Traveling with Fido is gaining in popularity.
Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on BizNewOrleans.com.
As a frequent flier for the past 15 years, I’ve picked up on some trends in air travel – pajamas as acceptable clothing in public, four-star restaurants inside air terminals, a deep envy of those with TSA PreCheck – but the furriest trend is definitely the rise in pet travel, especially dogs.
A strange thing happened at the dawn of the current century: A certain hotel heiress with a reality show influenced millions of people, and one of the things she became known for was taking her dog with her everywhere. Suddenly, an entire generation of young people thought taking their dogs with them to the grocery store was hip and it became more socially acceptable. Today, humans love their “fur babies” more than ever and a multitude of companies have developed to accommodate them.
One such New Orleans-based company is Dig. “The Dog Person’s Dating App” was launched in the App Store in February 2018 and provides a platform for dog owners and dog lovers to meet and find a compatible date. The Android version is slated to launch this summer. Dig is everywhere now and its founders are traveling across the country to host launch parties and build brand awareness.
Leigh Isaacson, a co-founder and CEO of Dig, is a New Orleanian who knows dogs. She said that according to Psychology Today, 90 percent of pet owners consider their pet a member of the family. From that perspective, dog owners are making more informed, and emotional, choices when they travel.
“Although you don’t have to worry about boarding your dog because there are many great services now, such as Rover and Wag, that help make sure your dog is taken care of when you’re gone, it’s also easy to find dog-friendly accommodations where you’re going, too,” said Isaacson. “Because of that, there’s no reason to leave your family member home.”
Understanding how mobile Dig’s users are, Isaacson and her team have developed the app to use geolocation, which in turn helps users find “dog-friendly locations near you” no matter where they travel. Isaacson also recommends websites like BringFido.com, which has a New Orleans page, to find dog-friendly events in the city.
Of course she is a dog owner herself, and she has insider tips for travelers who visit New Orleans with their dogs.
“Thanks in part to the lively dog-friendly brewery scene, the food trucks and the very accommodating restaurants with patios, New Orleans has many options for dog-friendly outings,” said Isaacson. “Even Howlin’ Wolf open mic nights are dog-friendly! People know they can bring their dog and still experience some of the best parts of New Orleans. It makes us a much more attractive travel option.”
Other business owners have seen an increase in travel with dogs to New Orleans as well. Allison Albert is CEO of Pet Krewe, a New Orleans-based pet costume company that ranks as the No. 1 online retailer for pet costumes.
“Travelers are including their pets when they visit a new city,” said Albert. “Many times, we’ve seen our costumes used for out-of-town pet costume contests. People are also buying outfits so their dogs fit in at events here like Barkus, Jefferson Pet Fest and the Pride Parade.”
Whether in costume or not, there is a growing demand for locals and visitors looking for a safe place to exercise their dogs.
“We are experiencing tremendous growth of dog park equipment installations throughout the region – people want to make sure their dogs are healthy and active,” said Tania Hahn, president of Hahn Enterprises Inc. of New Orleans, a leading seller of gymnasium, playground and recreation equipment in Louisiana and Mississippi.
“I’m constantly at the dog parks around New Orleans,” said Isaacson. “My favorites are Gretna’s dog park and the Lafreniere Bark Park in Metairie. A run along the levee or at the Crescent Park Dog Run is a beautiful way to exercise together and view the city.”