FAMILIES would love to take their dogs with them on holiday, but most hotels and guest houses still do not allow dogs. The principle considerations for this are hygiene and noise.
The reality is that most hospitality business owners that have overcome any such concerns and allow dogs to stay seldom appear to harbour any such concerns. Typically dog owners themselves, they are familiar with the kind of problematic issues that may arise – and how to deal with them.
A recent survey undertaken by Pets at Home revealed:
- Customers spend an average additional £126 to take their pet on holiday
- 16% of owners who take their dog on holiday spend £200 or more to do so”.
- 45% of dog owners admit that they “miss their dogs dearly” while on holiday without their dog
- 90% of employers that allowed dogs in the workplace noticed a positive change in the working environment
Pets drinks company WOOF&BREW research found:
Customers who visited a pub or café with their dog spent on average 16% more than customers who did not have a dog with them. This was partly due to an increased spend on treats for their dogs, but also because they spent more time relaxing in the venue and spending more on drinks and food for themselves.
Research undertaken by Melton Mowbray Town Council showed:
- Those who own dogs are almost twice as likely to regularly visit local shops and businesses that welcome dogs
- Four out of five businesses who opened their doors to dogs say that they noticed an improvement
- 72% of dog-owners said they would holiday in the UK more frequently if there were options for their dog
- 96% of people said the atmosphere notably improved when dogs were present
16% of ownerswho take their dog on holiday spend £200 or more to do so
More pertinent to the hospitality business owner, however, is the fact that allowing guests’ dogs to stay in your property can open up a rich seam of business. For a start, there is the fee you are perfectly entitled to charge per night for the dog to stay over, to cover the extra costs of cleaning.
And, of course, there is the automatic attraction that your place will offer to anyone with a dog coming to your area and who does not wish to abandon their beloved pet in kennels.
Interest in dog-friendly accommodation has been growing rapidly in recent years. There are now even national dog-friendly accommodation awards. Steve Bennett, founder of DogFriendly.co.uk, the pro-dog website that runs the awards programme, says: “Being dog-friendly is about getting business, and not just because the owners happen to like dogs. It’s because it is generally better business to do so.”
Hospitality businesses that do allow dogs can also generate extra income from dog-related products sales on site such as doggy treats, doggy beer, and doggy ice-cream, he says. But he cautions: “Businesses need to be careful to balance promoting dogs with the wishes of those customers who would prefer to stay in a B&B without dogs.”
There are certain towns whose local businesses collaborate in a dog-friendly way to encourage people to visit the town in question. Steve cites market town Melton Mowbray (see box on page 55) and the Welsh seaside resort of Llandudno as examples. “Coastal resorts and counties like Norfolk and Devon are also much more dog friendly,” he adds.
Many properties that welcome dogs have caveats limiting them to ‘well-behaved dogs’ to cover themselves, he says, and their terms and conditions state that dogs must be well behaved. “This puts the onus on the owners – although personally I haven’t heard anything negative about barking dogs causing a nuisance in a B&B before,” he adds.
DOG RESIDENTIAL PACKAGES
Bailiffscourt Spa, part of Historic Sussex Hotels, is just a stone’s throw from the beach in East Sussex and a perfect location to bring a dog. Marketing director Sophie Tanner says the hotel is hugely dog-friendly: “This is such a simple but enormous pulling point that appeals to dog owners, as well as to guests who want to have lovely beach walks.”
The hotel does not just welcome dogs but also offers a package designed for dogs. “We work closely with the dog owners and OTAs to ensure we get it right,” says Sophie. “We have listened closely to what guests with dogs want and similarly to what is expected by those guests that don’t have dogs.”
Dogs are welcome throughout the property apart from the restaurant and spa, she says. “We ask owners to keep their dogs on a lead in the rose garden and in the courtyard. We have 30 acres so there is plenty of space for them – and people love taking their dogs for walks to the beach,” she adds.
The most obvious issue concerning dogs in an overnight hospitality environment is the cleanliness of a guest room after the guests and their pets leave the rooms. Sophie says: “Every room has a thorough deep clean whenever guests leave, so guests without dogs will never be aware that a dog might have stayed in that room.”
BENDING THE RULES
Along the coast in Seaford the owners of dog-friendly Malvern House retired this year after 25 rewarding years. Illustrating the relaxed reality of running a B&B with a dog-friendly policy, proprietor Jean Woodward says: “We allowed dogs and we never had a problem.”
When they first opened, the B&B did not allow dogs, but she says: “Then my dad came to live with us, and he loved all animals, so we started to say yes to dogs.”
She recalls: “One couple that came regularly who had a little dog named Pickles. He would come in the front door and go straight to sit at my dad’s door. And if my dad didn’t come, he’d bang on the door with his paw, and my dad would come with a digestive biscuit in his hand. It was lovely.”
There was a strong temptation to break the house rules with true dog lovers, she says, recalling one of her most frequent visitors, a dog lover from France. “He was very naughty, breaking all the rules we had set down for our dog, such as having him by his side at the breakfast table and feeding him buts of sausage and bacon.
“We didn’t allow other guests to do this, but most of our guests thought it was lovely. And our dog would sit very quietly because he knew he was not meant to be there. This chap had dogs in France, and he missed them, so we bent the rules,” she says.
RESTAURANT DOG AREA
Dogs are formally allowed in some instances to join their owners at the dinner table if the business offers dog-free and dog-friendly dining areas. One such is the Cary Arms in Torquay. According to general manager David Adams, the property has won a number of awards for that very reason. He says: “A couple of luxury doubles are dog-friendly, along with a couple of the beach huts and all the self-catering cottages, and we have two distinct sections to our restaurant and dining area: one dog-friendly and one dog-free.
“The only communal area in the hotel where dogs are not allowed to go is the spa,” he adds.
The Spring edition of Luxury BnB featured an article on Number Forty-six B&B in Hastings. Owner Rick Sciuriaga is still poised to open his door to guests, but when he does, he says he plans in principle to allow guests to bring their dogs to stay, because he recognises the additional revenue this should bring. “There is a shortage of dog-friendly B&Bs. It’s still in the plans at this stage to allow dogs, to give it a little bit more of a unique selling point,” he says.
The B&B is a four-storey townhouse with a lower ground garden level entrance leading to three of the guest rooms. Rick says the provisional plan is to allow dogs to stay in just one of the rooms to the rear of the building with a separate courtyard entrance.
He explains: “I have discovered there really aren’t many establishments that accept dogs other than guide dogs, and I see a potential because of the way this guest house is laid out. A guest could bring in a pet without annoying the rest of the guests staying in the house at the time.”
“It would suit people who wish to come away and who don’t wish to put their dogs into a kennel, especially if it is just for a couple of nights or a weekend, when it is sometimes more hassle than it is worth for them to do so.”
He says he will be consulting with his dog-owning friends to determine what their requirements would be. “Not having a dog myself I don’t know exactly what their expectations would be if they bring a dog, what they would expect to pay to bring a dog overnight and so forth.”
He says if he ends up assigning that room to accommodate pets, he will furnish it in a way that would be better equipped to do so. “I would replace the carpet with perhaps wooden flooring so that surfaces don’t harbour any pet hair to affect anyone with any allergies, and it will be easy to clean and won’t harbour any smells or pet hairs.”
Dog fouling doesn’t really trouble him. “I think if they have taken their pets out for a walk you shouldn’t have any issues indoors.
“It’d be more my concern if they make noise and bark in a way that can’t be controlled,” he says, evoking the threat of the dreaded one-star review.
Dogs (especially bitches) can make a bit of a mess of the lawn. There are products you can apply to reduce this. It’s also a good idea of keep dogs hydrated and so lots of drinking bowls in public spaces is a good idea.
DOGS AND GRASS / LAWN DAMAGE
Dog urine is rich in nitrogen, which is known to kill grass when concentrated amounts collect over time. The effects of dog urine on your lawn are similar that of a nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizer.
The solution if you have beautiful green grass is either to forbid owners from walking their dogs on such grass or, if such a restriction is unenforceable, to ask them to take with them a spray to put wherever their dogs take a leak. See pet products box.
Dog urine can ruin a pristine lawn. Preventative measures or remedy include:
- Avoid fertiliser
Fertilised lawns tend to have as much nitrogen as they can handle. A small amount of nitrogen in dog urine can burn the lawn.
- Spray with water
Getting guests to spray water on wherever their dog urinates helps to dilute the urine and lessen the effects on your lawn.
- Encourage owners to give their dogs water
The more a dog drinks, the less the concentration in the urine of nitrogen and therefore the less it will damage your lawn.
- Urine-resistant grass
This is an obvious solution if you are just starting out
- Apply a lawn repair treatment
Certain treatments contain organic enzymes with soil cleansers that flush the salts from the grass root zone.
