There is one thing that makes a pub instantly a happier, more relaxing and warm place – and that is when there is a pub dog to greet you. Our newest judge for the Rover Dog-friendly Pub Awards, Paul Fleckney along with photographer Abbie Lucas, made it their mission in life to find Britain’s most endearing pub dogs, in order to create their book – Great British Pub Dogs. On their journey, they met a seriously diverse range of characters from pint-sized pups to a bilingual bulldog.
We decided to find out more from Paul about all the pooches that he met during his UK pub tour.
We think pub dogs are great but what made you decide to write your book? What fascinated you about pub dogs?
It was a pub dog that inspired the book! I was in a pub in Angel, north London, with my friend Abbie Lucas and a few others. A Staffordshire Bull Terrier swaggered past in a very fetching neckerchief, and it turned out that she was called Mascha and lived in the pub. Abbie is a photographer and fellow pub dog fan, so she and I set to work, seeking out pub dogs and angling for a book deal!
What fascinates me about resident pub dogs is that they are this symbol of “home”. As soon as you have a dog that lives in a pub, it makes it more homely and welcoming and makes it a place of respite. Ideally, pubs should serve a community, and so many pub dogs around the country provide a bit of temporary companionship for people who might not otherwise get it. They’re like a “community pet”, and the dogs also seem to love that role.
From meeting a variety of gorgeous, friendly pub dogs, you must have had a few favourites that have stuck with you. Who were the most memorable dogs for you?
This is almost impossible to answer! I guess Rudy – who we crowned Britain’s Cutest Pub Dog – is so handsome and charismatic and fun, he’s at a pub in Twickenham and is totally adorable. I also learned about myself that I love big dogs, so Dave the Irish Wolfhound in Kent is a favourite, as is Shiraz, a Newfoundland in Dartmoor. I also had a real soft spot for Charlie, this slightly silly-looking Bichon Frise who had a pub full of middle-aged men absolutely doting on him. Frank the beagle was crowned Britain’s Top Pub Dog as the whole pub seemed to revolve around him! A special mention also for Malibu Heartthrob in Suffolk, a poodle who is every bit as glamorous as her name. Oh! And the family of red setters we met in Sussex. I mean, I could go on…
With so many favourites, have you gone back to some of the pubs since publishing the book to catch up with the local pup again?
I have – my local pub dog is George the black lab in Brixton, south London. He’s one of Britain’s longest-serving pub dogs as he’s been there for over 10 years. He’s still a magnet for sausages. The family of Jack Russell cross dogs are still at their pub in Kennington, south London, they’re such a charismatic bunch, their personalities all seem to complement each other. I also visited the Golden Slipper in York, and they now have a second pub dog now to keep Pippin company.
What did you enjoy most about writing the Great British Pub Dogs?
The variety of dogs! The sheer range of breeds and personalities made it a huge pleasure to write up.
After meeting so many pub dogs, in your humble opinion, what qualities do you think make a great pub dog?
I would say a great pub dog is warm, friendly and welcoming. The very best pub dogs are emotionally intelligent, too, and can sense what a person needs – a few of the pub dogs we met did this, hanging back if they sense caution or fragility in a punter, and being extra-friendly if someone seemed sad. That’s high-level pub dogging. Playfulness can be great, but not everyone in a pub necessarily wants that kind of energy, so that can be a bit too much.
Having said that, a pub dog can be however they want to be! Most of them are incredibly socialised and friendly, and warm to whoever comes in. There were a few who were more shy or stand-offish but it still made such a difference to have a dog in the pub it didn’t matter.
If your regular pub visit starts with a warm welcome from a friendly pub dog then why not add them to Rover’s huge database of Dog-friendly Pub at pubs.rover.com. Don’t know a pub with a pub dog? You can also explore all the dog-friendly pubs that are in your area so you can find a new pub pooch to meet!