The relationship that human beings have with dogs has been developing for many thousands of years. Our closeness to our canine companions is such that we have managed to breed numerous different types of dogs that fulfil a number of different functions. There are dogs that have been bred to help fishermen haul in their nets, there are dogs that have the physique for search and rescue work and there are dogs that excel at retrieval in a hunting situation. However, by and large, the most common reason that people have dogs is that we simply enjoy the companionship and the non-judgemental love that they provide us. It is not for nothing that the dog has been called ‘man’s best friend.’
Our close relationship with dogs might go some way to explaining why dog-friendly cafes and restaurants are becoming a feature of the dining scene.
Let’s take a look at just why many people believe that there should be more of these types of venues available, and the barriers to entry.
Firstly, we spend large amounts of time with our dogs. we take them for walks in parks, transport them to the seaside, play with them in the garden and simply enjoy their company. Why then should dog owners not be able to share a dining experience with their dogs? The importance of canine companions has been recognised by many organisations across many industries. We see a rise in the number of pet-friendly offices, of dog-friendly hotels and even the willingness of airlines to accommodate ’emotional support dogs’ (which differ from service dogs).
The reason that dog-friendly restaurants and cafes have (until now) been slow to take off is the result (to a large extent) of two factors.
The biggest stumbling block to opening a dog-friendly eating establishment is compliance with relevant food and safety laws which govern restaurant operations. Owners are required to jump through a variety of legislative hoops before they can open their doors to those who are accompanied by their dogs. In many instances, the time-intensive nature of obtaining the correct licensing – and the costs involved can be prohibitive for the smaller cafe owner. The second is public opinion. There are many restaurant-goers that simply do not want to have a dog staring at them while they enjoy their meal or have the smells that may be the result of having dogs in the restaurant and cafe disrupt their enjoyment of a meal. Many also have the impression that dogs in a dining destination cause disruption and lower levels of service.
However, the barriers to entry for these sorts of cafes and restaurants seem to be lowering – albeit at a slower rate than many dog owners would like. There is new technology that is designed to remove pet odours from dining establishments and owners have now taken to segregating those parts of the restaurant that are dog-friendly from other diners. Legislators are also taking into account the growing trend towards accommodating emotional support dogs – and this is translating into streamlining the process of approval for allowing dogs into cafes and restaurants.
The wider trend of pet-friendly dining establishments is gaining traction worldwide. Although many countries have been slow to adopt the model there are those countries where it is the norm. in Tokyo, Japan there are in excess of 50 pet-friendly cafes. Aside from the now almost ubiquitous cat cafes, there are establishments that cater to animals as diverse as hedgehogs and owls. India has recently seen the opening of a restaurant that has an entire menu dedicated to canines.
Dog-friendly cafes and restaurants are on the cusp of the new normal – rather than an exception to the standard dining experience. For many dog owners, this is a welcome development.