dog sitting in car for hotel visit

How To Sneak A Dog Into A Hotel

Wondering how to sneak your dog into a hotel? We pulled into the parking lot of a pet-friendly hotel and that’s where I first encountered a couple tossing a blanket across a stroller around midnight. We were traveling cross country with our well-behaved Cocker Spaniel and about to check in when I learned a dirty secret: people go to all sorts of lengths to sneak a dog into a hotel.

This woman, in particular, draped a blanket over a baby stroller, hurried past her husband who was checking in and got onto an elevator. The man never mentioned a pet, but I saw the dog in the parking lot along with what they did to get him inside without getting caught. People often sneak their dogs into a hotel to avoid paying a pet fee or if the hotel isn’t pet-friendly at all. Dogs are stuffed in purses, placed in baby carriages, enter through back doors, and people pretend their dogs are service animals.

I’ve been traveling with dogs for the past 30 years, and I see people breaking hotel policy rules all the time. If you get caught, you will be asked to leave and possibly face fees or charges. Most pet-friendly hotels have a guest pet agreement that must be signed on check-in. Here’s what I’ve learned over the past three decades traveling with a dog and dealing with guest pet policies, hotel accommodations, and how people sneak their dogs into hotels.

How To Sneak A Dog Into A Hotel

It’s late, you just want to lay your head on a pillow, and you don’t want to pay the $100 or more pet fee to stay one night in a hotel. I’ve been there, and I feel your pain. Sometimes, a pet fee is refundable or part of it may be charged to your credit card upon checkout.

Whenever I call ahead to ask if a particular establishment is pet friendly if the clerk says no, I ask why pets are not welcome. Often times the clerk does not know or will say “because it’s policy.” I’ve also been transferred to a manager who reads off a list of reasons pets aren’t welcome.

No matter how many times a policy is posted online and in the hotel, there are people who sneak their pets in. I’ve asked managers in bed and breakfasts, hotels, and motels what lengths people go to so their dogs can stay without being caught. Here are the top five ways they shared:

  1. Inside a suitcase
  2. In a baby stroller or dog stroller with a cover atop
  3. Entering through a back or side exit with the dog and hurrying to another floor
  4. Wheeling the dog in on a luggage cart and having him “sit” or “lie down” under a blanket
  5. Pretending the dog is a service animal

My best tip for sneaking a dog into a hotel is don’t do it. Sneaking a dog into a hotel that is not pet friendly ruins it for everyone, including you and your future travel plans. You might wonder what’s the harm in having a dog inside and allowing him to potty on indoor pee pads.

how to sneak a dog into hotel

Sneaking A Dog Into A Hotel In A Suitcase

Like people, dogs need oxygen, so putting a helpless pooch in a suitcase is bad judgment, poor pet parenting, and repulsive. Maybe it’s only for a few minutes, but a lot can happen in that short period of time. Dogs can develop anxiety despite being well-trained.

Why this is a bad idea: “Some people are allergic to dogs,” is the most common reason I hear for not allowing dogs into hotels. The reality is that there are people who are allergic to the dander of animals (i.e. the dead skin that is shed), the dog’s saliva, and/or the urine. For some, breathing in dog dander can be downright deadly.

It isn’t fair to the dog to treat him like an article of clothing by stuffing him into a suitcase. Sadly, it happens, and the outcome isn’t always pleasant. A dog that goes without breathing for more than three to five minutes can suffer brain damage.

The Fake Baby Stroller Technique For Dogs

Dogs are part of the family and we love them dearly, but they are not humans. Sadly, there are people who pretend their dogs are human babies and sneak them into hotels with a baby stroller.

Like millions of pet parents, I own a dog stroller. For a smaller dog or one with back problems, arthritis, or during a surgical postoperative period, a dog stroller comes in handy. Pet strollers are great for travel and giving the dog a break from walking. However, a dog should never pretend to be a human and snuck into a hotel.

Entering Through An Alternate Hotel Entrance With A Dog

Smile, you’re on camera. Most hotels are equipped with closed-circuit cameras these days, so you are being watched. I feel more secure knowing cameras are watching what’s going on in hotels, as the world is a scary place. Bad things happen to nice people and their dogs.

