Dog Friendly is not binary

As my wife and I travel around with our dog we find many places that tout their ‘Dog Friendly’-ness. To our disappointment we usually find that they are ‘Dog Tolerant’ or ‘Dog Accessible’ but far from dog friendly. There are two important concepts that the owner of any so called dog friendly establishment must understand before laying out the welcome mat:

  • Understanding the attachment of a dog owner to their dog. Dare I say…actually owing a dog yourself.
  • Understanding what it is like to travel with a dog. Dare I say…that you actually traveled with a dog…outside your city limits…for at least a few days. (Extra points if you have taken you dog through one bath cycle away from home.)

Once you have the basics understood the next step is to evaluate your ‘offering’ based on how far you (or the local health department) will allow dog owners to go. This is where the gap exists in the definition of ‘dog friendly’. After minutes of consideration we have developed the following scale:

No Pets

This is the clearest category. Simply put, leave your dog in the car. There are many reasons why proprietors choose this designation. I respect the clarity of this designation. I also choose not to spend my money at these establishments unless there is an overriding reason. Examples include National Parks (dogs in parking lots only) and restaurants without outdoor dining facilities.

Dog Tolerant

Dog tolerant establishments pretend to be dog friendly but really aren’t. Dog tolerant means that you can have your dog present with you on the grounds but must never be off leash (see my point about your responsibility when taking your dog off leash). Dog tolerant hotels generally make you pay extra for keeping a dog and you have to sign some huge contract. Well behaved dogs are welcome most places but there are restrictions imposed by the proprietors that have nothing to do with the health department.

Dog Friendly

Dog friendly establishments allow you to keep your dog as you would at home. The only way a joint can be labeled Dog Friendly is if I have equivalent access to the establishments offerings while I have my dog at my side. For example: restaurants that serve me on a deck or patio, wineries that allow my dog in the tasting room or serve tastes outside. Many of the so called ‘dog friendly’ wineries did not allow tasting with a dog by your side.

Dogs Welcome

Establishments that open their doors to good dogs and good dog owners allow access to all areas under the health code. This means that unless the establishment serves food, dogs are welcome everywhere (except on the tour). This designation goes beyond physical access, it also indicates a mind set that some thought and consideration has been put into the accommodation for dog visitors. Whether it is water dishes and water for those who may have forgotten or biscuits behind the bar, it is that good dogs are welcome without hesitation, indoors and out.

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