This past weekend, I took a little family vacation with my girlfriend and my dog up to the ultra-pet-friendly Ojai Valley Inn. It was the first time I was bringing Cleo Bagels (my dog, not my girlfriend) to a hotel and I was nervous. Cleo is a wonderful little mutt and she’s very well-trained — seriously, her high-five is amazing — but, as a rescue pup, she also has a bit of leash aggression, which means she barks at other dogs and occasionally jumps up at unsuspecting passers by. I’ve had her for over four years now and love her dearly, but her leash issues make me leave her home most of the time.
Since it was a Sunday stay and I figured the hotel would be at a lower occupancy, I decided to give it a shot and boy am I glad I did! Cleo was great. She only barked once when a French bulldog appeared in the lobby and didn’t have any problems with accidents. In fact, she was more relaxed than she usually is at home! Her behavior warmed my puppy-loving heart. Things could have very well gone a completely different direction, though, so I started thinking about some rules to follow in case the next time isn’t as wonderful as the first. Here are six rules for taking your dog to a hotel.
1. If your dog’s a full-time barker, leave it at home.
Your desire to bring your dog with you does not trump the comfort of the other guests. If your little terrier has a tendency to scream its head off all the time, it’s not wise to bring it along on your trip. I love Cleo as much as any owner loves their dogs, but if she kept barking the whole time I was in Ojai, I would have packed up the car and driven right home after an hour. It’s just not fair to the other people who didn’t sign up to sleep down the hall from a howling hound. A few times is fine — I mean, come on, they’re dogs — but if it’s for an extended period of time, you may just have to realize that your dog was not meant to vacation.
2. If you leave the room, put up the Do Not Disturb sign.
Most hotels make it very clear that you’re not allowed to leave your dog in the room unattended. On the flipside, I’m willing to bet that most people who take their dogs to hotels leave them in the room unattended. It’s kind of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation. If you opt to skirt the rules by leaving your pooch alone, the least you can do is make sure you’re protecting the hotel employees by putting up the Do Not Disturb sign. Who knows what will happen when a cleaning person comes to tidy up the room and your pup feels like his territory is being challenged? Play it safe and put up the sign. That way, you’re doing your part to avoid unnecessary problems.
3. You’re responsible for your dog and whatever trouble they cause.
You’re not a rock star. If you are, I’m truly shocked that you’re reading an obscure blog about food and travel. In any case, you can’t just trash your hotel room because there’s somebody whose job it is to clean it up. If your dog has an accident in the room, clean it to the best of your ability and then alert the staff. If your furry pal chews up a cord for a lamp, it’s your responsibility to pay for it. The hotel was nice enough to let you bring your four-legged friend, so the least you can do is make sure it’s a respectful guest.
4. Bring your own food and don’t share the room service.
A dog’s diet needs to be consistent in order to avoid digestive problems. A hotel stay is no time to start experimenting with different foods and treats. Make sure to pack your dog’s regular food to maintain that consistency on the road. Being in a new environment can be stressful, so maintaining routine as much as possible is a good way to calm down Mr. Puppy Boy. Even if you have the bad habit of giving your fur-friend human food at home, it’s best to keep the room service to yourself. You don’t want to take a chance on your dog getting sick (see rule #3).
5. Toys, Beds, and the Comforts of Home
Possible poop problems aren’t the only reason to bring your dog’s food from home. Packing up your dog’s bed, toys, and other (literal) creature comforts are a great way to make your pup feel comfortable. Some dogs are happy anywhere you take them while others get finicky if they’re not close to home base. If your dog isn’t as good of a traveler as you are, giving them a sense of home may be just the ticket to having a good hotel experience. Cleo wasn’t sure what to make of our new room at first, but after a while she was chewing her bones and laying in the sunlight just like she does every day here at Fly&Dine Headquarters.
6. Make it special.
Remember that this is vacation for Fido, too! Even though you’re trying to create a connection to home with food, toys, and beds, you can still do special things with your dog to really make it feel like vacation. If they’re never allowed on the bed at home, maybe make an exception for a night. If you normally just let them do their business in your backyard, take them for a nice, long walk to explore the new surroundings. Creating a fun environment could be the perfect way to getting your dog to look forward to traveling instead of fearing that it’s just a trip to the vet every time.
Traveling with your dog can be a ton of fun. If you follow these rules, you and your pooch will both come home looking forward to your next adventure together!