It's a dog's life! Why shops, hotels and restaurants are increasingly providing a warm welcome to our pampered pooches – Stephen Jardine

Who let the dogs out? Covid seems to be the answer to that. Dog ownership has jumped from 22 per cent of the population a decade ago to nearly 33 per cent today and the bulk of the rise took place during the pandemic.

Chefs are now preparing special treats for dogs, as well as humans (Picture: BIPS/Getty Images)
Chefs are now preparing special treats for dogs, as well as humans (Picture: BIPS/Getty Images)

That increase has put pressure on parks and public spaces but has also created big opportunities for businesses prepared to adapt to the new market.

Not so long ago dogs were like children, best seen and not heard and, wherever possible, left at home. Now with over ten million dogs across Britain, it’s a brave business that doesn’t welcome a four-legged friend. Or at least that is the theory, so to mark yesterday’s International Dog Day, I put it to the test.

Our rather large guinea pig for this was my 18-month-old terrier Frank who was fresh from the dog groomer to look his best for the experiment.

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First stop was the revamped St James Quarter and, specifically, flagship store John Lewis where well-behaved dogs on a lead are now welcome. Every owner will say their dog is well-behaved but the big test for me came when we rounded a corner by the escalators and Frank spotted a labradoodle loitering by the sunglasses section. The heavy scent of the perfume counter may have overcome his legendary terrier olfactory ability but whatever happened, the encounter passed without incident.

Next stop was Dobbies gardening shop in Stockbridge. The amount of greenery inside suggested much leg-lifting potential but that was resisted and rewarded with a treat from the nice lady at the checkout.

Lunch followed at Toast café on the Shore in Leith. Despite having limited space, they positively encourage dogs and Frank got lots of attention from staff and other customers.

So far, so good but the big test was yet to come. It’s one thing to put up with a brief visit from a dog and owner but what about an overnight stay? I’d booked into the refurbished Marine Hotel in North Berwick, which has developed a reputation for being especially doggy friendly.

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After a brief chat outside about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour from him, not me, we checked in. If some places tolerate dogs, the Marine positively encourages them. Alongside Frank, a couple of pugs, a whippet and a labrador were all in residence.

Our room had a dog bed, food bowl and some special biscuits, made by the chef. They also welcome dogs at mealtimes in the hotel bar. That’s a nice touch but given the state of Frank’s table manners, it was better for everyone if he dined alone.

We left him to do that with an episode of TV show The Dog House for company and went to have a very good human dinner downstairs in a room lined with canine portraits.

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Next morning we were up early and out onto the beach for a long walk. After breakfast we popped into a few shops on the main street in North Berwick to put them to the dog test and every one passed, offering a warm welcome and more than a few treats.

Frank loitered hopefully outside the butchers but some places are sacred so instead we headed home, reassured that Scotland’s famous warm welcome applies to dogs just as much as humans.

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