more comfortable letting their dogs roam in an enclosed space. In addition to that, the couple looks forward to hosting weddings on their property, and will continue to rent their space as filming location as well. For anyone in her area, and beyond, looking to host in their own space, Jen encourages folks to look into it. “Having more people is really how it compounds,” she said. “I post on a lot of different Facebook groups and some people say they’d charge less, and I say great. Here’s how you sign up. I like competition.”  

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about how your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

How this Oregon farmer is making a business from renting her land to dogs

Just 20 minutes outside of the busy city of Portland, Oregon, and settled right on the banks of the Columbia River, you’ll find what countless visitors have flocked to the area in search of — mountain views, crisp, clean air, and running water for miles. What you might not expect to find, however, is a hidden oasis designed just for dogs and their people, owned and operated by a farming couple and enjoyed by visitors on two legs, and four.  

A second generation farmer on her 80-acre property, Jessica spent the last 10 years renting part of the space to hunters, which, while a reliable source of supplemental income, wasn’t exactly something that made her happy. “I’d been doing that for a decade and I just was like, there’s got to be another way to make some extra income,” she stated. Renting the land by the hour as a private dog park was the perfect fit for her and her land.

Living off the land, with room to share 

Located on Sauvie Island, Jessica’s property offers a roaming refuge for dogs and their guardians to run, explore, relax or even get their feet wet among the island’s attractions. “Sauvie Island is really popular, so we’re in a really good location for this. We have beaches and there’s a lot of farms,” she explained. “It’s really popular for hunting and bird watching, including bald eagles, so you get a lot of visitors.”   

The space, which spans acres and rests right on the riverfront, has been more than a home for Jessica’s family, who acquired the place in the mid-80s, and is where the young entrepreneur grew up. While still a fully functioning farm and horse haven, it’s recently been opened to invite new types of guests. “My husband and I are here, and we board and train horses, and grow alfalfa and various types of horse-grade hay,” she said. “But then we also have the beach that is private, so that’s something that the people really get a lot out of going down there, because you’ve got campsites, and the dogs can jump right off into the water. It’s almost a mile long.” 

Finding a good fit 

Knowing that she had the space and time to host, and the desire to create additional income, Jessica and her husband began looking into short-term rental options. “We were looking, and I came across Hipcamp and of course, Airbnb, and I mean it’s kind of a good idea, but I didn’t wanna go that far with hosting people you know, actually putting in the bathrooms and whatnot,” Jessica said. “My husband came across Sniffspot on Portland Craigslist and I was like, you know, I’m just going to go for that, and so we signed up.” 

Hosting her space on a very short-term basis ended up working out wonderfully, both for Jessica and her visitors, many of whom are repeat guests. “Just about every one of our clients is a regular,” she said. “I think it works well thanks to the social aspect of my business background, which is in nightclub and bar management. I’m very good at social organization and since we work from home I think a lot of our repeats come because we interact with the clients. I encourage them to send me happy dog pictures. It’s been doing really well.” 

Interested in hosting?

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Setting the scene 

For Jessica, the service she offers starts with a short tour of the property once new guests arrive. “I always acknowledge them when they’re coming up — I need to be home and present, and on their first visit here we go out and we introduce some of the property. We show them everything from the top of the road,” she explained. “They’re all comfortable contacting me throughout the visit, you know, if they need anything.”

Once guests arrive, they’re welcomed into a sprawling space made comfortable, with picturesque views to enjoy while their dogs are able to run and have the time of their lives. “We built picnic tables and graveled down by the riverfront area, which helps during the muddy season,” she explained. “We keep the space clean and mow the area, and put in a rope handrail so people who get down the slope area easier. We maintain the campsite too, which people can also rent if they want, and they can fish if they have their license.”

For dogs or guardians who may feel a bit more at ease in somewhat enclosed spaces, the farm offers a solution for them as well. “We do have a fenced in area, which we started offering,” she said. “We realized that some people were a little nervous about the expansiveness, and so when people request it, we move the horses out of a four acre fenced area and we let people go in there if they want to.” 

How to go above and beyond 

With expansive, private land for dogs to exercise on for miles, Jessica does price her rental accordingly. With a clientele composed almost entirely of repeat customers, “you get what you pay for” seems to be an apt expression, and this host makes sure it’s worth every penny. For starters, privacy for miles is something not everyone can offer. “The other side of the island is just packed, just for people to walk their dogs. And it has natural lakes that come up from under, so during the winter when our land was not in harvest people were able to go out and do the lake thing with their dogs,” she said. “So people are looking at this place like it’s a little bit of treasure that they found on Sauvie Island, because you just can’t find anything. Not here, not that’s private.” 

