Why more businesses are opening their doors to customers with paws

It is not so long ago that most shops and hospitality businesses would have a sign on the door, 'No Dogs Allowed'. Now it feels like there is a definite shift taking place with more venues becoming dog-friendly. And it's not difficult to see why.

Lockdown was, by definition, fairly isolating for many of us. One way some people looked to combat that loneliness was to get a dog. An extra 3.2 million pets were bought last year. So with more people owning animals, it seems businesses are seeing an opportunity, perhaps even a necessity, to welcome those animals as well as their owners.

We have spoken to owners of hotels, guest-houses and B&Bs around the country who say they now have rooms which they allow dogs to stay in, with some areas of their bars and restaurants which the dogs can also sit in.

And the trend isn't just noticeable in the hospitality industry. In town and city centres, no longer is it just assistance dogs whose paws are being allowed into stores. Although some indoor shopping centres still ban dogs, many shops which are in standalone locations are able to welcome pets inside, including some branches of:

  • Apple

  • Gap

  • H&M

  • John Lewis

  • Joules

  • Lush

  • Monsoon

  • Paul Smith

  • Trespass

  • Waterstones (at manager's discretion)

  • Wilko

The manager at one branch of Waterstones says they have been welcoming dogs around the shelves for several years:

This dog is happy accompanying its owner around a book shop Credit: ITV News

The other benefit for owners, as well as the convenience, is being able to use it as an opportunity to train their pet how to behave in situations where there are other people and animals.

But there is a note of caution. Not all customers will be fans of dogs themselves. Some may have allergies. Others might just find them a nuisance. And dog behaviour expert Louise Glazebrook says that is something businesses should think about when they make the decision to allow animals on the premises.

But with such boundaries in place, it does still look like the trend for businesses catering for customers with four paws as well as two legs will continue.

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