Pet-Friendly Vacation Rentals: Pros and Cons According to Other Hosts
Have you ever considered making your vacation rental pet-friendly?
More and more people are traveling with their four-legged friends. This means that there’s a growing market for pet-friendly accommodations – and a potential for you to earn more as a host.
However, making your vacation rentals pet-friendly is a topic the short-term rental community is divided on. Some hosts claim that adopting the pet-friendly label skyrocketed their bookings. Others regret ever having allowed pets in their rentals.
With so many contrasting opinions out there, how do you know if making your vacation rental pet-friendly is right for you?
In this blog post, I’ll give you an overview of all the arguments in favor of and against hosting pets, to help you make your own decision.
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Should you make your vacation rental pet-friendly?
There’s no simple answer to that question.
It depends on each individual host. Adopting the pet-friendly label can have a positive impact on your business. But, it also requires you to take risks.
To help you figure out whether you should allow pets in your vacation rental, let’s take a look at the first-hand experience of other hosts.
Pros and cons of making your vacation rental pet-friendly
Recently, I came across a discussion in the Airbnb Profit Club Facebook group. Hosts from all over the world were talking about making their vacation rental pet-friendly. They were discussing whether it’s worth it or not and sharing their own experiences.
I thought it’d be interesting to include some of their comments in this post, as they accurately described some of the biggest pros and cons of making your vacation rental pet-friendly.
Let’s get right into it!
Pro: You can stand out from the competition and increase your bookings
The number one reason why you should consider making your vacation rentals pet-friendly is that it helps you gain a competitive edge.
The demand for pet-friendly vacation rentals is high. In fact, “pet-friendly” is one of the most popular search filters on booking sites like Airbnb and Booking.com. At the same time, the supply is low in a lot of markets. Thus, the options that pet owners have are limited.
For example, when I did a quick search for available vacation rentals in Seattle on Airbnb, it turned up 300 results. But when I did the same search for the same time period adding the pet-friendly filter, there were only 114 results. That’s less than half!
So, by making your vacation rentals pet-friendly, you can make your listings visible to travelers who wouldn’t see them otherwise. And more visibility means more chances to get bookings!
Here’s how a commenter in the Airbnb Profit Club describes their experience with making their properties pet-friendly:
“I have 10 units. 5 are pet-friendly. I’m dog-friendly everywhere my condo associations allow renters to have pets. My pet-friendly listings are my best performers, and we’ve had no issues with extra damage save ONE episode of a dog peeing (out of 1300 guests). HUGE fan of dog-friendly rentals.”
Pro: Making your vacation rental pet-friendly is a way to target a niche and get good reviews
Another reason for making your vacation rentals pet-friendly is that it lets you target a specific niche – with specific needs.
It can be hard to find vacation rentals that accept pets. So when pet owners do manage to find a rental that meets their needs, they can be very appreciative.
Happy guests leave good reviews, and the more positive reviews you rake in, the more confident your next guests will feel to book your rental.
Here’s a pet-friendly host – who’s also a dog owner – describing their experience:
“90% of my bookings are pets. I have no deposit and no pet fees, just ask that the pets are counted as guests. No breed restrictions especially! I have a Pitbull and German Shepherd so I know how hard it is. Very minimal damage so far (one dog out of 100 maybe and just a little extra cleaning) but we always get glowing reviews. Only mediocre/bad reviews we've gotten were always guests without pets.”
Next to increasing your positive reviews, targeting this niche can also help you gain loyal customers.
Once a pet owner has found a rental that’s suitable for their pets and had a great experience with a pet-friendly host, they may want to come back. Make sure you encourage returning guests to go to your website and make direct bookings.
Pro: You can charge higher rates for a pet-friendly vacation rental
Making your vacation rental pet-friendly is also a way to increase your revenue through higher-value bookings.
Boarding a dog or getting a cat sitter is expensive. Consequently, guests traveling with their furry companions usually don’t mind paying a slightly higher rate for a pet-friendly vacation rental.
Besides, charging a bit more helps you offset some of the potential damages that you may have to deal with if you decide to allow pets in your rental.
There are a number of ways to increase your Airbnb pricing for a pet-friendly rental.
