According to The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association there are 8.5 million pet dogs in the UK and 24% of all households own a dog. This is a staggeringly huge potential marketplace for pubs to exploit.
This guide will help you to decide whether, or not, to make your pub dog-friendly, how to go about it and how to make your pub a renowned establishment for all pooch-lovers.
Whether you’re on the verge of becoming a publican for the first time, or you’ve been one for a long time, one thing will probably always remain the same… you’d like to attract evermore customers.
Consider who your regulars are, who your occasional visitors are, and who might be missing from the party. There could be a big group of people who won’t visit your pub for a specific reason, e.g. is your establishment dog-friendly? Whilst the very thought of letting pooches into your pub might fill you with dread, it’s worth remembering successful dog-friendly and pubs only allow well-behaved pets inside.
A wide range of beer, wine and spirits, along with a tasty menu of food, and a cosy environment with friendly staff, all help to make a pub great. But, what helps make a great dog-friendly pub? The RSPCA and The Morning Advertiser have created a comprehensive list of the dog-friendly basics, plus a few bonus dog-friendly features for those who go the extra mile and, have some great advice for publicans.
Dog-friendly Pub Checklist
- Are water bowls always available – inside and outside?
- Is there clear signage saying that dogs are welcome?
- Does the website make it clear that dogs are allowed?
- Are owners and their dogs generally being made to feel welcome?
- Is there somewhere shaded during warm weather for dogs to lay?
- Is there somewhere owners can eat inside with dogs?
Going the Extra Mile
- Does your pub offer dog treats behind the bar?
- Does your pub offer a quiet area for the dogs away from the main noise of the pub?
- Is there a separate area where people can go if they’re not comfortable around dogs?
- Are there any ‘pet etiquette’ rules e.g. dogs should be under control whilst at the pub?
- Is there a place for muddy boots and wet paws to be left/dried (especially if the pub is near a walking route)?
What do dog owners want?
A recent survey of more than 2,500 UK dog owners noted:
- 60% of dog owners believe having a water bowl for their dog was very important
- 14% said dog-loving pub staff were an important factor
- 14% also claimed having outdoor space was a very important consideration
- 10% added freebies such as treats or toys were important to them (well, their dog anyway!)
And when asked what else they looked for, dog owners had the following suggestions:
- Signage to advertise the pub is dog-friendly
- A warm welcome for owners and their dogs
- Special dog-friendly food offerings on the menu
- Designated bins for dog poo (plus complimentary poo bags too!)
Why is being dog-friendly important?
It won’t surprise you that discerning pub visitors often do their research before heading out to a pub with their dog in tow. In fact, 70% of UK dog owners research dog-friendly pubs before paying a visit. However, it’s worth noting that 1 in 3 of them struggle to find a suitable dog-friendly pub, and 25% of the dog-owners surveyed had left a pub because it wasn’t dog-friendly, despite claiming to be so. Being dog-friendly is essential to ensuring sure the UK’s 8.5 million dog owners (and their dogs) enjoy spending time in their local pub, once of which could be yours.
Making Your Pub’s Trading Area Dog-Friendly
Making your pub dog-friendly starts with the furniture. Many pubs have already upgraded their furniture to more robust, modern materials, and are reaping the benefits of their dog-owning patrons.
If you allow dogs in your pub, you need to make sure your furniture is up to scratch (geddit?). While it’s the customer’s responsibility to ensure the dog is well behaved, the occasional chew or claw-dig into your pub furniture is almost inevitable, and so you’ll need good quality furniture to avoid permanent damage. Alternatively, you could go “shabby-chic” with second-hand furniture one doesn’t mind being damaged by dogs.
The type of tables you choose will depend on the style and aesthetic of your pub. Some pubs like a higgledy-piggledy mish-mash of table styles, lengths, heights and colours. Others prefer a consistent look across the entire establishment.
Taller tables give bigger dogs more room to sit comfortably with their owners, as they can rest underneath the table rather than being sprawled out across the floor. Meanwhile, smaller and shorter tables are ideal for visitors with smaller dogs, as it means they can be closer to them when having a drink.
For dog-friendly tables, consider those with cast iron legs; they’re sturdy and resistant to even the least well-behaved dogs’ attention. A tall square pub table with your choice of top would be perfect.
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to shorter pub tables. There’s a wide range of fantastic designs, from the well-made extended scroll pedestal table in dark oak and veneer (complete with cast iron legs), to lighter stylish designs like with chrome-plated steel legs making it hard-wearing and versatile.
Pub Chairs and Stools
If you’re going for that classic pub feel of wooden pub stools, make sure the wood is durable and strong, so it can withstand any dogs digging their claws in. If you need room to seat larger groups, you’ll want to investigate pub benches. These are perfect for dog owners as, with your permission, their canine companions can get up and sit next to them. If you’re a dog-owner you will know many dogs feel left out if they’re missing the table conversation.
Even if you don’t want to let dogs inside your premises, you can just allow them the run of your outside space. Many pubs these days are more than accommodating to dog-owners by providing drinking water etc.
Outdoor pub furniture can be just as stylish and sophisticated, without breaking the bank. Aluminium tables are perfect when there are dogs around; they’re durable, high-quality, waterproof and easy to clean. For more ideas on pub garden furniture click here.
Other Dog-Friendly Things
You can go all-out to make Fido’s visit more enjoyable, and thus win repeat custom from their owner by adding in such things as a dog bed, toys and old towels for rubbing down when wet (not everybody enjoys the aroma of wet dog), hooks for tying up dog leashes to.
Treating all of your diners with a custom service can follow through to customers’ pets too. You will be surprised by the range of dog biscuit and treat recipes available including seasonal offerings to help your establishment provide a seasonal offering for humans and canines alike.
One which I know pampered pooches enjoy are the canine candy canes from The Dog Treat Kitchen.
How To Get Dog-Owners To Visit Your Pub
Once you’ve made the decision to make your pub a dog-friendly business you will need to market your pub and its canine credentials. There are several websites listing dog-friendly pubs:
- Doggie Pubs is a non-commercial guide to happy eating out for dog-owners. They have well over 5000 pubs listed throughout the UK. Pubs get included by recommendation, they can’t pay to be listed. Eager publicans earn their listings by being dog-friendly enough to welcome dogs into their pub. So added bonus, it costs nothing to get registered on their website, but you will have to get someone to nominate your pub, which, they can do here
- DogBuddy is another great site with a great selection of dog-friendly pubs and they even hold an annual Dog-Friendly Pub of the Year awards. Your customers can nominate your pub here.
In either case, getting customers to nominate your pub for an award is a great way of engaging with your patrons and if you win it’s always good to have bragging rights and certificate to display. I should imagine winning either of the two awards (above) would be accompanied by some form of prize, and more importantly, free national publicity.
The Eagle pub in Norwich, Norfolk, introduced the (B)Eagle Dog Menu after it noticed it was losing sales when customers had to return home to feed the dog.
James Linder, landlord of the pub, has teamed up with natural dog food wholesaler Lily’s Kitchen and will be serving dishes like fishy fish pie and surf ‘n’ turf for canine customers.
The menu will be sold at cost price, with plans for a voluntary donation towards a charity with each doggy dish purchased.
James said: “We’re a very dog-friendly pub and one night we had eight groups in with dogs but four of them had to leave to feed the dog. We thought this would be a good way to get them to stay and enjoy their evening a little longer.
“People love their pooches and it’s a bit of fun, but it means we really can cater for everyone now.”
James’ own dog Murphy (below) has been fed Lily’s for years and can give the menu his lick of approval.
Inspired by my four-legged friend Toby Foley