If you miss your tail-wagging best friend while traveling, or just want some quality interaction with a lovable dog while on the road, you’re in luck. A growing number of hotels, resorts and spas are incorporating dogs into guest activities.
Studies have shown that playtime with pups can elevate the mood and reduce anxiety—things we intrinsically seek out when taking a vacation. Gazing into a dog’s eyes can boost the production of neurochemicals that serve as natural antidepressants and help to calm anxious minds.
While these scientifically-backed stress-busting benefits are a great reason to add some Fido-focused playtime to your itinerary, the opportunity to simply have FUN with a furry friend inspires most to seize the opportunity. In some cases, the interaction can result in an even more meaningful souvenir: an adoption.
Dogsledding in Ely, photo courtesy of Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge
RIDE WITH SLED DOGS
Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge | Ely, Minnesota
Spend your vacation learning the art of mushing in the unofficial “Sled Dog Capital of the World.” The Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge in Ely, Minn., has been offering sled dog experiences, from half-day tours to multi-night adventures, to young and old alike for 30 years. The lodge has a team of 65 pure-bred Canadian Eskimo dogs (also known as Canadian Inuit dogs), which are instinctively hard-wired to pull up to twice their body weight at a pace of up to 6 mph. Guests get hands-on experience harnessing and assembling these Olympic athlete-caliber dogs and go on exhilarating rides through the Minnesota wilderness. However, Founder and Director Paul Schurke says that time back in the kennel feeding and socializing with the dogs brings just as much enjoyment. “Our dogs are friendly sometimes to a fault,” Schurke says affectionately of his furry family, all of whom are cared for under the guidelines of P.R.I.D.E. (Providing Responsible Information on a Dogs’ Environment). “Guests love to linger in the kennels. I usually have to pry [guests] out of there.” When there is a new litter of puppies on property (which stay with the pack and are never commercially sold), he adds that “word gets out” among former guests who love to return for puppy socialization. Schurke says the lodge attracts people from around the world who share a love of dogs and a sense of adventure, and the winter season can book up by early autumn. It’s best to email the lodge directly and request getting on the “sneak preview email” for first crack at dogsledding dates.
Parker Concierge, courtesy of Park Hyatt Chicago
MEET HOTEL DOG AMBASSADORS
Park Hyatt Chicago, St. Regis Aspen
Dogs have transformed into valued staff members at select hotels across the country. One of the most popular employees at Park Hyatt Chicago is a one-eyed pug named Parker. Rescued from an abusive situation, she was adopted by the hotel in 2016 and now lives the luxe life at this hotel in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. When Parker isn’t napping behind the front desk, she spends her days greeting guests and playing an integral part of the hotel’s children’s program. Plus, all proceeds from the hotel’s required pet deposit go to PAWS Chicago, the rescue organization that saved Parker. At the St. Regis Aspen, Kitty the Bernese Mountain Dog became a member of hotel staff in 2018. He assists in airport pick-ups; hosts story time and happy hours; and provides good-night snuggles to guests.
Photo courtesy of Mattie Allen and Lisa Phifer
PLAY WITH PUPPIES
an Ojo Spa Resort | Santa Fe, New Mexico
Ojo Santa Fe is a destination spa resort that offers a variety of therapeutic experiences for guests seeking to relax so they can re-enter the world happier, healthier, and recharged. One of the most unique offerings within its menu of spa treatments and yoga classes is an experience called The Puppy Patch. The experience is simple: cuddle, snuggle, and play with puppies. The onsite experience is offered daily in partnership with Espanola Humane, a local rescue organization, and is a win-win for both the humans and the pups. “We found that animals have a beautiful way of getting into people’s hearts,” says , Animal Expert at Ojo Santa Fe. “It doesn’t take words to feel the joy, playfulness, and connectedness to nature we experience through dogs.” The pups, meantime, get a chance to socialize stress-free outside of the shelter environment -- and, in many cases, the experience has led to an adoption.
BEFRIEND AIRPORT THERAPY DOGS
Multiple locations across the United States
Airports can be stressful—something that airport therapy dogs help to alleviate. More and more airports across the country have established programs where certified therapy dogs, usually sporting “Please Pet Me” or “I’m Friendly” patches, walk with handlers through the departure gates to greet weary travelers and airline employees. Delayed passengers, bored kids, anxious travelers, those who may have recently lost a pet, those who are on their way to a funeral—these are just a few examples of people who’ve benefited from cuddle time with these special dogs. San Diego International Airport introduced the “Ready, Pet GO” program five years ago and currently has 20 dog teams serving the airport, with breeds ranging from Golden Retriever to Poodle to Labrador Retriever to Bernese Mountain Dog. At Denver International Airport, more than 120 therapy dogs are in its CATS (Canine Airport Therapy Squad) program. As an endearing touch, each dog has a “business card” that features his or her photo alongside some personal facts. The cards give passengers a tangible memento of their experience – and are a hit on social media, inspiring some Denver passengers to actively seek out certain dogs before their flights.
Special Note: All travel, including accommodation and attraction operations, are subject to frequently-changing restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips.