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Bringing Up The Perfect Pub Dog

This post forms part of Boak And Bailey’s Go Longer weekend. Hope you enjoy it.

Wilson takes in Hawkshead Brewery

Wilson takes in Hawkshead Brewery

In 2010, after years of deliberation, my wife and I decide to buy a dog. As far as we were concerned, It had to be from puppy, as we wanted to mold our furry friend-to-be into the perfect dog; balanced, loving, tenacious. A companion through the thick and thin, a true friend with no ulterior motives .I however, did have one other other motive that my wife probably didn’t: the perfect Pub wingman.

You see, we’d coveted the ‘pub dog’ for some time.  We’d coo over Dachshunds, Spaniels and Terriers as we enjoyed time in our counties’ fair pubs. We’d  chuckle to ourselves as  the little guys sulked under tables, or waited as patiently as only dogs can, utterly focused on getting that one stray crisp or pork scratching that their owner would drop floorwards.

When you’ve built a decent career of dog-watching  you learn the little personality traits; some pub- dogs care only for their owners; others will casually inspect everyone walking through the door before passing judgement. Some will ferret and scout about seats and tables (if you’re a landlord who doesn’t sweep under banquets and booths, the dog will find the evidence) and remain an elastic -band ball of energy. Others only want shade and a friendly bowl of water.

I’m biased, of course, but I find it odd that there are people who simply don’t want dogs in pubs. Hygiene seems to be the main culprit; horror stories abound of dogs defecating in the middle of busy saloons or howling away like Cerberus whilst their owner nonchalantly sups his or her pint. In all my years of watching – and taking  – dogs in pubs, I’ve never come across anything like this. I’d always trot out the old adage in defence anyway; look at the owner, not the dog.

Anyway, back on story. We settled for a farm-born (does that make him organic? Free Range? ) Border Terrier, a breed we’d loved since seemingly being stalked by the scruffy brown bastards in a day out in Skipton years ago. They were everywhere. At that point, we assumed every country pub came with one of them as standard. Black Sheep bar runner? Check. Glassware? Check? Horse Brass and locally-sourced menu? Check and Check. Smiley, russet-coated punk of a dog trotting about charming everyone’s pants off? Check.

Soon our home had a new, four-legged addition. Agent Wilson was active. Now to put the plan into action.

Obviously we had to wait until he was of a certain age – and house-trained  (see above point) before venturing into a pub. We met a friend in Skipton (in a twist of serendipity) who also owned a BT (as we in the Border Terrier world call them, obviously) and ventured for a walk in the sunshine before hitting the pub. And, despite our obvious nerves at the first public showing of PubDog v1, he did ok; corralled and terrified in equal measure of his companion for the day, a feisty female who was having none of his infantile mores.

Galvanised, we ventured out again, not long after. Faithfully following  our new-laid rules, we walked the hell out of him before, only to find that almost as soon as we sat and I, more tired than him at this point, lifted a sweet golden pint to his lips, he began to whine. Another dog – a whippet as lithe as Kate Bush (and, with a gunmetal-silver coat, the otherworldly beauty to match) began to join in, leading to some Doppler-effect harmonising that wouldn’t have sounded out of place at…well, a Kate Bush concert (if she did them).

We were aghast. My pint began to disappear quickly as I ‘supped up’, and Louise’s cheeks were getting redder. The pub wasn’t busy (again, the rules – they are coming, just keep reading), although the Whippet’s owner was seemingly nonplussed. Eating a fishfinger sandwich with quiet intent and poring over her papers, she was either used to it, deaf, or both. Typically English, we tried to catch her attention; ready to offer some kind of apology, but to no avail. She was lost to the print. We, on the other hand, were simply uncomfortable.

So, as was dejectedly trudged back, our proud little performer thoroughly pleased with himself, we searched for answers. what had gone wrong? Yes, he was young. Yes, it was early days. But that was awful. We’ve never been thrown out of a pub – and weren’t close that time, really – but it was just embarrassing. What to do?

