Whether you’re looking for a budget place to spend the night or a vacation resort where you’ll linger for a week, don’t make your decision based on the mere presence of a “dog friendly” claim on a hotel’s website. A phone call is in order, and it doesn’t hurt to call again to make sure you’re given the same information twice (believe us, it doesn’t always happen). The staffers at DogTrekker personally visit or call every property in our DogTrekker.com listings to inquire about pet policies. In the process, we’ve learned a lot about what to ask. Here are our top 10 questions.
1) Does your hotel accept pets? Be forewarned: You won’t necessarily get a straight “yes” or “no” answer to this question. Sometimes, the response will be, “What kind of dog do you have?” This is a red-flag indicator that the property has size, weight or breed restrictions (see below).
2) What is your pet policy? This question will sometimes elicit an answer spelling out everything you need to know. But more often it will be something like, “We allow two pets per room and there’s a $25 fee.” Great—but keep asking questions.
3) Are there size limits? A surprising number of hotels accept only small dogs, though an untrained reservation agent may neglect to disclose this. Twenty and 40 pounds are oft-quoted weight limits. If you get this answer and have a larger pet, inquire why weight limits are in place. You might be told “I don’t know, I only work here.” Or “large dogs shed more and chew things up.” We’ve even heard, “our rooms are too small for large dogs.”
4) Are there breed restrictions? This is where things can seem really unfair. A surprising number of hotels, like a surprising number of landlords, will turn down your business if the pet at the end of your leash is of a certain make or model. Temperament and training have no bearing on these bans, which are generally in place for one of two reasons: a) management is sensitive to the feelings of guests who are easily frightened by dogs; b) the property’s liability insurance takes into account actuarial risk for specific breeds, and your dog’s breed is on the list.
The breeds most commonly red-lined for insurance purposes include American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, chow chows and wolf hybrids. (These breeds are also banned on many U.S. military bases, by the way.) Other dogs often unwelcome at hotels include mastiffs, German shepherds, boxers, akitas, malamutes, huskies and other breeds and mixes that insurance carriers deem potentially aggressive. You can’t do anything about this except to voice your disappointment to management and take your money elsewhere.
5) What are the fees? Some properties charge extra for a dog to share your room, some do not. Some charge per day and some per stay; some charge a little and some charge a lot. Reservation agents reading from a script often quote a fee “per dog,” which is not all you need to know. Be sure to clarify whether the amount is “per day” or “per stay,” as the difference can be substantial. Ask, too, about any damage deposits or additional cleaning fees that might be imposed.
6) What are the rules? Many hotels, for good reason, prohibit leaving dogs alone in the room. After all, who wants to listen to an anxious pet barking, whining and clawing on the door while its people are away? Alternatively, a hotel may require only that pets be crated and quiet when the owner leaves. If you and your dog have not been introduced to crate training, travel is a good reason to acquaint yourselves with this humane method of confinement.
7) What about amenities? It’s unlikely that a responsible dog owner would go on a trip and forget to bring food and water bowls, but it certainly makes you and Rover feel appreciated to be presented with them on arrival. Hotels that are truly pet-passionate often provide other goodwill extras such as dog beds, place mats, sheets to cover the furniture, pick-up bags, toys and treats.
8) What about services? A hotel that courts DogTrekkers rather than just tolerates them will anticipate the needs of its guests and stand ready to provide recommendations on everything from dog parks to al fresco restaurants, pet stores, veterinarians, parks and trails. Need a pet sitter so you can go out to dinner on a rainy night? A doggie daycare facility where Dash can play while you visit a museum? Ask the concierge or at the front desk; staff should be quick to recommend a trusted provider. Many dog-passionate hotels go even further by supplying handouts at check-in and posting activity recommendations on their websites.
9) How many of your rooms are pet-friendly? This may seem like a picky question, but the answer can be revealing. Few hotels welcome dogs in all their rooms. Some set aside only one or two. Others relegate DogTrekkers to smoking rooms or poorly located rooms not included in the latest remodel. With a little fishing, you won’t be relegated to the sticks. Ask about the hotel’s layout and request a no-smoking room opening onto an interior courtyard rather than a parking lot, if appropriate, or near an elevator or exit if you anticipate needing to make a quick trip outside.
10) Do you want to see vaccination records? You won’t encounter this requirement very often, but it’s always a good idea to make sure your dog is wearing a rabies tag and that you’ve brought along a copy of his shot records.
"Dogs Welcome" – M. Manukenkun (CC)
"Amenities at Plump Jack Inn" – Lisa Sunde (CC)
"Kayla Hard at Work" – Dave Kendrick, DogTrekker