Traveling With a Restricted Breed of Dog

June 21, 2011  

Guest post by Amy and Rod Burkert of GoPetFriendly.com

GoPetFriendly.com is a website dedicated to people who want to travel with their pets. And we know what it’s like to travel with a restricted breed.

A little background …

Back in the day (i.e., May 2008), we already owned one dog – Ty, a cutsie 3½ year-old, 35-pound Shar-Pei. Then Buster found us. Abandoned in Philadelphia, Buster was cowering behind a construction dumpster on our street. A rambunctious (we’re being kind) 1-year-old, 70-pound black German Shepherd soon became a loved member of our family.

That summer, we were planning a fishing trip to Thunder Bay, Ontario. It was going to be a three-and-a-half-week, 3,500-mile road trip. Crossing in and out of Canada. With both Ty and Buster. In a Toyota RAV4.

We had completed this trip once before with just Ty … no problems. But now we had Buster. It took us two days to find the seven hotels we would need during our travels. Our hotel criteria were simple: accept two dogs (one of whom breaks most weight restrictions and is frequently listed as a restricted breed), and don’t charge us an exorbitant pet-cleaning fee.

So after two days on the Internet, we bagged our hotels. But we didn’t know where we could stop along the way to exercise our dogs, where we could stop along the way to see things with our dogs, or even where we could stop along the way to eat with our dogs.

During our road trip I vaguely remember saying something like “There’s got to be an easier way [to find pet travel information]. No wonder people don’t travel more with their pets.”

Fast forward to today …

Finding Buster led to the launch of GoPetFriendly.com in June 2009. We’ve since sold our home. The RAV4 is in storage. We now travel full time in an RV with Ty and Buster. We’re a pair of “recovering accountants” trying to change the world of pet travel.

And we’re doing it with a restricted breed.

We’ve found that most of our challenges are related not to where we go, but where we stay. We get around Buster’s weight limit by camping in RV parks. However, we came to learn that German Shepherds are the fourth most restricted dog breed, behind pit bulls, Rottweilers and Dobermans. And those restrictions are most evident at campgrounds. At a recent stay in Zion National Park, a sign at the reservation desk boldly proclaimed “No Pitt Bulls, Rotweillers, Dobermans. Thank you.”

When we make hotel/campground reservations, I never hide the fact that we are traveling with two dogs (and, as ambassadors for the pet travel community, we never try to sneak our boys into any accommodations). Our typical spiel is to say that we are traveling with “a 30-pound Shar-Pei and a sweet 75-pound German Shepherd.” We then hold our breath and hope for the best.

Fortunately, we’ve only ever been knocked out of four or five campgrounds as a result of Buster’s breed … this, after 10 months and 27,000 miles of pet travel through 30-some states and two Canadian provinces. The restriction has either arisen out of a municipal ordinance or a campground’s insurance policy. We could shrug our shoulders about the breed restriction, but the truth is that it sucks when it happens.

But traveling with a restricted breed has not prevented us from seeing the sights we’ve wanted to see. Just to name a few, we’ve visited big cities (Chicago, Washington, San Diego), national parks (Bryce, Grand Canyon, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone), tourist destinations (Black Hills, California wine country, Florida Keys), and iconic landmarks (Biltmore Estate, Corn Palace, Monticello).

Honestly, we don’t feel we’ve made any gut-wrenching sacrifices to travel with Ty and Buster. A goal of GoPetFriendly.com is to connect pet lovers with businesses and service providers that will help make their travel experiences with their furry friends exceptional. Why? Because we believe that if it is easier for people to travel with their pet, more pets will get to go on vacation, and that will encourage more businesses to “Go Pet Friendly.”

So hang in there if you are traveling with your restricted breed. You can do better than just getting by (or worse, leaving your dog at home) with a little bit of perseverance, luck, and travel tips from GoPetFriendly.com.

Safe journeys!

GoPetFriendly.com is changing the face of pet travel by making it easy to locate pet-friendly hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, beaches, wineries, dog parks and much more! Make plans to include your pet on your next trip, and connect with GoPetFriendly on their blog, Twitter and Facebook to get tips from the pet travel experts.

