How to run a dog friendly bed and breakfastApr 21, 2022
During the lockdowns of the covid pandemic, lots of people became dog owners for the first time. And this rise in dog ownership means a rise in demand for dog friendly accommodation and also more B&B owners considering whether to welcome dogs.
My own B&B in Shropshire was dog friendly and it was a great selling point for me.
Once they’d stayed once, most of the dog owners went on to become repeat guests, many of them staying several times a year.
There are both pros and cons to accepting dogs ( or other pets ) at your bed and breakfast. And in this blog post I’ll talk through those and everything you need to consider if you're looking to welcome dogs at your B&B.
I'll be sharing a few stories about guest dogs in this blog post, including a few mishaps. Don't let these put you off welcoming dogs at your B&B.
In 17 years of running a B&B and welcoming doggy guests, the problems were very rare and one of my favourite parts of running a B&B was welcoming guests with their dogs.
I’ll be covering:
- Do you need to like dogs to run a dog friendly B&B
- The impact of accepting guest dogs on your pets and livestock
- Dogs don't read rules
- Impact of accepting dogs on other guests
- Putting dog rules in place
- How do you decide what rules to have?
- Should you go all out dog friendly or just have one or two rooms where you accept dogs?
- Will you allow dogs in the guest dining room?
- How many dogs should you accept?
- Cleaning your dog friendly rooms
- What about accepting dogs but only outside or if they stay in the car?
- Making your B&B attractive to dog owning guests
- Should you charge for guest dogs?
- Marketing your dog friendly B&B
- Accepting assistance dogs
Please note that when I recommend products in this blog post, they are affiliate links. This means if you go onto purchase them through the link I get a small commission ( at no extra cost to you ) which goes toward paying for the costs of running this blog 😀
Do you need to like dogs to run a dog friendly B&B?
OK, so there are relatively few must-haves when you're running a B&B, legalities aside, but I personally feel you do need to like dogs if you plan to welcome them at your business.
Someone who took my course was told by a friend that she must accept dogs at her new B&B because it was such a great market and she’d be losing out on guests if she didn’t. But she didn't actually like dogs or have any experience with them.
Like the woman above, some owners are worried that if they don't accept dogs they are limiting the number of people who will book.
But just as being dog friendly will make you much more attractive to dog owners, by accepting dogs at the B&B you are going to be putting off people who don’t like dogs or are allergic to them. And you may even be putting off pet owners who aren’t travelling with their dog.
As I keep saying:
"YOU CAN'T CREATE A B&B THAT IS GOING TO APPEAL TO EVERYONE"
A dog owning guest told me that they avoided staying in the dog friendly room when they were away without their dog as they'd had experience of staying in rooms that weren’t as clean as they could be.
There’s a big difference between welcoming dogs with open arms and just accepting them.
Many dog owners, myself included, think my dogs are the best ever and want everyone else to feel the same, so liking and making a fuss of guest dogs ( provided the owners are happy for you to do that - I always ask before approaching a dog ) is an important part of the role.
Some of my repeat guests once told their fellow guests over breakfast that the reason they kept coming back was because Conker, their dog, loved the B&B so much. He felt like it was a home from home and loved the welcome he received. Clearly Conker was consulted whenever they were planning a trip!
In summary, don't feel you'll be leaving cash on the table by not accepting dogs. There are more than enough other target markets to tap into.
Consider the impact of accepting guest dogs on your pets and livestock
Even if you love dogs, you need to consider the impact that guest dogs will have on your own dogs, if you have them, and any other pets or livestock you own.
I’ve written a whole blog post on Running a bed and breakfast and owning a dog here
But what if you own cats or other livestock such as chickens?
We’ve always had free range chickens, so one of my rules had to be “guest dogs on lead unless they won’t chase the chickens”
In 17 years, we only ever lost one hen to a guest dog, but I think that was more luck than anything. My heart would sink as another dog chased a chicken with the owners saying "oh he only wants to play with them, he won't hurt them". Try telling that to my chicken!
The only way to really ensure no chasing mishaps is to securely fence off your livestock. Just don't ask me how you'd do this with a cat...
Dogs don't read the rules
Dogs don’t always behave as expected, so even putting the “well behaved dogs” requirement in may not protect you from dogs jumping on the bed or having an accident in the room.
Dogs are under stress when they’re away from home and outside of their home environment. And this may cause them to behave in a way that they wouldn’t do when they’re on their own turf.
We once took the lovely Murphy away to a holiday cottage. He had never marked in the house, but spent the whole holiday cocking his leg in the cottage and I spent the whole time running around after him with carpet cleaner and disinfectant. The carpet was much cleaner when we left than when we'd arrived.