16% of owners who take their dog on holiday spend £200 or more to do so”
Grass protection products are available to prevent browning of your beautiful lawns. These include Canine Natural Cures’ Green Peez, a form of dog urine grass burn patch prevention
MARKETING TO DOG OWNERS
#1 Warning Allergy issues
One way of preventing allergic or other negative reactions from your guests, provided you have enough rooms, is to allocate one or more as designated non-dog rooms. This will eradicate the danger of a missing a spot when cleaning and a new guest suffering an allergic reaction. It will also provide reassurance to such guests that their room has not not at any stage had any canine occupation.
Dogs’ own allergies
A high porportion of dogs suffer from allergies themeslves, which are also a common cause for euthanasia. An administrative procedure should be in place to ensure the dog itself is not given to any foods it cannot tolerate, and the B&B will have been alerted ahead of time. Alternatively a safe bet is to limit yourself to natural chews and freeze-dried liver, recommended for dogs with allergies.
Antihistamine is the most popular and available allergy remedy and useful to keep on site in the event a guest is accidentally thus affected.
TWELVE TOP TIPS
For a happier all round experience
1. Dog welcome pack. Include bags for cleaning up during walks.
There are an abundance of products available that can keep a pet occupied and content gnawing away and diverted from the temptation to bark including ropes and ring toys and bone-like products for dogs to gnaw and keep them content for example while alone when the family is downstairs having breakfast .
Dog grooming kits
For dogs that moult, grooming kits in the dog-friendly bedrooms can alleviate the amount of hair they shed in the communal parts of your property
2. Essentials. Bowls, toys and treats and a dog blanket.
Dog waste products
It is worth investing in a large stock of plastic dog poop bags and to leave them in abundance near the main door or separate exit if such is provided for guests with dogs.
Many guests may not have a dog lead extension which they would appreciate as an option to borrow when they take their pets for walks in wide open spaces such as the beach.
3. Dog drinks. Considering adding dog beer such as Pawsecco to the Welcome pack.
4. Dog menu. Consider a doggie menu with everything from sausages to T-bone steak
A number of properties offer meals specifically for the dogs. For example The Merry Harriers’ doggie meal is chicken breast, peas, rice and gravy. The doggie breakfast is two sausages cooked by the chef.
Cary Arms meanwhile offers its doggie guests, “Freshly cooked dogs’ dinners available daily – meat, beef, lamb or pork with rice and gravy,” and sausages for breakfast.
5. Access all areas. Designate an area where your visitors can dine with their dogs and not upset the rest of your guests.
6. Bathroom breaks. Ensure there is easy access to facilitate dog relief. Situating dog-friendly rooms on the ground floor is recommended.
7. Cleaning costs. Consider additional room-cleaning fees.
8. Pet playmates. Offer to take your guests’ dogs for a walk with your own – or vice versa.
Suggested dog walks
Many guests will not be familiar with the surrounding footpaths and parks. Every dog owner will appreciate you taking the trouble to provide them with a guide to walks that both they and their dogs will enjoy.
The devotedly dog-friendly Cary Arms & Spa on the South Devon coast for example provides such a book with recommended dog-friendly walks, while Jake the manager at the Merry Harriers has been living there for six months and has still not done every walk around the area.
9. Clarity of number. Decide what level of dogs you can have, for instance one dog per room, or small dogs only, and make any such limits clear to your guests beforehand.
10. Dog-friendly flooring. A hard floor is many times easier to clean ensuring no residual allergens are present.
11. Dogs-own lounge. If you have the space, offering a room dedicated to dogs will give your property an edge and will inspire owners to return.
12. Welcome letter. A letter for guests scheduled to arrive with their pets is highly recommended. The Merry harriers in Golalming, Surrey
EXAMPLE OF DOG HOUSE RULES
- Dogs are not allowed to stay in non-converted rooms.
- They must not be aggressive
- They must be clean
- They must not have fleas
- They must be on leash when in public area
- They must not bark or make noise continuously or often.
- Dogs are not allowed to climb on any furniture or eat pillows.
- They are not allowed to run with or without the owner.
- They must stay out of the spa, restaurant and pool areas.
- Owners must clean pet waste immediately and dispose of it in designated receptacles.
If your accommodation can be adapted to accommodate dogs, the evidence suggests that the rewards are likely to outstrip the costs.