Dogs For Rent: It's A Temporary Friendship Fix

Jan 23, 2006
New York New York
Sarah Stevenson scampered through a heavy rain one recent Friday evening, arriving at a Manhattan rental agency just before it closed.

Ms. Stevenson, a 26-year-old nurse’s aide from Brooklyn, had reserved a compact cutie with a lot of spunk for tooling around on the weekend.
The man behind the counter went and fetched it from a pillow in another room.
“Hi, hi, hi,” Ms. Stevenson said with a smile that kept getting wider. “How have you been, my handsome boy? I missed you.”
Ms. Stevenson picked up Oliver, a 3-year-old cockapoo — half cocker spaniel, half poodle — whom she had rented before.

“Last weekend, I didn’t want to bring him back because we were having the best time,” she said as she ran her fingers through Oliver’s tan curly locks.
The agency was Flexpetz, which rents dogs that have been rescued from animal shelters in the hope that they will eventually be adopted. Flexpetz operates out of the Wet Nose Doggy Gym at 34 East 13th Street, which provides day care and boarding for dogs. The company started in San Diego and opened in Los Angeles in June and in New York in October. It plans to expand to Boston, Washington, San Francisco and London.
“There are a lot of people out there looking for companionship,” said Chris Haddix, 28, who runs the New York branch of Flexpetz. There are usually five or six dogs available for rent, many of them on display in the Wet Nose storefront window, attracting crowds.
Ms. Stevenson explained why she was a customer: “I’m single and moved here from Scotland two years ago, and it’s been difficult to meet people because everyone in New York just kind of goes about their business. But when I’m walking around with Oliver, I seem to get into so many conversations about him. It becomes a nice way to meet people.”
But it isn’t cheap. A monthly membership, which includes four one-day rentals, costs $279.95. Additional rentals cost $45 for a day, or part of a day.
Anyone interested must first register before meeting Mr. Haddix. “I ask them a lot of questions,” he said. “I want to know if they have ever owned a dog, why they can’t own a dog full time, how renting a dog benefits them, stuff like that.”
If the head office in San Diego gives the go-ahead, there is a mandatory one-hour training session on handling and training. Then members can choose one of the dogs pictured on the Web site for rental.
Mr. Haddix said his customers were a mixed bunch.

“There are people from other states and other countries who couldn’t take their dogs with them when they were transplanted to New York,” he said, “and there are families with small children who enjoy taking these dogs on vacation with them.
“There are also people who live in places that do not allow pets, and a lot of single people who wouldn’t mind just hanging out with a pal every now and then. There are all sorts of reasons for renting dogs,” said Mr. Haddix, who is studying for a master’s degree in philosophy at the New School for Social Research when he is not studying the qualifications of prospective renters.

Mr. Haddix noted that big dogs are rented out on the West Coast, where the dogs generally have more room to roam, and smaller dogs are rented in New York, where, as he put it, “many people live in apartments the size of coat closets.”
Stacy Faulkner, 39, is a Flexpetz client in San Diego. She has been married for 10 years and does not have children, she said, so “renting a dog can really fill a void.”
Two years ago, her 10 ½-year-old Rottweiler, Kaya, died.
“When you don’t have kids,” Mrs. Faulkner explained, “your animals are like your own children, or a new best friend.”

“Kaya was a great dog, and I really miss her,” she said. “I’m not ready yet to get another full-time dog — I can’t make that kind of emotional commitment.”
To fill the void, Mrs. Faulkner has been renting for the past eight months. She has returned time and again to rent Charlie, a 4-year-old black dachshund. When she visits New York, she rents a 2-year-old miniature Doberman pinscher named Nixon, who was rented on a recent Friday to a family in Port Jefferson, N.Y.
After Mr. Haddix handed Oliver to Ms. Stevenson, along with a leash and a bag filled with kibble, he closed shop for the night and said that he was going home — to his cat.
“I love my cat,” Mr. Haddix said of Stoli, his 6-year-old Maine coon, before turning out the lights, “and no, he’s not for rent.”


Jan 5, 2008
I remember reading about it a year ago. I'm not sure if having a dog bouncing around houses is such a great thing. But then again, at least they were rescued and are able to have human interaction.


Living life...
Jun 16, 2006
I really love this idea. It's great for people who aren't ready for the commitment of owning a dog. I imagine this is a much better existance for the pooches than living in a simple shelter.
Mar 24, 2007
- NyC -
It's almost like the idea of fostering a dog...but a lot more expensive. But if the dogs are going to get adopted afterwards then it seems fair. The price is still a bit high to join.


Apr 6, 2007
Am I the only one who thinks this is horrible for the dogs? They are not inanimate objects with no feelings, for people to rent for the day like a bicycle. Dogs need to bond with their people, not have a new person every week and live in a shop window the rest of the time. I have to wonder at the motives of people who like to play "pretend dog owner". There are probably a lot of lonely guys who heard walking a dog is a good way to meet women.:rolleyes:


Jan 5, 2008
^I don't think it's a good idea. It's like a weekend toy for these people. But I can see how some would argue that at least these rescued pups are getting human interaction. I don't personally agree with it though


Aug 10, 2007
Not so fine singapore
yea. i agree it might not be a great idea at all. Its feels like the dog are like social escort when you bring them out once in a while. I believe dogs have very huge emotional attachment to their owner and having different owner might confused the dogs in a way.


No longer in Japan..
Jan 20, 2007
When I lived in Japan the pet store I visited had a small pen with 2 dogs inside them - a dacchie and something else and customers could hire them out for a 30 min walk. 1,500yen per 30 mins. I thought that was pretty odd but this is definitely even stranger!
Nov 26, 2006
When I first read the title I was shocked...but I'm a bit torn. I also agree that it's not right for a dog to be passed around home to home every weekend. But then I also can see the positive in at least they were rescued and someone, or in this case, a lot of people can show them a lot of affection and they were saved from being but to sleep.


Dec 30, 2007
I don't think an hour is enough time to educate someone on the proper way to handle a dog. I also agree with the other posters about people treating the dogs like they are just a disposable accessory. But if you are willing to fork out that kind of cash monthly, you could just adopt a dog and hire a dog walker.