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Is taking the pooch on vacation a good idea?

IMAGINE a pair of doe-eyed newlyweds bubbling away in their private hot tub in a luxury honeymoon suite. So far, so romantic. Then picture a wild-eyed cockapoo bursting into their room and scaring the bejesus out of them. If that was you and your new spouse, I apologise on behalf of Mitzy, my friend Claire’s permed, button-nosed pup, who escaped from her hotel room, bumbled down the corridor and into the suite where she surprised the (apparently dog-phobic) newlyweds.

According to Claire, who was hot on Mitzy’s tail, the ensuing crescendo of screams and barks will go down in the hotel’s history.

A recent report by Eurotunnel says 2018 is set to be the most popular summer ever for pet travel, with some 67 per cent of pet owners planning to holiday with their fur babies. Why? Maybe because we’re in the Year Of The Dog.

Michael Bellingham, chairman of the current National Pet Month, reckons it’s partly thanks to initiatives from accommodation providers like Airbnb that offer more pet-friendly digs, as well as an increasing number of hotels, pubs and restaurants following their laidback approach. Dog skiing was big this winter thanks to a slew of new pet-friendly hotels opening up in the Alps. Hotel Magdalena in Austria’s Zillertal valley offers a swimming pond, an agility centre and even babysitting for its furry guests.

The doggy travel trend is proving popular enough to warrant a dedicated doggy travel brochure. No, really. Leading pet lifestyle and travel website petspyjamas.com has just launched its Travel Edit, the world’s first dog travel brochure. It currently focuses on pet-friendly holidays in the UK but now the government has pledged to protect the Passport For Pets scheme after Brexit, the founders of the site have plans to roll out in Europe by the end of the year.

This summer will be my first holiday with my own mutt, the effervescent cross-breed Miss Babs, who already has her passport, barkini and the new Dan Brown packed for our summer holiday in France.

I’m a little nervous about travelling with her as I’ve heard many a cautionary tale (tail?) about doggy gifts being left in the hotel lobby or villa, and even — rather horrifyingly — in the communal pool. My friend Claudia took her two Staffies, Betty and Lola, to stay in a pub in the Lake District. The normally well-behaved pups slipped their leads and ran amok in the posh restaurant, leaping on tables and helping themselves.

Another friend, Alex, says his Labrador cross once gulped down so much sea water while swimming on holiday in Italy that it squirted out of the other end, causing much mayhem on the crowded beach.

Who knows, if Miss Babs has a summer romance we might all end up at The Moorland Garden Hotel in Dartmoor National Park, which now offers a Dog Friendship Ceremony package. For £300, committed hounds can have use of a ceremony space, bow ties, plus a romantic framed photo and ink kit to capture paw prints to take home. It really is a dog’s life, after all!

Live like an animal

Berkshire

Pooches are given a five-star welcome at Cliveden House (doubles from £445, clivedenhouse.co.uk), a sprawling country estate near London. For £35 per night, four-legged guests can also enjoy the finer things in life, including treats, a comfy bed and even a room-service dinner.

Kenya

Sharing the breakfast buffet with a tower of giraffes is certainly a memorable way to start the day, and that’s what happens at Giraffe Manor (doubles from £360,thesafaricollection.com) in Nairobi. This 1930s house set in 140 acres of forest is famous for its long-necked grazing residents.

New York

In the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, Farm Sanctuary (doubles from £115, farmsanctuary.org) is home to 500 rescued animals. Free to roam the grounds, the cows, pigs, turkeys and other animals retire to their plush barns while human guests are equally as comfy in wooden cabins.