How to turn your dog into your new pub buddy
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How to turn your dog into your new pub buddy

With lockdown lifting and a sunny summer on the way, we’re all looking forward to heading back to the pub. Whether it’s a Sunday roast with the family or Pimms pitchers with friends, it’s well overdue. And who doesn’t love a pub dog?

Many of us will have a new buddy in tow when returning to the pub, with the UK dog population growing by approximately two million since the start of the first lockdown. But for pandemic puppy owners, their new pal may not have ever set paw in the pub. With crowds of people, lots of noise and interesting smells, it can be a scary or overstimulating place for a dog to visit. It’s important therefore, to look out for your dog and make sure they are feeling safe and comfortable in this strange new environment.

One organisation that knows how to introduce dogs to any situation is the charity Guide Dogs. The largest breeder of working dogs in the world, they train more than a thousand guide dog puppies every year to be confident and calm in all kinds of public spaces, so they can be by their owners’ side wherever they go in the future.

Canine behaviourist Dr Helen Whiteside, Guide Dogs’ Head of Research, shares her top tips for introducing your pup to the pub…

Get your basics sorted!

Well before your first visit to the pub, have some skills in place. Your dog, whatever their age, needs to have a good understanding of table manners at home first. Dr Helen says, “It’s really useful for puppies to learn how to just settle quietly next to you. Find a mat or a towel that they can lie on and make that a spot that they get treats for sitting and laying on. This builds a positive association. See if they can stay there calmly while you have a cup of tea at home first, and take it from there. You can always take a little mat with you to the pub and give your dog their own space.”

Impulse control is another big one to master. You don’t want your dog begging for scraps of your lunch or jumping up at the passing waitress.

“Making sure your dog is sitting nicely before greeting you or someone new is really important,” says Dr Helen. “Some people do not like being jumped on by dogs, and as your puppy grows it can even be dangerous! Whenever your dog leaps up at you, simply don’t give them the attention they are craving. Turn your back, look away, and only reengage when they have four paws back on the floor – and ask new people meeting your dog to do the same. Your dog will soon learn that sitting nicely and waiting patiently will get them lots of fuss.”

Prepare for success

It stands to reason you’ll only be visiting pubs that are dog-friendly, but if you’re planning a long visit with a lunch, it can be worth calling ahead to let staff know your have a pet in tow. They might be able to give you a more suitable table, perhaps one with more space and away from the main walkways.

Dr Helen says, “It’s worth packing some bits and pieces to keep your dog occupied. Fresh water is a must, as not all pubs have water bowls out. Pack a bag of yummy treats, so you can reward your dog for sitting nicely by your side and build up a positive association for being in the pub. And a more substantial treat, such a stuffed Kong toy, with a mat or blanket, can be good to keep them occupied if they have a quiet space to lay down and chew.”

Be a kind owner

Once at the pub, don’t forget about your friend. We may love to sit in the sun, but dogs can quickly overheat, so make sure they have a spot in the shade. Then check in regularly - if your dog is happy and relaxed by your feet, that’s fantastic. But it’s worth knowing the signs your dog struggling to cope.

“Other pub-goers will want to say hello to your dog and that’s great,” says Dr Helen. “The pub can be a great place for them to meet new people, which is critical for socialisation. But make sure any interactions are managed.

“People should always ask before petting a dog they don’t know, and if someone comes in to touch your dog without speaking to you first, interrupt them! If you are happy for your dog to meet people, make sure your dog isn’t cornered and their body language is relaxed. Any lip-licking or ear-flattening means they are worried and should be given space. But if your dog is waggy-tailed and happy to engage, go for it.”

Dr Helen continues, “Pubs can be loud and crowded, with lots of strange people, noisy children and even other dogs. If your dog is showing signs of worry, such as hiding or cowering, they might be feeling overwhelmed. Give them a break and take them outside or away from the seating areas. If they still won’t relax, it’s best to go home and try again in the future, perhaps on a quieter day.”

Looks to the experts

Guide dogs in training go into shops, restaurants and on public transport almost every day, and from a young age. These critical experiences will allow them to not only to happily visit these public spaces in the future but guide a person with sight loss through them expertly.

Dr Helen says, “Our dogs are successful because of the work we put in at an early age to build up these experiences slowly and with positive associations. If you’d like a confident and calm pub buddy by your side, make sure your dog has good associations with your local. Don’t put too much pressure on them, and build up the length of your visits. Make the pub a place they get praise and treats, a place they can relax and make new friends.”

For more expert advice on training your pet like a guide dog, sign up to Good Dog!, the training subscription from Guide Dogs. For just £10 a month you will receive advice and guidance from our expert trainers and dog care specialists, step-by-step training videos, new ways you can enrich your dog's life and gifts for you and your dog in each mail pack.

https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/good-dog/

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