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Tales (and horror stories) from pet-friendly inns

By Linda Lombardi

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 13 2013 8:18 a.m. MST

This July 2013 photo provided by the Lamb and Lion Inn shows visitors playing with a puppy near a pool at the dog-friendly inn, located in West Barnstable, Mass. If you're staying in a hotel with your dog, ask whether it's OK to leave the dog alone in the room before you plan your itinerary. Many don't allow it because they don't want a lonely dog barking or making messes while owners are out. If you do leave your pet alone in the room, provide a cell number so you can be contacted if there's a problem.

Lamb and Lion Inn, Tom Dott, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

If you travel with your dog and prefer small inns and B&Bs over chain hotels, it can be frustrating that so few allow pets. If you listen to some innkeepers' stories, though, you may wonder why any of them do.

At Les Artistes Inn in Del Mar, Calif., for example, a pair of Weimaraners crashed through a window when they saw another dog walk past. "The owners had said, 'Don't worry, they'll be fine,'" said owner John Halper. "The 'fine' part was incorrect."

Halper only allows pets in some rooms, but one couple checked into his best no-pets, ocean-view room with a crate "carrying this cat that has a head bigger than my own," he said. They told him it was "a real live hybrid bobcat."

While most stays don't involves horror stories like these, understanding the rules — and the reasons behind them — can make your vacation more pleasant for you, your pet and the staff.

CAN YOUR DOG HANDLE BEING ALONE?

The policy with the biggest impact on your stay is whether your dog can be left in the room alone. Innkeepers need to balance your desire to go out for dinner with the potential for property damage and the comfort of other guests.

"You wouldn't want to be in a room that had a barking dog in it all afternoon when you're trying to take a nap," says Tom Dott of the Lamb and Lion Inn on Massachusett's Cape Cod.

Inez Conover remembers guests who left their dog alone at her inn, Bewitched and Bedazzled, in Rehoboth Beach, Del. The dog barked and scratched for nine hours, and the owners never answered their cell. She told them about the problem when they returned, but the next day, she heard a "terrible dragging-back-and-forth noise" in the room. She found the dog tied to the bed, which he'd dragged all over, "tearing up the hardwood floor," and breaking the bed away from the headboard.

Conover is the rare innkeeper who allows dogs to be left alone, because she is willing to make a special effort to keep them out of trouble. If a dog makes noise, she'll bring it to her office, where she has calming supplies ranging from herbal supplements to chew toys. She also recently put Plexiglas on door bottoms to protect them from scratch marks.

But don't expect an innkeeper to make an exception to a no-dogs-left-alone policy because your dog is fine at home all day while you go to work. Its behavior in a new place may not be the same. Dogs "have to acclimate first," said Dott. "They get scared if left in a strange place by themselves."

To test how a dog will react to a hotel room, leave the dog for a short time while you "hang out by the pool, have breakfast," Dott said. "In that hour, if your dog's quiet, I'm sold."

A crate-trained dog is a better candidate for being left alone. But the crate needs to be something you use regularly at home, not something you've bought for the trip. "I've had dogs kenneled that were throwing themselves against the kennels and moving the kennels across the floor," said Conover.

No matter your dog's training and behavior, don't expect exceptions everywhere. Laila Kollmann says the no-dogs-alone rule at Cayucos Shoreline Inn in Cayucos, Calif., is hard and fast. "We don't even allow them alone in the room with a crate, even if we personally know them," she says. "It's unfair to see a dog allowed in one room and not the other." Even regular guests who bring a rabbit that they walk around on a leash aren't allowed to leave it in a cage in their room.

Innkeepers with a no-pets-alone rule can often direct you to local doggie day care, or pet-sitters who will come to your room.

HOW DOG-FRIENDLY IS THE DESTINATION?

The dog-friendliness of the destination is worth considering when planning trips.

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