Tag Archives: travelling with pets

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.)




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.

Packing up: What should be in your pup’s travel bag?

Be prepared for the road. Having a bag packed with some essential items such as water dishes, toys and extra leashes and collars can make getting ready for a trip easy. (Click to enlarge photo.)

Packing can be a chore for some, but knowing you have a bag ready with essentials you can grab in a moment’s notice each time you head out for a day trip or longer can make the idea of getting away that much easier.

The same idea applies to packing for your dogs. I have a roller bag packed at all times with essential items and stashed in the basement ready to go. When it’s all in one place there is no extra thinking required and you’re never caught unprepared. Here is a list of the 10 essentials I always have ready to go:

Dishes. Stainless steel for meals and a collapsible water bowl to take on a hike or pop out of the car for a quick drink.

A collapsible dish for water can be a handy item to leave in the car at all times or pack in your getaway bag.(Click to enlarge photo.)

Extra leashes and collars. I’ve lost leashes before on trails or forgotten them at someone’s cottage or even left them at home and had to stop and purchase new ones on the way to our destination. Don’t be left without back up. Dogs can slip collars and they can break. I bring an extra for each dog.

Bear bell. If your dogs are lucky enough to be let off leash in wooded areas it’s a good idea to put a bell on them to let you know where they are and to potentially scare off bears, should they encounter them. The ones I have attach to the collar with velcro. Available at Canadian Tire and outdoor stores.

Small towel or blanket to rest water dishes on, wipe down a wet dog or give them a place to rest.

Grooming brush or comb should your dog encounter burrs, pine pitch or other problems along the way. It can also be a great way to bond with them sitting around a camp fire or during a raining day stuck indoors.

Tick remover. Ticks have become a problem in so many areas at almost all temperatures now in Canada and the U.S. I keep our tick remover attached to a carabiner clip on the outside of the roller bag for easy access. Here’s a video demonstrating how to remove a tick from a dog.

Treats! You never know when you will need to lure a pooch back in the car or reward them for behaving well on a long journey.

Simple first aid items such as ear cleaner, nail clippers, Quik-clot for nails, grooming wipes and some elastic bandages for small injuries. You can also buy inexpensive pet first aid kits online. See my post on developing your own first aid kit for your dog and the importance of having inexpensive items such as hydrogen peroxide on hand.

Toys! Something to fetch, chew or retrieve as a means to burn off some energy on long journeys or in strange places.

Paper towels or wet wipes for cleaning up.

When you’re prepared for the journey everyone has a good experience. (Click to enlarge photo.)

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.