Woof Wednesday With Rod Burkert of GoPetFriendly.com

Dog looking out to sea

This is a lot better than the view at the boarding kennel!

There is no denying that this has been a long winter, not just here in the US, but around the world. Lower than average temperatures, record snowfalls, wet and dreary skies seemed to be the norm not the exception. With spring just around the corner and warmer weather starting to peek out from behind the curtain of grey, many people are thinking about taking to the road for some adventure.

Travelling with our pets is something that is becoming very popular; and thanks to a more accommodating hospitality industry, it is becoming easier to do. Friend, fellow blogger, and co-founder of GoPetFriendly.com Rod Burkert, along with his family have piled into the brand new GoPetFriendly RV to take advantage of some of the great places to go and things to do with your pets. Before they hit the road, I asked Rod some questions about travelling with pets.

DLD: What are some of the things that I can do now with my pet that weren’t available say 5 years ago.

Rod: Generally, there has been a trend toward more places becoming pet friendly – many hotels, campgrounds, beaches, shopping malls, and restaurants are now welcoming pets.  If you choose to, you can include your pet in most things you want/need to do – whether it’s going to work, stopping by the bank, picking up dry cleaning, meeting friends for happy hour, or taking a road trip across the country! And we see this trend continuing. States and municipalities continue to pass new laws removing barriers that prevented people from including their pets in their lives, and creative business owners are coming up with new and fun ways to cater to this pet friendly market.

DLD: What has changed, why is it easier to travel with my pet now?

Rod: We think there has been a shift in society’s attitudes about pets. For example, as we’ve discovered the physical and emotional benefits associated with living with pets we’ve come to appreciate and respect our animals more. We consider our pets as partners, friends and family members, rather than possessions. We also have a better understanding of our pets’ physical and emotional needs, and in striving to meet those needs, we’ve discovered that simply including our pets in our daily activities provides much of what they need – socialization, exercise and training. Many businesses have taken notice, and have implemented policies that allows them to serve people and their pets. What’s really exciting is that this process builds on itself – as more people take their pets with them, more businesses take notice and implement pet friendly policies to attract these customers, which will then make it easier for people to take their pets with them!!

DLD: What are some things that I really need to take into consideration when traveling with my pet?

Rod: First, and foremost, you want to make sure that your pet is healthy enough to travel, and also consider whether they would prefer to go with you or stay at home. Most cats prefer not to travel. With our two dogs, however, there’s no question that they’d rather go with us – and we prefer it that way, too! Second, your dog must be properly trained.  If your dog does not perform well in the familiar surroundings of your home, they are unlikely to perform well when traveling. So don’t set your dog up for failure – take the time to train them. Third, it’s important to find accommodations and activities where you can all have fun together. It’s no fun traveling with a pet if you feel you can never leave the room. Finally, traveling with pets takes more patience. You may discover that you don’t travel as many miles per day, because (like us) you find that working in a trip to an off-leash dog park each afternoon keeps everyone happier. In the long run, you may not see as many sites, but the trips are a lot more fun, because you enjoy it with your whole family!

DLD: How can I prepare to handle emergencies when I am on the road with my pet?

Rod: It’s really important to plan for those possibilities in advance. While it’s not pleasant to think about, being unprepared will make matters much worse. So, before each trip we make sure the dogs’ tags are up to date (we include our dogs’ names, medical condition, medication, and our cell phone numbers). We also verify that our information is current with the microchip companies. Also, we carry color photos of the dogs, in case we’d need to make copies for posters. In the case of an illness or injury – we’ve used our website to locate emergency veterinarians on more than one occasion! In these cases, it can be useful to have your pet’s medical records available, and we’ve found that scanning those records to a USB drive is a convenient way to take them along.

DLD: Are there certain areas of the country that are more/less pet friendly than others?

Rod: Yes! Many places, like Austin, TX, Portland, OR, Boulder, CO, and most of California, are very pet friendly and have been for a long time. Other places are moving toward becoming more pet friendly, like the state of Tennessee, which recently passed legislation to allow pets in the outdoor dining areas of restaurants.

DLD: What should I do if I run across a place that says it’s pet friendly but really isn’t?

Rod: WRITE A REVIEW! On Yelp … on the hotel’s web site.  If you found the location on GoPetFriendly.com, we ask that you notify us so that we can update the listing! Input from our user community is extremely important, and we appreciate everyone’s help.

DLD: Why did you start GoPetFriendly?

Rod: We rescued a German Shepherd in May of 2008, and realized shortly thereafter that traveling with him and our other dog, Ty, was quite a challenge. We now had two dogs, a large dog, and one that is on some lists of restricted breeds. The hotel booking sites we consulted allowed us to sort for pet-friendly hotels, but provided no information on weight restrictions, additional fees, or even if you’ll be stuck in a smoking room. We wanted to create a website that would make it easy for people to plan fun trips with their pets, including helping them find fun things to do once the reached their destination.

DLD: What is most fun trip you’ve ever taken with your pets?

Rod: We’ve had great times taking the dogs to Ontario, Canada on family fishing trips. We’ve also really enjoyed site-seeing in Washington, DC, a relaxing weekend in the Berkshires, and a wonderful days at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville and in Forest Park in St. Louis. But I believe that our best trips are yet to come – we’ve recently taken delivery of a Winnebago View and, by the time this is published, we’ll be on our first RV trip with our dogs. We’re really excited to have the flexibility to travel for longer periods of time, and therefore, greater distances now that we have a home on wheels! Our travel plan is not to have a plan.

DLD: What are some good weekend getaway ideas that I can take my pets on?

Rod: Certainly, what/where you can get to for a weekend is dependent on where you live. That said, we find pet friendly wineries make a fun get-away. We all know about Napa’s wine country – but there are wine making regions all around the country, and a trip to one near you can be wonderful! Check GoPetFriendly.com to see if there are pet friendly wineries in your area, and find a place where you can stroll through the vineyards, enjoy a picnic lunch, and take in fantastic vistas – with your pet. Of course, there will also be great wine! What could be nicer for you and your pal?

If you are thinking about taking a trip with you pets, I highly recommendGoPetFriendly.com as a great research tool to help make your trip planning easier, and your trip more enjoyable. You can also visit Rod’s blog and follow him as him takes the new GoPetFriendly Winnebago on its inaugural trip by visiting the GoPetFriendly blog at http://www.gopetfriendlyblog.com.

If you have other tips and tricks to help make travelling easier and more enjoyable for you and your pets, please leave a comment and share them with us.

Cheers

Kevin, Jackie, Gavin, Annie, Tosha, Elbee