New 'on-demand' app helps dog owners sniff out walkers, sitters in their neighbourhoods

In a city where condos can be small, commutes can be long and work can be busy, a couple is starting a business aimed at ensuring Toronto dogs are getting the care they need.

Busy Toronto couple creates Houndr after finding out dog ownership is 'a lot of work'

Amy Bath founded Houndr with her partner Mike Onorati after they came across challenges finding help with their four-year-old chocolate lab Liloo. (Submitted / Worker Bee Supply)

In a city where condos can be small, commutes can be long and work can be busy, one couple is starting a business aimed at ensuring Toronto dogs are getting the care they need.

Amy Bath founded Houndr with her partner Mike Onorati after they came across challenges finding help with their four-year-old chocolate lab Liloo. The couple lives in Liberty Village and they both work full time.

"Having a dog is a lot of work. They're really expensive," Bath said as she recounted how she and Onorati came up with their idea.

The app, which launched this weekend, is set up so that the dog owner can input the day, time, where they are located and press a button that says, "Knock on doors."

For the people who sign up to help, they would get notice of the requests in their area.

"It's an on-demand solution," Bath said.

Houndr is free to download, but it does cost money to use the service, meaning those who are helping can also make a bit of cash.

Bath says the charge is $5 for half an hour of dog walking or dog sitting, or five cents a minute up to a maximum of $20 per day.

'This is what we've been waiting for'

Danielle Smith says she had pets growing up, but the puppy she recently adopted didn't quite fit into her current lifestyle in Corktown.

She adopted a rescue named Zoey in 2013 but shortly after the dog developed separation anxiety, and she had to bring it to her retired parents' home so that it got the attention it needed.

Danielle Smith had to bring her adopted pup to her parents' home because she didn't feel she could give it enough attention with her work schedule. (Submitted / Danielle Smith)

"As I'm living my city life, I'm dogless and sort of in that exact sweet spot where I wish I could get a dog, but sometimes the work schedule isn't predictable," Smith said.

"I also probably can't afford doggy daycare and dog walkers."

Smith says a few of her friends were already doing something like this on a smaller scale, helping each other out when someone was working late and their dog needed to be let out.

"I immediately sent it to my dog loving friends, and I'm like, 'Look what's coming, this is what we've been waiting for.'"

Connecting urban neighbours

Bath says they often found themselves in situations where they had nobody to ask for help.

"We had a dog walker for the middle of the day, there were weekends and evenings and just so many situations where we had nobody to take care of her."

Founder of Houndr Amy Bath says she hopes the app makes it easier for people to ask their neighbours for help, connecting more people in the city. (Come Together / Madison van Rijn)

Even though they often met other dog owners in the city, they didn't feel comfortable asking someone they just met to help out.

"You're living in the city, and you have thousands of neighbours and there's all these people around you and yet, we're not connected to anyone," Bath said.

She hopes the app also serves a second purpose of bringing neighbours together, to build stronger communities in the city.

"It's a catalyst for better social infrastructure in our neighbourhoods. And what brings people together more than dogs?"

Make sure to find a good fit,  Humane Society says

The Toronto Humane Society says providing enrichment time with dogs is very important to keep them healthy and happy.

Tegan Buckingham with the marketing and communications department suggests participants make sure the dog sitter is a good fit.

"Consider meeting with the person you select and introducing them to your dog," Buckingham said.

"Does your dog like them? How do they interact with your dog?"

As part of Houndr's launch, neighbours will have the chance to meet each other and their dogs.

About the Author

Talia Ricci

Talia Ricci is a CBC reporter based in Toronto. She's from Guelph and has also reported in London and Winnipeg. From the Middle East to West Africa, Talia has travelled around the globe volunteering and photographing. She enjoys covering offbeat human interest stories and exposing social justice issues. When she's not reporting, you can find Talia creating recipes for her plant based food blog.