Monday marks the beginning of Be Dog Friendly Week (18 - 22 July), as businesses, workplaces and open spaces are encouraged to trial a dog friendly policy. With one in four UK households now owning a dog, there has never been a better time for establishments to embrace our canine companions.
But what are the benefits of being dog friendly?
Dog friendly public places such as bars, restaurants and hotels have found that their guests have an improved overall experience for a number of reasons including furry friends encouraging social interaction between customers. In a survey carried out by the Kennel Club, a staggering 96% of people said that an atmosphere was improved once dogs were present, and four out of five companies said that business had improved as a result of expanding their customer base to include our four legged friends.
Notable benefits for dog friendly workplaces include improved morale and attendance - 90% of employers surveyed noticed a positive change in the working environment after allowing dogs in the office, and reduced stress levels for workers - stroking a dog is proven to elevate the production of happy hormones, serotonin and dopamine, which in turn lowers blood pressure and reduces stress. Dogs encourage their owners to get away from their computers and get some fresh air. This increases productivity and creativity and so a dog friendly policy has a positive impact on the health, wellbeing and output of a company's workers. Half of all businesses also noticed a decrease in absenteeism when dogs were regularly present in the workplace.
Studies have shown that being dog friendly not only benefits our four-legged friends and their owners, but also the businesses themselves. A recent survey found that 72% of dog owners would go on more trips within the UK if they were allowed to bring their dog along, which could generate an additional £5 billion for the tourism industry.
However, despite the central place that dogs hold in their owners' hearts, many people experience difficulty taking their dogs out and about, particularly to restaurants. Two fifths of people say that they have problems finding a place where their dog is welcome while they eat, and almost half say that they'd like to see a wider variety of restaurants open their doors to dogs. Half of the battle is trying to eliminate the misconception that dogs are not allowed in premises where food is served, such as restaurants and cafes. This is not the case in the UK: it is only food preparation areas that are out of bounds, not areas where food is served and sold.
The Be Dog Friendly campaign, now in its tenth year, aims to break down barriers for man's best friend by encouraging more businesses and public spaces to welcome dogs. As part of this, the Be Dog Friendly Awards recognise businesses and places to visit that go the extra mile for dogs. The awards are held in association with dogfriendly.co.uk. Each year the public nominate and vote for their favourite dog friendly places across ten categories including best Town/City, Great Outdoors, Pub/Bar, Day Out and High Street.
As dog owners we need to ensure that the experience of a business or workplace welcoming your dog into their premises is a positive one so the Kennel Club have developed a 'petiquette' guide to ensure your dog is welcomed into dog friendly businesses again and again.
To find out more about becoming Be Dog Friendly please visit www.thekennelclub.org.uk/bedogfriendly or share your experiences on social media using #BeDogFriendly.