How To Be A Fantastically Dog Friendly Hotel

Unlock the secrets to becoming a top dog-friendly hotel. Learn the key steps to embrace canine guests, boost customer satisfaction, and align with growing pet-friendly travel trends.

How To Be A Fantastically Dog Friendly Hotel
Kimpton St Honoré, Paris

I speak to lots of hotel owners and managers about their dog friendly policies in order to better understand their thinking and I stumbled across a common problem, especially among small hotels. The owner or manager might want to be dog friendly because they like dogs, but sometimes they have never owned a dog of their own making it difficult for them to fully appreciate the needs and requirements a canine guest might have.

This article is for those of you running hotels, and other businesses, who might like dogs and who want to be dog friendly, but who might not have the dog owning experience they need in order to really shine as a dog friendly establishment, one that other dog owners recommend you visit when you need to stay in their town or city.  First, it's essential to consider the practicalities.

However, do remember that not all customers or employees may appreciate the presence of dogs. It's important to strike a balance. Consider having designated dog-friendly days, or areas within your business that are dog-friendly, while keeping other areas pet-free. This can help to keep everyone happy, while still creating a welcoming environment for dogs​1​.

Make Sure Your Staff Love Dogs
It can be difficult being dog friendly as a business if your employees and managers do not like dogs, and as difficult as it is to imagine people who do not like dogs there are plenty of them out there. When your business makes the decision to become a dog friendly business, it is important to make sure that your team is fully on board with the decision and the changes that will come with it, this includes adjusting your hiring policies to make sure that you do not hire people who do not like dogs, or have a phobia of being around them.

It is really easy being a dog friendly business if everyone on your team likes, or loves, dogs, because they are people who instinctively know how to make a dog happy; often all it takes is a "hello good boy", a scratch behind the ear and a treat from someone who likes dogs to make a canine guest feel really welcome when they are new to your business.

Have Dog Bowls & Food At The Ready
Lugging around two dog bowls and a sack of dog food really works against you if you are trying to travel light. As a dog owner, if you know you do not have to carry the bowls and food because they will have them at the hotel, it makes the job of packing, and traveling light, a lot easier, and also makes dog owners happier. Remember to have a selection of decent dog food on offer for sale to guests, it is a great convenience when it's needed.

Don't buy the cheapest products you can find unless you are a budget hotel, get some well made and decent dog bowls and simply let your guests know that they can buy them simply by taking them home with them after their stay to avoid shrinkage. Also be sure to get a mix of sizes, I have often been given bowls for very small dogs that do not fit a food serving for my Labrador, or contain enough water for her to properly drink from, so I made room service bring me human soup bowls instead.

Have Some Dog Beds Ready
Depending on the size of the dog, and the quality of the bed, a dog bed can be a heavy and clumsy thing to travel around with, most owners would probably prefer not to carry it with them on trips unless their dog needs their bed to feel safe when sleeping. Having a few different sizes of dog beds on hand, and making sure that they have removable covers which can be cleaned after every stay (to get rid of the smell of any previous dogs) is a great way to help a canine guest feel welcome in a strange new sleeping place.  

In the same way as your human guests really appreciate a comfortable bed, clean sheets and a nice fluffy pillow, dogs really appreciate their own bed they can relax and sleep in when they are in the room with their owner, or on their own. It is also the easiest way to stop dogs sleeping in your beds and getting dog hair all over your sheets.

Have A Jar Of Dog Treats At Reception
The quickest way to get a dog to like you is to give it a treat, most dogs love people who give them treats and say hello to them when they see them, and they should love coming to your hotel reception too, because they know they will get a treat. Having a visible jar of dog treats on your reception desks is a great way to signal your dog friendliness and make sure the dogs who visit are happy to be there from the second they walk in the door. Don't buy the cheapest treats, get something decent and healthy if you can, and have a selection of very small token treats for whenever they pass, and larger, more durable, chewy treats for when your canine guests check in, or check out. Many hotels give their guests a free drink at the bar upon arrival, but giving their dog a treat is better.

Provide Easy Access To Green Space
Dogs require space to roam, areas to relieve themselves, and lots of interaction. To this end, think about setting aside a dedicated area for dogs to play and relax, as well as a designated 'bathroom area' for dogs.  The very best hotels have private gardens that dogs can be walked in without having to leave the hotel on a regular basis, but very often this isn't the case, if your establishment does not have a private garden make sure you have a little map for dog owners pointing out all the public green spaces, open land, and dog walks nearby. Remember that dogs need walking regularly, at least four times a day, so make it easy for dog owners.

