If you travel with your dog and prefer small inns and B&Bs over chain hotels, it can be frustrating that so few allow pets. If you listen to some innkeepers' stories, though, you might understand.

At Les Artistes Inn in Del Mar, Calif., for example, a pair of Weimaraners crashed through a window when they saw another dog walk past.

"The owners had said, 'Don't worry, they'll be fine,'" owner John Halper said. "The 'fine' part was incorrect."

While most stays don't involves horror stories such as this, understanding the rules can make your vacation more pleasant for you, your pet and the staff.

Can your dog handle being alone?

The policy with the biggest impact on your stay is whether your dog can be left in the room alone. Innkeepers need to balance your desire to go out for dinner with the potential for property damage and the comfort of other guests.

"You wouldn't want to be in a room that had a barking dog in it all afternoon when you're trying to take a nap," said Tom Dott of the Lamb and Lion Inn on Massachusett's Cape Cod.

To test how a dog will respond to a hotel room, leave the dog for a short time while you "hang out by the pool, have breakfast," Dott said. "In that hour, if your dog's quiet, I'm sold."

How dog-friendly is destination?

The dog-friendliness of the destination is worth considering when planning trips.

Where Halper is located, near San Diego, bringing your dog everywhere won't constrain your activities much.

"We have 350 days of sunshine a year," he said. "There's a dog beach within a mile. There are lots of sidewalk cafes in town where dogs are allowed to sit with their owners."

But on Cape Cod, that's less common, so Dott provides a map of dog-friendly spots.

Read the fine print

Even in dog-friendly inns, pets often are allowed only in certain rooms. Some also have size restrictions.

Dott says they allow only small dogs in the busy season because of staff time constraints. "We love big dogs," he said, "but when you are going at record speed doing housekeeping in July and August, a big black Lab adds an extra hour" to cleaning because of shedding.