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‘High tech dog houses’ where you can park your pup coming to Capitol Hill

(Image: DogSpot)

For the first time in 50 years, Seattle has more than 100,000 children. But we all know there are way more fur babies on Capitol Hill.

If it comes to being the most dog-friendly city in the US, Seattle is top dog. That’s according to real estate broker Redfin and Rover, the Uber for dog sitters and walkers. The companies compiled a list of cities with the highest amounts of dog walkers, sitters and walks, and combined the data with the amount of home sale listings that mention “dog”. Both Seattle-based companies announced that their hometown was the number 1 dog-friendly city. Chicago and Denver came in second and third.

Brooklyn-based company DogSpot has come to the same conclusion: People in Seattle love dogs (and walking them). Next month, the company will install six high tech dog houses — to leave Fido in while shopping — in the Seattle area, including on the Hill, in a partnership with supermarket chain QFC.

“Seattle’s a tech-friendly and dog-obsessed city,” says Rebecca Eyre, director of communications at DogSpot. “Those things make it an amazing market for us.”

(Image: DogSpot)

Two of the app-powered, lockable dog houses are coming to the QFC Broadway Market and Harvard Market locations on the Hill. The other dog houses will be spread out over QFC locations in Wallingford, Ballard and the University Village, with a sixth one located in Redmond.

The house-shaped dens are 46.5 inches high and around 30 inches wide and deep. They fit up to a 100-pound German Shepherd or two well-behaved small canine friends. The dog houses are “pretty fancy,” says Eyre. “They have hospital grade UV-light to kill bacteria and viruses. They also have air conditioning — which is more than what most Seattle homes have.”

Of course, there’s an app to see much like” a bike-share or Car2Go app”, when a DogSpot is free and make a reservation up to 15 minutes in advance. And for worried dog parents, there’s also a puppy cam.

DogSpot says they’ll start with just one DogSpot per QFC-location to fit the demand they’ve seen in other cities. Though the maximum “stay” is around 90 minutes, dog stay in the DogSpots for about 30 minutes on average, which means the chances are high enough a spot will be free when you need it. While in other DogSpot cities, such as Raleigh and St. Louis, users usually pay 30 cents per minute, in Seattle, all DogSpots use will be free — courtesy of QFC.

That’s partly a way to make up for the fact that the grocery chain doesn’t allow pets, only service animals, in their stores. Live animals, with the exception of service animals and patrol dogs, are not allowed in food establishments in Washington State. Some people solve the problem by tying their dog up to a pole or tree outside a store, though that’s unlawful if the dog’s on or can reach public property (like a sidewalk), according to the Seattle Municipal Code.

“But there are many reasons to not do it besides the fact that the code says it,” says Ann Graves, director of Seattle Animal Shelter, a division of the  City of Seattle. “It’s not the safest thing for the dog. It can become frightened and bite someone, or if someone trips over the tether, there is some personal liability for the dog owner. My biggest fear is: What if I come out and the dog is gone?”

DogSpot might be a solution for those worried about dog thefts, though it’s not common, says Detective Mark Jamieson of the Seattle Police Department. CHS did not yet receive a response to a Public Disclosure Request regarding the number of dog thefts in Seattle in the past years. “It does happen but not with a sense of frequency,” Jamieson says.

In any case, the company’s expansion into Seattle marks the largest city network the company has launched so far. DogSpot, founded in 2015, currently has 60 dog houses across 14 states and is expanding aggressively into new cities, including this one.

Some of that has to do with Seattle’s much-advertised canine-to-kid ratio. Supposedly, there are more kids than dogs in the city, but the Seattle Animal Shelter’ estimate on the number of dogs in Seattle, around 150,000 to 160,000, is just that: an estimate.


According to data from the city, four zip codes north of the Ship Canal have the most licensed dogs in the city of Seattle. ZIP code 98122, which comprises parts of Capitol Hill, Madrona and the CD, is eighth on the list.  However, those numbers are only the tip of the iceberg, as most dogs are not licensed. It might be that neighborhoods with more licensed dogs are just more diligent about getting a pet license.

Still, why is it that Capitol Hill, which is not even in the top 5 licensed-dogs owning zip codes, gets two dog houses in such proximity of one another?

Simple: millennials and walkability, DogSpot says.

