Having just returned from a lovely week away in the glorious Forest of Dean, it got me thinking about truly dog-friendly holidays. I feel more than qualified to talk about this having had two or three doggie holidays a year for the last seven years. I dread to think and can't bear to add up the number of hours research I do on trying to find holiday cottages, dog-friendly pubs, days out, or attractions, but needless to say it's a lot! I did wonder a while back if I should set up as a travel operator specifically for doggie breaks - maybe that isn't such a bad idea?
My hounds are well travelled..........West Wales, Cornwall, Dorset, the Isle of Wight, Sherwood Forest, the Forest of Dean and North Yorkshire being just a few of their destinations. As I said, I'm more than a little experienced in dog-friendly places.
As the title of this blog says, is it a truly dog-friendly place, or is it simply that dogs are allowed? Trust me, there is a difference. Dog-friendly normally means the owners are dog owners, or at least dog lovers, so therefore they think of everything. To quote a cliche, it's the small things that count, and these things that may not mean much to others, but mean a lot to dog owners. Dog treats on arrival, temporary address tags, an outside shower to wash off after muddy walks, an enclosed garden, to name but a few. And we haven't even talked about the furnishings! The difference between a stone floor with underfloor heating or a cream carpet? A leather sofa or a velour fabric one? Askings guests to leave the place as it was found? Sure, no problem whatsoever with that, but there is no hoover, or any other means of me cleaning up the dog hairs. I have three hounds, and as yet I've found no way of stopping their hair falling out. I've spent countless hours with a broom or a dustpan and brush trying to clean up the place before we leave, and I've a very intimate relationship with a sticky roller! Expectations can be unrealistic in some places too. I understand you may not want dogs on the furniture or beds, but if the dogs are used to being allowed to do this at home, it is nearly impossible to teach them the difference when they are away from home. One thoughtful cottage owner I know admits this, and asks that if your dog is used to being on the beds at home, you take your own bedding. That's fair enough, and I make sure that I always take throws to put over the furniture because I know my hounds will try to get up on it.
I've mentioned before in previous blogs about the annoyance I have when children are allowed but dogs are not. In an awful lot of cases, my dogs are better behaved than children. On our most recent holiday, we visited Bourton-on-the-water, which I have to say so far is the most dog-friendly place we've been. Numerous eateries and pubs where dogs are allowed inside and out, Birdland Park and the Cotswold Motor Museum. On paying our entrance to the museum, the chap said that dogs are fine, it's people he doesn't like! I must say I tend to agree with him there. What a shame it is when the odd irresponsible owner ruins it for the rest of us by allowing their dog to misbehave, getting us all banned and tarring all dogs and owners with the same brush.
Eating out is often the stumbling block as pubs, cafes and tea rooms do not always cater for four legs. I really don't mind sitting at a table outside on a warm wind-free day, but even I'm not hardy enough to sit out during a force nine gale or a monsoon! Being treated as a second class citizen because I have dogs is what really gets my goat. My dogs are unlikely to break anything or cause any kind of havoc, but it seems if a child is running around and generally being a nuisance while people are trying to eat this is acceptable, and it's frowned upon if I say something to the parents about controlling their unruly offspring.
I do think that establishments are missing a trick by not being more dog-friendly, as more and more or us like-minded dog lovers choose to holiday, go out for the day, or eat out with our furry friends. I don't have children, but my dogs are my children, and I choose to spend as much of my time with them as I can. Their lives are short enough as it is, so spending as much of it with them and making it enjoyable for them is my priority. As the t-shirt says "If I can't bring my dog, I'm not going". Yes, I'm well on the way to becoming that crazy dog lady!