Tag Archives: dogs

Top 5 considerations when booking a ‘pet-friendly’ hotel

When friends of mine moved across the country last summer from Halifax to Regina they opted to drive the distance, primarily because they were moving with their dog, a sweet shepherd-mix named Khaleesi. The challenge for my friends was to find hotels that would welcome them along the way.

In the course of their journey they stayed in seven hotels from Edmundston, N.B through to Toronto, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, MB, and Regina, SK, where they checked into the Residence Inn Marriott for five days while they waited for their house to be ready.

The  hotel chains they found to be most dog-friendly were Four Points Sheraton, Super 8, Residence Inn Marriott and Marriott’s Town Place Suites.

At the Durham College/UOIT Residence and Conference Centre in Oshawa, guests staying with dogs are provided with a door tag indicating a pet is staying in the unit to alert housekeeping staff.

To have as smooth a ride as they did make sure you consider the following five items on your dog-friendly accommodation checklist:

1. Know what you’re paying

When staying in hotels with dogs, always make sure you understand the pet policy upfront to avoid unexpected and unwelcome additional charges at checkout. For example, the Hotel Residence One King West in Toronto, located right at King Street and Yonge Street, allows dogs but their website says only those that weigh up to 20 1b  are permitted and their pet policy  indicates they will charge a $100 “deep cleaning” fee to your bill. My friends stayed there with their medium-sized dog and had no issues or extra charges but policies do change depending on demand.

Most hotels will also ask you to sign a waiver at check-in and outline a (long) list of things you will be responsible for if your dog does any damage to the room. Hotels such as the Westin also stipulate you can be subject to a $200 fee for non-compliance of any of the rules outlined on their websites.

2. Check on the size and number of dogs allowed

The Westin chain also markets their dog-friendly accommodation but has limitations on size and number. For example, the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto promotes the availability of its “Heavenly Dog Bed” and Doggie Welcome Kit, however, dogs must be under 40 lbs and more than six months old. There is also a limit of two dogs per room.

3. Look for chains that promote their dog-friendliness

By far, our best experience I have had is with Choice Hotels, which include Comfort and Quality Inn hotels. The chain offers more than 2,500 pet-friendly hotels. If you have a Canadian Tire Roadside Assistance membership you get preferred rates.

One of the best experiences we had was staying at the Durham College/University of Ontario Institute of Technology Residence and Conference Centre in Oshawa. In the summer many post-secondary institutions open their residences to paying guests. We were travelling for a dog show and were able to stay in a two-bedroom suite equipped with kitchenette and bathroom for about $100 per night. It featured free Wi-Fi, 24-hour coffee and tea service, a fitness centre as well as great green space to walk the dogs.

Upon check-in we were provided with a door tag to notify housekeeping staff that a pet was in the room.

4. Ask for a room easily accessible to the outdoors

Not all dogs love elevators so I always ask for rooms on the main level, ideally with a door right out to the parking lot or green space. This makes it easier for late night or early morning walks with the dogs.

5. Take your dog’s home comforts with you

Never leave your dog unattended in a hotel room. For many hotels this is one of the first rules they ask you to sign off on, but it’s also just common sense. Why would you leave your dog in an unfamiliar place and expect things to go well?

If your dog is crate trained it’s a good idea to take their crate into the hotel room to make them feel more at home as well as minimize the amount of dog hair that accumulates on the carpet which will reduce the chance you might be charged a clean up fee. Soft-sided crates fold down for easy storage and unzip on the top for added air circulation during the night.

If you don’t travel with crates consider something like a collapsible travel pet playpen.

Pack a few extra small towels of our own to put down for the dogs to lay on and feed them in the bathroom to avoid any spilling on the hotel room carpeting.

Take your dogs along on a trip is fun and staying in a hotel can be fun. Don’t let it be a stressful experience by failing to prepare. Despite the increase in people wanting to travel with their dogs, many hotels are starting to say “no pets allowed.” Make sure those who do continue to do so by being a responsible traveller.

Should you ever find yourself travelling without your dog on business or for other reasons the Fairmont chain has “canine ambassadors” in residence at all their locations in Canada. You can even take them out for a walk. Most of the dogs are labs. For example, Beau, a yellow lab, hangs out in the lobby of the Fairmont in Vancouver. (The Fairmont Vancouver also allows dogs at a cost of $25 per day.)




