The Pet Friendly Lie: It Might Not Mean What You Think it Does

When I first started traveling with my dogs, I was repeatedly surprised and perplexed by places labeled “pet friendly”.

Frequently, I was disappointed.

It turns out that there is a big difference between let and allow – between pets allowed vs pet friendly.

UPDATED: originally published June 2013

Photo Credit: Depositphotos/masarik@inbox.ru

Pets Allowed vs Pet Friendly

So what is the difference between pets allowed and pet friendly?

Although “pets allowed” and “pet friendly” are similar terms, they can have slightly different meanings.

Pets allowed typically means that an establishment, such as a hotel or rental property, allows animals to be brought in and kept on the premises.

This may come with certain restrictions, such as only allowing certain types or sizes of pets, or requiring that pets be kept in certain areas of the property.

There also may be a hefty pet fee that is cost prohibitive for most.

I call this the f-you pet fee because the hotel is saying pets are allowed but the super high fee is kind of their way of saying “but we don’t really want your pet to stay here.”

Pet friendly is a step further and typically means that an establishment not only allows pets, but also welcomes them and provides amenities or services that are specifically designed to accommodate them.

This might include things like dog beds, bowls, or even dog treats.

A pet friendly hotel may also have a designated area for pet relief and may have staff trained to handle pet related situations.

In other words, “pets allowed” means that you can bring your pet with you, while “pet friendly” means that not only you can bring your pet but also the establishment is equipped to handle and cater to your pet’s needs.

One experience feels more like “pet tolerant” and one is welcoming and enjoyable.

All Pets Might Not Be Allowed

Here is another area where you could likely feel duped or cheated.

Pet friendly very often only means dog friendly.

Working in the pet space, I know many people who like to travel with cats, hamsters, snakes, birds, etc.

It’s significantly less common to find a hotel that allows cats, let alone “non-traditional” pets.

Be sure to read the fine print if you plan to book a hotel or vacation rental with anything more than a dog.

There are hotels out there with very accommodating pet policies.

For example, the Ashore Hotel in Seaside, Or lists there hotel policy as. “if it fits through the door, it can stay.”

They told me they had a mini pig stay once.

What Pet Friendly Means to Me

Now that I have a lot of experience traveling with my dogs, I like to call it like it is and use different terms to differentiate what pet friendly really means at a particular establishment.

Different terms I use are:

  • Dog allowed – the place only allows dogs
  • Pets allowed – cats, and maybe even a different type of pet, are allowed
  • Dog friendly – dogs are welcome and the establishment goes above and beyond to welcome your dog.
  • Pet Friendly – cats, and maybe even a different type of pet, are welcome and the establishment makes an extra effort to welcome them.

I, by far, prefer to stay and patronize truly pet friendly establishments because I like to support the ability of all pet types to travel with their owners.

But, simply dog friendly will do for my needs.

When a place is truly dog friendly, they love their dog guests and often provide special amenities for them.

These things can include:

  • Allowing dogs to stay in guest rooms at no additional cost
  • Allowing well-behaved (quiet) dogs to stay in your room unattended
  • Recognizing that your dog is part of the family and providing special sheets or blankets for furniture so they can sleep and sit with you
  • Providing a designated pet relief area
  • Offering pet-related items such as food and water bowls and a doggie menu
  • Providing, or instructing you how to access, services such as dog walkers and groomers

Sadly, the establishments that even one of the items above is few and far between.

Final Thoughts

Pet friendly more often that not simply means dogs allowed.

The establishment may not allow other types of pets and may simply tolerate your dog (vs welcoming them with open arms).

The size of the pet fee at hotels and vacation rentals doesn’t always reflect the amount of accommodations, and luxuries, provided to your pet.

Sometimes I suspect that a high fee is intended to deter pet owners from staying.

Regardless, even if you hear a place is pet friendly from a trusted source, you may want to call ahead to confirm yourself.

The truth is that some of these people get their information just like you and I would – from the internet or word or mouth.

In an ideal world, they would verify this information before passing it on but that happens less often than you think.

Hotel policies do not change often and rapidly but restaurant policies certainly do.

Some restaurants might let dogs onto their patio for a while but discontinue the practice if they get a complaints from patrons or the health department.

One manager on shift may allow dogs but another may not.

The two most important things to remember when traveling and attending events with your pet is to be as prepared as you can and always be prepared to change your plans if needed.

