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Part-time Dogs

How to borrow a dog for some canine company, or test-drive a breed to see if you’re a match!

By: Jane Mundy

Last Updated:

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Do you know someone who would love the company of a dog, but can’t for whatever reason—housing, travel, work-schedule—make a full-time commitment? Or, do you have a penchant for a particular breed, say a Cairn-Terrier or Saint Bernard, but wonder if the Cairn’s busy terrier-ness or the Berner’s giant size is a match for your personality and lifestyle? If you’ve ever hankered for some part-time dog company or wanted to try out a certain breed, borrowing a dog could be the ticket! And yes, it’s possible: fostering, pet-sitting, a shelter sleep-over or signing up to walk strangers’ dogs all allow you to clock some quality, commitment-free canine time. Whether you want to get to know a particular breed or you’re a busy professional or a student who could really use a dog walk to decompress, here are four ways to borrow a dog.

Left inset photo by Chaay_Tee/

Have a sleepover with a shelter dog. With this win-win that only requires a day-and-half commitment, you can make a difference in a dog’s life while trying out different breeds.

An increasing number of shelters and rescues let you have a sleepover with a resident pup, offering a meaningful break from shelter stresses. These programs not only encourage adoption, they give the dog a needed respite from life in the shelter. The Lifeline Animal Project in Atlanta, Georgia is one such shelter. It has expanded its “Dog for the Day” volunteer program to include sleepovers so you can give a rescue dog some important socialization time, and prospective adopters can get a better sense of the dog’s personality. At Best Friends Animal Society’s Utah Sanctuary, visitors can share an on-site cabin, cottage or hotel room with an adoptable furry friend for a memorable sleepover that lets you spend quality snuggle time with a very appreciative pup. 

In 2016, the non-profit Maddie’s Fund funded the first pilot study to determine if shelter dogs benefitted from short-term sleep overs. By testing the level of cortisol in the dog’s urine before and after their stay, the study found that the dogs’ cortisol levels significantly dropped with just one overnight foster stay. And though the effects weren’t long lasting—once returned to the shelter, the dogs’ cortisol levels returned to what they were before they left—they did not increase. The data led researchers to believe that these sleepovers may act much like weekends to our workweek. TGIF!

Right inset photo by mikeledray/

Most shelters and rescues are in desperate need of fosters, who temporarily take in an adoptable dog, giving that dog a safe space to shine while looking for his fur-ever home. Foster programs also create much needed space in shelters so they can help more dogs. Fostering, which can be for just a few days to months in duration, let’s you really get to know a dog’s personality and breed-specific traits and makes a huge difference both in that dog’s life and in the shelters. All expenses are typically covered. Warning: foster-pup parents frequently fall for their furry charges and become lovingly referred to as “foster failures” when they adopt their fostered pet because they can’t bear to part with them. Organizations like lets you search for foster pups in your area.

Walk dogs
Left inset photo by ByronWMoore/

Get to know different breeds while making some extra scratch! is the Airbnb of the dog world. Owners and sitters create profiles for their pets or pet-care experience, with would-be sitters offering everything from sleepovers to walkies and even grooming and bathing. Sitters determine their rates, which range from $10 – $75 per day, with taking a cut. 

Based in the U.K., Borrow My Doggy ( lets dog owners post pics and details about their pups so they can connect with prospective dog “sharers.” Owners find a trusty dog lover to help look after their furbaby and borrowers get to spend quality time with a pooch, without the fulltime commitment of having a dog. Matches are suggested based on distance and availability, and members pick the ones they like the look of. 

Dog Sharing Communities

Dogtime Community ( lets dog lovers connect with dogs available for walks across Canada. Free for dog owners loaning out their pups, dog-lovers get the first walk free and then pay $10 per month for unlimited walkies/commitment-free canine companionship, making it an ideal way to walk some different breeds and see which jive with you!  

For registered non-profit City Dog Share (, the mission is to connect people and dogs via their mantra “I will watch your dog and you can watch mine!”—but even those without a dog to swap can get in on the action. Whether you have a dog or not, you can start making new friends in the SF Bay Area, Los Angeles, Humboldt County, Portland, and Seattle. Some of their newest groups have opened in San Luis Obispo, South Dakota, Boston, Brooklyn, Tucson, Denver, and Vancouver. People with dogs can trade walking and sitting duties and dog lovers can borrow a pooch. Owners post a picture of their dog and when they need to be watched. Members can comment on the post or send a private message. The group also helps dog shelters and other animal charities—any donations are 100 percent tax deductible and help the entire City Dog Share community.


Last Updated:

By: Jane Mundy
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