Pets can fly, you just need to know when and how

I’ll never forget sitting on the runway at Pearson International Airport waiting to see my dog Willow go up the luggage ramp in her kennel. We were headed to Vancouver for a vacation and she was going to be competing in an agility competition there as well.

A lot of planning and research had gone into figuring out how to take a dog on a flight across the country.

We had chosen to fly with WestJet and the airline’s staff had been great from the minute we booked the tickets to the second we walked through the doors at the airport terminal wheeling a dog kennel with Willow facing out a little more than curious about her next adventure.

Dogs can travel in airline-approved kennels. They must weigh no more than 100 lbs total including dog and kennel.

The WestJet attendant at the counter spied us coming in and said: “You must be travelling with us!” From there we started to relax. The counter staff processed us then put Willow’s hard-sided kennel through the x-ray equipment and ensured we were well informed about what would happen. A “live animal” sticker went on her kennel and she was placed in a well-ventilated area to await boarding, but it wasn’t until I actually saw her go into the cargo hold that I could breathe easy.

Taking your dogs on planes can be stressful but makes your vacations that much more fun once you get there.

If you have a small breed dog, taking them with you on air travel is much less complicated to contemplate — generally, if they are under 20 to 22 lbs (including an airline approved pet carrier) they can fly with you in cabin in a suitable carrier under the seat in front of you.

But even for those with small dogs the checklist of things you need to consider begins with checking several factors at the time of booking with the airline.

Most airlines limit the total number of cats and dogs allowed on board any given flight — usually two. So when you are considering a trip think about booking early to make sure you can get your dog in cabin.

If you have dogs larger than 20 lbs another reason to book early is to make sure that depending on what time of year you are flying that you can get your dog in the checked baggage hold for an early flight (summer months when it’s cooler) or late evening. The same goes for winter — you want to avoid very cold temperatures as the cargo area is not as temperature controlled as the cabin and can be very cold in winter and hot in summer. The number of dogs allowed in checked baggage is also limited to two-to-three per flight (depending on whether it’s a 737 or 767 aircraft.) If you can’t get them on a flight with you or in checked baggage you may have to consider cargo flights which will then mean a different pick up location and possibly a longer wait time as they clear customs and other clearance requirements.

Be sure to check with your veterinarian before booking the flight as well. If your pet is older they may not be in the best shape to travel.

Flying can be stressful on an animal and depending on the length of the flight it may be too much for them. Be sure to factor in the time from check in (usually 40 minutes before you are required to check in for your flight) to the time you can retrieve them from the “over-sized luggage” area of the airport.

When we landed in Vancouver (YVR) with Willow while WestJet was quick to get her offloaded from the plane I knew she would need to find a relief area. Fortunately the outdoor exit at the Vancouver arrivals area is close by. Many airports now have clearly signed “pet relief” areas so you can get them outside.

This CBC News video demonstrates how the pet relief areas at YVR are equipped with artificial turf and designed for those with service dogs in mind. (Click to play video report.)

As CBC reported, In 2016 YVR was the first in Canada to create an in-terminal pet relief area for travellers going to the United States located after the security checkpoints and available to service dogs and companion dogs pre-flight. While not outdoors, the artificial grass area serves to make dogs feel more comfortable

Calgary International airport (YYC) also offers this kind of facility now and Los Angeles International Airport has added 11 such stations — nine indoor and three outdoor locations. Keep your dog’s leash in your carry-on bag so that it’s handy when you get off the plane.

As more people travel with their companion animals and with service animals, airports such as those in Vancouver, Calgary and LAX are adding dog relief areas with fake grass and other facilities. Image: CBC News

The cost to fly a dog in checked baggage is about $60 each way for domestic flights in Canada and about $100 for trips to the U.S. You must also have an approved hard-sized kennel that weighs in at less than 100 lbs including the dog. Make sure the kennel is large enough for them to stand up and turn around in as well as stretch out. Including a blanket they are familiar with and has some scent from home on it is a good idea to help keep them calm.

Your cat or dog must be at least 12 weeks old and fully weaned to be accepted for travel.

Certain breeds such as short/snub-nosed (brachycephalic) breeds of cats and dogs cannot travel in the baggage compartment because they are susceptible to increased risks of heat stroke and breathing problems when exposed to extreme heat or stressful situations.

It’s a good idea to give your dog some food about four to five hours before the flight and not just before leaving home. This gives them time to digest it. Include a water dish in the kennel and include a few treats. Exercise them well before going to the airport. Don’t wait until you get to the parking garage and need to find a spot where they can comfortably relieve themselves.

Write your cellphone number in permanent marker on the side of the dog’s kennel so airport staff can reach you if needed. It’s also a good idea to include a note in a plastic baggie, taped to the inside of the crate indicating where your destination is and any other back up phone numbers in case anything happens to you on the journey.

Check your preferred airline for their requirements and restrictions.


Air Canada


Above all else, travelling with dogs also requires using good judgement and knowing when your pet needs to take a break. Ideally you both arrive safe and ready to enjoy your destination.

How about an afternoon of pints and pups?

The craft beer craze has taken Ontario by storm and in many instances we have found they often welcome well-behaved dogs, which means you can incorporate your canine friends in a tour of local breweries.

We first encountered this last spring on a trip to investigate Second Wedge Brewing Co. in Uxbridge, Ont. We had our newest Toller, Autumn in tow and were pleasantly surprised when they welcomed her inside. Second Wedge, like several breweries in the Greater Toronto Area, also has their own housedog Sadie.

Autumn came into Second Wedge Brewery with us to check out the brewery and enjoy a pint of Day Tripper.

Uxbridge is home to hundreds of kilometers of trails — part of the Durham Regional Forest Trail system. It has in fact been designated The Trail Capital of Canada, so you could begin your day with a hike nearby and finish with a cold pint at Second Wedge which has a wonderful outdoor patio area in addition to indoor seating.

Of special note is Market Brewing in Newmarket, Ont, a brewery that has put “Yappy Hour” on the calendar for several dates in 2018 including June 14, July 19, August 16, October 18 and December 13 from 4 to 8 p.m. Each Yappy Hour benefits a different charity and is hosted by a community organization in the brewery’s taproom. Market Brewing has green space behind its industrial location on Leslie Street so there is a good spot to air your dog if she needs to take a walk. You can also bring the kids and enjoy board games available onsite. Many craft breweries also offer some kind of snack onsite.

Drop by Market Brewing on June 14 for Yappy Hour!

We have also observed dogs hanging out with their people at Old Flame Brewing in Port Perry located in that town’s downtown core. There is good parking nearby.

On July 15th Old Flame and Second Wedge are teaming up for the 3rd Annual Pooch & a Pint from 12 to 4 p.m.. Show your support for a new animal for shelter for Uxbridge-Scugog. Receive a 12-ounce beer for a minimum donation of $10. As well on July 15 the Uxbridge Farmers’ Market is celebrating the Year of the Dog.

Sawdust City Brewery in Gravenhurst also welcomes dogs into their tasting space. Most craft breweries offer some kind of snack.

Market Brewing in Newmarket, Ont. hosts a ‘Yappy Hour’ once a month, inviting patrons to bring their dog to the brewery.

In Toronto’s east end, Left Field Brewery features Wrigley the Basset Hound as the head pooch in charge of customer relations.

Roadtrip to Niagara

Full house. These three — Angel, Willow and Autumn — stayed with us in a one-room cabin at the KOA Campground in Niagara Falls, Ont. (Click to enlarge photo)

People often tell me I’m crazy when I explain that not only do we have three dogs but they pretty much go everywhere with us.

It started with one Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (NSDTR) 14 years ago. Willow travelled with us everywhere including trips to Atlantic Canada by car and Vancouver by air, boat and car. She’s flown on WestJet with great success and travelled on B.C. Ferries to Nanaimo. Willow was and continues to be a great traveller even in old age. She never barked in hotel rooms and always stayed calm waiting to go on flights. She’s always been great in elevators and asked to go out even when several floors up in a hotel.

Then a few years later we acquired Angel, another NSDTR who arrived from Missouri via Air Canada Cargo.  The third, Autumn, also a NSDTR, arrived in November of 2016 and has now made travel a little more complicated but still a lot of fun. We have a great dog sitter but honestly, I’d rather they come with us than stay home.

Hotels and motels often say they are pet-friendly but not all are created equal. Despite the fact the pet industry is a booming business — pet owners represent a $6.5-billion a year  business opportunity, according to The Globe and Mail — many hotel chains are opting out of the opportunity.  A “pet-friendly” hotel room has often been one previously inhabited by a smoker or one that is in dire need of renovations located far away from all other amenities. We once left a motel before even checking in because the dog-designated room was in poor shape. There are some chains that have embraced the pet market. We had a wonderful experience with two of the dogs at the Super 8 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. a few summers ago on our way to Lake Superior. The staff even provided special bedding for the dogs.

Travelling with dogs can limit where you stay and how you get there. For example, we’ve been trying to figure out how to get to Newfoundland without having to leave the dogs in the car on the vehicle deck for the entire journey on the ferry. (If anyone knows how to do this, please let me know. ) But with some planning and patience you can enjoy a variety of travel opportunities and take your pups along with you.

Recently we did an overnight trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) with all three of our dogs. No, we didn’t stay in a posh spa hotel, but we did manage to find a great place where they were all welcome, were able to enjoy the outdoors and at a reasonable cost.

Over the years hotels and motels have added additional fees for pets staying with their human companions — anywhere from $10 to $25 extra is about the norm. While roofed accommodation (yurts and cabins) at Ontario Provincial Parks do not allow pets, the KOA Campgrounds readily accept pets in campsites and certain cabins — primarily the ones that do not have washrooms. (Shared washrooms and showers are available in the campground.) In Niagara we rented a one-room cabin at the KOA in Niagara Falls, just off Lundy’s Lane, for $141  which included taxes and the $10/per dog fee for one night the last weekend in May. We had a really nice campsite and cabin (double bed with twin bunks) with side and rear yard areas for the dogs to enjoy with partial dividing fence between us and the cabins beside us . The campground also featured a designated area to walk dogs on the other side of the campground.

We stayed in this cabin with our three dogs at the KOA Niagara Falls, just a short drive from Niagara-on-the-Lake. (Click to enlarge photo)

During the day we enjoyed several of Niagara’s park areas with the dogs, including the Queen’s Royal Park located at the end of King Street. This park features public washrooms as well as picnic tables to enjoy a lunch or rest. I strolled the waterfront and sat at a picnic table with the dogs for a short time while my husband explored The Exchange brewery on Queen street in NOTL.

The log-style cabins have electricity and  are situated on a decent-sized lot with both a rear and side yard. There was a train track directly behind the fence but it did not have any traffic on it during sleeping hours. We heard it once. (click photo to enlarge).

Several families with kids approached me to ask about the breed. It was a great way to pass the time and enjoy the cherry blossoms. One thing you quickly become used to while travelling with dogs is splitting up on occasion so one person can explore a store or attraction while the other stays to watch and entertain the dogs. We switched spots when we later visited Chateau des Charmes winery in NOTL. I popped out to visit the inside of the winery and make a purchase from the wine shop while my husband let the dogs out in the parking lot area for a quick ramble on leash.

We have found that many craft breweries welcome dogs inside their establishments (look for a future blog post on this) which can make things much more enjoyable for both human and dog.

Some tips when camping or staying in hotels with dogs:

• Before booking accommodation think about your dog’s temperament and ability to adjust to staying in a strange place. Are they nervous or likely to bark around other people or if they hear sounds in a hotel room?

• Take your own water for the dogs and a portable bowl. Many shops and dog-friendly venues now offer water bowls in front of their establishment but don’t count on it.

• If you have room, take a kennel or dog crate for them to sleep in to minimize spread of dog hair in hotel rooms and your car. They are also safer travelling in a kennel.

• Always have disposable bags to pick up after your dogs. In some unfortunate circumstances some parks, such as Joffre Lakes Provincial Park in B.C., have begun banning dogs because people were not picking up after their dogs.

• Scout out parks and public areas for any “no dogs allowed” signs. Some parks with waterfront or beach access often do not permit dogs near the water.

• During summer be mindful that dogs need to be kept cool and may not have the same energy level they do in other times. Riding in cars can upset their stomachs, just like humans.

• Don’t ever leave your dogs unattended in a car, even if you think you will “only be five minutes.”

• Consider investing in “tie out” stakes for about $7 to $20 that screw into the ground and act as a tie post to keep your dog on leash but give them a little more space to move around. These can be found at Canadian Tire and Pet Smart.



Travelling with dogs

Three years ago we packed up our two Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers and hit the road for Nova Scotia. Yes, we were taking them to the home province! We had managed to book a number of hotels and inns to stay along the way. It was a great experience but what I learned along the way was that not all “pet-friendly” accommodation is created equal.

In a time when the pet industry is booming and people are spending a good portion of their discretionary income on their canine and feline companions, you would think travelling with pets would be easy.  There are certainly many options available but when you have more than one dog it can be a challenge. This blog will explore the options available and the fun things you can do on the road with your fur friends.