cocker spaniel

Five Hidden Secrets About Dog Friendly Travel

Over the past 23 years, we have taken dozens of dog friendly trips. It is rare that I travel without a dog (only if I fly).  As with all of our dog friendly travels over the course of 23 years, we learn something new every time. Indeed, there are hidden secrets about dog friendly travel; well, they were a secret until now.

Dog friendly travel secrets

Size Matters

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 25 pound limit a few times. Policies vary, but as anyone who travels with a dog knows, weight limits are 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.

The secret: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 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.


Be Careful of Grass

Have you visited a pet-friendly hotel and are told where the “potty area” is for your pooch? Ever notice that some properties have the greenest grace on the area where dogs are to relieve themselves? Wonder why you can’t replicate the same results for your back yard? Many properties use chemical treatments to keep the grass looking pristine, but this does not mean it is safe for dogs to walk on. Ask what is used, if the grass is treated, when the last treatment occurred, and if the product is pet-safe. I tend to err on the side of caution, and our dog walks on the concrete area for relieving himself. This is something our dog learned as a puppy, and we are glad he is accustomed to relieving himself on a variety of surfaces.

The secret: Hotels are not always up front about this fact, so know before you go. Carry paw wipes with you to wipe your dog’s delicate paws and pads after walking outside. This is also something to be cognizant of on walks in your neighborhood at home. Again, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Chemicals from lawns can wreak havoc on dog paws and actually enter the dog’s bloodstream, causing serious damage.



How Pet Parents Can Protect Themselves

Here are 9 questions to ask before booking a 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:

1 No matter what a website states, call ahead and ask if the hotel welcomes guests with dogs. Policies change with lighting speed and websites are not always updated and current.

2 Find out if there is a weight limit in place. Why bother traveling with your Mastiff if anything Beagle sized and under is allowed.

3 Ask about pet fees and be specific: How much, is it per night, is it per pet, and is the fee refundable upon checkout?

4 If the hotel is willing to divulge the information, ask what the pet fee covers. It is your right as a paying guest to know what a “deep or thorough cleaning” entails.

5 Find out what makes the facility “pet friendly” and any amenities, perks, and/or additional features included in the price.

6 Are there specifically designated pet friendly rooms? Can you stay on the first floor or do you have the option of staying on another floor/area of the hotel?

7 Are there specific areas/nearby dog-friendly park(s) for my dog? Ample grounds upon which to walk with Rover is always a bonus, especially at midnight when nature calls and the dog answers.

8 If you are considering a rental property, inquire if it will be checked for fleas and ticks prior to your arrival.

9 Is there any restriction on breed?

The secret: Though many dog-welcoming properties are transparent, it is up to you, the diligent dog parent, to ask these questions and do your homework.


Some Dog Welcoming Places Don’t Advertise

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, store employees welcomed 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 adverse to it. So ask!

The secret: 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. Try it for yourself: 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.


Climate Issues Can Wreak Havoc

She who knows all about pet travel and has been through every possible situation on the road: from bug bites to urinary tract infections 2,000 miles from home and every nugget of annoyance in between – I have seen it all and done it all, right? I thought so, too, but on this road trip my dog became very allergic to “something,” and we are attributing that something to extreme variation in climate. Knowing our dog would be exposed to other dogs and a variety of pets in a multitude of social situations, we ensured blood titers were at acceptable levels, rabies vaccine is current as required by law, and that a bordatella (kennel cough) intranasal vaccine was done at least two weeks prior to travel.

The climate of the drier states tossed us a curve ball. We spent nearly a week on Lake Las Vegas, which along with its glorious resort-style atmosphere, is also a desert. We also spent time in New Mexico, with its gusts of dust and barren landscape. A combo of these two combined to induce bouts of heavy sneezing and runny nose, red eyes, and a slight cough with Dexter, our dog. We never hesitate to seek veterinary care and ALWAYS identify the closest emergency vet before arriving at each destination. However, my gut told me this was an allergic reaction. I never considered the change of climate as a factor, which varies depending on time of year.