Here are your options:
Charge higher rates
Charge a pet fee
Count pet as an extra guest
Additionally, you may want to ask your guest for a security deposit, in case their pet causes substantial damage to your property.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to how much you should charge for pets. You’ll need to experiment to see what works best for you and your listing. But to give you an idea, here are two commenters with different approaches:
“I do very well not charging extra at all! Listing says just include the pet as a guest (which I think is $10/person). Always booked with great reviews. A few mediocre reviews from people without pets since I guess the value isn't there for them.”
“I charge $45 per stay. I've seen some people charge up to $100. I've had people damage my house more than dogs. Never an issue with dogs except hair.”
Con: You may have to handle damages and complaints from neighbors
The most worrying aspects of making your vacation rentals pet-friendly are without doubt damages and noise complaints.
As a host, you have no way of making sure that the pets your guests bring to your rental are well-trained and well-behaved. Destroyed furniture, torn linens, stained carpets, scratched wooden floors, and unpleasant smells are all possible side effects of making your vacation rental pet-friendly.
Of course, there are ways to prevent some damages. For example, by carefully choosing the finishes for your surfaces and providing furniture covers.
Then, there’s the matter of noise. There’s nothing you can do about dogs barking in your rental – and you may have to deal with upset neighbors and noise complaints.
Some hosts who commented in the Airbnb Profit Club Facebook group feel that the possibility of damages makes allowing pets in your vacation rental not worth it.
Here’s the story of a host who stopped allowing pets in their rental after a year:
“I did it for a year and it wasn’t worth it. A dog ripped the screen on the patio and their owners never said a word. I didn’t notice right away so couldn’t claim for it. I charged a $25 pet fee and wasn’t worth all the dog hair, stains and noise. We live above our listing and some dogs would bark the whole time their owners were out and left them. Some people let them off leash in the neighborhood. It was a hassle. I realized I was saving these people hundreds of dollars in boarding fees for a paltry $25. It hasn’t affected my bookings and I get a lot more peace of mind from not worrying about it. I will sometimes make exceptions but it’s a case by case basis. We have a dog and we use Rover when we travel.”
Some hosts worry about their investments. Turning a second home or an investment property into a vacation rental requires a lot of financial input. If you make a newly renovated or decorated rental pet-friendly, you’re putting it at risk of damages. This tips the scale for some hosts.
Here’s what one commenter said:
“Honestly we invest and go the whole 9 yards with our listings when it comes to remodeling and the financial side. I would rather let some bookings slide than to have some accidents on the new carpet, sofas, etc. Just my two cents though”
On the other hand, plenty of commenters said that they never had a problem with dogs damaging their property.
Multiple hosts mentioned that families with toddlers often cause more problems than pets. And, they pointed out that dogs traveling with their owners are usually well-trained.
Here’s how a particular host describes their experience:
“I have always been pet-friendly (since 2014). It's a great niche for me. Never any issues. Toddlers do more damage than pets. And I accept toddlers too I love my pet guests I am also allergen-friendly and use an organic natural allergen spray that guests with pet allergies have raved over. My homes have zero pet smell or allergen issues.”
And here’s a similar take from another host:
“OMG I love love love my pet friendly I am putting a ‘chain’ of them together across Australia. I am booked out until Feb. I love my dog-friendly lets [...] It’s great if you do it right. My cleaners prefer to clean my doggy properties than the ones that take young families that’s for sure. My best cared for properties are my doggy ones.”
Con: Making your vacation rentals pet-friendly may increase your expenses
Yes, you can charge higher rates for pet-friendly vacation rentals. At the same time, your costs are likely to increase too.
For example, you’ll be spending more on:
Cleaning. You’ll need to compensate your housekeepers for the extra effort required to keep a pet-friendly vacation rental clean. That’s money out of your pockets unless you decide to charge a higher Airbnb cleaning fee. And, you may need to pay for a software solution to start automating your Airbnb cleaning and stay on top of it all.
Laundry. Your laundry bill is likely to increase due to the persistent stains that pets may leave behind.
Insurance. Some insurance companies charge more for pet-friendly rentals, so make sure to double-check before you make the switch.
Pet-friendly amenities. If you want to be a truly attentive host, you’ll need to purchase some treats, toys and bowls for your guests’ pets. Not to mention furniture protection like sofa covers.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether these added expenses are worth the exposure that the pet-friendly label can give you. Just make sure you consider the above costs!
Con: Pet-friendly vacation rentals may scare away guests who don’t have pets
This is another valid concern. By making your vacation rental pet-friendly, you could be alienating guests who aren’t pet owners.
Even if your properties are spotless, guests may assume that the pet-friendly label means lower standards of cleanliness.
What’s more, many people – 10%-20% of the population worldwide – are allergic to dogs and cats. While there are certain products like sprays that you can buy to make your rentals allergen-free, some guests don’t trust hosts to take such precautions.
Keep in mind that pet owners are a minority, and the majority of your bookings will still come from guests with no pets.
As a result, many hosts who allow pets in their short-term rentals choose not to explicitly advertise their rental’s pet-friendliness in the listing title or property description.
Here’s what a pet-friendly host said about making sure you don’t scare away guests with no pets:
“Yes, my property is pet-friendly but I don't note it in my property title or description because I still attract mostly non-pet bookings at full price. I assume most pet owners use the search filter so they don't need a banner and feel that non-pet guests may assume lower quality/cleanliness (I do when I'm searching - from personal experience in multiple pet-friendly listings) and be a deterrent for my preferred guest. 99% occupancy since we made the change to accepting dogs this spring.”
Allowing pets in your vacation rental: is it a good idea?
All in all, every host should weigh the pros and cons of making their vacation rental pet-friendly. While it can be a great way to increase bookings and revenue, it also has its risks.
Below, we’ve summed up the pros and cons to help you make the decision that’s right for your business.
Pet-friendly vacation rentals: pros
Pet-friendly vacation rentals: cons
Stand out from the competition and reach a new audience → increase your bookings
Risk damages and noise complaints
Target a niche → get positive reviews and inspire customer loyalty
Risk alienating guests who don’t have pets
Charge higher rates → increase your revenue
Risk having to spend more on cleaning, laundry, and insurance
How to make your short-term rental pet-friendly
If you decide to allow pets in your vacation rental, there are a few steps you should take to get the most out of it.
1. Make your rules clear
First of all, you need to make sure guests understand your rules regarding pets. Creating a detailed pet policy can help you prevent all kinds of problems. So be sure to include it in your Airbnb house rules.
Here are examples of rules you may want to include:
Where are pets allowed to do their business? Mention if owners are required to pick up after their pets in the yard or on the street.
Which parts of your rental are off-limits for pets? You can use an indoor gate to keep pets out of bedrooms or fence off a part of your yard.
What furniture are pets allowed on? Specify if you don’t want pets jumping on beds or kitchen counters.
What size of pets are allowed in your rental? For example, you can say “no dogs over 30 pounds”.
What type of animals are allowed in your rental? Some hosts are happy to host dogs but would rather not host cats because of the damages they can cause and the smell they can leave behind.
What breed of dogs are allowed in your rental? Some breeds are more prone to causing trouble, and some are just too big for your rental. If you’re not comfortable with welcoming certain breeds of dogs, make sure to include it in your rules.
2. Protect your furniture
When it comes to hosting pets in your short-term rental, “better be safe than sorry” is the way to go.
Investing in durable finishes is the most sustainable solution. But if that’s not an option for you at the moment, be sure to at least cover your sofas, armchairs, and even dining chairs with washable covers.
This way, if an accident happens, you won’t have to change an entire set of furniture – your laundry team will take care of it.
3. Provide toys/pet accessories
Preparing your rental for four-legged guests includes more than just protecting your furniture.
You may also want to buy some bowls, a bed, some treats, and a basket of toys to keep cats and dogs entertained.
While this is not a must by any means, your guests will appreciate it.
4. Inform your guests about pet-friendly things to do in the area
Last but not least, it’s a good idea to let your guests know about pet-friendly spots and activities in your neighborhood.
If there are pet-friendly restaurants, cafés, bars, beaches, bookstores, or sports venues in your area, your guests may want to check them out – and they’ll welcome any tips you may have.
You can include your recommendations in your Airbnb welcome letter or welcome book.