In my recent podcast, chatting with the founder of BorrowMyDoggy, Rikke Rosenlund, we discussed what it’s like to share a dog – and what the benefits can be to both owner and borrower. As this is something that Rodney and I are very much signed up to, I’m happy to share what some of those benefits of a borrow – lend relationship are.
BENEFITS TO THE BORROWER
Each borrower signs up to share a dog for part of the day or week for their own reasons. These may be personal, such as loneliness, especially if in a new area or struggling with bereavement of the family dog or losing a close family member or partner. Reasons might also be circumstantial, including a busy lifestyle, frenetic work routine, travel demands or temporary accommodation, which may not allow dog ownership for the time being.
But whatever the reasons for wanting the gift of a dog’s company without the full commitment of dog ownership, there are many other benefits too:
- Motivation from man’s best friend
With their exuberance when it comes to walkies, dogs are highly motivating for getting outdoors. From inspiring you to explore your local area, to exercising through walking or running, plus enjoying fresh air and nature, it’s great to have the company of a dog along the way. In fact …
- Reducing isolation and loneliness
Dogs are great members of the community and can be a real asset for meeting others in the local area – ideal if you’ve just relocated or feel isolated.
- Discovering about dogs
Every dog has a different personality but many breeds have certain traits. Borrowing a dog offers borrowers insight into various dog breeds and the specific responsibilities for certain breeds, as Rikke explained: ‘people might have a fantasy about one breed and when they start borrowing it they realise that actually this specific dog breed is much more complicated than they thought! It may need much more exercise – some people want a husky living in London, generally not the greatest idea especially if people only have time to go for 2 x 20 minute walks every day, then obviously the husky doesn’t fit the lifestyle.’
- Boosting wellbeing
In the podcast, Rikke and I swapped stories about the support to wellbeing that dog-borrowing gives to families: ‘we sometimes have kids where they have struggled with anxiety or concentration in school and where borrowing a dog has really helped them through some difficult phases. We have everything from NHS doctors recommending BorrowMyDoggy for people getting exercise, but also from mental wellbeing – it helps a lot with anxiety and loneliness.’
- Family fact-finding
Borrowing a dog also brings collective benefits by offering the whole family a chance to experience what it’s like to be responsible for a dog, whilst at BorrowMyDoggy, Rikke has also seen dog sharing as a good way to ‘get family members used to dogs.’
LOVELY FOR THE LENDER
As a member of BorrowMyDoggy, I’ve experienced many benefits of lending a dog via a trusted service – which I also share on another blog.
Initially, it was with my previous dog, Dolly, that I started to share a dog. As a really lovely Staffie-X rescue dog, Dolly was really good with people but I was in a busy work situation, so I used to share her with friends who lived down the road. We did 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off which for me was great because I had all the joy of having a dog but without the full-time responsibility. It also meant I knew that, when she wasn’t with me, she was with amazing people who also loved her.
At BorrowMyDoggy, many lenders share that they too appreciate having someone they’ve got to know, and who they trust, to share regular dog care. In some cases this support can enable the owner to keep their dog.
And of course, ‘walking the dog’ is also an added benefit, as sharing ensures the dog can be exercised if the owner is indisposed or time-pressed. In the podcast, Rikke gave an example of a freelancer working from home who really benefits from her dog’s borrower: ‘the dog was utterly bored but now has friends calling to take her out. She goes to new places, plays new games and is so much happier and more socialised.’
This example from the podcast really is a case of happy-dog, happy-owner especially as, from the isolation of working from home, the owner now accesses a whole community built around the dog.
From sharing Rodney with his borrowers, I also recognise that lenders can also benefit from their dogs’ extended circle, and Rikke understands exactly what I mean: ‘you get that among dog owners because people walk up because they know your dog now, and it’s like the friends of borrowers and then you end up getting to know them too and it extends your network, which is really lovely.’
HAPPY DOG TIME – FOR DOGS TOO!
Sharing your dog with another person or family, brings a whole new world of experience which can make your hound happy too! Throughout our podcast, Rikke shared that ‘dogs are the biggest winners because they get all those walks and the love and attention and ruffles, as we say.’
But as well extending each dogs’ social circle with other people, Rikke explained that sharing time with someone else’s dog brings benefits of doggy-socialisation time too: ‘we have a lot of borrowers who, once in a while, borrow dogs for their dogs. They want to socialise their dogs too, like maybe they’re thinking about getting a second dog […] so we do have a lot of dog owners too who register not just to find borrowers but sometimes they also borrow dogs for their dogs!’
Borrowing a dog also benefits dogs by facilitating a very hands-on reality check which can really help prevent dogs being relinquished to rescues. Similarly, the help owners receive when they share their dog to be walked and cared for by a borrower can often be enough to keep a dog alongside its beloved owner for longer.
Finally, there’s the huge benefit of what Rikke terms ‘happy dog time’ which encapsulates perfectly the new friendships dog-sharing enables for dogs, owners and borrowers: ‘we meet people in all other parts of our lives, so this is just another way – with people who just want to have some happy dog time!’
Having experienced this first-hand (and paw) I can really understand how having the opportunity to share a dog brings so many benefits, plus creates a real sense of community and care, something we can all benefit from in our busy lives.
You can listen to the whole podcast here
Dr Paul Manktelow is a vet who’s worked for almost 20 years on the front line in some of the UK’s busiest veterinary hospitals. As Chief Vet in the Charity Sector, he leads a team of vets and nurses that treat thousands of pets every year. Paul also appears regularly in the media as a TV and radio presenter, writer, public speaker and podcast producer.