James and Timothy McElroy of House My Dog have created what's been dubbed as the "Airbnb for dogs". As an alternative to kennels House My Dog matches dog minders with dogs, so your pet can stay in a family home while you're on holidays. There's already a huge amount of choice on the website with hundreds of minders in Ireland signed up and active already. It's a two sided market place and community, which provides often cheaper and happier alternative to your pet pooches needs. You can browse and look before you commit to anything. Free to sign up before you use the service.
Hi guys, as dog lovers in Lovin Dublin HQ we're really exited by what you're doing in House My Dog. Can you explain House My Dog in a nutshell to someone who’s never heard of it before?
We like to think of it quite simply as a cage free alternative to dog kennels. Essentially if you’re going on holidays today you have three real options:
- You can use a kennels which most people don’t like as they’re are often crowded, you have to get your pre-visits, shots and documentations.
- A lot of people use family and friends but there’s often a guilt factor there is you travel frequently that you’re asking a lot of someone, also they may be inexperienced with minding dogs.
- Lastly you could get a minder or sitter, the problem today is that its hard to actually find them, you can ask your vet or check noticeboard sites but it’s a lot of work to find someone suitable.
Is there an element of guilt leaving your dog behind when you're jetting off on holidays?
Yes, you’re going away on a lovely holiday and leaving your dog behind with strangers. It’s something we really did always think about. Our dog minder was elderly and it became too much for her so we ended up having to put our dog into a kennel. I came across a similar dog service in America and it seemed to solve so many problems.
I imagine price is a big element too in deciding the care of your dog...
Yes, kennels can be really pricy and it seems even more expensive when you’re paying for something you don’t want at all.
So how to you find dog minders to sign up to House My Dog?
Loads of different ways. So it ranges from contacting people who are already offering these services on classified sites or fliers, but we also hold a lot of events with dog owners at the weekends. People who are looking to make some extra money by offering their services. There’s also a screening process, people have profiles with photos of themselves, their home, garden and details about themselves. Then they have to do a screening telephone call which lasts around 15 minutes which asks them many different questions around their experience with minding dogs, the plans around what they will do with the dogs and a few medical questions around their level of experience there. So everyone on the site is screened and vetted.
And have you used the site yourself?
We’re using it at the moment as we’re going away soon, so it’s great not to have that worry.
Is there any kind of rating of the people who mind the dogs on your site?
Absolutely. If I leave my dog with you and I think you’ve done a good job I’ll leave you a customer review. With customer reviews the minders can keep building up their reputation.
You might be thinking that if I use the same minder a few times, why would they keep coming back through the site if they have their number and could arrange it directly. Well we have an emergency vet care policy which is free with each booking. We also offer 24 hour customer support. It entices people to use the site more often.
How has the response been so far to this service?
We have over 850 people in the community since January. Even last week alone we’ve had 120 people sign up to the site. So in April we launched in the UK and over there we have a much bigger market. There’s a lot of opportunity in the European market too so we will explore than down line line. The overall response to House My Dog has been great. All of our minders have received between a 4 and 5 star review, with over 90% of our minders getting a 5 star review. We haven’t had any negative reviews yet.
How does the pricing work on the site work?
It’s always usually cheaper than going to a kennels but the minder will choose the price themselves. It can be anywhere between €10 to €100 a night to mind the dog. The average price per night in Dublin at the moment though is €18 a night. Generally we find it is cheaper than a lot of the kennel options.
I might sign up myself, I’ve always wanted a dog.
You can sign up to mind puppies!
Yes a lot of minders specialise in certain breeds, you can also put on your profile that you only mind puppies if you want.
What we think is interesting is this global pet parenting trend that’s taken off. Ireland is about 5 years behind America but even still there are schemes like 'bring your dog to work day' rather than the previous ‘bring your kid to work day’, and people are putting their dogs into doggie day care when they go to work every day. People view their dogs as part of the family rather than just an animal.
It sounds so exciting and you're both clearing flying with it. What were you both doing before this?
Timothy: We’re both from Dublin. I did a Bachelor of Commerce in UCD and went on to work in a corporate finance company in Dublin and then in Prague. I decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I got accepted for an angel fund in Berlin and then worked for a few start ups in Berlin for a year. Then I went over to work for one of the partners on an educational company. I came up with the idea while I was in Berlin. We’ve always had dogs and come up with the issue of putting dogs into kennels when going away.
James: I just finished my final year in DIT, I did business studies there. Up until March I was working three days a week in the office. I took from March off to finish up my exams but I’m back now full time and we’re getting really busy which is great. Timothy came back from Berlin and we had a few ideas. We thought this was a really big issue and thought about how to solve it. We ourselves used a lady to mind our dogs and she was great, but she used to mind about 10 dogs at the same time so you’re not sure how much one on one attention your dog is getting even if you do use a dog minder rather than a kennel.
So you’re two brothers working together, how do you find working with family? Is it difficult or fun?
It's good. We have our disagreements but it’s good because you can be honest with one another and don’t have to worry too much about tip toeing around an issue. We can be quite straight with one another. Theres 7 of us in the office full time so we’re often running around doing our own thing and don’t interact as much as we used to a few months ago. When you define roles for everyone it helps a lot.
And how do you find Dublin as a city to support start ups?
Really great, when I (Timothy) came back from Berlin I approached the Dun Laoghaire enterprise board and they provided us with a feasibility grant to actually start building the prototype which was fantastic. Now we’re going to go into the system again and see what further supports we might get to grow to the next level. I was really impressed with the supports available for start ups here.
That's good to hear. Lastly, what’s the ultimate goal for House My Dog?
Well we’re moving into the UK which is a huge market, but expansion to the wider European market is on our horizon. We ultimately want to get as many dogs out of kennels and cages and into as many family homes as possible, then that would be a success.