It’s important to be prepared for this in the way you set up the rooms and how you communicate boundaries to your guests.
And again, if you’re the sort of person who really hates the thought of dogs getting on furniture or the bed, you may want to reconsider them as guests.
Impact of accepting dogs on other guests
Even if you love dogs, your other guests may not!
It’s important that your marketing material makes it clear that you accept dogs and in which rooms. And you’ll need rules in place to ensure that other guests aren't affected by the dogs’ behaviour.
I used to ask that guests didn’t allow their dogs to approach other guests unless they asked.
My guests once complained that the other guests had gone out for the night leaving their dogs alone - actually against the rules at my B&B - and the dogs had barked non stop.
You’ll also want to make sure that guests are picking up after their dog or make sure you're being very vigilant!
Putting dog rules in place
I’m not sure there are many people whose hearts don’t sink when they arrive at their holiday accommodation and see a long list of rules and notices everyone. It doesn’t make for a relaxing holiday.
So when you set up a B&B it’s a balance between creating enough rules to protect you as an owner, whilst ensuring your guests feel comfortable and relaxed and aren’t terrified of something going wrong.
What is completely acceptable and normal to one dog owner may appall another. As an example, Dogs sleeping on beds is a sure one to divide dog owners! So If you’re running a dog friendly B&B you’re going to need some extra terms and conditions in place so your guests understand what your expectations are.
We once stayed at a holiday cottage near Ludlow with my Mum and Dad and their dog, whilst we were house hunting. In the evening we all went out to see an outside theatre production at Ludlow Castle, leaving Mum to look after the dog.
She’d let the dog out into the garden and the dog, as dogs do, had a poop.
By this time my Mum’s MS was starting to take hold and she was struggling on walking sticks. It would have been really difficult for her to get out and pick up the poop. So the plan was that we’d check the small garden, which was exclusively ours for the holiday, when we got back and clear up. But the cottage owner had spotted the dog performing and rushed over demanding Mum pick it up immediately, ignoring Mum’s obvious disability.
The only thing we can remember about that holiday cottage was the way Mum was treated by the owner.
The moral of that story is that it's important to have rules, but also a degree of flexibility so guests can relax whilst they're staying with you.
How do you decide what rules to have?
It’s worth contacting some other local dog friendly B&Bs and seeing what doggy rules they have in place. Or you can check out dog friendly bed and breakfast websites .
But don’t just copy them word for word. Consider your own situation and B&B and what rules work best for your situation.
Also brainstorm all of the potential things that could go wrong and consider putting rules in places to reduce the risk of them happening or describing what the penalty will be when they do happen!
You can’t put in a rule to cover every possibility - well you could but it quickly becomes one those of B&B where you can’t see the walls for “polite notices’ and the T&Cs go on for pages. Decide what's most important to you.
Questions to consider when coming up with dog rules
- How many dogs will you allow?
- Do you have an age limit for dogs - e.g. no puppies?
- Do you expect all dogs to be house trained?
- Do guest dogs need to be OK with livestock, cats etc?
- Do you require the dogs to be vaccinated or treated for fleas/worms?
- Are all of your rooms dog friendly?
- Will you allow dogs on the beds or the furniture?
- Will you allow dogs in the guest dining room or other public areas?
- Can dogs be left alone in the room?
- Do you require dogs to be on lead when outside?
- How quickly do you expect guests to pick up after their dogs?
- Will your rules be different if the dogs are crated?
- Where do you want your guests to feed their dogs?
- Will you allow any exceptions to the rules?
Some of these may seem obvious. But in my early B&B owning days, I only had rooms in the house and I accepted dogs in both of these rooms.
One day a guy turned up with a 12 week old puppy, proceeded to put down puppy training pads all over the carpet ( they didn’t work - I had to throw the rug away ) and then told me he’d be leaving the puppy alone in the room all day as he had to go to a funeral.
At this, I finally plucked up the courage to put my foot down and offered to dog sit. Not the easiest of days, trying to clean the B&B and babysit a puppy, who it turned out my dogs, despite loving every dog they’d ever met up till that point, decided they didn’t like at all!
Should you go all out dog friendly or just have one or two rooms?
At my own B&B, I had one downstairs dog friendly room, with the door leading out into the garden. It had wooden floors, a wet room and a tap just outside the door.
Our upstairs room was carpeted and had a very heavy leather bed which you couldn’t get a vacuum under. It was very difficult for 2 people to move and would have proved very difficult to clean every time we'd had a dog to stay.
