Pet Travel. Made Easy.

What Makes a City Pet Friendly?

Dog friendly restaurant

Is it doggie dining options?

The subject of this post was prompted by our recent road trip experiences. In our swing through the State of New York, we’ve passed through villages, towns, cities, and regions … and everyone says they are (very) pet friendly. No one says that they’re not or that they’re working on it. Clearly, we must all have different ideas about what makes a city pet friendly.

At one extreme, there was Woodstock. When asked, several residents told us they thought their town was very pet friendly. I gottta tell you that on some stretches of the main drag there was no sidewalk, or a very narrow sidewalk, where you could barely walk yourself, much less you and your dog. The waitstaff at a restaurant happily woofed that they were dog friendly – as long as the dog was tied to the rail on the outside of the outdoor patio. I came away feeling the town was not very pet friendly – but am I missing something?

At the other extreme, we visited dog friendly wineries in the Finger Lakes that allowed Ty and Buster to join us in their tasting rooms. Then there was Saratoga Springs’ broadly supported Dog-Friendly Downtown initiative that we attended; over 30 businesses identify and market themselves as welcoming dogs. And yesterday’s blog post by @ThisOneWildLife echoed our own sentiments about the success of the program. We left these areas thinking they were very pet friendly – but would others feel the same way?

So … color us curious. In the Comments section, please share your thoughts. GoPetFriendly would like to know:

  1. What is the most pet friendly place you’ve ever visited?
  2. What, in your mind, made it so darn pet friendly?


I am writing this post just outside of Rochester, NY … heading to Niagara Falls. So, a note to our Canadian friends: If you feel a disturbance in the Force today (Friday), GoPetFriendly has breached your border. :-D

  • […] I want to share with you how our readers answered this question: What makes a city pet friendly? The question grew out of an earlier blog post of the same name, and based on the thoughtful […]

  • Hi Y'all,

    Great post and some excellent replies that I enjoyed reading.

    I will mention what has been “my dog's” pet peeve and a primary reason many places are turning against allowing dogs, people don't clean up behind their pets. Soon we won't be able to stop at rest stops. The ones I've been too recently have even added doggie back dispensers and yet you have to be careful where you walk so you don't “step in it”.

    On trails some few owners do not follow the rules, be it keep on a leash, or not to allow pet off the trail because of plant life, and everyone is punished when they stop allowing dogs.

    A reason many places ban pets from establishments is because a few are not well behaved. Plus when staying in hotels, pet owners should carry Natures Miracle or similar and a hair removal tool or lint roller. I carry both, although I've never needed the Nature's Miracle, and rarely use the lint roller. I bathe and groom my dog thoroughly before traveling and he is never allowed on the bed or furniture. I also have his crate with me in case I should need to leave him in the room for some unforseen reason.

    I have one other pet peeve with the “pet friendly” and that is the weight limit for the dog or dogs. Many places restrict you to 25lbs, I've even encountered 15lbs. I couldn't even fake it with a big retriever.

    As long as there are owners out there who are not responsible owners, who do not train their dogs, who do not make sure their dogs behave and reinforce the training, and who do not obey restrictions in those areas that allow pets with restrictions, ie. on leash, we will continue to loose places we can go with our dogs. I hate to see this because at one time it was difficult to find a nice place to stay with a dog.

    BrownDog's Momma

    • We SO agree, BrownDog’s Momma! It’s extremely frustrating that a few people believe the rules don’t apply to them and the rest of us suffer. Something as simple as picking up after your dog seems like a common sense – and yet there are a lot of people that don’t do it. I just can’t figure that one out. We too always have a few cleaning products with us when we stay in a hotel with the dogs. Like you, we’ve never needed them – but I did have to use them once at my sister’s house when Buster got sick and threw up on her carpet!

      There are a lot of responsible, considerate pet travelers out there. I hope those few that are not will think carefully how their actions might be affecting others. The recent trend has been for more places to welcome pets – but if pet owners aren’t careful it could easily swing back the other way.

  • […] What Makes A City Pet Friendly?  Amy and Rod Burkert, GoPetFriendly […]

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  • A critical factor for me is whether a city's public transit system allows pets (as opposed to service animals) onboard. Most of the public transit systems I've researched are pet-friendly, so the exceptions are all the more startling. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised that New Orleans' public transit bans pet dogs, but Austin? Austin?? So often touted as a super pet-friendly place? I think NOT.

  • deborahflick says:

    Interesting question you're asking. My answer: Where do I begin? How do I count the ways?

    To begin, it seems a list of criteria would be helpful. (I'll use Boulder, CO as my example.)

    In no particular order:

    1. Are there lots of well-groomed dog parks well over an acre in size with shade, trees, shrubs or other obstacles for dogs to be able to play around or hide behind,water, and places for people to sit and dogs to rest?

    Ans: Boulder has dog parks, but with the exception of one fence-free once which is very nice, the others are little more than gravel pits. Very hard on dogs paws. No shade (That's a big deal at our altitude. The Sun is very intense.) and only one that I know of has water (I could be wrong about that). We go only to the fence-less dog park.