If you’re planning an upcoming trip with your dog, you might want to check out my articles Best Websites for Planning a Dog Friendly Vacation and this travel essentials printable checklist.

When I first started traveling with my dogs, I was repeatedly surprised and perplexed by places labeled "pet friendly". Frequently, I was disappointed. It turns out that there is a big difference between let and allow - between pets allowed vs pet friendly. Quite a big difference actually.

 

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.

63 Comments

  1. When we travel for hunt tests or shows, we usually pick something up to eat in the room and/or pack a cooler. Honestly I check out what kinds of carry out restaurants are nearby and ideally walking distance or delivery. With three large dogs, it is impossible to take them inside a restaurant. Luckily for us, most hunt tests offer a dinner at least one night and of course dogs are welcome on those grounds.

    1. Yes, I imagine that would be a handful. Normally, I would have been better prepared but counted on eating at this place with the dogs since it was recommended to us by such a “reputable” source.

  2. Excellent points! We’ve had the same experience at an alleged “dog friendly” restaurant on vacation and it taught us to always have a back up plan and to never trust our sources until we’ve experienced it first hand! Even then, you’re right about how from one manager to the next a restaurant’s dog friendly vibe can change. But it’s so worth it. Thanks for sharing your great inside info πŸ˜€

    1. You would think, being a dog blogger, I would have been more prepared for hiccups. My downfall here we putting blind faith in the recommendation. I should have known better but I just figured they had done the homework to verify since they claim to be the dog-friendly experts in the area. Lesson learned.

    1. Yes, living in Seattle we are spoiled with all of the option…although the definition can vary widely here too. The further away you get from Seattle, the more I feel like I am being judged as one of those crazy Seattle liberals for even asking.

  3. Those are some good recommendations. Having the total opposite size dog I never thought about the small dogs being so close to the ground and in the “hot zone”. That makes complete sense!
    We’ve had a few issues with places that say they are dog friendly. What they really meant were they were small dog friendly, not giant dog friendly. We live and we learn.

    1. I never really thought of that but I imagine having huge dogs poses a whole different set of difficulties….especially when they visibly slobber πŸ™‚ I do know that I am pretty sure I am a small dog person now. I have nothing against large dogs. I actually covet a Rhodesian Ridgeback. However, smaller dogs are convenient for so many reasons when hiking and traveling. It’s easier to find a place to rent with small dogs too.

  4. Wow, that’s pretty sad the restaurant refused your babies on the patio. I wonder what they would have done if it was a pit bull? Call the SPCA? Geeze, sorry to hear about your escapades. Bummer sounds like but thanks for shedding light on it. I have yet to travel away with my boy Titan. Scary to think of all the BSL all over the world so makes me leery of travelling with him.

    1. I can’t imagine what trying to travel with a pit-bull (even looking) dog would be like. I think Seattle is pretty liberal in that regard but I bet there are still a lot of stereotypes you would encounter. My friend use to raise the sweetest Rottweilers. They were big. I remember the first time I walked them with her. People were literally snatching their children and small dogs up off the sidewalk to get away from them!

      1. LOL I can visualize the snatching! πŸ™‚ Kinda funny to me when I think about it though. There is just so much ignorance in the world. I’m more afraid of little chihuaha’s than big dogs. πŸ™‚

        1. Yeah…Dachshund are one of the top dogs for biting injuries but SO MANY people stick their hand right in Chester and Gretel’s face all of the time. They would never bite anyone, although Gretel has barked loud and scared the crap out of them! Ha, ha. People just don’t think though. That action is even scarier to short little dogs. At least crouch down people! πŸ™‚

  5. That’s too bad it turned out to be not so great. It sure sounded like a fun event and I would have been all in too.

    1. Yeah…I had pretty high expectations and when I do that I usually end up a little disappointed anyway. The exciting parts are in the adventure though πŸ™‚

  6. I wish my area had a dog friendly tourism group! It’s too bad the trip didn’t go as planned but it definitely reminds me that flexibility is 100% necessary when it comes to animals in any context!

    1. That is the truth. I got so caught up in the excitement I forgot to do my own homework (which I usually do). I am pretty adept at going with the flow thankfully πŸ™‚

  7. Unfortunately, I think “dog friendly” can mean many different things to different people. With 3 large dogs and few “dog friendly” events nearby us, I don’t have stories to tell. However, we have run into problems like Jen mentioned – motels/hotels that say they’re dog friendly, but they mean small dogs. What a disappointment for you!