I also liked being able to offer a non dog friendly option for guests who didn't want to stay in a dog friendly room.
If you decide to go all out dog friendly in all of your rooms, it can be a great draw to attract guests in.
You will need to decide how to manage all of the dogs staying. Not all dogs get on!
In fact, having only one dog friendly room and telling guests that our own dogs were in a separate area, was a draw for people who owned dogs that were reactive to other dogs.
Just a word of warning about having only one dog friendly room. It can cause misunderstandings with guests if they don’t read your website and details carefully - which most guests don’t do.
A man got very stroppy with me because he’d booked online to stay with his golden retriever in our non dog friendly room. I had to contact him and cancel his booking. He accused me of not running a dog friendly B&B at all.
I reviewed my website and online booking form after this and clearly labelled the rooms as dog friendly and non dog friendly on the online booking system.
It can also be problematic if you use the online travel agencies as they either market you as dog friendly or not.
So if not all of your rooms are dog friendly, you run the risk of having people book into your non dog friendly rooms with their dog. If you decide to not accept dogs via the online travel agencies, you run the risk of people booking a dog friendly room when they have allergies and had assumed you didn’t accept dogs… it’s never easy is it!
I once had some guests book in during the 10 days we were dogless between losing our old dog Tess and getting Murphy. They really didn’t like dogs and would never have chosen a dog friendly B&B. Luckily they fell in love with Hopton House, but it was 17 years and over 60 stays later that they admitted that to me!
Cleaning the dog friendly room
Obviously running a dog friendly B&B is going to come with an extra cleaning burden. This will certainly mean extra time and cost. And if you've yet to create your B&B rooms, I'd urge you to think very carefully about the design of the room and how easy it is to clean.
One of the things I came to hate in the dog friendly room was having a bed with a divan base. It had to be moved each time a dog had stayed, so that we could vacuum underneath it.
It was also a hair magnet, so as well as having to vacuum the floor we had to vacuum the base of the bed, then go over it with a lint remover!
You can read more about the mistakes I made when setting up my B&B room in this blog here >> https://www.bandbacademy.co.uk/blog/the-top-8-mistakes-i-made-setting-up-my-b-b-rooms
- Install flooring that is easy and quick to clean. Consider wooden floors with rugs
- At my B&B, I doubled up on throws, cushions, duvets, rugs etc and had one set I used just when dogs were staying, but these still need to be thoroughly cleaned
- Have spare rugs to cover up any stains that can't be cleaned immediately when you're short for time
- Make sure the vacuum cleaner can reach under furniture or that furniture is easy to move - dog fur finds its way into the smallest nooks and crannies!
- Wall coverings need to be washable to easily remove mud!
- Provide guests with a special dog feeding mat so they aren't putting dog food and water bowls on rugs and carpets
- Supply large easily to wash throws, old towels, cleaning materials etc to make it as easy as possible for your guests to keep the room clean
Cleaning supplies and products
Having the best cleaning supplies in stock is` going to speed up the cleaning process and make your life easier and less stressful!
Be careful when buying cleaning products for a dog friendly room to check they are are suitable for use around pets. I ended up giving away a whole load of furniture sanitiser I'd bought in the pandemic as the it was dangerous for dogs. I used the steam cleaner instead.
Invest in a good quality corded pet vacuum cleaner. I found that the cordless ones I had - Gtech, Bosch and Shark - were all great for quick vacuums but couldn't cope with a lot of dog hair. I recommend the Miele Cat and Dog Vacuum Cleaner
I would definitely consider investing in a steam cleaner. Once you've vacuumed to get rid of the hair you can steam flooring and furniture. Plus pet allergies are usually caused by pet dander. Steam cleaning will get rid of dander as well as dirt, bacteria and mites.
My favourite steam cleaner by far is the Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner
One of the best stain removers for dog stains and most other stains is Dr Beckmann Pet Stain and Odor Remover
I'd also consider leaving a little cleaning kit in the room, so if the guest's dog does have an accident they can quickly clean it up themselves.
Will you allow dogs in the guest dining room
At my own B&B, I allowed dogs in the guest dining room if there were no other guests in. Otherwise I asked guests to leave their dog in the car. They could park their car right next to the floor to ceiling windows of the dining room so there was no security risk.
My concern was always how other guests would feel about dogs in the dining room.
However if you make it clear in your marketing materials that dogs are allowed in the dining room it shouldn't be an issue.
You could consider reserving one or 2 tables for dog owners.
How many dogs should you accept?
