Bark! That’s what a new feature in DogVacay’s iPhone app does to help people take pictures of mischievous dogs who’d rather frolic around than pose for a picture.
Before the photo is snapped, the app emits one of several sounds that should get a dog’s ears to perk up and pay attention in the right direction. Meows and squeaky toy sounds are other options.
For the Santa Monica start-up, it’s one of several new features launching Thursday that are aimed at becoming a larger part of its users’ lives. DogVacay, founded in March 2012, connects prescreened dog-sitters with people who seeking a cheaper and more comfortable experience for their pet than a kennel.
FOR THE RECORD
The photo caption in an earlier version of this post said that VacayCam is an app. It’s a feature of the DogVacay app.
More than 500,000 nights of dog stays have been booked through the service in the U.S. and Canada, said Aaron Hirschhorn, who started DogVacay with his wife, Karine. The average rate is about $28 a night, with DogVacay taking a 15% cut. Investors, led by Benchmark Capital, have committed $22 million to DogVacay.
The company already lets sitters send photos to dog owners throughout the stay, and more than 1 million such photos have been shared. But sitters were jazzing up photos on their own using other apps that placed filters, stickers and comments on photos. To make it easier for sitters, the tools were built directly into the DogVacay app, which anyone can use for taking pet photos, Hirschhorn said.
Other new app features include ways to find nearby veterinarians, size up symptoms to see what might be ailing a dog and tips on dog care.
“As we scale our business, we want to be the leader in pet care,” Hirschhorn said. “That means regular engagement with our customers and community of hosts. This is a small step toward that direction.”
Now at 70 employees, DogVacay is trying to be the first company to capture a significant chunk of the $11-billion national industry for nonveterinary pet services, Hirschhorn said.
The company’s challenge remains persuading pet owners to try the service, and it touts low prices and insurance protection as selling points. Finding sitters hasn’t been as difficult. About 100,000 people have applied to be hosts and more than 15,000 have been accepted after undergoing training and screenings.
Chat with me on Twitter @peard33