So far, so good for us, as the Benadryl combined with the trek back to PA seems to be lessening his symptoms to next to none.

cocker spaniel
The arid climate of the Grand Canyon set my dog’s allergies into a tailspin.

The secret: Plan ahead, look at weather predictions, climate patterns, and allergy alerts. Plan your dog’s trip and needs accordingly. Pack a WT-WTCH (What’s The Worst That Could Happen) bag, including a first aid kit, water bottle and bowl, vaccination records, current photo, flotation device (for water travelers), clean up bags, wet wipes and paper towels. Toss in an extra collar and leash in the event either is misplaced. Has Fido been in a similar climate to that of your destination? Prevent problems with allergy medication(s), a doggie sweater, tweezers for tick removal and a flashlight for nighttime walks.

Got a tip or secret revealed about your experiences in traveling with a dog? We’re all ears, so bark back in the comments below.


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  1. Glad you remembered to play the CGC card 😉 I have found that getting our 70 lb. Tanner into a hotel has sometimes been challenging. Most hotel managers will respond positively to an offer to show a certificate for the CGC, along with as many other traveling papers as you have along.

    Your best tip is asking the management to check the hotel room or rental unit for fleas and ticks prior to your check in. This should be signed off on, giving you the chance to assure the management that you take this seriously.

    Even traveling with a service dog often requires some accommodation of the management’s comfort. I find Oliver is more easily made welcome when I offer, upfront, to produce his registration, CGC, and other documentation.

    Good luck in your search for and selection of an RV. We are enjoying ours thoroughly. Hope to hit your neck of the woods at some point and plan on a play date!

  2. What a great post. I think weight discrimination is wrong for humans and dogs! We are planning to do some traveling with Bentley so he’ll be prepared for Nashville 2015. I will be bookmarking this page so that I can refer back to it. Thanks for the helpful tips.

  3. Great point about the freakishly green (chemically treated) grass Carol! As a frequent traveler with three dogs of all sizes (all CGC, TDI and various other obedience titled) I have learned the easiest thing to do is camp! Size & number discrimination at hotels (like the Westin were BlogPaws was held) is just too frustrating for me. The dogs have a lot more fun not being couped up in a hotel, I get to see more of where we’re visiting and have more wonderful conversations with local people. It’s the best!

  4. Bailie will be trying for her CGC in June for her first birthday. We will see how it goes. We have more trouble since we are a family of three dogs, two is difficult, but three is almost impossible. If you travel with one dog it is much easier, unless you have the small pocket sized dogs.

  5. This is something we are so accustomed to. Being in the military, we travel a lot and we like to bring our dogs with us as much as possible. Finding a hotel that allows two Great Pyrenees isn’t an easy task. If we are able to find one, they dog fees are astronomical. Same goes for finding a place to live. It can be a tad frustrating sometimes.

  6. Great tips. We don’t travel much with Jack & Maggie, mostly because of their age & personalities. We’re planning a trip in July though – renting a cabin on Big Bear Lake, so that will be a fun excursion – their first vacation!

  7. Great tips.

    We can all be part of the solution though, by making the experiences postive for hotels and business that do allow our pets. We’ve been able to take our dogs places only to have it ruined by others who saw us being allowed, demanded equal treatment and their pets were badly behaved having the policy removed for all. It is really important to know if your dog can handle the responsiblities of being in public places so it does create more acceptance and tolerance for other dogs.

  8. Brilliant! Our traveling with dogs has always been limited to camping and hiking, but I’ll be traveling with the wee Affenpinscher in the fall and was a bit at a loss. I’ll probably just print this out and tape it to my mirror. Thank you!

