Doors slammed in our faces as we walked from hostel to hostel in the Patagonian city of Punta Arenas.
“Can we stay here with our dog?” I’d ask. “She’s well-behaved, trained, and—”
We heard “no” for at least a half hour. Or if the answer wasn’t “no,” it was “She can stay tied up outside.”
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Having pedaled our bikes all day in punishing headwinds, trudging across the city looking for pet-friendly accommodation was not what my partner and I wanted to be doing.
In the end, the one affordable place that admitted dogs was fully booked, so we finally relented and signed ourselves into the city’s most expensive dog-friendly accommodation.
Over the past two years, we have visited 23 European and South American countries accompanied by our dog, Sora, mostly by bicycle. In many places, dogs are not viewed as members of the family. They are seen as dirty, untrained animals who belong on the streets, behind fences or on top of roofs barking all day long to protect the property.
Even in dog-friendly countries, finding accommodation with a dog in tow is not always easy. Over time, however, we have developed several tactics that have increased our success rate. While following our advice doesn’t guarantee that a hotel will permit your dog, it should increase the odds.
Book in advance. When we have a set arrival date, we often book ahead. The site Booking.com is great, as it allows you to filter search results by those that are pet-friendly. But be sure to read the fine print. Some places say they they’re pet-friendly, but require prior approval. Or you’ll arrive and find that they only permit small dogs. Specify that you’ll have your well-behaved pup with you, and call before booking if you have doubts.
Avoid large nationwide chains. While some, such as Kimpton and La Quinta, are pet-friendly, many are not, and they tend to have stricter policies that are applied across the entire chain. Local hotels or regional chains are sometimes more open to bending the rules (or creating new ones on the spot).
Show and tell. Because not everyone’s a dog-lover, it often helps to share a bit about your dog. Our standard spiel goes something along the lines of, “She’s well-behaved, trained, does not bark and will not go to the bathroom inside.” If the staff is still unsure, we introduce them to Sora and have her do a few of her tricks to demonstrate that she listens and obeys commands. Many have never seen a well-trained dog, and this usually helps assuage fears they may have about accepting a dog as a guest.
Provide references. Before leaving a hotel, ask a member of the staff to write a short review about your stay on company letterhead. Show this whenever you need to do a bit more persuading. Having a reference from another hotel is a great way to establish your credibility and prove that your pup does not cause problems.
Dog hair, do care! Sora tends to leave behind piles of hair wherever we go. This can be a major put-off for hotels, which have to deal with it after you leave. We travel with a pet brush and give Sora a thorough brushing before our stay, reducing the amount she leaves behind and making cleaning easier for the staff.
Slumber party. At home, Sora never slept with us on our bed, but we’ve relaxed the rules since we’ve been traveling. Now, there’s no keeping her off! Since her hair sticks to comforters and bedspreads like a magnet, we always bring her bed inside with us, and place it on top of the bed. Another option is to ask the staff for an extra sheet and put it on top of the regular bedding. Bonus points if you bring your own from home.
Make some noise. If outside noise like voices or footsteps send your dog into protective barking mode while you’re away, try to drown out sounds by turning the TV on low volume or using a white-noise machine, either via an app on your phone or bringing one from home.
Enter armed and ready. Whether we’ve been gone for five minutes or several hours, Sora welcomes us back with high-pitched barks, which can disturb others. So, we come in armed and ready with treats to distract her. We get right to business by asking her to perform a series of tricks, keeping her focus on the reward rather than the excitement of our return. When all else fails, we leash her and take her outside. Know what motivates your pup and use it to avoid behaviors that may affect the hotel staff or other guests’ comfort.
Here’s the most important advice of all: be honest about your dog. If your dog barks constantly when you’re gone, is prone to accidents inside or is destructive, then he or she may not be the best candidate for proving that dogs can be well-behaved guests. A poor experience with a single dog can put a hotel off the whole idea, ruining the option for other pups. If hotels are not the best option for your pup, look into cabins or apartment stays that minimize disturbance to others.