Since Elle Ritt started renting her Wheat Ridge yard to fellow dog owners in November, she’s hosted birthday parties for pups, pooch photoshoots and doggie play groups almost every weekend.
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Ritt is one of dozens of renters in the Denver metro area on a website called SniffSpot, which links people interested in sharing their yard with local dog owners who want a private fenced area to let their pups off-leash. Through SniffSpot, renters set an hourly rate per dog and time slot availability for users to book.
With two older dogs who need less exercise, Ritt said she wanted to let other dogs take advantage of her large yard and, so far, there has been no shortage of demand.
“It’s just mindblowing how frequently it’s used,” she said.
Ritt said a majority of her visitors don’t have their own yards and prefer to avoid public dog parks because of reactive or sensitive pups. The site allows users to tailor their search to fit needs like a taller fence height or not having other dogs or animals visible.
Dr. Rebecca Ruch-Gallie, a 23-year veterinarian at Colorado State University’s Community Practice clinic, said the uncontrolled nature of dog parks leads to risks like fights and disease transmission, which is why she typically recommends other ways to exercise dogs, such as daycare or private yard time.
In addition to walks and playtime, Ruch-Gallie said some dogs need to run and all dogs benefit from exploring new routes and places. Ruch-Gallie said she will sometimes take her pups on what she calls a “sniff-ari.”
“They take in the world much differently than we do, so give them those different scents to pick up and opportunities to see and smell different things,” she said. “Sometimes they just want to go, go, go and get their energy out and other times they just want to meander and take the sniffs in.”
Mike Rieber, who has been renting his fenced pasture in Parker since October, said one of the best perks of sharing his yard is seeing how excited pups get to check out new scents and release their energy.
“They call it a SniffSpot and I never really understood how important that was to a dog, but that’s the first thing they all do when they get here is smell everything,” Rieber said. “Especially with the repeat dogs, as soon as their paws hit the ground, boy, they’re off.”
Ritt’s experience has been similar, she said, adding that SniffSpot has been mutually beneficial, not just for the dogs, but also the humans. She’s received multiple thank you notes from visitors and attests that catching glimpses of visitors always makes her smile.
“It’s so cute to peek in the backyard and see grown men laying on their stomachs taking pictures of their puppies,” Ritt said.
Another SniffSpot user, Lyndsey Leach, who rents her Lakewood backyard, agreed. Leach lost her own pooch three years ago but remains an avid dog-lover.
“It’s so nice when they’re comfortable and running around,” she said. “I’m always happy when they’re happy.”
None of the three renters report issues with destroyed yards, rude users, neighbor complaints or unruly animals.
In addition to the positive mental health benefits, Leach said renting her yard is a convenient passive income and gives her the flexibility to be away from home if needed. Leach estimates that since she started in January, she’s had about 50 visitors and made around $400.
“I don’t really have any expenses associated with it, other than eaten tennis balls,” she joked.
Rieber said he didn’t originally think he would make much money from the app but has been happy with the extra cash. He noted the demand is only picking up in the warmer months, though he got a fair share of visitors during the winter as well.
“We’re not trying to maximize our revenue, we’re doing this more as a service for young people that have dogs and need a place that’s private,” he said.
For Ritt, her most recent month was her most successful, cashing in over $1,000, and before that, she averaged a few hundred dollars monthly.
“One of our dogs has had a ton of health issues, so it’s like SniffSpot funds her care,” Ritt said. “It truly has been a notable supplemental income.”
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