Dog lovers across Southeast Portland are giving cooped-up canines the exercise they need, using a service called Sniffspot.
It functions much like the more familiar AirBnB does for people, but in this case homeowners rent out their property by the hour to people looking for a private place to let their four-legged friends run and play. Often the space is a yard or a field. Users and hosts can rate each other based on their satisfaction with the experience. Sniffspot is available through its app or website, and there's no fee to set up an account and to browse available locations.
Portland currently has 14 Sniffspots listed, with additional sites in surrounding suburbs and rural areas. Here in Inner Southeast, the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood boasts two locations, and there's a third in Woodstock (as of when this issue of THE BEE went to press). The number of Sniffspots fluctuates, as homeowners travel or do yard projects, temporarily removing their property from the app until it's again ready for use.
Marla Nixon lives in an apartment in the Buckman neighborhood in Southeast, with no private outdoor space. That makes it tough to exercise her young German Shepherd/Boxer mix, Buffy. A friend with a reactive dog told her about Sniffspot, and she's found it affords her a perfect fit for her pup, who's still learning recall and socialization. "Being able to go someplace where we can let her off leash and have that experience, without the stress of a dog park, is really cool," Nixon remarks. "Every time she gets to a new yard she will just zoomie around, and is living her best life!"
Nixon often uses a Sniffspot location simply named "SE Portland (Woodstock/Foster-Powell) Backyard." The property owner, Amanda Hurley, reports that people rent her backyard because it's securely fenced, free from major distractions, and close to home. Although it covers less than a tenth of an acre, it's big enough for dogs to get their needed exercise in a safe environment.
Most Sniffspot hosts provide a range of amenities, with basics like drinking water included in the rental fee. Hurley also offers dog toys, a waste can, an electrical outlet, chairs, shade, and nighttime lighting. She charges a $5 add-on fee for the use of a lawn sprinkler if dog owners want to let their pups frolic in the water. She even offers to let her friendly Great Pyrenees/Pit Bull mix, Turkey, come out and play — but only if the user requests that.
Sniffspot's rates in Southeast Portland range from $7 per hour for an average-sized backyard to $20 for a lush half acre. Those amounts are set by the hosts, and often apply to each dog using the space, although many Sniffspots offer a discounted price for the second dog. When users look at the app or website, they'll see locations plotted on a map, photos of the space, notation of whether it's fully or partially fenced, and how often others report hearing or seeing nearby distractions like dogs, people, and other animals at the location. Insurance coverage is included.
Hurley charges $8 per hour because she wants to keep her rates affordable. After Sniffspot takes its booking and payment processing fees, she get about 70% of what the user has paid. "I'm by no means making bank," Hurley says with a laugh. However, she finds profound happiness in her ability to help canines and humans forge deeper connections. "I've actually gotten emotional seeing how much joy it brings people to be playing outside with their dog!"
Since joining Sniffspot in March, Hurley has watched her bookings increase steadily as the weather warms up. A glance at her yard's availability shows a mixture of booked hours and available openings through August. At many locations, there are open time slots as early as the same or next day.
Nixon loves that "last-minute" aspect of Sniffspot, because she can almost always book same-day appointments when she finds herself with a free hour. She wants other local dog owners to know that Sniffspot offers many benefits like this one to canines and humans alike, especially those who live in urban environments. "It's way cheaper than daycare, and it's just more safe than a dog park," she explains. "For me, it's like the best-case scenario." The website to visit is — www.sniffspot.com
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