Every dog should have a specific set of behaviors that he or she should be accustomed to before they interact with the general public. I firmly believe and follow the adage that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners. Even if your dog is a little prince or princess with the best manners, it’s best to be the person your dog thinks you are. Enter through the front door and sign the guest pet policy agreement.

Using The Luggage Cart As A Ruse For Getting The Dog In

Not all dogs are small enough for kennels, purses, or backpacks. A clerk at a hotel near the Grand Canyon shared a dog-on-a-luggage-cart story with me. A man checked in with his pack of five children and requested a two-night stay. The clerk got his reservation ready and informed the man that someone could help bring their luggage in.

The man refused help and waived the clerk away as his wife scurried across the lobby floor. Their German Shepherd was dutifully in a “sit, stay, down” position under a blanket of sheets on the luggage cart. She might have gotten away with it but the dog moved around and luggage fell off the cart. This is plain wrong and unfair to the dog, other guests, and those who adhere to pet policies.

Pretending The Dog Is A Service Animal

I’ve seen this happen first hand. Someone is checking into a hotel or perhaps walking around a retail store and their dog is wearing a service animal vest. The dog is clearly not a service animal and does things a service dog would never do (i.e., bark, jump up on people, pull his owner to greet people). Not only is it wrong to sneak a dog into a hotel by pretending he’s a service animal, but in many states this is illegal

Some people find it harmless to pretend a dog is a service animal, but it can be dangerous and illegal. Service animals perform a wide variety of tasks specific to their humans. Penalties for faking a service dog vary by state, but laws are in place.

Why Aren’t All Hotels Pet Friendly?

In speaking with hundreds of hotel employees and general managers over three decades, there are several reasons dogs aren’t welcome in some hotels. People who break the rules and willingly shuffle their dog into a hotel where they aren’t welcome are a huge part of the problem.

The next time you are taking a trip with your dog, call ahead to be sure dogs are welcome. Be specific when you ask about the hotel’s pet policy, as things can change rapidly. I know because I went face-to-face with a front desk clerk who refused to let me stay there with my Cocker Spaniel. Why? Because the weight limit was 20 pounds or less and at the time, Dexter weighed 25 pounds. Ridiculous but true, and I did speak to the manager and politely asked to have that policy waived. He permitted my dog to stay.

Here are some other reasons not all hotels welcome dogs to stay (with a bonus checklist at the bottom):

Cleaning Up A Dog Room Is Extra

Some hotels do not have the time, staff, or resources to perform what many establishments call a “deep cleaning,” which is a term shrouded in mystery. Some managers tell me a special rug shampoo is used, others say they must extra sanitize the room, and yet some tell me they have to clean behind and under the bed. I have yet to actually see what takes place in a deep cleaning.

People Don’t Want To Pay Pet Fees

If the pet fee is reasonable, I generally do not mind shelling over $25 to $50 for my well-behaved dog who is never left alone in the room. Once the $100 and up fee comes into play, I tend to get a bit perturbed. I’ve stayed in non-pet friendly rooms where you really do not want to use a black light to show stains. Catch my drift?

Warning: Have deep pockets, too, as some hotels that do allow pets (in most cases, this means dogs) may charge anywhere between $75 and $250 for extra per night for pet-friendly rooms. Case in point: When I stayed at a hotel in Soho (lower Manhattan), New York, the standard per pet per night fee was $250 nonrefundable.

Dexter loves to travel!

Dogs Who Bark Excessively

Dogs who bark incessantly should not be left alone in a hotel room. My heart beats dog® but I don’t want a barking dog near my room any more than I want a screaming child nearby. Think like your dog: A new environment and perimeter with strange sounds and sniffs equates to “bark alert” for some dogs. It’s a pack mentality.

Also, if dogs do not do well with separation, leaving them alone in the room is not in their best interest either. Certain dogs, no matter how well trained, may bark in a strange environment, especially if left alone. My spouse and I take our dogs everywhere we go, so that means taking turns in stores, frequenting pet-friendly establishments, and ordering restaurant food to go. It works for us.

