Tokyo-based DogHuggy provides a service to replace kennels for dog owners, making it possible by matching them with reliable pet sitters (or hosts) online in a way like Airbnb that connects those in need of staying with others offering a place to stay. DogHuggy, the company behind the service under the same name, announced in March that they have fundraised an undisclosed sum from CyberAgent Ventures.
DogHuggy lets users sign up as a dog owner or sitter (host) so that owners who go out of town can find someone reliable and affordable to take care of their pooch. In this space, we’ve seen startups like US-based DogVacay raising $25 million last November as well as Tokyo-based inDog which recently launched a teaser site.
For dog owners, DogHuggy shows you a list of available hosts in your neighborhood so that you can choose one of them as your host by checking their profiles and the reason why they have registered. Once your booking is made, you need to take your pooch to the host’s venue and later pick him up according to the schedule that you have agreed with the host.
Planning to start its operation in Japan’s major city areas, DogHuggy will offer the service for 4,000 to 5,000 yen (about $33 to $42) per night while conventional kennels usually charge 6,000 to 7,000 yen ($50 to $58). Hosts can partially donate their income from the platform to selected animal welfare NPOs upon request.
In our recent interview with DogHuggy CEO Shogo Nagatsuka and CTO Yohei Someya, they told us what has triggered them to launch the service.
What’s the problem with conventional kennels?
Aged 18 years now, CEO Nagatsuka has loved animals since childhood. So he took a class of animal welfare while attending a high school attached to a college of veterinary medicine. In contrast with the US and UK where people obtain pets from breeders, he learned that pets in Japan are typically being sold at pet shops as a commodity.
Uncovering the fact that this type of trade practice results in a tendency to abuse pets which is especially on rise in Japan, Nagatsuka felt a sense of urgency with increased awareness of the problem to be dealt with. He thought how he can make a greater contribution through work to the society than by just becoming a veterinarian helping animals at hand. So he started with solving common problems that many pet owners face while attending high school.
When out of town, dog owners typically entrust their pets to kennels. But the service quality of kennels in Japan is inferior to that in Western countries, and not merely that dogs are penned in a very small cage. The DogHuggy team interviewed 200 people walking with their dogs in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo’s huge green area known for having several dog run facilities. As a result, the team learned that many dog owners use kennels because there’s no other choice when leaving home.
I have entrusted my pooch to kennels, but he returned in an unwell condition when I picked him up at the kennel because he was forced to spend long hours in a small cage and got stressed. I then came to avoid taking long day trips because I was afraid that the same thing would happen again.
Caring for beloved animals, not just making money
DogHuggy prioritizes improving the quality of their pet sitters. Only qualified sitters upon interview are allowed to sign up as a host, and many of them have a publicly-certified license. Nagatsuka and Someya have taken advantage of their network since school to attract licensed pet sitters.
In addition, using DogHuggy, their pet sitters are obliged to send at least three daily snapshots of your pooch per night so that it will keep you updated about how your pooch spends a good time even when being apart. The team also has a system enabling rapid response to your possible anxiety about your pooch as needed.
In terms of the demographics of hosts, many of them are people in their late 20s to early 30s who typically have a pooch at their parents’ home but are unable to do in their apartment in urban areas.
Many of our hosts agree with our vision of wanting to help animals and make them happier. Because of the platform allowing them to donate animal welfare NPOs, they are participating in our activities upon supporting our vision rather than just making money.
DogHuggy is planning to launch pretty soon. They want to acquire 500 hosts by the end of this June.
Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by Masaru Ikeda & “Tex” Pomeroy