    1. Yes, I am sure that large dogs come with their own set of issues we can’t even imagine. I wish there was some standardization for all this stuff though….like maybe you need to meet a set of requirements to get the “dog-friendly” seal of approval. It’s complicated with restaurants though because some “comply” by flying under the radar of health codes…so they can’t exactly broadcast to the world that they let dogs in.

  8. Thanks for the recommendations! We’ve never had any trouble traveling with Finn, but I suppose it’s only a matter of time. Great food for thought!

    1. I am glad you haven’t run into issues. It’s always good to be prepared just in case though.

  9. The heat definitely would have been an event killer for us. Corgis have the same disadvantage of being only a few inches off the ground, plus very heavy coats. Add to that Jimmy being black and 70 degrees is too hot for him. My guys won’t even take a bedtime walk in the summer because the sidewalks are still radiating too much heat.

    I’ve never had a problem w/ hotels. I always ask before making reservations if the dogs can be in the room alone (crated if necessary). If not I look for another place. You have to at least be able to leave them long enough to get food! It helps that they are seasoned travelers and nice and quiet in the room.

    1. Well, I couldn’t leave Chester and Gretel in the room even if the hotel did allow it because they WOULD NOT be quiet πŸ™‚

  10. That’s too bad about the trip not being as dog friendly as you’d like. We take our dogs camping and always call campgrounds to make sure the dogs are welcome. We also purpose to get a tent spot as close to a water feature as possible. Otherwise we leave the fur babies home. πŸ™

    1. We’re going camping in a couple of weeks with some people and dogs from our Adventureweiner Club. The campground says it’s dog friendly (as most are here in Washington) but I still called ahead…because maybe they didn’t mean for 15 dachshund! Ha, ha.

  11. Great info to share!
    We went to a pet-friendly motel/hot springs that was mostly pretty awesome – the dogs could even go in the pool (which was fed by the mineral springs), but the backyard play area for the dogs had only a very low fence, maybe 14 inches tall! Luckily Rita is not a runner, but if we’d gone there with our other dogs, there’s no way we could have let them off leash back there. They would have easily hopped the fence and taken off – and it was right by a fairly busy road. It was definitely not secure for most dogs, and not described as such on the website!

    1. I suspect that most of these areas are not built by responsible dog owners :). I wonder if that could be a job…..a dog friendly consultant for hotels and places with pet areas. Someone could come in and advise them on what pet parents look for. That would take a significant cost/effort though and a lot of these places are only “dog-fiendly-washing” to entice customers.

  12. Sorry it wasn’t as much fun as you expected. But you make some very good points.

    We went to P-Town last week to take Honey on a dog-friendly sailing cruise. It was recommended on Go Pet Friendly and as pet friendly as we could ever want. As was the yummy clam shack near our campsite they also recommended.

    But we chose a restaurant on our last night because it bragged about how much it loved dogs. They weren’t exactly un-dog friendly but not quite as loving as they advertised. As we walked up to the patio, the owner came rushing over to inform me where we should put Honey to keep her out of the way of the staff.

    I don’t have a problem with it. I always choose a table that keeps Honey out of the way. But the tone of the owner wasn’t welcoming. It felt kinda… bossy?

    But the worst part was that the food was mediocre and expensive and caused my husband to get food poisoning.

    Hopefully we persnickety dog people can push for good service while also showing that we are considerate visitors to people’s dog-friendly businesses.

    1. That sucks about the food poisoning. I hope he is feeling better.

      We had a similar experience here in Seattle with a restaurant that claimed to be dog friendly. I know this topic has been covered by other pet bloggers before but there is a clear difference between dog friendly and dog tolerant. It makes me feel like some restaurants “welcome dogs” as an advertising gimmick but don’t truly want them in there.

  13. That’s unfortunate that your long drive did not result in a fun outing for everyone! With all of our travels across country, we have (fortunately) never run into any serious problems when traveling with the dogs. I think the only real issue we have had was a dog friendly hotel (in a big city) that did not have a relief area, and we had to walk five blocks away to find a patch of grass.

    1. That would certainly be an annoyance! I am glad all of your travels have gone pretty smoothly. Ours have to for the most part. Perhaps that is why I got complacent here.

  14. We haven’t had too many bad experiences, but our vacations tend to be renting a cabin in Big Bear for a week – so it’s a vacation almost intended for the dogs. Finding a lakefront place that allows dogs can be a challenge but because it’s a resort community, there tends to be more leniency about the dogs. Not so in neighboring Lake Arrowhead – last time we went there – admittedly years ago – dog weren’t even allowed along the beach much less in the water!

    1. I don’ travel much anymore where Chester and Gretel can’t go with me. There are exceptions of course. A cabin stay in Big Bear sounds nice πŸ™‚

  15. Aw well it still looks like you guys had a pretty nice time. It’s nice and hot here too… will definitely be looking for good ways to stay cool this summer…

  16. Great advice. I am so sorry your event didn’t turn out as well as expected. I use Go Pet Friendly for recommendations on dog-accomodations, but even so I think your advice to call ahead is a good one. It looks like you were able to have fun despite the heat and other issues that developed.

    1. I use Go Pet Friendly when I can too but they don’t cover everywhere (It would be really hard to do so). Zillah is a really small town and not your typical travel destination….unless you are a wine freak πŸ™‚

  17. It is always a let down when you plan a big outing and then it doesn’t work out quite right, but at least you were able to drive to other wineries. I’ve never had a problem in a hotel, they always seem welcoming to well behaved dogs. But I, too, cannot leave Bentley alone in a room except briefly because of the barking thing. So when we’ve traveled I have to do a drive through type restaurant and eat in my room. But that’s okay, the trade off is that I get to travel with my little buddy who is the best traveling companion ever!

    1. Yeah…we ended up loading the dogs into the car and hitting the McDonald’s drive thru πŸ™‚ I am wheat free so I couldn’t eat at a lot of the other places around…..like the somewhat healthier Subway. I knew there was stuff there that I could safely eat. I DO like McDonald’d, don’t get me wrong, I would have preferred to eat somewhere less crappy though πŸ™‚

  18. That’s too bad that your trip wasn’t as expected. Your advice for having a Plan B sounds like a great one. Hope you were still able to have an enjoyable time.

  19. Aww…that is really too bad that your fabulous trip did not turn out as planned. We finally gave up and bought an RV. Now the dogs are happy and so are we! We have never had a problem and we always stay at parks that allow dogs. When we had our big guy (Newfy mix)…and the two little ones…it was a challenge as sometimes the parks would only allow two dogs. Other than that, so far, so good! Hope your next trip is better!!

    1. I would live to own an RV. My hubby and I even talked about getting one to live in instead of buying a house at one time. Actually, we wanted a fancy toy hauler so he could still have his man cave/garage πŸ™‚ That would require a big truck to tow though. The good thing would be that we could take our own dog-friendly hotel with us when we traveled like you do.

  20. This has happened to me countless times. I’ve been to luxury “pet-friendly” hotels that insist the dogs must sleep outside at night. Another one said that the dogs can sleep indoors, ‘but if there is even one dog hair on the carpet, we must charge you an extra $200 for ‘cleaning purposes’…$200 to clean one dog hair!!! I offered to work for them myself at that rate πŸ™‚

    1. Sleep outside at night?? I have never heard of that. I hope they meant in a kennel (that they provided) at least but that is crazy. Chester and Gretel would go nuts because they always sleep with me.

  21. First, I’ve been meaning to tell you how much I love your new blog look! It is awesome!

    Yes, we’ve had similar experiences on some trips. When we went out to Delaware, there was a hotel we always stopped at on our way home. Well, one year, it turned out that they no longer accepted dogs. We went across the street and hubby was going to use his law enforcement discount. The kid at the desk helped us out by saying “Oh, you have a police dog right?” So, he let us check in sort of on the sly. It turned out okay, but it was a lesson learned!

    1. Thanks, glad you like it! I see you have made some changes to your blog too. I really admire/covet the soft and pretty designs like yours, MyLifeInBlogYears, NewfAndHound, etc. but it’s not very fitting for our niche. Our feel is more “shocking” and aggressive go-getter than pretty πŸ™‚ Maybe my next blog…… πŸ™‚

      The restaurant asked us if they were service animals. I couldn’t say yes. Besides the fact they it’s obvious that 4 busy-bodies are not, I wouldn’t lie for my own gain and make a bad name, or harder for, legitimate service dogs out there.

