Is your Apartment not big enough for a dog? Too busy for strolls in the park? In crowded Tokyo you can RENT a cute puppy or dog for a few hours of wet noses and unconditional loving from Man’s Best Friend. Dog Rental Service anyone?
For 7 year old Rino Kakinuma, surrounded by toy poodles and beagle pups, it is the perfect solution. A opportune chance to play with her furry four legged friends.
“She really likes dogs but our home is not suitable for pets,” her father Shinji Kakinuma stated.
“I was a bit sad for her so I looked for places where she could hang out with dogs.”
Rina and her father are not alone.
The highly populated Japanese capital city, Tokyo can be a challenging environment to keep a pet; even if your building managers allow animals. Notably, the average apartment is only a mere 60 square metres (650 square feet) which is barely enough room to swing a cat.
That is where places like Dog Heart come in. Introducing Dog Rental Service.
Just a few minutes’ walk from Yoyogi Park, one of Tokyo’s main oxygen replenishing environments, Dog Heart is part petting zoo and part pet rental shop.
Visitors can choose between simply sitting and petting the selection of 20 furry dog friends, or taking them for a stroll around the park.
The rates? Half an hour of play-time costs 950 yen ($8), while 60 minutes of dog-walking will cost you 3,600 yen. Of course, both can be extended for additional cost.
Since opening in 2012, owner Yukiko Tsuchiya, 50, says her business has been growing, with some clients coming in weekly. “In the suburbs, it is easier to have dogs of your own, but in Tokyo, there is a demand for a places like this,” she stated.
“People bring their kids here, couples come for dates, men and women come on their own… and elderly people as well, because they feel too old to have a pet at home.”
But not everyone is impressed and there are certainly many questions that arise.
The Japanese Coalition for Animal Welfare (JCAW), a campaign group, says dog rental shops introduce the furry 4 legged friends to possible physical and psychological risks, such as mental stress from bad handling and care.
“The animals will no doubt be confused or frustrated with the wide variety of people that will come to the facility,” JCAW head Koichi Aoki said.
“If any interaction is unacceptable to the dog they will display avoidance behavior and may even be traumatized.”
Dogs that go out for walks with paying customers might be forced to perform beyond their physical limits, possibly resulting in fatigue, lameness or inflammation of joints, he stated.
Dog Heart’s Tsuchiya says she is extremely careful to look after her animals, all of which, she says, are happy to be walked, petted and picked up.
“Some people worry that the dogs are exposed to too many people… but they were born in this environment so it is not a problem,” says Tsuchiya.
“People say that it is stressful for the dogs, but when the weather is bad and no customers come, the dogs get bored.
“They are actually less stressed when the customers are here.”
Perhaps there is some truth to that knowing that Tokyo is a massive and constant bustling place to live in. But how are the dogs really being treated? There are so many unknown variables. To truly find out we need to call upon the dog whisperers of the world.