The more I travel with dogs, the more I see an increasing number of hotels and motels are becoming less pet friendly. Some complaints I hear from dog owners include hotels they used to love no longer allowing pets and hotels seriously increasing pet fees. When I talk to hotel managers, it is easy to see why there are problems with allowing dogs and why they charge what they do. As dog owners, we are to blame for higher fees and bans. How we act at hotels will play a big role in how hotel management views how they handle allowing pets.
In order to have good canine guests at hotels, we start with training and socializing. Some behaviors I want include: ignoring various sounds in the hall, relaxation when inside (yes this can be taught), good leash manners, sitting or waiting at doors, not lunging at people, etc. My dogs need to quietly ride elevators or walk nicely up stairs. They need to pass other guests, housekeeping carts and room service trays left in the hall. They will need to handle the numerous sounds at a hotel without barking at every little noise. We have stayed at hotels near airports and less than 100 yards from commuter rail tracks. What seems like an easy thing for us can be overwhelming for our dogs.
Now, it may not be financially wise to stay at hotels only to work on training and socializing. However, getting our dogs out and teaching what we need in a variety of situations will go a long way. Being relaxed and enjoying crates is a necessity. Some places like Bass Pro Shops are dog friendly and have elevators you can practice in. We made various trips to Bass Pro in Ashland, VA for elevator work. There is a lot we can do at home to prepare our dogs for hotel stays.
I make it a point to talk to managers when I stay at hotels. The complaints management have about what dog owners do (or not) and permit are lengthy. Here are a few. Not cleaning up poop from hotel and surrounding grounds is a major problem. This includes poop on walkways, in dog walk areas, in the landscaping, etc. It is disgusting how many owners do not clean up after their dogs. This is not only unsightly but a health issue. Many things we do not want can be transmitted through dog poop. Always have a poop bag on hand. If you forget one, the bags used to line ice buckets work great as do the bags in your room’s trash cans. If the hotel has a poop bag station and it is empty, let management know so they can replace the bags.
One hotel manager told me about a severely damaged guest room. However, once the owner stated he was, the manager knew if she raised a concern that the “court of public opinion” would damage her hotel’s reputation. So she put them in a handicapped room and waived the fee. The hotel was a suites for extended stay so daily cleanings were not done unless requested.
The damage done included: chewed holes in walls, destroyed handicapped shower bench (chewed and partially pulled away from the wall), the dog relieved himself over the carpets which was not reported or cleaned, etc. The owner was with the dog the whole time and ignored what her dog was allowed to do. The damage cost close to $10,000 and a room for disabled guests had to be taken out of service for a week for repairs. Luckily the manager decided not to ban all dogs (she knew that it would not prevent people from claiming pets were service dogs, which she had to allow). The owner of the dog lied on the reservation, claimed the dog was a service dog to get out of the pet fees and she wanted a ground level room. The manager said it was clear the dog was not a service dog when they walked in the door, but she could not handle the backlash if she kicked the dog out.
Another manager said dogs allowed to bark all day and night is a major complaint of guests. Some guests treat hotels like boarding kennels – leave the dogs alone all day in the room. The dogs bark and disturb people. When the manager calls owners to return to the hotel, many cannot be reached. Yes sometimes we will have to leave dogs in the rooms while we run to get breakfast in the lobby (please bring it to your room to eat) but leaving for a 6 – 12 hour day while you see the sights or you head out to dinner and leave your dog in the room is irresponsible. I have sat and listened to dogs barking for several hours while owners left the building.
Another complaint came from a manager at a hotel where people were staying for dog shows. I was not at this show but knew club members who were contacted by the hotel management after. One group left the rooms they booked a disaster as they decided to do a full show grooming on their dogs and not clean up after they were done. They were all friends and all the same breed. These exhibitors were banned from all shows hosted by this club. Luckily the club did a lot of damage control to keep good relations with the hotel! I have been at shows where announcements were made letting exhibitors know just what will happen if they are irresponsible at the host hotels.
Crates are important for the safety of your dog. All it takes is one housekeeper or maintenance man to open the door for your dog to escape. I never rely on “do not disturb” or “dog in room” signs to keep people out. We often stay at hotels with kitchenettes so we have the option of cooking meals. It is not uncommon for there to be various cleaning agents left in lower cabinets. I have dogs who can open cabinets. I have heard horror stories of dogs that got into toxic things in cabinets while owners slept. A dog who is comfortable and likes a crate is safer in hotel rooms.
Make sure your dogs do not dash out open doors. It is frightening to be coming down the hall, see a door open and watch a dog come barreling out with an owner screaming for the dog to get back. If your dog cannot maintain a wait while a door is opened, crate him or leash him before opening the door. One hotel trip we had this happen. The dog was on an extending leash, dashed out of the door and pulled down the hall, the owner made no move to stop him. We were close enough for him to get at our dogs. Luckily I was able to get them into the door as the owner began to realize there was going to be a problem.
Do not walk your dogs on extending or long leads in the building or on the grounds. Short leashes are safer. One trip we had to wait ten minutes before an owner acknowledged her dog (not a nice one either) was blocking the lobby doors. His lead was extended across the entire doorway. He was roaming around while his owner stood and smoked, texted, etc. People could neither enter nor exit. The dog barked and lunged at other guests. The owner saw people waiting. She chose to be rude. Extending leads have no place in a hotel or on their grounds. Because of the body language I saw in the dog, I was not going to attempt to pass him.
When in hotels we have to address physical activity. Be considerate when you play with your dogs in your rooms. The noise may disturb others. I have heard dog games sound like they were playing fetch in rooms near us – really loud, raucous games. Not fun when you are trying to sleep.
To help burn off energy (if the dogs are not tired from an event) we will find a back staircase and jog up and walk down a few flights. Stairs are great ways to work out your dog if you are careful and your dog physically healthy. Walk your dog around the halls if they are well-mannered. Start at the bottom floor and work up to the top. We use stair cases at the ends of the halls. If the area around the hotel is nice we will do laps outside. We may look for areas we can explore. If there is an open field then we can use a long line in a safer manner if no one is around. Alternatively we tell the dog to go sniff and we follow the dog around as she does dog things. Inside the room we use food releasing toys and find the kibble games (be careful and make sure you are not leaving kibble on the floor that the dog misses).
One summer we drove into Colonial Williamsburg after a dog show and walked around. The dogs enjoyed sniffing and checking things out. We have walked the dogs in New York City when at Westminster and around hotel grounds when at Premier.
As dog owners, we determine how pet-friendly places will remain. Being able to be at a hotel with pets is a privilege I want to continue to enjoy. Sadly too many people are irresponsible and are making it increasingly difficult for hotels to stay dog friendly.
Lastly, please do not lie and state your pet is a service dog so you can gain access with him to a hotel that has a no-dog policy. This is a growing problem. If your dog is a pet he is a pet. If you choose to fake a service dog and certain behaviors happen, the management can have the dog removed and the law will be on their side. If you are in a hotel and you see someone with a service dog, keep your dog well away and under control. It is not fair to working dogs to be tormented by your pet. Move down the hall and let the handler and dog get to their room before you proceed. Give them respect and a wide berth.
This is a greatly extended version of a piece submitted to Northern Virginia Today’s print edition – Karen Peak, West Wind Dog Training.