07/18/2013 10:00 EDT | Updated 09/17/2013 05:12 EDT

Dog-Friendly Hotels Catering To More Pet Owners With Special Perks


VICTORIA - Whether it's Tofino, Whistler or Kelowna, when Tobias Lawrence and her husband travel they take along their whole family, which means their two huskies Haiku and Lulu.

"After some bad experiences with boarding I want my dogs with me," said Lawrence. "If we go away for Christmas, we want our dogs with us. We aren't going to board them because we want them to be part of the experience.

"They are our family."

Dog owners who feel the same way as Lawrence are becoming an increasing trend, which means that hotels and other accommodation properties have to make arrangements to host dog owners and their pets.

For more than 20 years Lawrence has been travelling with dogs, including her previous pooch Logan, and said she has seen a shift in the way hotels welcome pets.

"More hotels are definitely accommodating those travelling with dogs," she said. "When I first got my husky Logan — and I had her for 16 years — it was extremely difficult to travel places."

Lawrence said even travelling to major cities like Vancouver was a challenge, not to mention rural B.C., which often had a limited selection of hotels and motels.

"We recently travelled to Kelowna and stayed at the Ramada there, and when we arrived they had two gift baskets for Haiku and Lulu," she said.

Even though the perks for pets are welcomed by owners, Lawrence said there are other considerations, such as the location of the hotel and whether there are dog walking options.

While some hotels have adopted a pet-friendly approach to match the growing demand, Nicholas Gandossi, general manager of Vancouver's Opus Hotel, said it has been part of their business since Day 1.

"We haven't just adopted that position as a sales or marketing ploy. We've been pet-friendly since the day we opened our doors in 2002," said Gandossi.

According to Gandossi, even though most of their guests fly into Vancouver, other clients choose to drive, which allows them to bring their dogs with them.

But part of being pet-friendly for Gandossi also means acknowledging that other guests may not be, which is why they have included a doggy waiver.

"We have the noise clause on the doggy waiver which guests sign at check-in," he said. "They can't leave dogs in the rooms because of potential noise."

Along with barking, Opus also addresses concerns about cleanliness in their pet-friendly rooms, which are given a thorough scrubbing when the canine has departed. In general, those rooms are reserved for this particular type of guest.

Many hotels aren't stopping at the basic amenities. From puppy spa facilities to gourmet dog food menus, accommodators are going the extra mile to attract dog owners.

"We made the decision not to charge any pet fee," said Gandossi.

"This seems very basic, but I think it makes a strong point that we're telling our guests that we want to make them feel included and welcome to bring their other loved ones. Then we added all the extra incentives — every guest checking in gets a copy of Modern Dog magazine, every guest gets a dog toy, and we've purchased pet beds and stainless-steel bowls."

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