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Comments

31 Responses to “Traveling With a Restricted Breed of Dog”
  1. Wonderful story. My parents recently made a trek from Illinois to their new home in Spokane, Washington, with my 8-year-old dachshund, Rusty, with them. They had a great time, and they were lucky to never have to think about whether or not they would be allowed because of our beloved dog’s breed. I can imagine the hurt and annoyance that could easily arise with breed discrimination when the dog is a beloved member of your family. My best to you!

  2. StubbyDog says:

    @annedreshfield Thanks for your comments Anne, and yes it’s terrible to think that some people have to go through all this just to travel with their beloved pets.

  3. RodBurkert says:

    @annedreshfield We are incredibly lucky that Buster is “only” the 4th most discriminated against breed. We rarely encounter Pit Bulls, Rottweillers, or Dobermans in hotels or campgrounds. And many places use the any “aggressive breed” catch-all to further limit the dogs they feel like accommodating. And remember, a big part of this is related to sensationalized news stories resulting from the bad actions of a few owners.

  4. @RodBurkert I don’t doubt that most of this comes from news stories that blow up in the media. It’s sad, but true. My aunt and uncle have Rottweillers and they don’t take them anywhere — probably because of the restrictions.

  5. mellonzusa says:

    Fantastic story! We have two breeds, both of which are frowned upon, purely for the way they look, yet they are both sweet friendly dogs. We are planning a road trip next year to Colorado and plan to take our “kids” with us. I have all saved Gofriendly.com to my favorites & will be checking it out to help plan our trip! Thank you so much for sharing!! 🙂

  6. mellonz says:

    Ps love the photo with the statue! lol

  7. DeFoe says:

    Sure, you can “get by” traveling with your German Shepherd “with a little bit of perseverance, luck, and travel tips from GoPetFriendly.com” because German Shepherds don’t suffer bans in entire states, cities, and even counties throughout the US. You “got by” because the places you went banned breeds that are typically banned, that are considered “restricted breeds,” and in case you didn’t notice, are the subject of this website. You “got by” because your dog is the fourth most restricted breed. Fourth. That’s not exactly very restricted.

    You were thrown out of only two campsites on your trips, unlike most of the dog owners here who wouldn’t even be allowed through the front gate because of their dogs’ appearance. We can’t enter hotels, tourist sites, campgrounds, shops, restaurants, and like I said WHOLE CITIES across the country. I would bet that one of the Canadian provinces you successfully traveled with your German Shepherd is one that bans “pit bulls,” forces them to wear muzzles in public, and seizes and destroys them. That must have been so difficult for you… Have you been to Denver on your trips? How are dogs of the fourth most restricted breed faring there? How about the first?

    I appreciate your article, but owning and traveling with a German Shepherd is nothing like it is with a “pit bull.”

  8. StubbyDog says:

    @mellonz We are so glad you found this article helpful. Here is another fan based article (tips actually) that may help you as well when you are traveling with your kids.

    http://stubbydog.org/2011/06/pit-bull-friendly-vacation-spots/

  9. schwangbach says:

    We love your site and hearing about your travels, because most people don’t even think of traveling with large dogs. You show that it really is possible to incorporate large dogs into your travels. It’s also interesting how different breeds of dogs are perceived in different areas. I almost feel like we live in a “positive pit bull bubble” because our Chicago neighborhood is so open and welcoming to pitbulls where so many people will come up to ask about them and pet them, but just the other day I was thinking about how unfortunate it was that people are going out of their way to avoid the 2 German Shepherds on our block (that are actually very sweet). We do enjoy hearing about your travels and we’re excited to see where you go next!

  10. Two Pitties in the City says:

    We love reading about your travels because so many people don’t even think it’s possible to travel with large dogs, but it’s great to see all the places you’re able to take your 2. I also think it’s interesting how different breeds are perceived in different areas. I think we’re very fortunate because our Chicago neighborhood is so welcoming to pitbulls that I often forget how they might be perceived in other areas. I was just noticing the other day how people go out of their way to meet our dogs, but then they also go out of their way to avoid the German Shepherds living on our block (who are actually quite sweet). We’re excited to read more about your journeys; keep up the good work!