Barking can also cause a problem at pet-welcoming hotels with policies in place. Some hotels can ask guests to leave if there are enough complaints from other guests.

One of the worst things I have ever witnessed in terms of a “pet-friendly” policy was listed on the website of an Oregonian hotel. See if you can figure out what’s wrong with this policy below.

pet friendly

The American Kennel Club launched the Canine Good Citizen Program in 1989. It’s designed to teach responsible dog ownership behaviors to pet parents, while dogs learn basic training and good manners. My dog has manners, and the American Kennel Club says so! 

One of my favorite dog traveling moments involves letting the reservation desk know that my dog, Dexter, is a “CGC” — a Canine Good Citizen — and that his decorum is delightful. It shows that dogs are wonderful traveling companions who can be trusted to stay at the finest hotels. The bonding experience of training for the CGC title with your dog is time well spent (and it’s a lot of fun, too)!

Here’s a link to how our dog passed the Canine Good Citizen test.

Dogs Who Exceed The Weight Limit

Weight limits drive me a bit insane. I’ve yet to ask someone to put my Cocker Spaniel on a scale at the front desk, but we’ve exceeded the weight limit a few times. Policies vary, but as anyone who travels with a dog knows, weight limits are often enforced. This excludes a LOT of dogs.

If anyone in the hotel industry reads this, try and ask your manager if you can get this rule lifted. You’d see a nice boon in the economy if more “bigger” dog moms and dads could bring their Greyhounds, Labradors, and over 50-pound dogs on vacation. I know throngs of them and they take their dogs on vacations. Any breed and any size of dog can be destructive; just like kids. Please don’t discriminate.

Many times, the staff will look the other way if you simply ask, state that your dog is well-behaved, won’t be left alone in the room, and/or that you have traveled extensively with him or her. Always call ahead AND get the name of the party who approves your request. Better yet, if you can get it in writing, this is a good idea.

Want to see examples of dog weight limit policies? lists the latest pet policies for many major hotel chains.

pet friendly
Dexter and I love to do things together, including travel.

Dogs May Damage the Furniture

This is probably my biggest pet peeve (pun intended) of all: Dogs who damage furniture. Some hotels go out of their way, such as the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, a favorite place. They have wonderful amenities for pets and provide sheets to cover the furniture.

A good rule of thumb when traveling with a dog is this: treat the hotel and your room like it’s your home. Be respectful, be clean, and don’t let anyone — child, adult, or pet — ruin the furniture. This is best summarized by a story I see time and again on various pet-friendly hotel websites, author unknown:

A man wrote a letter to a hotel he planned to visit on his vacation: “I would very much like to bring my dog with me. He is well-groomed and very well behaved. Would you be willing to permit me to keep him in my room with me?”

An immediate reply came from the hotel owner, who said, “I’ve been operating this motel for many years. In all that time, I’ve never had a dog steal towels, linens, silverware or pictures off the walls. I’ve never had to evict a dog in the middle of the night for being drunk and disorderly. Dogs are welcome in this hotel. We’ve never had a dog that smoked in bed and set fire to the blankets. We’ve never had a dog who stole the towels, played the TV too loud or had a fight with his traveling companion. So, if your dog can vouch for you, you’re welcome, too!”

People damage furniture. People blast music. People wreak havoc on rooms in so many ways. I am sure there are pets out there who can do damage. Being the dog-savvy traveler that I am, I generally show hotel managers photos of the damage to hotel rooms that are not pet-friendly. I do this not to antagonize but to educate and inform. Knowledge is power, after all.

pet friendly
Dexter sez, Mi casa es sus casa. So let us in!

Dogs are Dirty

Yes, I was actually told this by several managers at various hotels. “We don’t feel that dogs are dirty, but some of our guests do.”

People are dirty, too. Pet friendly, however, is not always what it’s cracked up to be, and if you’ve had a less-than-stellar experience at a supposed “pet friendly” establishment, you are nodding in agreement. Though many dog-welcoming properties are transparent, it is up to you, the diligent dog parent, to ask questions and do your homework. Do you really want to stay at a hotel that believes “dogs are dirty” anyway?