I didn’t have any limit on the number of dogs that I accepted in my dog friendly room. The room was large and there was access straight into our large garden.
My rationale was that if people were travelling with multiple dogs, then they would probably be very well trained and this was always the case. And I found the cleaning didn't take any longer after multiple dogs than it did after 1.
When considering how many dogs you will allow guests to bring, you’ll need to take into the account the size of the room, your grounds, whether you have more than one dog friendly room and also any public rooms that you allow the dogs in.
What about accepting dogs but only outside or if they stay in the car?
There will be dog owners who are happy for their dog to sleep in the car or kennels if you provide them. But there are many who want their dogs with them!
If you do allow ( or require ) that dogs remain outside, you’ll need to ensure this is very clear when guests book and that your grounds are secure. Unfortunately dog theft is pretty big business.
There’s always the risk that dogs left outside in a car or kennel alone will bark, disturbing your other guests. And you’ll need contingency plans in place if there’s extreme weather such as it being too cold or hot for the dogs to stay in the car.
Making your B&B attractive to dog owning guests
To create a B&B that guests will rave about and keep returning to, you’ll want to do more than just accept dogs. You’ll need to exceed expectations and make them feel welcome.
You'll also need to make sure that your premises are safe for a dog:
- If you offer an enclosed garden, make sure it is actually enclosed with no gaps
- Use dog friendly cleaning products
- If you leave edible goodies in the room for the human guests, make sure they are left out of reach of the dogs. Chocolate, Xylitol (found in sugar free products, mints etc) and dried fruit are all highly toxic to dogs. Check out the Battersea website >> Toxic Food For Dogs
If you’re an owner who travels with your dog, you’ll probably have a good idea of what you’d like to see at a dog friendly B&B, but here are some ideas:
- Room suitable for dog e.g. wooden floors with rugs - consider having rugs you just use when dogs are staying and having extra rugs for dogs who can’t cope with wooden floors, or to temporarily cover any stains
- Throws to put on furniture
- Dog treats - be aware that dog owners can be very picky about what their dogs eat, so have treats available but don’t give dogs food without asking permission. Consider making your own dog treats or buying in locally sourced ones
- Have spare food available if guests have forgotten their own
- Provide a freezer/fridge that guests have access to if they raw feed their dogs
- Provide water and food bowls and a mat to put them on
- Have a box of dog toys
- Leave old towels in the room for guests to wipe off muddy paws
- Install a hose pipe or dog shower outside
- Give guests a dog tag for when they’re staying with you with your B&B address on
- Have spares of things guests may have forgotten - lead, collar, harness, poo bags
- I found all of my guests bought their own dog beds, but you could consider providing dog beds - vet bedding is quite useful. It’s very easy to wash between dogs and my dogs love it. >> Vet bedding
- Providing advice on dog friendly walks, pubs, restaurants etc.
- Leave specialist cleaning equipment in the room for guests to use if their dog does have an accident.
- Providing poo bags and a special easily accessible bin for guests to put the waste in
- Provide a fenced off garden or paddock for secure exercising
Should you charge for guest dogs
It’s your decisionwhether you charge for dogs and how much.
You will have increased costs due to having dogs to stay; longer cleaning time, more robust cleaning equipment, specialist cleaning products and maybe doubling up on items such as rugs and duvets.
Some B&B owners charge per night and others per stay. Or you may just want to put your prices up overall to ensure all of your costs are covered without having extra add on costs.
“Dogs go free” could be added incentive to attract more dog owning guests to your B&B
Marketing your dog friendly B&B
Welcoming dogs at your B&B can be a great way to attract loyal guests who, having found a B&B that meets their dogs’ needs, very often become repeat guests.
Consider doing the following:
- Include appropriate long tail keywords on your website and blog e.g. dog friendly bed and breakfast Shropshire
- Write blog posts for dog owners about dog friendly walks, pubs, restaurants, shops etc
- Post on social media about all of the above!
- Look for specialist dog friendly accommodation websites to advertise on such as Sawdays
- Posting pictures of guest dogs on social media
Posting pictures of your happy guest dogs on social media is a great way to market your B&B. But please make sure you have permission from your guests to take photos of their dogs and explain how you'll be using them.
I also never posted a photo of guest dogs online until they had left - again because of the security situation.
Accepting assistance dogs
Just a note on accepting assistance dogs at your bed and breakfast. In the UK, you are required to make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities. And this includes accepting assistance dogs. Refusing to accommodate an assistance dog is likely to be unlawful discrimination, even if you don’t accept dogs at your B&B.
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