Owning a B&B Dog
We had a very difficult end to 2017 when we had to say goodbye to our dog, Murphy. He was nearly 16 and came to live with us just 2 months after we opened the B&B at Hopton House, over 13 years ago. He’d been my constant companion for those 13 years and, whilst I’m so grateful to have had him, I am still missing him very much.
Owning a B&B Dog
One of the reasons I chose to run a B&B was so that I could spend time and be at home with my dogs. We live in the countryside so there’s lots of opportunities to go out on long dog walks and I’ve grown up with and always loved dogs.
It seems I’m not alone. A large number of people who come on my courses are already dog owners or plan to get a dog or 2 when they are finally running a B&B. So I thought it would be useful for me to write a blog post on the pros and cons of owning a dog whilst you’re running a B&B.
A Bit of History
We moved into Hopton House in March 2004. It was a family home so we set about converting it into a B&B. At the end of July 2004 we welcomed our first B&B guests. We already owned a dog, Tess. She was a rescue from Battersea and was an old lady of 15 when we opened the B&B. Because she was nervous of other dogs we decided that we couldn’t accept guest B&B dogs.
After a final summer of pottering round the garden, and loving Shropshire, Tess died at the end of September. My husband was working away at the time and I was finding it very lonely being on my own, so I lasted 10 days before getting Murphy.
It was a huge shock to the system going from owning a very old dog to getting a 2 year old bouncing collie cross. It was also a huge adjustment in how I managed my day and my business. And just to make life a bit more difficult for myself, 6 months after getting Murphy, we welcomed Mitsi the collie lab cross to the B&B.
Guests and Dogs
A lot of people will chose a B&B to stay at because there are dogs living on the premises. Many of my repeat guests can’t own their own dogs because of work or family commitments, yet love dogs. The first thing some of these guests say when they come through the door is “Where are the Mitsi and Murphy?”
However, not everyone likes dogs and some people are allergic to them. So it’s important that you make it very clear on your website that you have dogs living on the premises.
I had a couple of instances, when we owned Tess and didn’t accept guest dogs, of people choosing to stay with us because I said we didn’t accept dogs. They had allergies or were frightened of dogs and had assumed we didn’t own one.
Tip 1 Make sure you mention that you have dogs ( or any other pets ) on your website, any social media and in emails to the guests.
Keeping your Dogs away from Guests
Despite making it clear to guests that we own dogs, I always try and keep them away from the guests when they first arrive. Murphy was convinced that everyone loved him and he loved everyone.
Despite training him to Kennel Club Gold Award, we never managed to stop him from jumping up. He was a collie gordon setter cross and 25 kg, so not a small boy. He also had huge paws. On quite a few occasions I had to wash guest’s jumpers or tops to remove 2 or more large muddy paw prints.
One time we had an elderly lady staying. She was keen to meet the dogs and, before we knew it, she was standing in our drive in just her pants with her elasticated skirt and Murphy wrapped round her ankles.
We also had a couple of close shaves when guests hadn’t shut our gate, or the dogs ran out onto the road when the guests were driving in.
When we got Murphy we had decided, after 13 years of having a dog sleeping in our bedroom, that he would sleep downstairs. Unfortunately on the first day we got him, we went to bed, left him in the lounge and then he started to woof. We had guests staying so we had to go down and let him upstairs to stop him disturbing them.
Tip 2 Decide how you will arrange the inside and outside space of your B&B to ensure dogs can be kept away from guests and don’t disturb them with barking
Cleaning and owning B&B Dogs
Whilst there is no law that says you can never have dogs in the kitchen at a B&B, you should arrange things so that they are not in the kitchen whilst you are preparing food. You will also need to be extra careful about cleaning down work surfaces and floors etc.
I always prepare food in chef’s whites, which are laundered daily, that I store and don’t wear around the dogs.
I have child gates to keep the dogs out of the kitchen. Both Mitsi and Murphy always settled into the lounge whilst I prepared and served breakfast.
One problem I found , with 2 long haired black dogs, was having black dog hair everywhere. For this reason I send my bed linen out to be laundered and ironed. I also use lint removers to go over the guest beds to ensure any stray hairs haven’t made it into the guest rooms.
It also means a thorough vacuum of the whole house at least once a day. And I’m driven to distraction by muddy floors throughout the winter.
Tip 3 Identify all the risks involved with having a dog with regard to keeping the B&B hygienic and clean and write a cleaning plan
Exercising your Dogs
Whilst running a B&B and being based at home can seem like the ideal opportunity to own a dog, hopefully you’ll also be very busy!
There are days when I get up at 6.30, prepare, cook and serve breakfast, check out guests, clean rooms, check in guests and barely have a spare minute till 17.00. Luckily Mitsi and Murphy were huge ball players in their younger days and we have just under 2 acres of land, so I was able to exercise them with a chuckit when I couldn’t take them out for a walk.
But even when you’ve finished all your chores for the day, you may find yourself unable to go and take the dogs out for a walk because you’re waiting for guests to arrive. My check in time is between 16.00 & 19.00. I ask guests not to check in earlier because I may be out shopping for groceries or walking the dogs, but not everyone reads what you send them. If guests don’t arrive till 19.00 I quite often miss the opportunity to take the dogs out.
Tip 4 Plan how and when you will exercise your dogs and make sure this is included in your B&B daily schedule.
Accepting B&B Dogs
Because Mitsi and Murphy were so friendly with other dogs, we decided to welcome guest B&B dogs. This has proven to be a great market for us, leading to many repeat guests. However it only worked because Mitsi and Murphy weren’t aggressive and backed off and disappeared if a guest dog were too bouncy or unfriendly.
Tip 5 If you decide to welcome guest dogs at your B&B, be clear on how this will impact your own pets.
So as Mitsi and Murphy got older, we all settled into a routine at Hopton House. Murphy no longer jumped up guests. Though I do have a video, taken of him a few weeks before he died, on his hind legs stealing sugar from a sugar basin.
I was very grateful Murphy died at a quiet time for the B&B. I would have found it very difficult, chatting with guests and presenting the cheery landlady face, feeling as I did.
March 2019 Update
In June 2018 we welcomed Saffy to the B&B. She was a 7 month old rescue dog. Again we experienced the huge shock of going from having elderly dogs who knew the routine to having a bonkers youngster!
In July 2018, we had to have Mitsi put to sleep. We thought we’d have her for a few more years after losing Murphy. She had arthritis and developed dementia. It was really tough to start with, I was dealing with training up a bouncy youngster, whilst grieving for Mitsi and still grieving for Murphy. However having her really helped me get on with things. I can’t really imagine not having a dog.
We’ve made some changes to our grounds. We put a fence in which separates the main bit of the garden from the driveway and gate onto the road. We don’t know why we didn’t do this 14 years ago! It means we can let Saffy out into the garden without worrying about her getting out onto the road when guests open the gate or jumping up at them. Luckily she loves everyone and will make a great B&B dog, when she calms down a bit more.
I hope you’ve found this blog useful. Please come along to Instagram and say hello to Saffy, who will be sharing her B&B adventures with everyone!