Pack an extra bag: pets on vacation

Pets come along with the family or get their own summer camps


Many folks are packing an extra bag and taking the dog along on their Cape Cod family vacation these days.

By Teresa Martin

Time was, the dog was a dog. Ate in the yard. Hung out in a doghouse. Dug holes and chased rodents.

Today, it's a different story. Not only is Fido a full-fledged member of the family, but he's also increasingly part of family vacation planning -- and cape vacation rentals are feeling the demand.

Do You Take Pets?

Joan Talmadge, one of the founders of the private home vacation rental site WeNeedAVacation.com says they are definitely seeing an increase in the number of vacationers who want to bring Spot to the Cape for a little R&R.

"I attribute it to several factors," she said, pointing to the trend of dog-as-family, as well to economic reality and changes in the way people find rental homes.

"With belt-tightening, families still want to take a vacation but know that it would be cheaper to bring their pet with them than pay for a kennel for a week or two. Also, growing competition in the rental market means homeowners are willing to do more to attract renters, including accepting pets," she said.

Theodore Robert, male model, all packed and ready to embark on the family vacation. Photo by Teresa Martin.

"Plus, vacationers are able to easily find homes that accept pets," she said pointing out that online search tools make it possible to quickly ID pet-friendly properties, making it more realistic to sort out the pet-perfect home.

WeNeedAVacation has 2,909 current Cape listings; of those, 597 - or about 20% - accept pets. That percentage has been slowly increasing over the past several years, she said.

Lots of Resources

The trend is not limited to the Cape. With sites like: www.dogfriendly.com, www.petswelcome.com, www.gopetfriendly.com and www.pettravel.com, it is clear there's a growing number of people for whom a journey is not complete without their pup along side.

Of course, there have always been dogs on the road. John Steinbeck's classic Travels with Charley  follows the author and his standard poodle Charley as they drive across the US. Today, however, Steinbeck would be the norm, not the exception.

Booking Quality Doggie Time

"I think people are traveling with their pets more, because pets are more a part of the family than they used to be," said Kirsten Davis, whose family has run Nauset Kennels in Eastham since the early 1970s.

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Her company has seen the pet-on-vacation trend bringing new summer clients, rather than creating a loss of business.  In part, that's because the kennel spotted the early signs of the trend about 15 years ago, and starting offering doggie day care.

Turns out that summer visitors are not only looking for dog-friendly lodging - they are also looking for vacation activities for their dog.

"Because of the limited beach access for dogs, we find more demand for day care," she said. "We are seeing a lot more people traveling with their pet because they can. As a result, people are looking for things their dogs can do during the day."

People are aggressively researching dog vacation activity options in advance, online, she said, noting that her website has really helped connect her business with Cape-vacation-bound customers and she's even prepared vacation guide materials for her canine visitors.

Both Sides of the Coin

Oddly, even as demand for pet friendly home rentals is increasing, so too is the demand for pet-free rentals.

"When owners don't want pets in the house, it's not really about damage. It's more often really about allergies," explained Jane Booth, rental manager for Thomas D. Brown Real Estate/Cape Vacation Rentals.

"We are seeing an increase in allergies ... What we're finding is an increase in the number of calls we get asking for a home that has never had a pet in it."

"This is a tougher market, and for owners who are open to it, letting pets stay can be a win-win for both sides." - Jane Booth, TD Brown Rental Manager

Supply, Demand

Booth says that at her firm, about 10% of the rentals are pet-friendly. However, due to economic pressures, more people are putting their homes into the rental market.

"The overall supply of rental homes has increased over the past two years because of economic conditions. People who historically never rented are renting to generate some income," she explained.

"So there may be a greater number of pet friendly rentals because the overall numbers have increased --  but we aren't seeing the percentage change much. The demand is there, though, and I always wish we had more."

Not a Damage Issue

Despite some owner's fears, the track record of vacationing dogs is generally positive, agreed both Talmadge and Booth.

"I cannot say I've ever had a major pet issue. They seem to be respectful with their pets. Most people say they crate their dogs when they go out" noted Booth.

The only difference that some find is an increased cleaning fee - there might be more time spent vacuuming after a dog has been in residence, for example, and that might translate into a larger cleaning bill.

Potentially Win-Win

Not all homes are suitable for dogs, but for those that are, creating a pet-friendly property can give the house a competitive edge.

"This is a tougher market, and for owners who are open to it, letting pets stay can be a win-win for both sides," said Booth.

And of course, it's win-win for the dogs and their families too.

"If you're traveling some place and they are with you, they are usually just happy to be there with you, where you are," said Davis. "The dogs are happy to just be part of the family."

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