A bed-and-breakfast she visited north of New York City wouldn't let her pooch Benny trot around in the main house, among other troubles. Ochman, a Manhattan Internet strategist, has since discovered Audrey's Farmhouse, a B&B in Wallkill, New York, that caters to dogs and doesn't charge pet fees that can top hundreds of dollars.
"Dog-friendly means your dog is welcome," she said. "If the dog is welcome, he shouldn't cost extra money. Of course, I am a dog owner, not an innkeeper."
Hotels ranging from major chains to small outposts are capitalizing on the wave of travellers who bring along their dogs, some by charging for perks that pamper pets and others by expanding fees. What started as a basic, one-time pet fee has blossomed into a per-night charge at many places and costs that can total hundreds.
Some properties offer amenities from patches of grass to chew toys, designer bowls and in-room massages — usually for an additional price — while others simply levy cleaning fees, whether your dog makes a mess or not. Those hotels often don't offer extras or permission for pooches over a certain weight, locking out larger pets like Ochman's.
"There is a huge difference between pet-tolerant and pet-welcoming," said Carol Bryant, a pet industry public relations strategist from Forty Fort, Pennsylvania.
She's been travelling with dogs for decades and says hotels that simply tolerate animals don't offer services such as bowls and beds, so dogs might be sleeping on thin carpeting.
Perks such as organic treats usually cost more, but "I never forget when businesses extend themselves to my dog," Bryant said. "Does my dog know? Probably not, but I do. And I do the spending."
Hotels charge a range of prices for pets. More than 120 DoubleTree by Hilton hotels in the U.S. charge a maximum $75 nonrefundable fee used for cleaning, said Maggie Giddens, director of public relations for the hotels.
Many chains charge differently by city. In San Francisco, flat fees are common, with the Radisson charging $75; the Marriott, $50 to $100; Holiday Inn, $75; and the Hyatt, $100, according to petswelcome.com, a pet travel services website. But the InterContinental requires $50 a night there.
Many properties have no fees, including Motel 6, Studio 6, Red Roof Inn, La Quinta and Kimpton, which has 67 hotels nationwide, said Cindy Dahlen, marketing director for New York-based petswelcome.com.
Others charge per night, including Rodeway Inn and Westin hotels at $10-$15; Best Western and Travelodge at $20; and Extended Stay America at $25.
Bryant said the highest fee she's faced was a one-time $250 cleaning charge at the Trump SoHo New York. Dogs staying at the luxury hotel also have to be under 25 pounds.
Other pet policies, which exclude service dogs, vary by hotel and can include:
— Rooms on designated floors, allowing other customers to avoid pet dander.
— Restricting dogs from getting on furniture in rooms and lobbies.
— When dogs must be leashed.
— Where they can go on the property.
— Bans on certain breeds, which generally match the city's laws.
For Ochman, bed-and-breakfasts beat out hotels, because they're more distinctive and usually have fewer restrictions on pets.
"People approach travel in different ways," she said. "We are just looking for a pretty place where we can relax and take the dogs."