Duane Hoffmann / MSNBC.com
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By Travel writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 8/9/2007 9:54:45 AM ET 2007-08-09T13:54:45

A dog walks into a bar.

No, really. This isn’t the summer joke column. It’s the promised follow-up to a recent column about pets traveling on airplanes. And, yes, there really are bars, restaurants and hotels where dogs and other pets are welcome.

But only if they and their people are well-behaved.

An estimated 10 million pet-doting travelers regularly take their animals with them when they travel. And when those pets and their owners are on the road they’re apt to be nosing about for pet-friendly places to sleep, eat and play. So it’s no surprise that hotels and restaurants are finding a way to cater to this well-heeled clientele.

For example, more than 13,000 pet-friendly motels, hotels and campgrounds in the United States and Canada are listed in the most recent edition of “Traveling With Your Pet: The AAA Pet Book.”

A herd of web sites (including pettravel.com, takeyourpet.com and petsonthego.com) lists resources and tips for pet owners on the go. And if you send the folks at go2pets.com a text message with a zip code, they’ll text you back with information about pet-friendly lodgings and links to a variety of other useful resources, such as emergency pet hotlines.

Some pet-friendly properties welcome you and your pet if you put down a hefty cleaning deposit and pay an extra fee. Others go all out, rolling out the welcome mat with amenities such as dog and cat beds, toys and good-to-have services such as pet-sitting, walking and grooming. At the super pet-friendly Hotel Monaco in Portland, Ore., for example, a dog adopted from the local animal shelter serves as Director of Pet Relations and a pet masseuse is always on call.

Stay out of the dog house
Even at the most pet-friendly properties, only the most well-mannered pets and their people get invited back, so be sure to pack these tips in along with the treats.

Don’t just show up.  Call ahead to make sure your pet is really welcome. If you’re staying with friends or family, check to see if the invitation really includes you and your pet. Your friends may think you’re oh-so-cute and cuddly, but may not be so keen about your slobbery pooch. Or they may love your dog but have allergies, a super-territorial pet of their own or a nice new white sofa. If they do say it’s OK to bring your pet, be sure to bring your own pet food, pet bed and, says Tracey Thompson at petfriendlytravel.com, “a cover for the furniture. Dirt and pet hair on the bed may cause you and your pet not to be invited back.”

If your plans include a hotel stay, call the property directly to confirm the pet policy. From a stint as a hotel reviewer, I’ve learned that the pet policies posted on hotel Web sites are often vague and outdated. And even if a hotel does accept pets, there’s usually a limit on the number of pets allowed in each room as well as restrictions about size and weight. And make sure you understand the fees: is there a “refundable cleaning deposit” or a “non-refundable fee?”

Keep it down.  Once you check into a hotel, be sure to keep your pet on a leash in all public areas, including the elevator, lobby and parking lot. And if you leave your pet in the room alone, be sure the pet is in a crate or travel carrier. “Most hotels don’t allow you to leave your pet in the room unattended because of complaints about barking dogs,” says Thompson, who learned this lesson the hard way:

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“My husband and I took our two dogs to stay at the San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, Calif. We left the dogs in the cottage, but not in a crate for 3-4 hours while we went to lunch, shopped, etc. One dog barked and cried the entire time we were gone. When I returned to the room and called the front desk ... I was told that they had received MANY calls from other guests complaining about the barking. Only after promising never to leave the dogs alone in the room again did the hotel allow us to stay.”

Another reason to keep your pet in a crate or carrier when you leave the room has to do with your pet’s safety and the safety of hotel staff. If a housekeeper enters your room while you’re out, your pet may slip out and get lost or be ill-mannered and try to bite the “intruder.”

A dog walks into a bar
Of course you and your pet will need sustenance out on the road. Many of the previously-mentioned Web sites list pet-friendly coffee shops, restaurants and bars around the country. Some establishments welcome dogs on outside patios and hand out biscuits and bowls of fresh water. Others court critter-customers with elaborate pet menus. In Portland, Ore., for example, The Berlin Inn, a German restaurant and bakery, has a Patio Pooch Menu with entrees such as Mutt Mix (sliced turkey hotdogs tossed with milk bone biscuits) and Chow Hound (spaetzle noodles with mushroom and onion gravy, garnished with milk bones.)

But even when you’re at a super pet-friendly restaurant, says Petfriendlytravel.com's Thompson, your pet should be leashed and “not allowed to beg for food from other people or be allowed to eat off the table. The other day I saw a dog at a restaurant sitting on a chair and eating off the table — unappetizing to say the least!”

So how do you know if your pet is having fun tagging along on your vacation or business trip? Pet psychic Faye Pietrokowsky might be able to help. In her monthly appearances at the evening wine reception at the Hotel Monaco, she spends a lot of time answering questions about “how pets feel when their humans travel without them.” She says most pets love to travel and some even understand that they must behave if they want to travel with their human family.

“One thing that people can do when traveling with pets is to reassure them. If you have to leave them, tell them when you will return and  ... send them a telepathic message when you are returning. Don't tell an animal that you will be back at 6 p.m. if you won't return until 9 p.m.”

Good idea. Otherwise, you may stumble in from your pet-free night on the town only to discover that your pet has run up a giant room service bill or wolfed down everything — including those pricey macadamia nuts — in the mini-bar.

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