If you have beautiful gardens and worry about dogs running free in them while other guests are using them, consider fencing off a dedicated dog run where dogs can run freely without bothering other guests. If you are super dog friendly, let the dogs run free. As long as they aren't bothering other guests, dogs love a good sniff around a new garden.

Let Dogs Into The Public Areas
If you decide to be dog friendly, you can't just expect dog owners to leave their faithful companions in their rooms while they enjoy your hotel. Make sure dogs are welcome in your public areas, and if possible provide a dog friendly terrace for your bar and restaurant so that owners can keep their dogs with them while they enjoy your hotel. Nobody is saying you have to let dogs in the restaurant, although this is very common in many parts of the world, but make it easy for dog owners to be comfortable with their dogs by providing a dedicated table, our outside space where they will not bother other guests who may not like dogs.

I would argue that people who do not like dogs should not really choose a dog friendly hotels where they might encounter dogs, but they do. Consider having designated dog-friendly days, or areas within your business that are dog-friendly, while keeping other areas pet-free. This can help to keep everyone happy, while still creating a welcoming environment for dogs​.

Don't Charge High Fees For Dog Stays
Many hotels are dog friendly, but hit you with hidden pet charges when you arrive, and very often these charges are not made clear when you book, they can also be high depending on the hotel. I have paid anything from $25 to $50 per night ($175-$350 per week), or a fixed cost of between $30-$150 per stay, increasing costs significantly. Any reasonable dog owner understands that there may be a small cleaning charge for dogs, but using that charge as a way to price gouge people is a great way to show you aren't really dog friendly. For the win let dogs stay for free, just like you would let children stay for free when they come and visit.

I make a point of always speaking to the maids and leaving them a tip when I stay at hotels because I am concsious that my dog may create extra work for them, and I always ask them if a dog in a room means that they have to clean for longer. I am always told that no, that their standards are so high they always clean absolutely everything anyway and a dog doesnt really make any difference unless it soils the floor, but they are already used to cleaning such stains made by humans. I have been told this in so many three, four and five star hotels that I no longer believe management when they tell me that dogs incur extra cleaning and price gouge me for it. Dog owners know that you are simply using the dog as an excuse to make more money and they will resent you for it if you go too far, I do.

Provide Additional Services
If you really want to shine as dog friendly, provide value added services like dog walking, dog sitting and dog grooming to your guests. Dog owners fully expect to pay someone for these services usually, and would also pay a premium for convenience. If you do not have the staff to cover these services, consider partnering with external suppliers who can and build a relationship with local vetinarians, pet store owners. dog sitters and trainers.

The number of times I have called down to reception while we are trying to get ready for dinner in time and asked them to walk the dog, only to be told am sorry sir we do not offer that service is crazy, especially when you consider how low skilled the job is and also that the same hotel wouldn't think twice about picking you up at the airport. If my dog ever fell ill, I would also want to know which vetinearians were located nearby and where they were without having to search for them.

If you really want to be a dog friendly hotel, it is simply not good enough to label yourself one and charge guests a lot more money for bringing their dog, you have to show that you are dog friendly with your policies, in the way you communicate them, and in the way you treat dogs and dog owners. If you mismanage being dog friendly, you will only cause animosity and unhappy customers rather than conversation them into loyal and regular guests, it is better not to be dog friendly at all than half heartedly pretend you are. Being a dog friendly business requires thoughtfulness, attention to the details of what a dogs requirements might be, and staff who genuinely like dogs. Forward thinking businesses make money from their canine guests with value added services, by providing food, toys, treats, dog walking, and grooming services, rather than unreasonably high fees.

If you want to be dog friendly, then you have to be friendly to dogs. Paying lip service to being dog friendly, and price gouging them, only causes resentment from your guests and bad reviews. If you want to win, it is better to treat being dog friendly as an opportunity to create long term relationships with your guests and their four legged friends. If your staff remembers the name of the dog when they come back, you will probably have earned a customer for life, so work towards that and understand that dog owners will keep coming back to your hotel rather than go to others if they are happy there with their dogs.