Guide to ... Choosing a Dog-Friendly Holiday
Updated: Jun 2
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What should we be looking for when booking a dog-friendly holiday? How do we know that our dog will be welcomed, not simply tolerated?
A trip to the local pub or even a long lunch wouldn’t be complete without a canine companion, with up to 1 million monthly Google searches for dog friendly pubs, cafes and holidays in the UK. I probably don't need to tell you that the ‘Hound Pound’ (how much we spend on our pups), has become big business with over 26% of the UK's adult population owning a dog.
According to the Telegraph, the UK pet industry is now worth more than £2.7 billion annually and pet travel is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the travel market. Evidently, opening their doors to dogs could increase hotels' revenues by 30% a year, as the luxury pet sector starts barking up new trees.
So as dog lovers, we’re firmly in the driving seat, but what should we be looking for when booking a dog-friendly holiday? Who offers a truly paw-friendly escape for the whole family?
We review the best companies offering dog-friendly holidays in the UK including -
1. Sniff out the Pretenders
The big travel companies such as Expedia and Trivago, allow you to filter your holiday search by ‘pet friendly’. At first glance this is helpful. It groups suitable accommodation together, but once you delve a little further, there is simply a lack of detail as to how the accommodation is categorised as ‘pet friendly’.
I have recently been caught out by this. I booked a beautiful ‘dog-friendly’ cottage in Suffolk so we could explore the coastline. To our amazement, when we arrived we found there wasn't any enclosed space, hence we couldn’t let Freddie off his lead outside the cottage. It was also near a busy road, so whilst his recall is good, we couldn’t risk it. Maybe I was too ambiguous with my search but I know exactly what I’d do differently next time.
If you are looking for more information before you travel, you need to look at a company catering exclusively for holidays with dogs. Not necessarily a huge travel company that thinks that adding a filter will give them their cut of the 'Hound Pound'.
2. Leader of the Pack - Canine Cottages
Canine Cottages are a leading light in pet friendly travel. Part of the Travel Chapter, the website is powered by holidaycottages.co.uk
The website is beautifully designed and exceptionally user-friendly. Along with searching by region or date, if you are more relaxed on the where and when, Canine Cottages has some unconventional categories such as ‘Cosy Up!’ and ‘A Little Bit Special’ to help you find your perfect pawsome holiday.
Whether you’re longing for a weekend break with leisurely pub lunches or one with lengthy hill hikes, you can find a host of options to suit you and your dog.
The creative team behind the Canine Cottages show a meticulous attention to detail when it comes to providing accommodation information. It highlights if there is an enclosed garden so you don’t need to worry about any great escapes. The best bit about their offer is their range of extensive guides to towns and cities around the UK. With dog-friendly attractions, dog friendly dining spots and of course beautiful walks to help you plan your truly pawsome break.
The reviews (and I always read the reviews), aren't solely by people who have stayed in the accommodation WITH their dogs. As mentioned Canine Cottages is part of Holiday Cottages and this is the only area they fall down. Cottages are listed on both sites so the reviews were fairly redundant as the majority were left by families without dogs.
Explore - Canine Cottages
Cottages.com offer a selection of dog friendly cottages which all cater for our four-legged friends. They have put some real effort into providing helpful filters to help you find your perfect holiday cottage. You can search using - 'Enclosed Garden', 'Dog Friendly' and 'More Than Dog Friendly'.
If you're looking for inspiration, the best bit is their Dog Friendly Holiday Finder in the Inspiration Section.
They've analysed the typical physical and behavioural traits of the nation’s most popular dog breeds and matched them up with the perfect English holiday destination. Apparently my gorgeous cockapoo would adore Herefordshire ! Whilst it's a bit of a gimmick, I for one smiled and appreciated the effort to win the 'Hound Pound'.
Explore - Cottages.com
4. Pets Pyjamas
If you prefer a hotel have a look at Pets Pyjamas, a site dedicated to dog-friendly travel. They cater for the more upmarket holiday offering a range of 1,500 dog-welcoming 4* hotels and dog friendly cottages. A simple investigation, established that they didn’t charge any more than booking the weekend directly with the hotel (and in many cases, less).
There’s even a dog-friendly concierge available if you like talking to a human or have specific requirements that need to be met. If that wasn’t enough, they offer a PetSquad vet line so you have peace of mind when you travel.
Explore - PetsPyjamas
5. Tail Between their Legs
Other companies such as Dog Friendly Cottages (part of Snaptrip) welcome ‘Well Behaved Dogs’, um, that suggests they’ll be testing my cockapoos training, with raised eyebrows if he doesn’t sit and stay for more than 3 minutes. Whilst it provides a database of cottages which allow dogs, it doesn’t provide any further information such as enclosed garden etc.
Several travel companies missed the mark completely in a rushed grab at the Hound Pound.
My favourite is the Mr and Mrs Smith which advertises boutique and luxury hotels. On the very first page after waxing lyrical about Pet friendly hotels they advertise a hotel which states – Diminutive dogs are welcome!
So a pint-sized pug or a petite pomeranian would be welcome but under no circumstances may a Labrador cross the threshold. Not quite as dog-friendly as most people would hope for!
Had a wonderful, wagtastic holiday with your pooch or a totally terrible trip? Please comment with suggestions of companies that really do understand dog-lovers and provide excellent dog friendly cottages or hotels. Of course you're welcome to share those companies who are happy to take your money but provide little canine commitment in exchange.