  11. stuphsstuff says:

    your dogs are adorable. 🙂

    when i walk my dog, tank, people see him and cross the road. a woman picked up her small child and stared intently at me and the dog until we passed them. we’re talking about a dog that loves nothing more than bathing you in his saliva while he’s being cuddled. honestly, i feel as though traveling with my pittie pie would be a bit more difficult, but look forward to reviewing your tips and seeing all the places you’ve gone. your dogs looks so happy!

    thanks for all the work you put into your site.

  12. StubbyDog says:

    @DeFoe Perhaps it’s not the same as traveling with a pit bull, however, we appreciate Rod’s insights from a personal standpoint and what he is accomplishing with his site. Thank you for your comments. Hopefully, it will get better for those traveling with pit bulls in the future, that’s what we are all working toward.

  13. RodBurkert says:

    @stuphsstuff Thanks for the comment and compliment! A good friend of ours has a pittie that works as a therapy dog. Anyway, if you ever need some “personal” advice about traveling with Tank, don’t hesitate to email me directly at Rod [at] GoPetFriendly [dot] com.

  14. RodBurkert says:

    @Two Pitties in the City Glad to hear you’re following our travels! In addition to Buster being a German Shepherd, he is also mostly black – which makes him look a little scarier. He is also fearful/uncomfortable about meeting other dogs on leash. He manifests this by barking and getting his hackles up. (Off-leash, he is absolutely fine.) So we also have to be careful where and when we walk him, and we are working with him to get over his fears.

  15. RodBurkert says:

    @mellonz Good luck with your trip to Colorado – it’s one of our favorite states to travel in because of the pleasant climate. Just an FYI, the campground we are staying at now specifically restricts Chows and Malamutes. And for what it’s worth, Motel 6 does not have a breed restriction unless the municipality has a restriction. We love traveling in our small RV because it allows us to better insulate Buster from encounters that increase some of his fears (see my comment above to Two Pitties in the City).

  16. RodBurkert says:

    @DeFoe Candidly, it is easier traveling with a Shepherd than a Pit Bull (or Rottweiler or Doberman). And while I said in a comment below that we rarely encounter these three breeds, it does not mean we don’t run into them at all. Thus, some people are finding a way to do it.

    I feel like your comment contained much sarcasm and negative energy, and I am not sure why you have directed it towards me. While my post discussed traveling with a restricted breed, even though it is “only” the 4th most restricted, GoPetFriendly is also active in trying to change the perceptions of breed restrictions … as I imagine you are, too. And until the perceptions and laws change, we are offering information, tips, and ideas for people who want to travel places with their restricted breeds – even though it may be the third, fourth, or fifth place they want to go.

    By the way, to make travels easier we have gathered detailed pet policies for most of the hotels and campgrounds that are listed on our website. If there are breed restrictions, they are noted on our pet policy.

    I wish you luck in your travels, and as I said in the comment above, please feel free to email me directly if you have questions.

  17. bostongrlnvegas says:

    OMG! Thank you so much for this site! I have a pit & a lab tha I live and breath for. I take them everywhere. I believe it’s my job as their mom to make their lives rich and exciting (as they do mine). I am always looking for activities & outings for us. And, as for vacations…I never enjoy them if my babies aren’t with me. THANK YOU SO MUCH for all you do! I feel like you made this site just for me & I’m grateful!

  18. RodBurkert says:

    @bostongrlnvegas Stop already … I’m blushing! Actually, it’s comments and praise like yours that keep us going. As recovering accountants, no one ever gushed over the tax returns we prepared for them. So it’s nice to read that we are making a difference in the lives of people who travel with pets. Email me directly if we can ever be of more direct help.

  19. micaelamyers says:

    Adorable photos and a great resource for people traveling with pets. Thanks~

  20. roritravel says:

    What Amy & Rod and the boys (Ty & Buster) are doing for pet traveling families and the canine-members who are too often misunderstood is important and appreciated. We used to have a German Shepherd, Bailey, who was truly the sweetest soul ever. We didn’t have issues, but we didn’t get to travel with her often.

    And I do admit, there are too many bad pet parents who make things a problem. But equally, there are ignorant, misinformed and foolish authorities in municipalities and such who still believe that it is a breed that is the problem rather than an individual adult or in turn, animal.

    “Pet Friendly” does not mean fees, restrictions, and limits, but until businesses get that, pet families will still struggle, yet thankfully less so with GoPetFriendly.com.