Ultimately, Jessica is willing and able to provide exceptional service because she believes in what she does, and connects over her appreciation for canines with her guests. “I’ve worked with people a lot in all my jobs, but I’ve been really happy with dog people,” she said. “Anybody that’s willing to to pay and engage with these types of experiences for their dogs have been really good.” Jessica also adds that communication, both through detailed directions to the property and accessibility to her, helps people feel assured. “99% of my clients are women, and a big piece of feedback is that they’re grateful to have someplace safe to walk. They always check in with me before they leave if they’re out here alone and tell me they’re OK, so that’s something I’m really grateful about. I think, like any good business, it’s being willing and able to engage and actually care.” 

Plans for the future 

With near-immediate success since she’s been hosting, Jessica is looking forward to seeing what the warmer weather will bring for guests at the farm. “I’ve only been on it since November, so we’re really looking forward to seeing how the nice weather pans out. Was actually pretty good for us through the winter, though,” she said. In addition to a steady increase in bookings, Jessica aims to make the space available for pet care professionals to conduct business safely and with privacy. “We have horse trainers come and videotape lessons in the official arenas, and I’ve also offered that to the dog trainers because there are a lot of people that need to film a video in an isolated area for training sessions or whatever, especially since COVID,” she said. A zipline for dogs who don’t need enclosure is something the pair is considering adding to allow people who may not be comfortable with total freedom to be out in the open field with their dogs. 

While making supplemental income was her initial goal, the thing that truly keeps Jessica and her husband going, and their enterprise thriving, is the joy that she gets from sharing her space with others, and watching them enjoy something that may not be easy for everyone to find. “I think that there are a lot of people that I’ve never even been to a property of this size, and we are really grateful to share this with them and make them feel welcome,” she explained. “I want them to know that I care, and I want them to feel safe, and to be able to text me if anything is wrong without feeling like they’re invading someone’s privacy. But my favorite part has been the dogs. They’re really happy to come here and we’ve actually had someone that asked us for help because their dog wouldn’t leave — they couldn’t get him in the car! I really enjoy the happy dogs.”

Happy clients and happy dogs makes for one host who’s greatest satisfaction is to serve the experience, one visit at a time. “We’re big animal people, so it’s just like I feel like people. 

found someplace nice and private and that cares, and it makes them and their family members, like the dogs, genuinely happy,” she said. “And that makes me happy because there’s not a lot of that in the world anymore. I’m glad that I can be a part of that little bit of piece of niceness.” 

Interested in hosting?

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How this retired special agent created a dog paradise from an empty lot

Maurice has always poured tremendous energy into helping those in need.

He chose a career that took on some of the most difficult challenges anywhere as a special agent with Homeland Security investigations. He was supervisory special agent of the child exploitation group for 13 years, after working as a narcotics agent, and serving seven years in the military. Over time the difficult investigations really weighed on him. A series of serendipitous events brought Maurice to his next cause.

“Investigations were getting to me a little bit and I was just getting a little burnt out,” Maurice explained. “I was talking to some people and they were like, you know, you need a dog!” 

Still, Maurice wasn’t convinced, until he heard about a local animal abuse case that he couldn’t get out of his head. After telling his daughter about it, she asked if they could rescue the dog, to which Maurice agreed under one major stipulation: that she contact those involved and find out what it would take to bring the dog home. To his surprise, she did just that, and a short time later Maurice met June, now Junebug, who he fell in love with at first sight.

When you know something’s meant to be

From there, a string of unfolding events occurred, including finding a dream location, and hearing about Sniffspot, which connects him with potential visitors. While looking for a home to share together with enough room for their daughters and three dogs, Maurice and his girlfriend were amazed to visit a property with a pleasant surprise in store for them. “I find this place. And the part of my property which is the dog part wasn’t even in the advertisement for the house,” Maurice said. “There was this whole other quarter acre behind the house — it was an open area just covered in weeds and dog crap from the former owner. And you know, I loved it, I just saw all the potential in it.” 

The pair put in an offer but after being outbid began to move on, assuming it just wasn’t meant to be. A short time later Maurice got a call saying that the other offer fell through, and the house was theirs if they still wanted it. They confirmed immediately!

Providing an alternative option to dog parks

Meanwhile, Maurice was adding to his dog family and was having non-ideal experiences at a nearby dog park. “We have a bunch of dogs now and I want to socialize them, so I was taking them to dog parks,” Maurice said. “But Junebug got attacked a couple of times, and I thought, wait, I have a big enough yard, we have other dogs, I really don’t need to take her to dog parks anymore.” This realization, and the access to newfound, wide open space, came early on into the pandemic, which limited socializing in all areas of life anyhow. The timing of everything made his future plans crystal clear. “The pandemic was happening, and we saw Sniffspot, kind of like, within months of each other,” he added. “So we were here and I was like, you know what I can do that? Right? And then it just started.” 

And so, Phuggly’s was born. Clearing was done a little at a time, trash was hauled out by the truck load, and fencing around the perimeter of the property was put up. His updates to the space include a small cabin, a gym, and two gazebos with seating in the shade, one of which has lighting to keep the space illuminated. Noticing that some of his neighbors with dogs suddenly didn’t have an open space to run and exercise their dogs amid the pandemic, Maurice and his crew looked into ideas that might make a dog park attractive to people, searching Pinterest and Sniffspot to see what other petcare facilitators offer, and asking those around them what they value in a space, and making those adjustments over time. “It was a huge project,” Maurice explained. “I’m retired so you know for me, every day was a work day. I was probably at Home Depot every day.”

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

Creating a Disneyland for dogs   

One thing that Maurice noticed was that dog parks didn’t offer the most comfortable seating for canine guardians to rest in while their dogs played. “I would go to a dog park and it wasn’t really comfortable,” he said. “The chairs weren’t that comfortable or you know, there just really weren’t amenities, and places you could sit were usually out in the sun.” Using his own experience as a dog park patron, Maurice made sure to provide comfortable seating with options in the shade for people to enjoy a number of things, from eating lunch to taking Zoom calls, all while their dogs exercise around them. 

A volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, Maurice also shopped at their Re-Store for a few staple items at affordable prices, including a picnic table, which he refurbished. Stairs enforced with handrails were added to allow for easy commuting up and down the hill on the property, and fun toys for the dogs, like a teeter totter, was built by him to enhance the space. Additionally, entrances marked with signs in both English and Spanish makes the area welcoming and easy for visitors to spot. 

Maurice credits a lot of his success to the fact that he can offer a fairly secluded spot for dog owners to bring their pets, which can look and feel as if they were enjoying an afternoon in their own backyard. “Because it’s so secluded and I think they really feel like it’s their place,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll see people in the shade and they have their kids and they have their lunch and it’s a place that I would want to be, especially if I had an apartment and didn’t have anywhere to go enjoy peace and quiet with my dog.” 

The benefits of Sniffspot 

Before opening up for business, Maurice was caught up on one thing — liability. After considering renting his cleared space for personal trainers to host hourly sessions, which he ultimately decided against. “The thing holding me back really was the insurance,” he explained. “I called my insurance agent and I said hey, I’m thinking about doing this, and then I read more into Sniffspot’s policy and you guys provide $2,000,000 insurance.” The coverage allowed Maurice to rest assured that all visits would be safe and enjoyable for all, offering him the ultimate peace of mind.

Once he opened his doors to visitors, he found the experience to be relatively seamless, collaborative, and mutually beneficial for everyone, canine friends included. “It’s a lot easier than I thought it was going to be,” he said, of the ease in booking, and general hands-off service most of his visitors seem to prefer. People have been super nice, cleaning up after themselves, you know, and taking care of the place. I’m down here every day to clean, I clean up after my own dog and make sure everything is ready for them to come. And people have been understanding, especially when I first started doing it. You know, I would make mistakes, but I got a lot of the bugs figured out, and little by little, just trying to improve it.” 

Thanks to a few hard rules listed by Sniffspot, Maurice hasn’t had to worry much about keeping his investment, and home, in stellar shape. “I think that it comes back to you guys, I think the way you advertise,” Maurice said, of how he ensures that his space is treated with care and respect. “The rules are right there, it’s it’s, and it’s pretty plain to see. I haven’t had any problems with that.” Making things easy for visitors to succeed, like providing a trash can and waste bags, has only made things easier for everyone. 

Plans for the future 

With a lot of changes to his space, and a few solid months of hosting under his belt, Maurice has plans to add amenities, just in time for summer 2021. “I’ll make sure I have the little doggie wading pool, you know, available all the time,” he said. Maurice plans to add even more seating and lighting, and also offers Bluetooth speakers for guests to use if they want to enjoy a little music outside. He also aims to continue to offer personal touches for his visitors that set him apart, like displaying welcome signs with the names of his guests, canine visitors included, written clearly, as if to say “you’re home.” 

Maurice will continue to help dogs by providing a safe, secluded space for dogs to play, and for their guardians to rest easy amid peace and quiet. After leaving a career where he had to deal with dark situations, it’s beautiful to be able to be involved the positive energy of Sniffspot. The reward for him, as Maurice puts it: “I’m getting the feedback from people, just seeing the reviews and how happy people are is the best.”

Interested in hosting?

Learn more here about your land can help dogs and you can earn up to $1,000 per month!

The Pocket Guide to Flyball for Dogs

* All Sniffspot articles are reviewed by certified trainers for quality, please see bottom of article for details *

Ever wished your dog could spend an afternoon running as fast as they can, jump over obstacles, and retrieve balls alongside other canine friends? It may sound like an unbelievably specific set of criteria, but anyone with a flyball dog knows just how rewarding all of these elements put together can be. If you’re looking for a great way to exercise an active dog with a knack for remaining focused and driven under pressure, flyball racing may be a fun and effective way to meet your dog’s physical and mental needs. 

How flyball works

Flyball is a relay-racing sport where teams of dogs complete a straight-forward set of obstacles in order to reach the finish line. To begin, two competing dogs run the length of a course, jumping over a number of hurdles along the way. Once they reach the end of the course section, the dogs will then touch a spring-loaded flyball box with one of their paws in order to release a ball. The dogs grab the ball with their mouths, then run back down the course in the opposite direction from which they came. When they reach their initial starting point, another dog on that dog’s team will repeat the same activity — jumping hurdles, releasing a ball, and carrying that ball back to the relay point where another dog on their team enters the race. 

The winning team is decided by the fastest times in three out of five races, and all four dogs must complete the entire course with zero errors made. 

Flyball teams are made up of:

  • Four dogs to compete in the relay race
  • Four handlers to guide and encourage the racing dogs, and release dogs onto the course following a series of yellow and green flashing lights, which signal the start of a heat
  • One ball loader to replace balls for dogs to retrieve
  • One or two runners to collect any loose balls
  • The reserve crew — this consists of two additional dogs and their two handlers 
dog playing flyball

Flyball is an incredibly physical sport. According to the North American Flyball Association standard, flyball courses are 51 feet in length and feature four hurdles which all racing dogs must scale both to and from the springboard that holds the ball. 

Because all breeds and sizes of dogs are encouraged to compete in flyball races, the height of the hurdles is determined by the smallest dog on a team. The hurdles measure five inches lower than the shortest dog’s shoulder blades, and hurdles max out at a height of 14 inches. The relatively low height of the hurdles allow competing dogs to retain top speeds while still requiring them to focus and time their jumps properly. 

Is flyball right for me and my dog? 

Because flyball is an activity that involves athletic capability, focus, and determination, the sport is generally better suited for dogs who need to be stimulated both physically and mentally in order to feel their best. Like many sports which rely on a dog’s agility, flyball as a competitive sport is great for dogs in good physical health. 

Dogs who participate in flyball competitions should also be non-aggressive and not leash reactive toward other dogs, are not easily stressed or agitated in a fast-paced and loud environment, and who have strong recall abilities and take commands and directions well. A dog and their handler generally work as a unit within the team, and communication, trust, and a strong bond is an important aspect of scoring well in flyball competitions. 

dog playing flyball

How to get started 

If you think flyball may be a good fit for your dog, the best way to get started is to attend a flyball event in your area in order to see for yourself what your canine is expected to do at competitions. To locate the flyball community in your area, there are a few things you can try: 

  • Search Facebook for flyball groups, clubs, and teams nearby
  • Research flyball online by searching for phrases like “flyball near me” and “flyball dog training near me
  • Ask a local trainer or pet care professional if they have any information or experience with flyball

Like any dog sporting event, finding a community of dog guardians immersed in the sport can provide a great resource for answering any questions you may have, learning about future competitions, and finding out what it takes to train a flyball dog. The North American Flyball Association sanctions over 300 competitions annually in various locations. 

If you can’t find a flyball community near you, or if you simply want to see if your dog would even enjoy participating in such an activity, there are some things you can do at home to assess your dog’s interest. One way to do this is to have your dog return a ball to you. The ball should be stationary, so try laying a tennis ball on the floor and encourage your dog to pick it up and deliver it to you rather than drop it onto the ground. This will discourage a dog from dropping a ball during a flyball race, and is usually done via positive reward training, where a high value treat is offered to your dog each time they return the ball to you. 

dog playing flyball

Jumping should also be practiced and successful attempts should be rewarded, and can be taught using any household item tall enough for your dog to step over. To practice jumping, start with something very low to the ground and easy to scale at first, and reward your dog each time they step over it. Over time, add height to the item and continue to offer rewards and encouragement, eventually adding running before and after the jump. A relatively private, outdoor space, like a Sniffspot location near you, are great options for teaching a dog to retrieve or jump in preparation for flyball racing. 

In addition to focus, recall, and racing, resting is a huge part of flyball tournaments. Teaching your dog to become comfortable at rest in a crate is highly encouraged so that they won’t be disruptive or overly excited while other teams are competing during their downtime. 

Trainer that reviewed this article

There is so much misinformation out there, we want to make sure we only provide the highest quality information to our community. We have all of our articles reviewed by qualified, positive-only trainers. The trainers that review our content are reviewed by other trainers to ensure that we have the best quality filters on our content. 

This is the trainer that reviewed this article:

Lindy Langum
Founder – K9 Fun Club
Staff Trainer – Summit Assistance Dogs
Certified in Canine Studies (CSS), ​NW School of Canine Studies