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Crafting Rules for Allowing Pets - I need forum wisdom!

Hello, I am a host who allows pets. I do so because of my market and the niche I have crafted for myself over the last eight years of hosting. Roughly 1/3 of hosts in the area allow pets because our draw is outside recreation, namely hiking.

The majority of my guests bring pets and the overwhelming majority of those guests are trouble-free. They have been responsible and respectful of my house* and good judges of their pets’ capabilities and limitations. However, I would say about once a year I have someone who takes advantage, namely in the form of leaving their pet alone in my cottage for long periods of time.

I have played around with all kind of language to discourage that behavior and for a while I thought I had hit upon a magic phrase by saying “please show good judgement in leaving your dog alone in a strange place for minimal amounts of time” but it is clear that is no longer sufficient and leaves the door open for “misinterpretation” or actual ill-intent.

As of yesterday I updated my Pet Rule - always in the Rules, otherwise it is not enforceable by Airbnb - but I was hoping for some insight from other hosts who allow pets. (If you do NOT allow pets - and want to tell me how I should not, too, I can appreciate that, but please scroll on.)

- DOGS and CATS are welcome with a flat, per pet fee of $65. IMPORTANT NOTE: we LOVE to welcome responsible owners, but please show good judgment in leaving your dog alone in a strange place for minimal amounts of time - no longer than 4 hours. If you plan on leaving your dog longer than 4 hours you must use an off-site pet sitting service. There are highly rated Rover hosts within 15 minutes of [Name of Property] who would love to spend quality time with your dog. In other words - and a small percentage of guests have forced me to say this, but I must say it nonetheless - please do NOT use [Name of Property] as a free alternative to properly boarding your dog.

Other Pet-Allowing Hosts, what am I leaving out? Should I require guests to crate their dogs? A lot of dogs are not crate trained and I get a lot of guest with labs and retrievers and the like. Is four hours too long? Three hours seems too short. I call upon the collective Hive Mind wisdom of the forum!

*For those who don’t know me, this is my beloved second home, lovingly restored over many years. This is not an investment property. My guests love the cottage for its authentic homeyness and charm.

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In a strange house I would say 2 hours max. Even then what if it’s a barky or destructive dog? Lovingly restored home? It’s a worry.

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Thank you, @Jess1. Two hours feels a little short. It isn’t enough time to drive to the next town and have a nice dinner. But maybe three has a much better ring to it - because you have to assume folks may - with no ill intention - straggle in at 3.5 hours.

Again, in all the years I have been hosting I have only very minimal things damaged by a dog and even then … meh. A chewed pillow where the seams were pulled apart. The rug in my front room has to be steam cleaned frequently or is smells doggy, but I imagine that is because that is where the dogs lie in wait for the owners when they are gone. I always split my pet fee with my cleaner because of the extra hair, which does take some time, but she has said on many an occasion - better pets than children. And indeed, I have had more things broken by kids - hands down.

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I just thought of an obvious addition. I also list in my rules that the exterior is monitored by a security camera. It has to be mentioned - spelled out, rather - in a not too big brotherish way that how long a guest leaves the dog in the house can be verified by our security camera.

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How about installing a doghouse, with a fenced dog run? In my area, we can’t leave dogs tied outside because of our growing black bear population, but many folks have fenced dog areas.

Thank you, @NordlingHouse, but that is not an option for me or my type of guests.

My situation is different so not sure my two cents will help. We have a triplex so our rule is you are not allowed to leave your pets unattended at all. It is not fair to other guests to hear your pets should they cry or bark due to being left alone. We then have a list of all the dog friendly places you can eat and take them to. We also are not a tourist destination outside of Balloon Fiesta so most people are here for the night and back on the road.
I think your 4 hours seems reasonable. Do you have info you can offer them about a local kennel or dog sitter?

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I probably wouldn’t put a specific time limit because then someone might leave a dog longer than is okay for that particular dog because your rules allow it. Maybe something like, “You know your pet’s temperament best and how they might react in new/strange spaces. Please be conscious of this when leaving your pet unattended, both for the sake of your pet’s comfort and for my home.” I don’t love how I worded that and am too tired to make it sound nicer, but you get the gist. :wink:

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Your house, your rules. Pretty much all my guests take their dogs with them if going out for dinner and leave them in the car in their crate. But the weather here is pretty mild at night all year round so they would be in no danger of freezing or overheating. My rule says “Dogs must not be left on their own except by prior arrangement”. Wouldn’t discussing it with them solve some of your issues? At the very least you could determine the likelihood of them making it to where they say they are going and back in the maximum time frame and say “No that is not possible in 4 hours, you will be away for at least 6 hours so you must arrange a pet sitter”. You can also ensure they have your phone number by name so if you ring them they can’t pretend they didn’t know it was you calling about Buster. Most people work on the “better to ask forgiveness than ask permission” so at least it forces them to ask upfront.