    I’m honored to call Amy, Rod and the boys friends and equally honored that I can share their adventures as I do.

    – Rori, Rori Travels Florida

  21. RodBurkert says:

    @roritravel Thanks Rori. Traveling with Ty and Buster – and the nomadic lifestyle we are blessed to have – has become a mission. Certainly, on one level, it’s about giving people the resource they need to travel with their pets. And on another level, it’s about getting other people to accept the fact that some people really do want, and choose, to travel with their pets. Hope you are enjoying the beginning of summer ….

  22. Pit Bull Mama says:

    I have traveled with my pit bulls for years and never had a problem before this year. A very rude man informed me that he would not rent his “pet friendly” villa to my husband and I because we have Pit Bulls. I informed him what nice dogs they are and how the youngest is even a certified therapy dog. The man claimed something about his insurance policy. I told him that he can’t advertise on the website to be pet friendly if he’s not going to accept all breeds of dogs. The next day I got a phone call from his manager (who must not have spoken to him yet) to get out credit card to book the villa. When I asked about the policy, he yelled at me “those dogs turn on people!” I calmly tried to explain to him that the APBT scores better on the American Temperment Test than the Golden Retriever, but the man was not letting me speak and he hung up on me! The next day I posted a review on Trip advisor to warn fellow dog lovers about these men. I simply stated how rude the man on the phone was and how they need to state on the website their pet policy.

    A few days later I got an email from the owner asking why I did the review and would I take it down because it would hurt his business. I explained to him that breed discrimination is something that owners of Pit Bulls have to face every day. Had I known his policy, I wouldn’t have bothered with him and his rude manager. I asked him how he would like being singled out based on his race or gender? That’s what happens to my dogs all the time. They have done nothing wrong, yet people chose to hate them and not allow them onto their properties. I sent the man several articles for he and the other man to read, so that he could learn about Pit Bulls.

    I ended up finding another place to stay that is happy to have dogs, regardless of breed 🙂 and hopefully the two men will think twice the next time they say something about a dog that they know nothing about.

  23. RodBurkert says:

    @Pit Bull Mama Kudos to you for posting the review! One question I have. If you were renting a villa – and I am assuming it was a private one – who would be there for your pitties to turn on (even if they were inclined to do so)?!

  24. Pit Bull Mama says:

    @RodBurkert

    ha ha! Good point! We have stayed in many private homes before and never once had anyone say anything like this.

  25. roritravel says:

    Pit Bull Mama, Good for you and good for you using Trip Advisor. You had every right to and he had no business contacting you to ask you to take it down!

  26. StubbyDog says:

    @Pit Bull Mama We’re sorry you had to go through all that, but you dealt with it very well, and using the opportunity to inform instead of just getting angry. We are glad you found another place to stay with your wonderful dogs. Way to go!

  27. Pit Bull Mama says:

    @StubbyDog

    thank you StubbyDog! I never let an opputunity pass by to educate people about my beloved Pit Bulls. We are really looking forward to going to the B-E-A-C-H (have to spell it out or the Pitties will hear me and start doing zoomies!!)

  28. StubbyDog says:

    @Pit Bull Mama @StubbyDog Hee Hee, that made us chuckle!

  29. HuskyandMuttMama says:

    Could you perhaps give us a small list of the restricted dogs? My husband and I would love to take our dogs on trips with us once in awhile, we have a husky and a husky lab mix. And sadly on the top ten dangerous dogs list, huskies are ranked number four. So we don’t know if they would be aloud to travel or anything like that.

  30. micaelamyers says:

    @HuskyandMuttMama These sites show you what cities and states have BDL: rott-n-chatter.com and understand-a-bull.com

    As for campsites and such, that will vary for each one depending on the management.

  31. RodBurkert says:

    @HuskyandMuttMama Sorry it’s taken me this long to respond. We started a list of restricted breeds, but stopped when we got to 100. That’s right … 100. The reason there are so many is because of all the municipalities, towns, cities, states, and provinces across the US and Canada. Apparently, everyone can find an axe to grind with one breed or another.

    So what we did do was include a BSL section in the Tips & Resources section of the GoPetFriendly website. Here is the link: http://www.gopetfriendlyblog.com/tips-resources/breed-specific-laws/

    Hope this helps!