According to research, dogs are the most common pet, with 31% of UK households owning one. For many, a dog is part of the family and as such, owners want to take their pets with them on days out. In response, hospitality operators are attracting and retaining customers, offering special dog menus, providing dog treats and information on local walks.

 Welcoming dogs makes sense if your establishment is near popular walking routes, but it’s not only countryside venues which are tapping into the trend. In London, the Artist Residence, a dog friendly hotel in Pimlico offers dog treats and water bowls, while Anita Gelato in Covent Garden serves a range of dog-friendly vegan sorbets. For those looking to pamper their pooch The Egerton House Hotel offers the Doggy Afternoon Tea with treats such as chicken and beef meatloaf, homemade dog biscuits and a carrot cupcake, and The Old Dunnings Mill in East Grinstead offers a three-course menu. Dishes include chicken and vegetable stew and beef meatballs with bone broth and for dessert – dog ice cream.

Catering for dogs needs careful management as not all customers are dog lovers. Lisa Salmon from The Sportsman country pub and The Hut coffee hut, Surrey, says, “It’s important for dogs to be kept on a leash inside as not everyone is dog friendly. Many customers come into the pub before and after their walks, while others bring the dog down for the evening. If there’s a problem, we always manage to work out a solution, usually with the dogs being kept apart in different parts of the pub or outside.” Lisa and her team offer their four-legged customers special sausages and have plenty of water bowls scattered inside and out. The pub even offers a dog washing service on site.

Ice cream for dogs has become increasingly popular. Suncream Dairies has developed Gelato Woof ice cream, which is available through wholesalers. It is a vanilla flavoured base made from potato flour and coconut oil. Stephanie Davies says, “We developed a product that was lactose free as many dogs are lactose intolerant. It has proved to be very popular.”

According to Grace Knowles from The White Lion Weston restaurant and hotel in Crewe, supplying a ‘Canine Code of Conduct’ is a good idea to outline expected behaviour for both dogs and owners. She also suggests introducing a reward system for well-behaved dogs and installing planters or decorative barriers to visually separate dog friendly areas. “It’s important to designate specific seating zones for customers who are allergic to dogs, create a serene environment for those who prefer a
quieter experience and invest in sound-absorbing material to minimise noise disruption,” she says.

Grace also suggests publicising your dog-friendly credentials to customers and encourage engagement with other dog-lovers. “Create a monthly ‘Dog of the Month’ spotlight on social media featuring a photo and fun facts about regular canine visitors or a ‘Doggie Wall of Fame’ where customers can pin photographs of their pets with captions. Introduce a loyalty programme where dogs receive a stamp for each visit leading to rewards such as vouchers. You could also consider hosting joint events with nearby pet shops or groomers such as ‘Pamper Your Pet’ days with grooming services.”

Whether you decide to offer dog treats, printed map walks or a full menu and grooming service, it all depends on your customers and what they are expecting. One thing’s for sure, the trend for dog-friendly venues isn’t going to go away any time soon.