  22. Those wine barrel photos are too cute! I haven’t done too many trips with my pup that involved hotels (we usually visit family), but I definitely always call the restaurant first because I’ve had similar experiences…and wound up at a drive-thru thanks to the lack of options. Even if people say they’ve brought their dogs in a Yelp review or something, you never know if the place has changed ownership or policies since then.

  23. Going from a 105# dog to a 20# dog i had lessons to learn about the “hot zone”…The event sound like a lot of fun but I’ve learned that in Summer it’s almost always too hot for Giz (and me) unless we go really early…As for changing policies, I’ve seen that happen too and have learned to always call ahead and double check to make sure the pups are welcome…I have been pleased lately that more and more spots are making room for dogs in their outdoor areas

    1. It wasn’t because I gave it thought but I am fortunate to have very short-haired dogs. They can go much further in the heat that our long-haired Dachshund pals can.

  24. We’re supposed to be going to my sister-in-law’s wedding in August and she recommended a hotel that was pet friendly with services. I called the hotel and while they do allow pets, there are no services. Oh they will willingly allow a staff member to take your dogs out if you want, but the staff member is not an experienced dog person.

    We won’t be taking the dogs and I can guarantee we won’t be staying at the hotel.

    1. Is your sister a dog owner herself? I ask because my friend just went through a situation where her well-meaning friend said the dogs could come on a trip they were taking together. My friend ended up having to make last-minute dog sitter plans (my poor hubby got them while I was away for this fun weekend with my girlfriend!) because the requirements at the “dog-friendly” places would not work for my friend’s dogs. Her friend was not a dog owner herself so didn’t think about some of the things a dog owner would.

      1. I’m not sure if she still has dogs or not, she did at one time. She is legally blind and so I’m sure she didn’t go check it out herself you know?

        It would help if she was as anal about her dog as I am. πŸ™‚

  25. Ugh! The US is so frustrating with it’s dog friendly policies. You can’t take your dog with to eat but you can’t leave them alone in the room…what are they thinking??? We don’t miss much about living in Germany but we sure miss the dog friendliness! We went almost everywhere all the time!

  26. Great post. It’s good to be reminded that even though something may say dog friendly, we need to do out own research. It’s hard not to take things at face value.

    xoxo,

    Jules of Canines & Couture

  27. Great post! Too bad your wine tasting trip did not turn out quite like you had hoped! The patio thing seems frustrating. As for goatheads, I grew up in NE OR… our poor dogs and I all know how nasty those things are.

  28. Sorry to hear it didn’t turn out how you hoped! You did well to make a plan b and all get fed! Luckily we’ve never had a problem with restaurants as there has always been at least one that had a patio, though my Mum often wonders how people cope when it’s colder and you can’t sit outside?

    I hope your next adventure goes more smoothly!

    Wags to all,

    Your pal Snoopy πŸ™‚

  29. That’s a bummer! I’m glad that you had the experience and were able to share what you learned. If I heard “dog friendly” I wouldn’t hesitate to go; looks like I need to find out what they mean by “dog friendly.”

  30. Glad you finally got dinner. I don’t often travel but I did once go half way across the country with a large (100lb) dog. It can be a challenge to find places to stop where a dog is welcome to get out and “stretch his legs”.

  31. Great to read about the realization that all of us can use. Indeed plenty of establishments are getting pet friendly but it would be a wise move to do research, according to your tip. Nice going…

  32. Point two is important to keep in mind. Many hotels and venues change their policies and the various websites reporting on who is dog friendly are often slow to change. We travel with our dogs and have learned the hard way to always call ahead to learn about the current policies.

  33. I run the cat show circuit with my babies but we can’t afford to stay at the fancier hotels the clubs recommend. For us it’s Red Roof or Motel 6 90% of the time. Their whole thing is pet friendly. I’ve never had a problem at Red Roof as long as we can find a good one that takes two pets. But Motel 6 has surprised me with – you have a cage for them I trust. They can’t sleep in the bed. Yup I have a cage, but they just spent the last 18 hours in the cage in the car… that’s not really pet friendly. Red Roof should be everywhere.

    1. I remember when I fist learned of Red Roof Inn at BlogPaws. I was super excited. Unfortunately, there are very few near me and most of them are right by airports.

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