Paws for Thought
With 60% of pet owners choosing hotels based on their animal-friendly offerings – Editor Richard Cree weighs in on what you need to know.
By Richard Cree
Social media. Love it or hate it, it is impossible to ignore. And while it is undoubtedly responsible for a few tiresome changes in social mores (rampant oversharing and all that anonymous aggression), it is also responsible for some positive trends. It has played its part in the boom in pet travel. With influential celebrities falling over to share their ‘me and my dog on holiday’ photos, no-one wants to leave the pooch behind.
In the UK, 60 percent of pet owners now admit to making animal-friendly holiday plans. But, unless they’re prepared to put in some hard research, many are in for disappointment. With nothing like an industry standard on what ‘pet-friendly’ means, travelling with one can be more upsetting than the look they give you when you get a suitcase out. Some hotels that claim to be pet-friendly are at best reluctantly tolerant, others simply make it intolerably awkward. So, what would a rating system look like?
Here we get borderline obsessive. The greeting features lots of fuss for the dog along with treats and lots of dog talk. There will be excitement that a dog is here and may even be an in-house hound to meet and greet. No one will moan about a little messy drinking from a water bowl. There will be plenty of treats (did I mention the treats?) and lots of the good sort of tummy-tickling fuss made. If you are having dinner, it will be fine for your dog to join you, or there may be a dog-sitting service. There won’t be rules about whether the dog is allowed alone in a room. Heck, someone will go and sit there with him if that’s what’s needed. If the dog is joining you for dinner, there may be the offer of a dog menu. At the further extremes there may be a pet spa (complete with doggie massages and even fluffy dressing gowns). There might be a menu of dog beds or a hundred and one other totally unnecessary ways to pamper a pooch. That supplementary charge? You’ll hardly notice it on the long list of extras.
“Hello and welcome to you. He’s a lively chap, isn’t he?” Here the welcome is much more agreeable. The dog will be offered a treat. If you’ve booked for dinner you still might not be allowed to take the dog with you to the main dining room. But you know this already and have had it explained in advance. There will be somewhere else sorted out and the menu will be more or less the same, although they may not bring the cheese trolley to you. You can leave the dog in your room if you’d prefer. And if you want to knacker the hound out before dinner, you’ll be able to follow one of the clearly marked walking trails (with minor restrictions like “stay out of the formal gardens”). There may be a bowl and bed in your room. And the pooch will be OK to join you in the breakfast room. There’ll probably be a surcharge, but you won’t mind in the least.
Things warm up here with a nice welcome. Here they’ll profess to love dogs but will then (ever so politely) unveil myriad rules such as you can’t take the dog in there and no, that menu isn’t available there. They’ll do their best and explain sandwiches are served until 6pm and point to a range of bar snacks. You’ll be able to leave the dog in the room, but might be asked to sign a damage waiver. And yes, it will include minor carpet stains. Ask for a bowl and you’ll be given an odd look, so don’t bother to think about finding a dog bed in the room. The grounds will probably be out of bounds and yet again they’ll be a hefty charge.
Here the attitude is more pernicious. It’s a grudging “well, if you must, do bring your four-legged friend.” They might even allow them indoors, just as long as they don’t go in any public rooms, under any circumstances. You see, there may be other guests. Oh, and by the way they can’t be left in the bedrooms without the owner. So, good luck figuring out how to enjoy a meal. Finally, dogs are probably not allowed in the garden. It’ll be the owners’ pride and joy. For this they’ll charge an additional £30 a night.
These places are honest with a clear message. That message is “keep your stinking pets away.” These are serious hotels, for beautiful people. And that means people only. No animals.
Want to welcome more pets at your property? Our ten golden rules for dog-friendly hotels
- Establish a clear and simple policy and stick to it
- Create a pleasant space for owners to eat with their dogs
- Communicate your policy upfront to owners
- Don’t overcharge for your pet supplements
- Think people first, dogs a close second
- A good supply of water bowls is essential
- Remember dogs come in a wide range of sizes (Great Dane to Chihuahua)
- Let sleeping dogs lie (if it’s asleep under a table, check with the owner before disturbing it)
- Treats are great, but always check with the owner before offering them
- Think about the unpleasantries (yes, that means poo bins!)