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Dog Travel Tips: How to Explore a New City with Your Dog

Research, patience, flexibility, and preparation will take you and your dog far when seeing the world.

 |  May 14th 2013  |   0 Contributions


When I travel, I focus on three things: Where to find the best food, where to find the most beautiful landscapes, and how to take my dog with me to as many places as possible. In places such as Paris, where any little old lady on the Metro might scoop up my dog, Luna, and kiss her face, this is easy. Restaurants are, by default, dog-friendly. Parks are full of fuzzy, four-legged travelers and locals. 

Of course, there are always a few exceptions to this pet-friendliness. During our six weeks in Paris, we ran into two parks with no-dogs-allowed signs in addition to a handful of restaurants and one coffee shop. And, sadly, except for service animals, dogs are not allowed into museums.

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If all else fails, wandering the streets of a new city is always dog-friendly. Photo by Gigi Griffis

But never fear, dear reader, because this full-time, puppy-toting traveler has some tricks up her sleeve -- tricks I share with you today. These tricks are really simple and can save you the heartache of arriving at a fancy restaurant or a gorgeous historic building and being turned away.

1. Be aware of cultural norms

When you are travel to a new culture, research some of the overall norms. In France, the general culture is a dog-friendly one. Dogs are often allowed in restaurants and are very much expected in shops. In the U.S., depending what part of the country you visit, dogs are sometimes allowed on patios, but not inside. 

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Luna with a new friend in a café. Photo by Gigi Griffis

Knowing the overall culture’s attitude toward dogs (and toward your particular size and breed of dog) will help you make confident decisions and ask relevant questions. 

When Luna and I walked around Paris at lunchtime, we simply walked into places and sat down. I knew that was a cultural norm for the French -- and no one so much as flinched at my behavior (which would be shocking in the U.S.). 

2. Research specific places

It’s important to ask people (or a web search engine) whether a place is pet-friendly before you go. Know ahead of time exactly what you are getting yourself into -- and plan accordingly. 

If a place advertise its pet-friendliness online, make sure to print or get a screenshot of that text. Sometimes employees don’t know the rules, and if you get stopped at the gate it’ll save you a lot of heartache if you can produce the relevant one on your smart phone.

3. Contact venues

If you can’t find any information about pet-friendliness, email can help you. It only takes a few seconds to type up a friendly “Hey, can I bring my super-well-behaved dog to your beautiful, fantastic-sounding restaurant/resort/hotel/attraction?” email and see what response you get. 

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When we emailed to ask Playa Escondida if it would allow a small, well-behaved dog, we got a resounding “yes!” -- even though the venue's website contains no dog policy. Photo by Gigi Griffis

Make sure all emails are friendly and complimentary, and if someone says no, ask whether the person knows of any high-quality restaurants/hotels/resorts that can accommodate you and your dog. I’ve found that people -- across all cultures and countries I've visited -- generally want to be helpful, so if you ask a question like that, chances are you’ll get a really great answer (and might even find something better than your original choice). 

4. Ask for an exception

This is the secret to almost everything I do. Even if a place doesn’t claim to be pet-friendly, ask. 

Ask politely and concisely. Don’t waste anyone’s time. Give people a reason to say yes. “My dog is non-shedding and quiet and used to eating in restaurants with me.” And let people know that it’s okay to say no. 

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Photo by Gigi Griffis

In Paris, this is how Luna and I were able to rent a tiny top-floor studio in Montmartre that isn’t normally pet-friendly. And we’ve done the same thing for accommodations and attractions in Italy, England, and Mexico, among other places we’ve visited. 

You’ll be surprised how far a polite question can take you in your quest to keep your dog by your side.

5. Train, train, train

Finally, make sure your dog is well trained and well contained. One of the reasons Luna and I often get exceptions to no-pet rules in housing, restaurants, conferences, and so on is because Luna has been trained for therapy work since she was small, and I make a concentrated effort to make sure we don’t bother anyone. 

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Photo by Gigi Griffis

I keep her on her leash. I don’t feed her from the table. I don’t take her out of her carrier on the plane. And she snuggles in my lap or at my feet quietly, allowing small children to pet her, and never begging.

It’s because of this that recently in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, after I was kindly and apologetically told that no dogs were allowed in a beachfront restaurant, the man paused, looked at calm, happy Luna, asked whether she bites ("No, of course not," I replied in Spanish), and then told us we were welcome to sit at the corner patio table.

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Another dog-friendly option is hanging out with wonderful new friends at your apartment. Photo by Gigi Griffis

Unfortunately, there are always a few places I just can’t take Luna along (like the many Paris museums) -- which is why I prefer to rent apartments in each city that I visit, making those apartments my cozy, temporary home. With a whole apartment to myself, I can leave Luna for a few hours to take a trip to the grocery store or the Louvre in a way that I really couldn’t if we were in a hotel. 

Any tips of your own for getting around dog restrictions and taking your dog to see the sights? Let me know in the comments.

More by Gigi Griffis:

The Beginner's Guide to Flying Internationally with Your Dog
My Dog Has Outlasted All My Romantic Relationships
Three Unexpected Benefits of Traveling with a Dog

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