    2. Are dogs welcome at stores?

    Ans.I'm not a big shopper but Sadie loves retail, and I must say that with the exception of the Boulder Pearl Street Downtown Pedestrian Mall, I've taken Sadie into many many stores. Some are actively welcoming of dogs and are prepared with doggie cookies and water. Others just seem not to mind if we shop. We've been kicked out of 3 stores, 2 of which were dog friendly but then changed. I delight in saying to the person who tells us to leave, “No, problem. I can buy a suitcase somewhere else.”

    3. Are dog welcome at restaurants or any establishment that sells food?

    Ans. The short answer is no. Some allow dogs on their patios inside the fence, other must be outside as you described is the norm at Woodstock. I seriously don't get why dogs can't enter these establishments. Dog go everywhere in France. I can't remember a restaurant where there wasn't a dog sprawled on the floor. I know some people and our health departments are all about dogs causing disease. But, really. Think about it. People live with dogs. Dogs sleep in our beds. We pick up their poop. When was the last time you heard of a person getting sick from a dog (other than allergies). Other people and especially kids are the germ factories we need to be worried about.

    4. Are dogs allowed off-leash on open space trials (if a community is lucky enough to have such amenities)?

    Ans. Yes, dogs are allowed off-leash on most city open space trails. Five year ago they we allowed off-leah on all trails. However, there is a HUGELY powerful lobby that wants all dogs off all trails, leashed or not. I doubt they will get that far. But we are facing the dire possibility that we will no longer be able hike with our dogs off leash (Is there any other way, really?) In this regard, Boulder is on a slippery slope to becoming exceedingly unfriendly to dogs. BTW dogs on off-leash trails need to wear a tag ($18) and be trained well-enough to be under voice and sight control. Even so, come over-the-top self-proclaimed conservationists definitely want dogs off the trails and if they could prohibit hikers and mountain bikers, they would.

    5. Are there state of the art veterinary facilities and top-notch vets in the area?

    Ans. Boulder has its share of good vets, but for specialized services and truly state of the art medicine you have to travel to Ft. Collins to the vet school and UNC, to Denver, and to other cities in the area. For example, I drive Sadie to Colorado Springs for her annual dental work because that's where one of the few doggie dentists in Colorado is located.

    6. Are there locally own pet shops that sell only high quality food that you can trust (as much as you can trust in this day and age), that take a ethical position and refuse to sell shock collars and can answer your questions about food and supplements, and that generally have their finger on the pulse of what's happening dog-and-cat wise?

    Ans. Yes, We have several. Boulder is home to the big box stores, but I there are four locally owned shops that meet the criteria I mentioned above.

    7. Are there urban trails and sidewalks where you can walk your dog on-leash?

    Ans. Yes. Lots. But, with a few exceptions (You mentioned Woodstock.), I don't think this is anything special. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope not!

    8. Are people you meet on the sidewalk, in stores, on trails and so on, generally friendly to you and your dog or do they let you know in one way or the other they wish you and your dog would disappear?

    Ans. Generally, I would say that our experiences in Boulder are more positive than not. But, things could be changing, especially if the city disallows dogs off-leash on open space trails. It breaks my heart to think about it. One of the great joys of my life is to hike with Sadie off-leash. Many if not most people in Boulder love dogs and/or have a dog(s), but there is a loud minority (I think. I hope it's a minority) who want dogs to not be seen or heard.

    9. Are there dog-friendly hotels for visitors to Boulder?

    Ans. I'm not informed about this since most of the people that visit us in Boulder don't bring their dogs. But, I think the hotel scene is pretty grim. I'd love to be wrong about that.

    That's all for now :-)

    Great question. Thanks.

    • Now THAT’s a thoughtful comment! I am planning on writing a follow up post once I have reviewed all the comments – but maybe I’ll just run your response!!

      BTW, for the reasons you list plus the climate plus the number of days of sunshine … Amy and I hope to one day relocate to Boulder. We’ve been contemplating this for over a year, and had we not taken GoPetFriendly on the road in the Winnebago, I believe we would already be there.

    • Now THAT’s a thoughtful comment! I am planning on writing a follow up post once I have reviewed all the comments – but maybe I’ll just run your response!!

      BTW, for the reasons you list plus the climate plus the number of days of sunshine … Amy and I hope to one day relocate to Boulder. We’ve been contemplating this for over a year, and had we not taken GoPetFriendly on the road in the Winnebago, I believe we would already be there.

      • deborahflick says:

        Hi There

        Glad you liked my reply to your pet-friendly question.

        I guess you can tell it's something I've been thinking about.

        Boulder is a strange place. It has a rep for being very pet friendly (dog friendly in particular), but there are many ways in which it is not and it's trending in the no-so-friendly direction–IMHO.

        Would love to have you in Boulder.


        Deborah L. Flick, Ph.D.
        Phone 303-443-5677
        Fax 303-545-2611

  • […] and Amy Burkert of Go Pet Friendly posed a good question: What makes a city pet-friendly? Everyone says they are dog-friendly, yet […]

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