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Big Dogs Deserve Vacations, Too
Do hotel size restrictions make sense?
Big (pregnant) me and big, beautiful Tulip

Many hotels have size restrictions on the dogs they allow to stay with them. Typically, in hotels with such restrictions, dogs must be under a certain weight, such as 20, 25, 30 or 35 pounds. There is a new campaign to allow dogs of all sizes to stay in hotels so that they, too, can travel with their families. This campaign is called “Give Big Dogs A Break” and was launched by two groups. Go Pet Friendly and And A Small Dog joined forces to help give big dogs the same opportunities as little dogs to go on vacation. They are asking people to sign a petition in support of big dogs being allowed to stay at hotels.


I wonder what the reasoning is behind this size restriction? What are hotel companies worried about? If it’s noise or destruction, I hate to break it to them, but little dogs are not guaranteed to be saints in these areas. Perhaps they are worried about excess cleaning troubles related to dog hair, but if that’s the case, why not make the restriction against long-haired or heavily shedding dogs? Maybe the issue is a concern about alienating other customers, who might be afraid of big dogs, or liability issues should a big dog jump up on someone and knock them over.


We used to travel a lot with our 60-pound dog, and sometimes we did have trouble finding a place to stay because of the size restrictions. Other times, it was clear that the restrictions were loosely followed. I always asked if dogs were allowed, and when they asked the weight of my dog, I’d say, “60 pounds.” On more than one occasion, a hotel clerk answered, “Did you say 25 pounds?” to which I would reply, “No, 60 pounds.” At this point, I variously had clerks reply, “I’m just going to write 25 pounds here,” or “I think he looks to be about 25 pounds,” and book us into a room. Other times, the question was bypassed completely when the person helping us looked at our dog, winked, and said, “He’s about 25 pounds, right?” It probably helped that I always brought my dog into the lobby to demonstrate his good behavior. I’d ask for him to do a “wait” at the door, put him on “heel” as I came over to the desk, and then on a “down stay” when I spoke to the hotel employee.


What have your experiences been with trying to find hotels for larger dogs? Have you been denied a room or have you been allowed to stay places with your big dog despite the official rules?



Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.

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