Some Breeds Are Considered Dangerous

It has been my experience that most people who travel with their dogs are good at heart and respectful pet parents. Sadly, some hotels won’t allow certain breeds to stay over. It saddens me because we believe there are no bad dogs, only bad people. Some dogs should not travel, as perhaps they get stressed out, but this is not a breed-specific behavior.

People Don’t Clean Up After Their Dog Poops

Poop happens, and if you are a dog, poop happens on a regular basis outside. People who don’t clean up after their dog poops should not be traveling with the dog in the first place.

Not only is it unsightly, but no one should have to walk as if there are landmines on the property. Diseases can be transmitted through dog poop including things like parvovirus, parasites, and certain worms that affect dogs.

One of the best ways to change the hearts and minds of establishments with a No Pets Allowed policy is through good manners, proper etiquette, and cleaning the poop.

Bonus Tip For Dog-Friendly Travelers

I cannot stress enough that you need to ask if a property, venue, store, or even an event/stadium/restaurant is pet-welcoming. Case in point: In traveling the country, there are many stores that will allow leashed, well-behaved dogs into their stores.

From New Mexico to Arizona, Maine to Pennsylvania, employees welcome our dog into the store. Ensure your dog is trained, has relived himself so there is no “marking” behavior, and that he or she is accepting and welcoming of strangers. Businesses don’t always advertise their dog-friendliness because they do not necessarily encourage dogs to come in, but they are also not averse to it. So ask!

dog car

How Pet Parents Can Protect Themselves

Here are 10 questions to ask before booking a pet-friendly room. In addition to saving yourself any unwelcomed disappointment, you’ll know whether or not the place gets your seal of “pet welcoming” approval first:

dog hotel checklist

Be sure to read the pet policy before signing it and ask for a copy of it. This protects you, your dog, and the hotel.

Do you ever have a problem traveling with your dog? Let us know in the comments below.

How to sneak a dog into a hotel


  1. I would never travel with my dog. I know a lot of people do, but it’s easier to have my MIL come stay with him when we go away.

  2. We bought our new vehicle specifically to be able to travel with Bentley. Since he has not stayed in a hotel, we were given great traveling advice from Cascadian Nomads. She suggested that we stay at a local hotel to get him used to being away from home the first time. I cannot imagine trying to sneak a 59 pound Basset Hound anywhere.

  3. I travel with my dogs every chance I get. I would never leave them at home or kennel them. They are a part of my family, so they are always included. Your questions should be asked by everyone considering staying at a hotel. I always call ahead first before booking a room to be sure the hotel is pet friendly. I also would like to know what some these hotels do with the exorbitant fees they charge.

  4. Great way to catch the readers attention! I totally was going to post that allergies and barking can ruin it for everyone. Thank you for the great tips

  5. When traveling we always take our dogs if we can, my first questions tend do be: Do you allow dogs, is two okay, and are their any breed or weight restrictions.
    So far we’ve brought the dogs along twice on two different trips, they were great! Hubby and I took turns eating breakfast, we never left them alone in the room, and except for Dante’s low quiet “Boof” noise he makes when he’s unsure we didn’t have any issues (it took a little bit for him to be ok with all the car door noises and people in the hallway).

  6. Having worked in the Hospitality Industry for four years, I go through this EVERY time we travel! I always call to double check on pet friendly status, ask if there is a quantity limit (we have four), weight limit, and fees. The kenneling requirement is never an issue since we never leave the dogs unattended in the room except for quick runs to the vending machine and even then its just one of us (my husband or myself) going at a time (Reason behind it is we actually know someone who did exactly that and had their dog stollen!)

  7. I’ve never traveled with my dog because I think it would cause more stress than relaxation. I’m happy to pay a sitter to stay in our home or put him in a kennel where he’ll get lots of attention!

  8. I am sorry but this is one of my biggest concerns when my family travels and stays at a hotel. My daughter is highly allergic and her asthma flares up. she has been hospitalized from it so there are reasons why hotels have a policy not allowing dogs then people need to obey the rules.