From day one, we’d trained Wilson to eat treats – Pig’s Ears and the like (which he adores in much the same way I do Pork Scratchings) on ‘his mat’. It was actually only to save the carpet from being covered in dog spit and shards of Pig’s Ear, but a pleasant side effect was that he equated the mat to being happy. And fed. The two sort of go hand-in hand with dogs.

So, after a good month or so, we plucked up the courage for another raid on a pub, this time with a train ride involved, and with all the other rules being followed. Except this time we had a secret weapon; a mat. A smaller version of his regular one. Plus, a few treats.

We strode into the pub, ordered beer and food (we must have been feeling cocky, looking back), proudly unfurled the mat under the table and went about our business. After his usual inspection of the place, Wilson felt the pub was up to his standard and  – OH! My Mat! I know what to do on that – I lay on it. And if I do, I might get a treat! How Wonderful! Yeah!

Making light work of a chew, Town Street Tavern, Horsforth

Making light work of a chew, Town Street Tavern, Horsforth

Needless to say, a good hour later he was chomping on a treat, we had clean plates, second pints had been ordered. Success. Parents, you know when your son scores his first goals for the school team, or when your daughter gets the ‘Mary’ role in her first Nativity? This is my equivalent. He just went up a grade. If there was a certificate, we’d have had it presented that day, replete with paw print on the bottom.

Not only that, but we relaxed. We had fun. We drank and ate at our leisure. When the bar staff came over, they commented on the handsome looks and downright good behaviour of our little guy. Other dog owners came in, wrestled with things for a bit, then skittered off. We quietly judged them, as you do when your dog is the best in the world. The pub became the ‘third place’ that we all search for; friendly to me, accommodating to my dog – who I want to drink with by my side.

Since then, we’ve progressed. We now don’t always need the mat. We’ve been to pubs in slightly busier times with success. We’ve had bad episodes (hunting down a pub that had at least five dogs at any one time ended up being sensory overload) but, overall, we now have our pub wingman. To us, they are simply part of British Pub Life.

Oh, those rules? Ok, here are my own personal rules for Dogs in Pubs. I know, I know; it sounds a bit patronising, but here are what I found works, and make the entire experience pleasant for your dog, you and your fellow drinkers.

1. Know Your Dog

What?! I do, how dare you? Seriously, though – highly strung dog? Don’t take it in a pub at office closing time. Likes treats? Take treats. House-trained? Christ, I hope so! Not good in hot weather and you really want to go lounge in a beer garden all afternoon? Then leave the dog at home. Seriously.

download2. Where to go?

If you’re lucky enough to have a dog-friendly pub near you, then great. If you’re not sure, then call ahead, email, tweet, whatever. Don’t assume it is, purely because it’s rural or something like that. Doesn’t like being petted? Then go at quiet times. In fact, the dog’s best hour in a pub is a quiet one. Unless it’s very used to it; imagine how disconcerting a loud, full weekend pub must be to a dog.

3. Respect Others

This ranges from respecting a pub’s decision to not allow dogs (perfectly reasonable) to your fellow drinkers, to general decent behaviour. Dog whining? Take it out. They do that when they want something or aren’t happy. Drop your beer for a second and go for a walk. I know it’s warm, but if it’s sitting in the doorway, move it. Visiting other tables or people? You may think he’s being cute, they might not. Pay attention.

Finally; landlords of wonderful dog-friendly pubs up and down the country – don’t forget the bowl of water. After all, you wouldn’t forget the beer for me, would you?

More reading: If you want to look at a slice of pub life through a dogs eyes, check out Dogs in Pubs. If in Scotland, there’s Dugs in Pubs. I’ve used Doggiepubs to help shape our decisions before, too. Here’s an incredibly pro-dog (and slightly hysterical) view from the Daily Mail (apologies). Here’s a recent blog by Keith Wildman on his love of dogs in pubs on Sabotage Times.

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