What makes our traditional British pubs so great? Well, a pub dog for a start.
What makes a great pub? Plenty pubs try for the winning formula. Many get it badly wrong. For me, hand pulled ale is an absolute must. No hand pulled and I’m walking by. A lack of kiddies should also be a given. Pram in the tap room? I’ll be off elsewhere then. But one of the best, and most welcoming, sights in a public house is the presence of a pub pooch.
Lazing by an open fire. At the feet of his master. Bowl of water. Maybe a sneaky beer taster. Fresh from a walk. Or on ‘the walk’ itself. Snaffling round for rogue nuts and scratchings. Sniffing out recent canine visitors. Fussed over by other drinkers. Can I say hello to your dog? What his name? It is a he isn’t it? They’re an essential part of what makes British pubs so great.
I can recall the dogs I’ve met in pubs often better than the pubs themselves, the people or what I drank. Molly the Springer in the Tap and Spile in Harrogate. The Shiba Inus in The Crown in Stockport – one of my favourite away day pubs, or at least it was til the selfish sods got relegated. Poppy the Jack Russell in the Fighting Cock. Blue the big dog and Fritz in The Shipley Pride. The dog lazing on a settee in The Ashton Arms in Oldham. The massive German Shepherd behind the bar in Nantwich. The two dogs that popped in The George and Dragon, Aysgarth, after walking with their owners through the glorious Yorkshire Dales. They licked their crisp bags clean. The giant Newfoundland in the smallest pub in Otley.
There’s the resident dog. Sometimes grouchy. Heard only behind the scenes. Let out from a rear door. End of the night. A pent up wagging explosion whilst remaining regulars finish their pints. There’s the resident dog that lets you know when you’re sat in their favourite spot, but will happily share if you share your crisps.
Then there’s the dog regulars. Same time every day. Or week. Everyone knows their names. Greeted like any other friend. I know of an occasion when a fella on acting up, causing a nuisance and managing to rile a popular pooch visitor, was being shown the door when he piped up: “What about that fucking dog?” To which the landlady replied: “The dog’s a regular and you’re barred.”
There’s plenty of guides around now about dog friendly pubs, and a good website if you’re going somewhere new with your furry pal and need pointing in the right direction. Indeed, such is the popularity that pubs are even offering special dog beer and snack menus. Newcastle’s Brandling Villa, managed to gain them a fair amount of national publicity recently. Others such as The King’s Head in Gunnerside, North Yorkshire, offers the same – dog beer, pigs ears and assorted treats. A quick search on the internet brings up others, like The King’s Head in Woodbridge, Suffolk and The Travellers Rest in Huddersfield , a town it has to be said, that takes its love of dogs a tad too far. A personal favourite of mine is the Causeway Foot Inn, in Ogden, between Halifax and Bradford. It’s a great place for a walk, has excellent beer and a log fire. Not only is it dog friendly though, but they breed working Springer Spaniels and Weimaraners.
The perfect pub doesn’t offer fancy meals, doesn’t have settees, big screens, assorted bric-a-brac bolted to the walls, row upon row of mass produced nitrokeg fonts. It simply needs great ale and a friendly dog. Above are a few of the photos I’ve taken on my pub travels, all from pubs that allow dogs. Because if there’s a sign saying ‘No dog allowed’ then I’ll just head to another, better, pub for a drink.