Dog Friendly Restaurants, Wineries & Hospitality Businesses, Part II: The Survey Results

Everyone has their opinion. And of course I have mine as well. You can see two of my 'kids' here -- Emily & Roux. Like most dogs, they think they should accompany me everywhere I go. Emily is a pretty good girl, and in most cases really knows how to mind her manners. Roux is all boy (and a rough and tumble one at that), so we are still working on his public social skills! Reading all the responses has reinvigorated my desire to brush up their social skills. Then maybe we'll see you at a dog friendly winery soon -- or even just sipping a little vino in front of the Swiss Hotel.

First let's start with the business' point of view. Let's start with which segment of the industry our respondents are from:
Next, we asked "How was the experience?" Not a single person said it was a terrible or even negative experience. In fact only 8% ranked the experience as 'OK' while the remainder ranked in either 'fabulous' or somewhere in between 'fabulous' and 'OK.' I guess our furry friends are doing a good job while they are out in public. Here are some of the upsides of managing a pet friendly business:

"During the summer, we have a lot of people that bring their dogs and sit outside at the picnic tables."

"People love to include their pets when they are doing something social, makes the tasting room feel like home."

"Pet owners are a very interesting niche for a hotel or restaurant. Good spending power (often mid-aged childless couples), excellent word of mouth exposure, easy to target as there are large but few online communities of pet owners."

"They add to the enjoyment of our winery and we have ample space for them to run around and frolic. It's fun to watch."

"The upside is more visitors. People are also more likely to stay and enjoy a bottle of wine if they don't have to leave the dog in the car."

"The upside is meeting many wonderful pets...and their owners...I will not stop taking pets, all kinds...I've had cats, birds, & dogs...So it's not just the dog that travels with their owners."

"Upside: People are really happy when their beloved pets are with them. I think that people are so busy during their weekdays and work periods--that they're often feeling guilty when they're off on a vacation--just when they actually have free time to spend--and they're not with their pet(s)."

"Everyone loves it when Pets come to Red Mountain Resort & Spa in St. George, UT. The pet owners are treated like Rock Stars by our other guests, who gather around them to meet their pet. The team of employees loves to spoil the pets, and the pet owners love that they are so accommodating."

"I love dogs and know how hard it is to travel with or without your pet. Guests are overjoyed to find out they can bring their dog to The Haven in Walla Walla and Dayton."

"People enjoy bringing their dogs out with them on weekend picnics. Our winery, Cooper Vineyards, has a large amount of open space not near a major road. We sponsor an annual benefit for the Richmond SPCA - Lucy's weekend every May - it is a dog extravaganza!! Folks are allowed to bring their pets and we have adoptions available as well. We also support other local animal rescue groups and allow them to have their staff and adoptions on site for many of our other winery events."

"We are passionate dog people ourselves, so we know what it is like to try to travel with your best friend - unfortunately many places give you the worst room in the inn! We have found that people are will to pay for the very best to be able to bring their dog(s) along! And we have had the pleasure of meeting some very special dogs. One of our favorite guests, a Rottweiler named Maya, has epilepsy so we give her bananas instead of dog biscuits at check-in (high in potassium)."

"Being the only hotel in my area that allows pets, we have seen an increase in business from pet owners traveling with animals."

"We actually have an annual event now benefitting Ohio Pug Rescue. Last year we had about 250 dogs - not only did everyone get along but people raved about how great it was for them to bring their dogs and let everyone play together."

"Our experiences have been great! It's a win win. We even have a hike we call the Pound Puppy Hike that we take our guest to walk dogs at a local No Kill Shelter. It makes the pets trust humans and be more adoptable, and make the guests feel great! Several have found happy homes with our wonderful guests throughout the US."

(Sorry we don't have room to print all of the responses)

The downsides were fairly minimal -- and consistent. For hotels and B&Bs the downside mentioned most consistently was 'extra cleaning required' although all seemed to think it was worth it. For other businesses it was the occasional 'negligent owner' who did not properly control and/or clean up after Fido. To quote one respondent, "The downside is the very few who are irresponsible." There was also the occasional comment about losing guests who do not appreciate nor want to be around animals; of course the reverse is an upside- you will gain those who do. A couple more 'interesting' experiences include having to replace flooring and furniture, and this one: "The only bad experience happened when an owner let her two labs jump into our small, koi-stocked pond. The worst part is that she thought it was funny."

The over-all feel was that although there may be some challenges, and there may be some increased work, the good far outweighed the bad.

Interestingly enough, the consumers were a bit more opinionated than the management! 3.2% of hotel guests ranked pet friendly hotels 'not to my taste.' The same for 14.3% of restaurant respondents and 6.5% of winery customers. Not to fret pet lovers, the great majority ranked pet friendly hotels, restaurants and wineries 'wonderful' and a small percentage remained neutral on the topic. Now let's hear what the guests had to say...

"We were vacationing in Ventura California and found a lovely little outdoor cafe called Zoey's Cafe that was pet friendly. They had special water bowls for pets and really made us feel comfortable. I wish there were more places like this around the country!"

"Big, bear-like dog at Freemark Abbey. Adorable!"

"Two Mountain Winery and Dunham Cellars in Washington state both have dogs running around. They don't seem to be a problem. Beveridge Place is a bar in West Seattle that allows dogs. It's a very nice place."

"Nice to have your best bud around, whether it's a person or a dog. as long as they don't start bringing cats I'm cool."

"I have visited many pet friendly hotels and restaurants in Europe, where pets are generally better trained BECAUSE they are allowed. Here in the US, we have pet friendly restaurants only available in warm weather as they must be outside tables."

Many make decisions on where to go or where to stay based on whether or not a place allows pets -- clearly another case of 'you can't please everybody.' Here is the bad... and the good...

"I am not interested in dealing with peoples' pets (or children, for that matter!) in public places. And, with my husband and myself having various allergies, I would never sleep in a hotel that had also housed animals of any sort."

"I would not be too comfortable going to a restaurant and having other diners with their pets. I love animals, but not if I'm out trying to enjoy a nice meal."

"As the parent to a large (well-trained) male Rottweiler, I am always aware of the potential negative (feared) reaction of others when in public. I am always appreciative of hotels that allow pets. The Shilo Inn chain has been great and always works with me to get me a room near an outside entrance so we don't have to cause too much alarm to others who may not share the same love for large dogs."

"I make most of my decisions regarding weekend plans and dining around being able to take my basenji Ted along."

"I exhibit my dogs so I often travel to the shows and need to stay in pet-friendly hotels. The best, affordable chain that usually allows pets is La Quinta. My dogs are my children, so I appreciate companies that understand and recognize that."

"There are Marriott Hotels that we would love to visit, but they are not pet friendly, therefore, we will not be going."

As with everything, it seemed it comes down to knowing who you are, and who your customer is; staying true to that and letting the rest go. I don't see the end to our love affair with our pets so I guess I'm glad I fall on the side of being happy with pet friendly businesses. If you see Roux, Emily and I in or around Sonoma -- stop and say hi!

-Margie

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