  9. WHEW! I’m so relieved that your post said NOT to sneak a dog into a hotel, I almost had a heart attack thinking “OMD, has Carol gone insane today!?” LOL! Not only does it ruin it for others if you try to sneak a dog in, but many hotels will slam you w/ a steep fee if you don’t declare that you have a pet or you lie about how many pets you’ve got w/ you. We travel extensively w/ our dogs, I’ve found the AAA Pet Book to be a huge help in finding pet friendly places. Also, & are good resources. Comfort Inn’s are almost always super pet friendly, as are many Hilton hotels. You are so right though, policies change frequently and you must always call to confirm all the fees and restrictions you list above. I was happy to learn about the National Pet Friendly Hotel Association. I’m so glad there is such an organization! Thanks for a great post!

  10. Our dogs are too yappy to sneak into a hotel! Glad to see you weren’t really saying to do that!

  11. I got to take my dogs on a business trip one time because it was to a conference at the Hilton – which (at least at the time) was a pet friendly hotel. It was fabulous!

  12. Mom worked in a fancy hotel on Lake Constance in Germany and they had the only small dog policy. She argued the entire year she worked there with her boss about letting large dogs stay in the rooms. The smaller dogs tend to bark more and jump on the furniture. Larger dogs are often more mellow and not running all over the room, but no luck. We get so frustrated by the weight limit thing! Mom did sneak cats into a hotel once years ago when she was moving from MI back to MN. Normally she would never try it…maybe try to sneak an extra dog if there is a limit of 2, but even that is questionable.

  13. I’ve seen hotels websites that discourage pets, yet when I call the front desk (vs. a central reservations number) to check policy they say “yes we love dogs and be sure to bring them to the front desk so we can pet them!” I think the more pet travelers respect policy the better it is for all of us. Although, weight limits confuse the heck out of me.

  14. Because we like to vacation with the dogs, we invested in an RV many years ago. I have read that 60% of all RVers travel with pets (though my personal experience is that the percentage seems to be much higher).

    Like hotels / motels, campgrounds vary widely in their policies. I always ask and respect the campgrounds policies, including if they don’t want us there. So many places to choose from, why bother with someone who doesn’t want us.

    For RVers, it is often the state parks that are the most dog friendly (and often the best campgrounds anyway). But, even there, it is important to know where dogs can and can’t go since some parks have rules against dogs in certain areas (wildlife protection).

  15. We travel with our dog all the time. It is so nice that quality hotels now are Pet Friendly. I don’t mind at all paying a little more for Diesel to stay in our room. Good info!

  16. These are great tips! Wish I knew them when my dog was still alive. We always struggled and wished we could have taken her everywhere with us.

  17. We always call ahead and learned never to go by “small dogs welcomed only” Most of the hotels we contacted that had this in their guidelines gladly excepted giant dogs too. We do prefer rooms on the first floor when traveling with the dogs because those elevators can be super scary for them.

  18. I love the way you catch the reader’s attention by making them think you’re going to tell them how to get away with something, then tell them not to do it! Personally, I don’t have dogs, but on a recent family trip I mentioned to my brother that I didn’t think it was fair that hotels allow dogs and not cats. We had a lengthy discussion on the matter. After reading your article, I don’t think I would travel with either as it appears quote costly and a bit of a pain! You have some wonderful tips for those who do travel with their pets, though!

  19. The weight limit kills me. It makes no sense to me. My 32lb English Bulldog mix, who usually fits in the weight requirement range around here (most seem to be up to 40lbs), would do way more damage than my 70lb Husky any day, because my little one is the chewer in the family. I probably wouldn’t even care if I had to pay a little bit more for my 70lb dog but so many places just make it not an option.

  20. This was a great article. How many times have you had to pay a paw plus to get the dog into the hotel, been warned about excessive barking-etc? Yet next door, is the screaming baby special: the fighting couple who are beating holes in the walls: the teenager screaming at her parents that she’s an adult, blah, blah after slamming doors at 2 am: or the drug raid with guns drawn? Yep, experienced them all! I will take a “whoof” any day of the week. My dream is to buy an RV to travel in. My stuff and my dogs, so no one can complain!

  21. I’m allergic to babies. But they have to let them in and not charge an outlandish fee. How is that fair to protect one group of allergy sufferers and not another.

