Dining Out, Hotels, Safety, Vet Care and Food: How Dog-Friendly is Mexico?

My 5-year-old, 26-pound miniature Australian shepherd Penny es mi vida y mi mejor amiga (my life and my best friend!). I have had her since she was a mere 7 weeks old, and ever since, I’ve never been away from her for longer than a month! 

In her five years on this earth, together, we’ve gone to about 40 United States, Mexico and Canada. (Me, I’ve been to all 50 states and 22 countries. But I guess I’ve lived a little longer than she has.)

So naturally, when I decided to travel to Mexico for six months in 2022, I knew I would take Penny, and I would drive. But different countries = different rules about dogs. Dog owners and Mexico travelers: here’s what I’ve encountered…

Mexico is fairly dog-friendly for dining out and accommodations. 

In the U.S., it’s fairly typical to see dogs allowed on patios but not allowed in indoor dining scenarios. But this is not a universal rule in Mexico. We’ve been allowed both indoors and outdoors, in cafes, bars, courtyards, wine cellars, restaurants and rooftops… so it seems to be at the discretion of the proprietor or based on how we look. To date, we’ve only been turned away twice, but then we turned a corner — and another restaurant awaited.

The question to ask is: “Se permiten mascotas?” I also add that Penny is “muy tranquilo” — she’s very calm and well-behaved — and of course, it’s quite apparent how cute she is. Oftentimes, Penny gets a little bowl of water delivered to her before the rest of the table gives their drink order, or a cookie!

So far in Mexico, I’ve brought Penny into stores and tiendas, into taxis, and on walks and tours. And I recently learned that even the library in San Miguel de Allende is dog-friendly! Who would’ve thought?

And as far as pet-friendly accommodations… it’s a mixed bag. There seems to be a higher percentage of hotels and Airbnbs that accept dogs, but the fees seem comparatively higher than in the U.S. I’ve been quoted fees of $7.50-10 per night, which doesn’t sound all that bad… until you realize that ends up being a 25% surcharge from the room rate. And it really adds up for long-term stays! It’s a question I now have to ask before any potential booking, as that has a big impact on my total bill.

I have to be highly alert regarding her safety.

As a female solo traveler, I have to keep aware of my surroundings. As a female solo traveler plus dog, there are extra dangers I watch for.

With the abundance of street dogs in Mexico, I’m constantly on alert while we walk about town for approaching dogs or packs of dogs. Not only that, but pets owned by locals are not often kept on leash.

I’ll tell you — street dogs were probably my biggest fear before coming to Mexico. But largely, what I’ve found is this: street dogs do not want an altercation, and sadly, they’re used to being abused by humans. When a dog eyes Penny in a manner I don’t like, raising my arm at them as if to prepare to throw a rock has been enough to get them headed in the other direction. (This really goes against my animal-loving core, but a mama bear will protect her cub!) I’ve had to scare off several, but also, Penny will send off a warning growl if one gets too near. Dogs that live on the street have to be adept at reading cues if they want to survive. (However, stray dogs in packs could be an exception. I stay far away if I see a pack.) 

Another thing to note? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news… but stray dogs (or packs of dogs) that have exhibited violent behavior do not live for long in Mexico. The locals will not put up with street dogs that are aggressive to people and pets. 

In actuality, what’s been most concerning are pets that are not socialized with other dogs and have pent-up energies. I have had to pick up Penny on a few occasions when these off-leash dogs are out and come hurtling towards us. Once, an owner had to kick his dog to get him to redirect his focus! It’s been recommended I look into emergency tools such as a cattle prod (yikes!) or pepper spray, but I’ve yet to search these out.

While a dog fight is one thing, getting sick is another type of danger. Since Penny is the type of dog to eat first, ask questions later… while I’m watching for dogs, I also keep an eye out for stuff on the ground that I wouldn’t want her to try to eat.

Veterinary care is widely available and affordable, but quality food comes at a premium.

Speaking of getting sick, it’s been encouraging to see veterinary care seems to be plentiful, and in hearing from others, pretty affordable in comparison to the U.S. What is comparatively less available and less affordable, however, is specialty dog food.

