Hey there, dog lovers! It’s about that time of the month again: time to pull in one of our favorite dog bloggers and ask some of our most pressing questions about all things dog.
This month, we’re talking to Amy Burkert of GoPetFriendly.com. Here’s what we had to ask (and she had to say).
1. Tell us a little about you and your blog.
My name is Amy Burkert and I run the pet travel website, GoPetFriendly.com. My husband and I travel full-time in our Winnebago with our two dogs, Ty and Buster, and I blog about our adventures and pet travel in general on our blog, Take Paws.
2. How did Go Pet Friendly get started?
Rod and I started our own business in 2000—two accountants appraising other people’s businesses—and it was about as exciting as it sounds. One day we were coming back from our morning walk with our Sharpei, Ty, when a construction worker ran up to warn us about the “big black dog” he’d seen at the end of our street. I found Buster cowering behind the dumpster, clearly lost and terrified.
With no tags and no microchip we didn’t have much to go on, but we searched for his family, putting up posters, filing found dog reports at the local shelters, and broadcasting his picture on the Internet. No one came forward to claim him, so we adopted him. He was about a year old, 70 pounds, and pretty wild, but his eyes could melt any heart.
That was May of 2008 and it wasn’t long before I started planning a road trip vacation that we’d been talking about for months. Who knew how hard it was to travel with a big dog?! I started tracking down hotels where we could bring both dogs, where Buster wasn’t breaking any weight restrictions, and that didn’t charge ridiculous pet fees. Two days later I’d finally located where we were going to sleep, but had no idea where we could eat with the dogs or if we were going to be near a dog-friendly beach or park! It was just too hard to track down all the information and I didn’t have the time.
During that trip we decided that traveling with pets was too hard and rather than give it up, we wanted to do something to make it easier. When we got home, I started working on the website and in June 2009 we launched with listings for pet friendly hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, beaches, dog parks, wineries, and anything else we could find that was pet friendly.
Of course, when you’re traveling things don’t always go as planned, so we also included pet supply stores, veterinarians, pet sitters, and doggy daycare facilities—just in case. And then we created the road trip planner, so no one ever has to struggle to plan their family vacation the way we did. Now you can just enter the start and end points of your trip and watch your route appear on the map. Then, by clicking a few boxes, you can find pet-friendly hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, activities, and services along the way.
3. How often do you travel with your dogs?
Just before the site went live, Rod said to me, “You can’t very well tell people how easy it is to travel with their pets if you’re sitting in an office in Philadelphia.” Little did he know how that innocent statement would change our lives! A few months later we sold our house and bought the Winnebago. Once we started RVing we didn’t want to stop and now we travel full-time with Ty and Buster.
We get off the road for about three months each year at an RV park in Austin, Texas, but other than that we’re on the go—scouting out new pet-friendly destinations and looking for more locations to add to the website.
4. What are some of your favorite pet-friendly destinations?
Our favorite locations depend almost entirely on the time of year. For example, we adore Austin in the winter, but wouldn’t want to be there in August. Portland, Oregon is perfection in the summer, but we don’t want to contend with their wet winter season. Milwaukee, Wisconsin is gorgeous in the spring and fall and Provincetown, Massachusetts is a great place to spend some time on the beach. Honestly, there are so many great places to visit that it’s hard to go wrong.
5. Is there anywhere you wouldn’t recommend to dog travelers?
Really, anywhere you want to go is a good place to take your dog. Even places that people don’t think of as pet friendly, like many of our National Parks, can be great if you plan accordingly.
The only places I wouldn’t recommend traveling are those with breed discrimination laws that could affect your pet. Dogs are subject to restrictions and bans in jurisdictions across the country and the impact ranges from annoying to killer… literally. For example, the city of Denver will confiscate and execute a pit bull found within the city limits—even if it’s never hurt anyone. The province of Ontario, Canada works much the same way.
And it’s not just the pitties that are targeted! More than 100 breeds, including Akitas, Bulldogs, Chows, Huskies, Mastiffs, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks and mixes of any of those breeds are named in legislation. Educating yourself and being diligent are the best ways to protect yourself and your dog from breed discrimination laws.
6. How do you go about finding pet-friendly accommodations on your travels?
We use the GoPetFriendly.com website, of course! Seriously though, there are a handful of pet friendly hotel chains where pets stay free that we know we can count on. And we really do use the site to find campgrounds, RV parks, and hotels—mostly to look up their pet policies and check for breed and weight restrictions.
7. What are your top tips for those traveling with a dog for the first time?
First, brush up on your obedience before you travel. You’re dog is likely to be excited about being on vacation and may forget some of his manners. If you spend a little time practicing loose-leash walking and the basic commands before you go, you’ll both have more fun.
My second tip is to be prepared. Be sure to pack your pet’s vaccination certificate, take extra food and medication in case your return is delayed, and scan your pet’s medical records to a USB drive that’s easy to pack.
Next, underestimate what you can accomplish. Everything takes a little longer when you’re traveling with a pet, so when you’re planning the number of miles you can drive or the activities you can accomplish in a day, be conservative in your estimates. Remember, vacations are the perfect time to slow down and sniff the roses.
Finally, be flexible. Unexpected things are bound to happen, so be willing to rearrange your schedule or accept that some things might have to wait for your next visit.
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