  22. always travel with dog. small cockapoo. Only stay at Laquinta Inns as they are pet friendly and free. Yes have snuck dog into hotel because of car trouble and only hotel in area.

  23. One thing you should also ask is weather the pet friendly rooms are also the smoking rooms.

    I’ve never traveled with a dog but we were forced to stay in a hotel overnight because of a power outage during a blizzard. We are all electric and had an elderly person as well as my parakeet who couldn’t tolerate the cold for any longer. Called a hotel only to be told they didn’t allow pets so I said ‘nevermind’ they didn’t want to lose our business so asked what kind of pet. When I told them it was a parakeet. the guy asked if he talked and was shocked when I said he does, lol. I “snuck”, though not really since I’d been told I could bring him, into the hotel. He had a good time running around on the bed and sitting on the frame but didn’t like being put in his carrier so I could sleep.

  24. My daughter is severely asthmatic (not allergies) and her trigger is dog dander. It is so bad that she can not hang her coat at a coat check because if the owner of the coat that is next to hers she will have an asthma attack. We map out the route from the hotel to the nearest hospital on every vacation trip. In pet free hotels we have seen other guests sneaking their dog up the back stairs.Her first asthma attack occurred when she was less than 2 and could not speak. So when you think about sneaking a dog in a hotel it could actually kill someone.

  25. First – Why are you staying at a Trump Hotel and do you regret that decision. 2. I thought this article had 5 secrets for actually sneaking them in.

    1. Hi JD and thanks for stopping by! Yes, I regret it now looking back.

      Second, count again, there are actually more than five 😉


  26. In pet-friendly hotels they also make note if a pet is in a room in the event of an emergency to check those rooms and get the pets out if left in the room whereas if a pet is bought into a non-pet friendly hotel and something occurs no one will know that pet is there. This occurred to us when a fire broke out and they checked our room for our pug but fortunately she was with us, however we were very thankful when we got the call from the manager to verify where our pug was and to let us know the situation. Our belongings can be replaced but she cannot.

  27. Since I write a travel blog about dogs, I take my dog all the time. Well, I took my dog all the time. I’m trying out the new dog soon. I only book at pet-friendly places. I have only ‘snuck’ my dog into certain places when I’m in a hurry to get in the room because many times people – including staff – want to stop and interact (which is great when not in a hurry) it can really slow down a quick trip back to the room. Also, many hotels charge huge pet ‘fees’ because they want to call themselves ‘pet friendly’ for PR reasons but don’t really want to be. (‘Deep cleaning’ yah, right).

  28. I have two extremely well behaved Persian kitties who travel very well. I find it disappointing that many hotels allow dogs and not cats. I understand that some people are allergic to cats but chances are that same person might be allergic to long haired dogs. My kitties are my soul mates. They travel in Range Rover sized carriers and are treated like royalty. They do not scratch the hotel furniture and I am always one to practically clean the room before I check out. I put everything in the trash, have been known to vacuum the room myself, hang towels on the shower door or hooks on the door and make certain the room is organized for the cleaning crew. I think hotels should reconsider their pet policies regarding cats AND dogs. Most pet owners who travel with their pets love and cherish their animals or they would probably not have them with them. That being said it is also likely they have trained their pets to behave and be sociable. I am sure there are exceptions to this but I feel it would be prudent for more hotels to allow pets.

  29. We snuck our beagle (think: canine version of 5-alarm fire sounding) one time after a very long day of driving (14+ hrs I recall). We booked the hotel room literally in the parking lot to facilitate the check-in process. I ran in got the key and ran back to the car to get wife unit, kids and luggage and truck them all in at one-time. I then went back to the car to fetch our happy-go-lucky doggo and re-entered via a side door. I covered him up with a blanket and told him to be quiet, etc. Everything was going well until the elevator bank and met somebody and we exchanged pleasantries…..well this was the start of a serious tail-wagging episode with blanket whipping back & forth. The other hotel guest grinned because he knew what we were up to. I don’t mind paying a $40 fee but anything near $100 is robbery especially for interstate freeway hotels.

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