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I am not recommending any particular sitter, but I can refer them to Rover.com. I can’t include the .com or even dot com or Airbnb strips it out.

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When I’ve tried to tell guests I’m a Rover sitter I just say “I’m on Rover” or “I do boarding through Rover.” It’s a very small sample but so far everyone’s been able to figure it out and find me on Rover.

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@KKC This is what I am saying now:

please show good judgment in leaving your dog alone in a strange place for minimal amounts of time”” has been the language I have used for the last few 10 months. Only recently have I felt that this needs to be quantified.

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I edited the Rover part to say “If you plan on leaving your dog longer than 4 hours you must use an off-site pet sitting service. There are highly rated Rover hosts - an online pet setting service similar to Airbnb - within 15 minutes of Green Cottage who would love to spend quality time with your dog.”

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I wonder if you should follow up all bookings that include dogs with a special, more detailed message.

“While we know every dog is different and you are the best judge of your dog we don’t want dogs left for more than 4 hours unattended, even if crated. Please use one of the nearby Rover hosts or doggy day care facilities for longer time periods.”

I also think your pet fee could be higher. I use a per pet per day formula and then discount off of that for longer stays and more dogs.

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Oh, that’s good language. It hits a tad harder. As it is now I follow up with every guest with a pet before their arrival, but I just say “a gentle reminder of the rule” … and then I copy/paste in the rule.

I think your language also eliminates the need to mention a crate - which I have been waffling on. Just like @Wenchkin said above, crating does not eliminate the barking and while my house is on 1.6 acres, if the windows are open I can still hear my neighbor’s dog bark, so I assume they can hear barking at my house.

@JamJerrupSunset is exactly right - folks operate on the “better to ask forgiveness” impulse, but that is too late for me.

I will tell you - and Dusty knows this because I have bent her ear about this more than once - the moment I think someone is taking advantage of me or playing it fast and loose with my house, it is like a switch gets flipped. I go from Warm and Solicitous Superhost to Pulp Fiction.

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Lol. Love it. I am also pretty flexible but if someone gives me attitude about MY property…I’m the same. The guy who showed up two hours before check in and let me know he can’t get messages on the road because he doesn’t have a smartphone was allowed in but slammed in the review and blocked from booking for his return trip.

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We can’t accept dogs any more (homeowners’ association rules changed) but when we did, we didn’t allow dogs to be left alone at all, ever. We’ve had a couple of situations here with dogs being left alone and it’s no fun at all.

One was due to the owner of an apartment who lent his place to relatives and they went to the beach all day (consecutive days) leaving the barking, crying (large!) dog alone. I used to go and talk to him through the window to calm him down.

Another owner rented his place to a bloke with a dog. When that dog was left alone it barked madly on one occasion when a window was left open I was worried that he’d leap out (an upstairs apartment).

Of course, the owners never knew that their dogs barked while they were away.

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@jaquo Oh, they NEVER think their dog barks, do they? The defense is always that the dog never does A, B or C when they are home. I don’t understand what they don’t understand about how disorienting it must be for dogs to be dumped in a strange house and then left alone.

Honestly, maybe I should institute a much shorter time. If you’re planning on leisurely dinners and movies, in addition to hiking, maybe you shouldn’t bring them at all. But that reaction is based more on indignation and not real experience, because in truth - after eight years of hosting - I have had minimal damage. I’ve had far more from children.

I had a guest earlier this week (you probably all suspected specific incident prompted my question) who arrived on Tuesday at 4 and by 5 had left for three hours without the dogs. The next day, left at 11AM for 6 hours, without the dogs. At that point I intervened and sent a stern message giving her only a three hour window. She returned within the half hour and then, an hour later sent a somewhat insincere mea culpa about the “misunderstanding” because her dogs are crated.

The next day she did take the dogs somewhere, but again, dropped them off and again, gone for 3 hours without the dogs, almost to the minute. Seriously, what the hell?

Sigh … I need to 1) raise my rates or 2) raise my pet fee or 3) both. One reason I don’t raise my fee if because I’m afraid it send the opposite message - “I’m paying $100 for my pet, surely that means I can do what I want.”

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Knock on wood we have not had any real damage. Out of the two apartments one has hardwood floors. We discourage cat owners from renting upstairs due to cat litter getting tracked around and ground into the hardwoods. Not being cat owners we had not even thought about this till it happened. It was an easy fix and something we talk to people about when they book.
Crates, personally not a fan but I do not travel with my dog. We inspected a place after some guests had left to find a nasty rectangle where a crate sat. Not all people keep a nice clean create. Poor dog. No real damage just nasty. Thankfully this was a one off.

Sadly I think there will always be those one offs sprinkled in to keep us all on our toes.

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My dog is an angel. Every other time I visit my mother she wees on her carpet for no reason. Luckily she has a carpet shampooer.

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