“On Capitol Hill, people are walking to the grocery stores. When you have more people walking, you have more people walking with dogs,” Eyre says. “There are  lot of young millennials in the neighborhood, people who are in the early stages of starting a family or don’t have one (yet). Those are the people who treat dogs like their family or children, and want to take care of them that way. They also don’t have backyards, so there’s more of an impetus to walk with their dog.”

Those millennials have recently supplanted baby boomers as the largest group of dog, cat and bird owners. They’ve also taken the humanization of their pets to another level, says research from American Pet Products, which means they’re more likely to give them vitamins, own “designer items” for their pet, pay for pet services and take their dog with them on errands.

That means that on the Hill, a good amount of the estimated 8,854 dogs (based on the AVMA calculating method) are probably living a pretty comfy life. A majority of those dogs are likely Labrador and Golden Retrievers, data from the city suggests. Next up in popularity is the Chihuahua and Border Collie.

What if one of those Chihuahuas gets nervous or claustrophobic, or both, and leaves a little gift in one of those DogSpots?

“Ah, yes, the old pee and poop question,” Eyre says. “In three years of operating, it just hasn’t happened. Reasons for this include: the sessions are short, the dog typically went on a walk to get there, and most importantly – dogs don’t soil environments that they occupy. We also trust that dog owners who know their dog has continence issues wouldn’t use DogSpot til their dog was fully potty trained; dog owners tend to be pretty mindful of each other in this way. However, if it did happen and the dog owner didn’t clean it up, we would see it on the Puppy Cam and take house offline while we dispatched someone to clean it up.”

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44 thoughts on “‘High tech dog houses’ where you can park your pup coming to Capitol Hill

  1. It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on the dogs that people bring into QFC every darn day. And no, these aren’t Service Animals. Just pets. And okay, I admit it, a pet peeve of mine. I love dogs, but not near my food, thanks. I’ve asked QFC employees why they don’t enforce the law. They say that they don’t want to create a scene. Now that there is an option, maybe they will say something.

    • I totally agree with HTS3. Sounds like an interesting concept but I doubt it’ll significantly reduce the number of entitled asshats bringing their “furbabies” into the grocery store.

      I like to call the entrance to QFC Harvard Market the “dogshit minefield” given how many times I’ve seen it there.

    • I’ll stop taking my dog into QFC as soon as people stop taking their filthy kids in there. Also, pretty sure my dog is cleaner than like 90% of the people I’ve seen at the QFC’s on the hill.

      • Hey, that’s a good one. Yes, those kids are disgusting. Oh, but wait. They are human beings—at least an early form of them. And dogs are not. Oh, and there’s a law against bringing pets into grocery stores. Other than that, you make a really good argument.

  2. Oh boy, another technological wonder to continue producing more and more toxic plastic and use more energy. When will we stop being blind to these unnecessary choices. And please don’t tell us the interior is recycled plastic – recycled or not, it still feeds the production of plastics.

  3. Is it really that difficult to leave your dog at home? You would think that with the police state they’ve created at both QFC’s that they would be able to enforce the no pet law. I think the health department will have to start pulling permits in order for these businesses to take this law seriously. Leave your dogs at home.

    • It’s a legal issue. QFC is not allowed to ask what a person’s disability is per the Americans with Disabilities Act, and there is no government official certification for service animal. QFC probably doesn’t want to be sued.

      • That’s actually not true at all. In fact Washington passed a new law last year that took effect on Jan 1 that makes it a crime to try to pass a pet off as a service animal and clearly defines what it is and what stores are allowed to ask. QFC even has a sign up explaining the new law, however they still refuse to enforce it. The state government has made it clear that nothing in the federal law precludes asking what specific task the dog or miniature horse is trained for (the only two animals under state law that can be service animals).

      • Straight from the ADA:

        “In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?”

      • The silly part of the new law is that a business owner can ask:

        • Do you need the animal because of a disability?
        • What work or task has it been trained to perform?

        They cannot ask:

        • Proof that it is a service animal.

        So a dog owner can lie and there is legally nothing a business can further do short of calling the police. Seems that all true service animals should have some form of certification. Why can’t that certification be required to have on hand when someone is utilizing a service dog?

        And I say all this as a dog lover myself.

      • As long as the dog is on a leash and well-behaved, I would be OK with dog owners fibbing as long as the store asked, each and every time, “Is that a service animal?” Being forced to lie in public about having a disability would likely make some people think twice before bringing their dog with them next time, thus making at least a dent in the problem. (The second legal question, I’ll grant, is a bit heavy-handed for a grocery store. I’d be happy if they just asked the first one consistently.)

    • Sure, if my only plan is to go to the grocery store I leave my dog at home. But if I go out for a dog walk and want to run some errands (like stopping at Mud Bay), having a box like this at a dog-unfriendly spot like QFC would save me time and trouble. Both of the Mud Bay stores on the hill are very close to QFC stores, so hitting both spots at once — rather than go to Mud Bay, drop the dog at home, and turn around and go back out to QFC — is pretty convenient.

      • Your inability to plan trips where you shouldn’t take your dog doesn’t mean that you should break the law and bring your unsanitary animal into the grocery store where thousands of other people buy their food from. Just because they are supposed to follow the law doesn’t make it ‘unfriendly’ to dogs – it’s the law. Shame it isn’t enforced, however.

        The dog nut culture is ridiculous around here. It’s a pet. It doesn’t need to go everywhere with you. Both you and it can survive.

      • @AbleDanger – I don’t recall saying that I bring my dog into the supermarket (I don’t), and I don’t recall endorsing that behavior. Also, I’m perfectly capable of planning a shopping trip (thanks for insulting my intelligence, btw, that was a real classy move). I just said it would be convenient to be able to pop into QFC on the same trip as when I walk my dog over to Mud Bay.

    • I’m guessing that the plan isn’t to put them on the sidewalk, but in the alcoves on Harvard Ave. that no longer are used as entrances.

      Anyway, I think they’re a splendid idea, and I hope once they’re in place QFC will start enforcing the law, at least to the extent of asking the first of the two legally permissible questions of everyone who enters with a dog (unless their disability is visibly apparent).

      • Don’t hold your breath, Marcia. The managers at the Broadway Market QFC have always turned a blind eye to the significant numbers of non-service dogs in their store. The warning sign they put up at the entrance is their only effort at dealing with the problem, and that is most likely ineffective towards those entitled dog-owners who flaunt the law.

        It would be simple to have the security officers question everyone in the store with a dog. If that “creates a scene,” so be it.

      • I’ve had a manager at QFC tell me they’re not allowed to say anything. I constantly complained about it on their little end of receipt surveys and all I ever saw done was the signs. Dog nuts don’t read the signs, and if they do, they don’t care – it’s all about them, right? And if it’s not gonna be enforced, then all the better, they don’t have to worry about being hassled for it.

    • I’ve never brought a dog into a grocery store but I think all the cries about how unsanitary it is are borderline hysteria. The dogs don’t touch the food, they touch the floor. I shop several times a week and have only see dogs in the stores every now and then. If you really are worried about sanitary conditions, you should think about the kids with dirty diapers and leaking meat containers that get put in the carts. There has been studies on grocery carts and they were found to be dirtier than toilets. Bon Appetit!

      • The dogs don’t touch the food…

        I’ve seen small dogs sniffing produce from their owner’s handbag as they lean over to grab said produce.

        I’ve seen a large dog jump up on the meat shelves, with their paws on the packaging, sniffing other packages.

        Yes, a few bad cases out of many well behaved, but the owners that think their dogs are well behaved tend to have the worst behaved dogs (in my experience) and they are most likely the owners that will (illegally) bring their dog into a grocery store.

        It’s these dog owners that ruin it for the rest of dog owners.

      • Mimi, it’s not just about touching the food. Dogs that haven’t been trained as service animals often distract and interfere with them, not being able to read their badges or vests. They often carry ticks, fleas, and other parasites in with them from the streets. And even the best trained pets can behave unpredictably in crowded, confined situations. Last and maybe least, there are people who fear or simply do not like being around dogs, especially strange dogs, and those people have rights too. I agree that children can be a nuisance, but adding dogs to the mix doesn’t mitigate that problem but aggravates it. Leave your dog (and preferably your kids) at home.

      • As someone who was unfortunate to have stepped in dog poop in the grocery store I can tell you it is not hysteria!

  4. Sure glad QFC has all this money to seal up entrances, add video surveillance cameras and monitors everywhere, and now pay for fancy dog houses outside their stores.