I brought a very large bag of dog food with me from the states (one of the benefits of driving!) but I will need to replenish it in probably the next month. I won’t be able to find her exact brand, but there are many brands that I recognize. Interesting fact: you can also buy generic pet food by the kilo at tiendas everywhere. Plus, there are Petcos in Mexico — which is where I’ll probably go to refill her flea and tick treatment next month.

… and the one thing I didn’t expect before coming to Mexico? Big, scary noises.

One thing you should know about bringing your dog to Mexico is that Mexicans celebrate A LOT… with big, loud noises that sound like cannons or gunshots going off nearby. These are cohetes, and every time one fires (which sometimes feels like a few times a night) — Penny trembles and pants uncontrollably for at least 20 minutes each.

Overall, Penny is NOT a sensitive pup. She’s been on trains and planes and boats and in all types of weather, and I’ve never once had to give her any drugs. But this noise is apparently terrifying, and every time one goes off she trembles and pants, and I try to comfort her as best I can. I really hope that she’ll be less sensitive to this noise over time, because pobrecita (poor baby!).

In summary… traveling with my dog in Mexico has generally been so far, so good. I love having my best friend by my side, and it’s worth it, in spite of all the added considerations. But only you can decide if it makes sense for you and your dog to travel to Mexico!

Questions, or want an update on anything printed here? Leave a comment or send a DM on Instagram!

https://youtube.com/shorts/9qjero4peGg

13 thoughts on “Dining Out, Hotels, Safety, Vet Care and Food: How Dog-Friendly is Mexico?

  1. Aww! I’m so glad it is dog-friendly there. I feel bad for the street dogs – I don’t dislike them, I just think every dog deserves a safe loving home and it makes me sad that they don’t have a home. 😦

    How heavy is Penny? I think I assumed she was too heavy to pick up, but she must be lighter than I thought!

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    1. I do too… it’s a sad reality 😢 I think many of the local people do try to help. I’ve even seen dog food laying out in some places!
      Penny is 26 pounds, so toddler-sized. In a pinch I can hoist her up, but I don’t regularly carry her just if dogs are around. It’s only if one seems quick-moving or potentially aggressive.

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      1. Nice! I am glad people try to help them. Food plus the nice climate down there probably makes their lives easier, so that’s good!

        Yeah, 26 pounds is less than I thought… but still heavy to carry for long periods of time. She is so cute!

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  2. Thanks for this post – it was very helpful. We’re heading to Mexico with our two toy poodles for and I was wondering how dog-friendly the restaurants are.

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  3. Hi Julie,
    Thank you for this info, I am also hoping to relocate to Mexico in the fall. I will be bringing my still pretty active senior jack russell with me and I do worry about dogs attacking him. He is very calm and easy going and very well socialized with other dogs. I’ve walked in in off-leash parks with him and my previous dogs here in Canada for over 20 years. The dog food I know will be a bit of a challenge for me as he’s is a raw fed dog, I know in Mexico it is non existent to find pre-made balanced raw food for dogs, so I am prepared to go to a butcher to have them cut and grind up some food for him. Can you suggest some good dog loving towns that would be a good fit for us to settle, with a large mercado, with a butcher, and also some places to go on hikes in nature, which I love doing back here at home. I was thinking about Ajijic area,?? Maybe San Miguel de Allende? I am open to any suggestions. I actually would like to buy a place with a yard and start a dog sitting service for expats/locals when they want to go travel, as well as a holistic education for those interested as well. (I’ve heard good dog sitters are hard to find there).
    Thanks
    P.S Please be aware flea and tick prevention is very dangerous for your dog, it cause seizures and cancer(basically a pesticide) there are other ways to prevent pests, like geranium oil, cedar wood oil and feeding you dog small weight appropriate doses of garlic. (Yes it’s safe) I’ve been studying holistic health and care for myself and dogs for many years. I suggest that you pick up a book called “the forever dog” written by Dr. Karen Becker. (Integrative vet) Also follow her on most social media platforms. She is among many that are great resources for a more natural/holistic approach to raising our fur children for and longer and chemical free life. Thanks again for sharing your story 😊

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    1. You will find the raw dog food in Mexico City. My guess is, as well as some other big cities in Mexico. Also, Petco’s are pretty common throughout Mexico and from what I can recall most of them carry premium brands! ☺️

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