  9. Great tips to know for traveling in the future! We showed up at our hotel and found out there was a limit of 2 pets, although it hadn’t said it anywhere online nor where we booked our stay. I told the person at the desk that Bella had her CGC, the other one was in training for her CGC, and the last one had stayed in hotels before. Thankfully they were very understanding and let us stay, even though they could have kicked us out. Before our next big trip Terra should hopefully have achieved hers, and Kronos will be in training for his 🙂

  10. Awesome post! 🙂 I totally agree that hotels and other venues should realize that size doesn’t matter when it comes to a dogs tendencies, it’s how they’ve been trained. Nailah is 40 lbs but she would never chew on anything that isn’t her own toy (I even have stuffed animals on my bed and she doesn’t touch them!).

  11. Thank you so much for sharing! I especially like the tip about the grass chemicals. That is something I never thought to consider. It was great meeting you and Dexter at BlogPaws!!

  12. I have traveled with my dogs, mostly for dog shows. In this case, hotels are already aware of the dog show nearby, thus we have had no problem getting a room with large dogs. I have even rented a pet-friendly cabin that didn’t even ask what breed, how many or what the weight limit was, but just informed us there was a flat pet fee.

    I would love to be able to travel more. It is on the agenda! Some day!

    Great article!

  13. I have shown horses for 20 years and hauled them across all the Western States. Compared to taking a horse, a dog is nothing! I like having little dogs that don’t shed, so aren’t a nuisance. The biggest change I would make is I did not train my current dogs to pee-pads- so if they have to pee they need to go outside instead of peeing on a doggie diaper I can dispose of. When you are watching a movie or else wise engaged, a pee pad can be a real convince.

  14. Use cranberry supplements for preventing or stopping a urinary tract infection. I use that for my dog, my cat and myself. Cranberry is a lifesaver. Dogs can get urinary tract infections from swimming so have cranberry available. Also for swimming, have white vinegar. After swimming, after a bath, after walking in the rain, fill each ear with vinegar in a squeeze bottle with a spout, let them shake, then do the other ear. Only use vinegar in healthy ears. If the ears are inflamed, get prescription ear drops to heal completely, before ever using vinegar as it could sting. Vinegar prevents ear infections and prevents yeast infections. I towel dry off the water and spray the entire body with vinegar as it kills the yeasty smell that causes that doggy smell. Our dog never has doggy smell thanks to vinegar and no ear problems since we started using vinegar so many years ago.

  15. Great tips. One (2) words: La Quinta. You won’t find them on pet-friendly travel sites. You have to read their web site to find out that they accept small dogs. They never ask. We have seen Weimies, Labs, everything, they never ask or charge extra. Best pet friendly hotel ever. Love Dolly

  16. We have always traveled with our pets. We usually opted to find cottages or cabins. We now have a 38ft ClassA Diesel Motorhome, now they can sleep in their own house and not have to worry. This is the first time we are taking our car,a Jack with us. It is an experience. Our cocker Buster has many, many miles, lots of hotels, cabins and cottages on his resume. So our excuse for buying the Motorhomemr, “bought it for our cockers!”

  17. We have always wanted to travel with our dog, but unfortunately at 90+ lbs he is not welcome at many hotels. I hadn’t thought to mention his Canine Good Citizenship in the past so I will definitely give that a try!

  18. This post is quite informative. I used to travel a lot with my German Shepherd. We never had any problem. I hadn’t even known about any weight limits. Maybe everyone just liked the look of her. 🙂 Thank you for sharing these ideas.

  19. Good advice! We travel lots with our dogs. We were aware of most of these but #8 is something I’ve never thought of before – don’t ask me why, in hindsight it makes perfect sense to ask if the rooms are treated or inspected for fleas & ticks. My dogs both got sick after staying in a certain hotel we had stayed in several times before, apparently the cleaning products they used on the floor caused them both to get sick – somewhere in the middle of the country! That was not fun and it was expensive at a strange Vet, thankfully we found an awesome Vet in Ohio.

  20. Wow, I haven’t thought about the chemicals on the grass ever! Thank you for reminding me!! I feel like a ‘weight limit’ is silly! Ok, it’s not the same if you bring a Chihuahua, or you bring a Mastiff, but they should care about the dog his behavior too! Pippa is a medium sized dog, but a true delight to take with you on trips!

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