    Wish they’d put this money towards helping the communities their stores reside in instead of treating the members of the community as criminals.

    • I reckon you’ve never had a business, Tom. In the skinny margin business of groceries, it’s hard to stay in business when yahoos are stealing you blind. I don’t blame the store for having to put in surveillance. And paying some money for people to keep their dogs out of the store while shopping is a business decision. I’m glad they are doing it if it keeps dogs away from my food. What would you propose they put their money toward instead? An injection site?

      • Good Lord HTS3, I was just about to write a riposte to “Tom” in the same vein when your response popped up. Please “Tom”, do tell, how should they spend their money?

  5. I’m curious where all this money is coming from to temporarily house pet dogs, which already have homes they share w/their humans, and yet we have one of THE LARGEST homeless population in the nation — that’s HUMANS without homes.
    So, I’m rather curious how we can make a small, temporary, air-conditioned living environment for the amazing HUMANS in our city without homes.
    just a thought to throw in the ring.

  6. The ultimate “tiny houses.” Yes, it does make one wonder about resources. Of course we, as the citizens of a city and county, are investing nearly 1 Billion dollars a year on dealing with our homeless issue. I have to think that if this money was spent more wisely it would put a lot of roofs over people’s heads. Great story:

  7. Just when you think you have heard it all. Do the employees of QFC clean up the poop if it happens. call the fricking union. poop cleaning is not in my contract. I can not wait to see this happen. great comedy material…………..

      • A responsible dog owner wouldn’t bring their dog into the store, but we know how that goes… Nowadays the codependence generation can’t even not bring their animals to the office.

  8. It’s a good idea – the problem is getting the dog nuts to use it. They don’t bother following the rules, and little danger of getting hassled about it, so not a lot of incentive. But it’s a great idea for those that can’t plan appropriately when they simply have to bring their turd machines along everywhere they have to go.

  9. can’t for these to get wrecked. Thought we were far enough from east coast shit but i guess not

    just leave your dog at home and learn to plan stuff like the rest of us…or…..lock up your dog like one locks up a bike!!! that’s cheaper!!!

    • Just leave them at home…. please don’t ‘lock’ or otherwise tie up your dogs to the bike racks… first off it’s usually illegal (if the rack is on or the leash can reach city property – ie the sidewalk) secondly they are not dog hitching posts and most of us have no desire to be forced to risk a dog bite to retrieve our means of transportation.

  10. This is great! I’ve thought of this since I walk my dog and always find I need something at qfc or Walgreens or Mudbay along my route. I think this willl help with the amount of people bringing their dogs in illegally as well. I tied up dog up outside to grab deodorant from qfc and came outside to a homeless man yellow and pacing around my dog.. I was horrified, never tied him up outside again in the area. It’s sad that in such a walkable area they just aren’t safe, compared to other major walkable city neighborhoods.
    I’m worried that these boxes may still be terrorized by the homeless in the area from vandalizing, to actual physically disrupting the boxes.
    I see the way the Bike shares, APS Push buttons, and other items along the sidewalk are treated here and it’s a little unnerving. Hope they’re successful and more pop up! It would be great to even have one inside the Mudbay for running across the street for errands. This way they’re inside but secure from people outside.
    I am going to see if they’re up and ready to be used today and give it a try!

  11. I wouldn’t trust those boxes won’t get messed with when my dog is in there or that they won’t malfunction.

    Would NEVER leave my dog tied up outside on Broadway either, I’ve seen too much crazy sh*t and too many scared dogs with so much going on around them. Even once heard a woman screaming that her dog was gone after leaving it tied up at the old back entrance of the BM QFC.

  12. I see people all the time bringing their dogs into the grocery store and more often than not they are not service animals so they are not allowed in the store. Store personnel never confront them and neither do security. One time I was at the Safeway on John ST. when this guys dog started pooping on the floor the owner did not warn me and I was unable to avoid stepping in it. Situations like that are why pets are not allowed in grocery stores. So pet owners hopefully will use these. If not leave your dog at home when you go grocery shopping.

  13. These aren t the dog houses of your childhood. They re equipped with heat and air conditioning, secure access, auto-sanitizing UV lights, and even feature a puppy cam, so you check in your dog during the 15 minutes or so that you re apart. All that s missing is room service.