Can’t own a dog but really want to spend time with one?
Founded in 2019 by Kylie Teo, Furpal is a Singapore-based startup that connects dog lovers — who Furpal refers to as “Furfriends” — with other dog owners so they can book their pets for a playdate.
“I was a part of the NOC (NUS Overseas Colleges) program in Silicon Valley when I came up with the idea of Furpal,” said the 25-year-old graduate of National University of Singapore (NUS).
The idea sparked when she was overseas and missed the company of her dog. That was when she also realised that there were few services in place to find dog-walkers or sitters, and thus thought of creating a platform to connect humans and pets.
Furpal is built on the foundation of providing more human socialisation opportunities for dogs, while allowing others to experience pet companionship and spend time with dogs.
Its service caters to those who are dog lovers but can’t own one at the moment, potential owners who would like to understand more about what it is like to own a dog or a particular breed, those looking to expose their children to the presence of a dog, those who are seeking to destress and receive some dog therapy, or simply looking to do something fun and different.
Essentially, Furpal is not just a platform that enables dog lovers to spend time with fur friends, but also serve as a great way to educate people, especially potential dog owners. Through playdates, dog owners can share more about what it takes to own one and share more details on which breed of dog would be suitable for the potential dog owner’s lifestyle.
“We hope that as people connect with each other and learn from each other about dogs, people will think twice about getting one of their own, reducing abandonment rates,” adds Kylie.
Furpal’s platform works in two ways: for Furfriends who want to spend time with dogs, and for dog owners who want to get their dogs to socialise.
So how does it work? Dog owners can create accounts of their pets on the platform, including details such as name, personality, breed and more. It’s pretty much like the dating app Tinder, but for dogs.
Meanwhile, dog lovers can scroll through various accounts of dogs and choose a dog they’d like to spend time with. The dogs that are currently listed are of a wide range of breeds such as shetland shepherds, huskies, pomeranians and Singapore specials.
Once both parties agree on the playdate, Furfriends are set to meet their dog playmate.
Compared to dog cafes, Furpal stands out because it offers a one-to-one playdate with the owners’ dogs, making the session more intimate and fruitful.
Furfriends are able to chat with the owner about how they got their dog, about their dog and what they can learn to be a better future dog owner compared to only playing with a dog at a cafe. At a cafe, there is no opportunity to walk, brush and openly play with a dog as there is limited space as well as other people in the room who are looking to get their chance with the dogs available at the cafe.– Kylie Teo, founder of Furpal
Furfriends are able to chat with the owner about how they got their dog, about their dog and what they can learn to be a better future dog owner compared to only playing with a dog at a cafe.
At a cafe, there is no opportunity to walk, brush and openly play with a dog as there is limited space as well as other people in the room who are looking to get their chance with the dogs available at the cafe.
Pet owners who use the Furpal platform can expose their pets to people of different ages, race, and gender, in order to create positive experiences to better acclimatise their dogs to the idea of people.
Kylie highlights the importance of socialising one’s dog to new and different people on a consistent basis.
She shares that even as they grow older, socialising them will help them become less fearful while also reducing their stress, ultimately lessening the chances of chronic stress hormone release and other illnesses.
If your dog only ever hangs out with one person, he may grow wary of anyone who isn’t that person. Hence, it is crucial to diversify your dog’s social circle and make time for meet-and-greets. Just like dog training, human [socialisation] for dogs needs to be consistent and with different kinds of people.– Kylie Teo, founder of Furpal
If your dog only ever hangs out with one person, he may grow wary of anyone who isn’t that person. Hence, it is crucial to diversify your dog’s social circle and make time for meet-and-greets. Just like dog training, human [socialisation] for dogs needs to be consistent and with different kinds of people.
She adds that the socialisation would typically see Furfriends playing with the owners’ dogs and caring for them, which helps to keep the dog stimulated through these interactions.
Moreover, for dog owners, when they list their dogs on Furpal, it can help them earn some extra cash as each playdate is priced at S$10 per hour for each visitor (of which Furpal takes a 30 per cent commission).
Owners could also donate the extra money earned to local shelters, encouraged Kylie.
Kylie shares that it took a long time to decide how the business model of the company was going to be, since they had to cater to the needs of a two-sided marketplace.
However, once that was addressed, Furpal launched and received promising customer receptiveness, with hundreds of users signing up. However, she also acknowledged that there were a few who were hesitant on onboarding their dogs on the Furpal platform, though she doesn’t blame them.
“Just like a [parent], you can decide your own children’s education. Not everyone teaches their dog how to do tricks, training et cetera, but it would be helpful in educating them that strangers are not to be feared so they don’t become scared or aggressive towards unknown people when they happen to be in that situation,” she remarks.
Another concern that Furpal had to overcome was consumer hesitancy due to safety concerns. Kylie reassures that owners must be present with their dogs to supervise them at all times.
“We do not allow our owners to leave their pet with strangers,” she stresses.
To further protect all parties, Furpal screens every owner and does in-person temperament assessments of dogs that have ambiguous results after taking the compulsory Canine Behavioural Assessment.
Furpal also educates and ensures that those who join and book a playdate are made aware of the potential risks of playing with a dog although it’s not typically aggressive.
As Furpal is predominantly a face-to-face service, it had to cease operations during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic but with the economy gradually opening up now, Furpal is now allowed to resume operations.
Thanks to its unique business model and purpose in serving dog lovers, dog owners and the dogs themselves, Furpal has had over 500 furdates and over 200 dogs on its platform.
In the future, Furpal seeks to expand its service to other countries as they have had many enquiries from dog owners overseas wanting to put their dog on the platform.
On top of that, Furpal is also looking to improve their platform functions to not be limited to mere playdates, but also open it to corporate events, photoshoots and other events that would require the hiring of pets.
“We are always happy to hear of touching stories of people who book our furpals. Our furpals have helped people brighten up their day, relive their past memory of a dog they used to own, be a part of marriage proposals et cetrea,” says Kylie.
Featured Image Credit: Furpal
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