Dogs in restaurants: Yes or no?

Dogs in restaurants: Yes or no?

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In an age where dogs wear designer outfits and have Instagram accounts, we’re getting used to seeing them everywhere we go. 

But imagine being shown to your table in a restaurant. You sit down and take a deep breath; it’s time to relax, to eat, to chat. Then you look over and notice a dog sitting at the next table. 

Do you smile at the owner and gush at how cute their dog is? Or do you feel uncomfortable in the presence of a canine dinner companion?

As we wrote recently, who you eat with affects your gut microbiome. And according to Dr Megan Rossi, known as The Gut Health Doctor, pets also have a positive impact on your gut – increasing the diversity of microorganisms that support your health. 

And there’s an increasingly hot debate about whether or not our furry friends should have a seat at (or under) the restaurant table. 

It’s a dog’s world

Dog ownership significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as people sought company during lockdowns. In the UK for example, dog ownership grew by less than a million each year over the years leading up to 2020. But in 2021 alone, the number of canine companions increased by 3.5 million.

Naturally, the dog food market is growing too – with pet owners in the US spending $58.1 billion on food and treats in 2022. Many restaurants not only allow dogs through the door, but they also have a dog menu; with one restaurant in New York serving seasoned grilled chicken with sweet potatoes and string beans, followed by doggy ice cream. 

London’s most dog-friendly restaurant, M, holds events for dogs – with the owner reporting that one time a dog arrived at the restaurant in a remote-controlled Porsche blaring out the song Madonna’s Holiday.

The rise of social media has led to many pet parents wanting to share daily food-related adventures with their pooch. Research by The Kennel Club states that 55% of dog owners would stay longer in a restaurant that allowed them to bring their pup. 

But should pet parents be limited to certain dog-friendly restaurants, or should dogs be allowed in every eatery?

What are the rules?

In the UK, Food Hygiene Regulations require restaurants to keep pets out of the kitchen. Otherwise, there’s no law which says dogs can’t join their owners in restaurants, bars or other licensed premises.

Without a hard and fast rule then, it’s unsurprising that this is a subject causing conflict – not just in the UK, but around the world. Pets become part of the family; so emotions can run high when it comes to anything dog-related. 

In countries like France and Italy, you see dogs everywhere. They’re an accepted companion for all forms of dining. But in many other countries, it’s not the norm. In Saudi Arabia for example, you’d very rarely see a dog under a dining table. 

One writer and former digital nomad reported that several European countries, including Romania, Portugal, and Montenegro, didn’t welcome dogs in restaurants – and some banned them from marketplaces too. 

Two sides to the argument

A UK journalist recently wrote in the local news that dog-friendly places were off-putting, and it stirred up a social media storm. Dog owners and pet-free folk argued both sides of the debate. 

Some said that having dogs in restaurants is unhygienic, disruptive, and causes stress for other diners. When individuals have a real fear of dogs, their presence in a restaurant could be distressing; and some people are allergic, too. 

Others argued that there are plenty of annoying things other than dogs that can spoil a dining experience – and well-trained, polite dogs that are nestled neatly under the table can add to the dining atmosphere. So isn’t it unfair to tarnish all dogs with the same brush? 

Is there a right answer?

Perhaps not. 

There’s a reason why no one sells a home fragrance called ‘wet dog’ – and even in the most dog-friendly of cities, it’s reasonable to expect owners to make sure they abide by certain standards of cleanliness and quietness before they take them out to dinner. 

But in the right places, with space (and hard floors), calm dogs can be a perfectly pleasant addition to the dining experience. 

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