Let’s welcome canine tourists | PostIndependent.com

Let’s welcome canine tourists

It’s high summer and Glenwood Springs tourism is humming with families from just about everywhere, eager to enjoy the many splendid attractions of our mountain town. Hiking, biking, rafting, whitewater sports for the rugged outdoor types, plus the variety of offerings at the Hot Springs Pool, adventure park, Jeep tours and other packaged experiences for visitors of all ages and fitness levels — Glenwood has something for everyone — except for the tourist families who bring their dog on vacation.

Even though we have more than a dozen hotels, motels and B&Bs that accept pets, what can they do during the day while the two-legged family members enjoy the amenities? Hotels don’t let them stay in the rooms unattended — even if you agree to forgo maid service and confine the dog to his crate. There is one dog day care, but lively play groups do not suit every dog.

Travel with pets has become much more accommodating since the advent of Internet resources like http://www.bringfido.com and others. Since pets are now considered family members by a majority of owners, businesses that want to attract them must adapt to compete. Tourism is a special category of travel, far broader than occupancy capacity alone.

Our town has become a mecca for middle-income families, the fastest-growing subset of which includes dogs. Destinations that explicitly cater to visiting sextiped families reap huge competitive advantages — as well as providing all-season benefits to us locals. What would it take to be able to honestly call our town a dog-friendly place to visit?

I can see some eye-rolls here: Who said we want to be a dog-friendly town? More dog poop everywhere, unruly dogs knocking over stuff, peeing on picnic tables, barking non-stop, leaving a trail of hair and muddy paw prints everywhere, chasing livestock and wildlife … why would we want to invite such mayhem? There’s a limit to what locals will endure to attract the almighty tourist dollar, isn’t there?

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I’d never deny that some dogs do this sort of thing. But it is usually not the well-socialized, well-trained ones who go on vacation with their families who display such uncouth manners — especially if they are allowed to accompany their two-legged companions. If we implemented a few perks for canine tourists, our own dogs would reap the benefits all year long.

I’m talking about things like investing in some shaded, monitored parking, for starters. People don’t leave beloved pets in hot cars for even a short time if they have any alternatives. It would be possible to construct and operate a safe parking structure, which would be perfect for some dogs and a highly valued perk to their owners. A pilot project could demonstrate demand, effectiveness and profitability without a huge investment. I know I’d use it all year round, and my dogs would get to come with me more often.

Many businesses could add some dog-friendly activities to their list of attractions that would be profitable, and could be enjoyed by locals all year round. How about the adventure park having an early-morning tram ride for folks with dogs, letting them walk back down on the trail after having brunch in the outside cafe? What about Jeep tours offering packages for groups with a dog or two? Some of the tamer float trips could accept a dog or two, with proper equipment and preparation.

Our town could benefit from having dog comfort stations, where dogs could relieve themselves in a civilized manner. Techniques developed in dog-friendly cities of Europe would be easily applied. Maintaining them would create summer jobs for teens, and reduce impacts on trails and parks. Think of the benefit to local dogs all year round.

A few valuable dog-friendly amenities would attract appreciative and underserved customers. Marketing Glenwood as dog-friendly creates an opportunity to set out our expectations with the welcome mat. Dog park locations and rules, trails where dogs are (and are not) allowed, prohibitions on retractable leashes in town and public indoor places — common sense measures, properly explained, would be respected.

Would it be the tourist dogs setting a good example for locals — or vice versa? I do believe that eventually, making dogs welcome, and expecting good behavior, would result in good manners becoming the norm. I’d bet a lot on that.

Laurie Raymond owns High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters in Glenwood Springs.

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