Mesa woman's side hustle

Cheri Morton plays with her dog Chunky in her backyard, which she rents to local dog owners looking for a safe spot to bring their dogs to play. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

A Mesa woman has turned her backyard into a kind of Airbnb for dogs.

Cheri Morton signed up to offer her backyard through an online marketplace called to local dog owners on a by-the-hour basis for use as a dog park. 

Morton said this provides a consistent place to bring somebody’s fur baby.

“The dogs are able to release the energy because a dog that doesn’t release energy is going to become very destructive.” 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 23 million Americans have adopted a pet, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 

But with the recent housing market so costly and some people choosing to move into apartments, dog owners still need a place to take their pets to play,

In 2018, David Adams founded the company from his Seattle home and it has grown  to more than 8,000 hosts across 2,000 cities across the U.S. 

In the Valley, there already are more than 50 locations.

Many Sniffspots have popped up around the country with everything from water features and shade to swimming pools.

This “inflation buster” side hustle fits perfectly with Morton’s backyard and allows people to get their dogs out and exercising despite extreme heat conditions.

The average booking runs between $9-15 per hour and has also allowed many homeowners to earn up $3,000 per month. Homeowners don’t even need to be home to accept guests.

According to Sniffspot, hosts report more than 12,000 bookings a month across the country.

Morton said she averages six to seven visitors per week. 

Starting at $15 per hour, she offers amenities like chairs, shade, table, electric outlet, pooper scooper for picking up your dog, and her swimming pool. 

For an additional $20, Morton offers training for any behavior or suggestions as a certified dog trainer. 

“I don’t mind that because I want to keep as many dogs in the homes that they’re in,” Morton said. 

She also offers snacks, such as rib bones for $5 and femur bones for $2 from her local pork shop that the dog can chew on and take home with them, as well as ice cold water bottles for $1.

There are a few rules that Morton ask people to follow, such as 12 hours advanced notice before visits, a minimum visit of 30 minutes, and a maximum of four dogs allowed.

She prefers to meet my guests on their first visits.

Sniffspot also has community safety rules: including dogs must be leashed when entering and exiting the spot, and make sure the area is safe and secure before bringing their dog. They also must pick up after their pet.

“Because I’m a dog trainer, I understand that not every dog is going to get along with every dog,” Morton said. “And you can’t force that.”

For this reason, she said Sniffspot puts a 30-minute gap between visitors and spaces to ensure owners don’t overlap times.

Even with a reactive dog, it gives them the comfort of knowing that there’s no other dogs there,” Morton said. “Their dogs are able to relax and have some fun.”

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