From our 12 regional pub winners (decided by your votes) our pack of expert judges are the ones who have the tough task of crowning our National winner—the UK’s Dog-friendly Pub of the Year. We sat down with each of our judges to find out what they look for in a dog-friendly pub and why they’re proud to be a judge in the Rover Dog-friendly Pub Awards.
This year we have a new judge joining the Rover Dog-friendly Pub Awards panel, Paul Fleckney. When Paul isn’t writing for The Guardian or reviewing the latest comedy show, you’ll find him scouting pubs across the country for pub dogs. Paul’s book Great British Pub Dogs follows his journey across the UK meeting the canine residents of over 70 pubs! This makes him an obvious choice to judge the awards this year.
You dedicated a whole book to pub dogs, so clearly, you think it’s important for pubs to open their doors to pooches as well as their two-legged patrons. But why?
I think dogs are a calming presence in a pub, and they bring a kind of warmth that you otherwise don’t get. They are also an ice-breaker, and get people talking to each other, which is probably all too rare these days!
We’re sure you’ve visited many dog-friendly pubs over the years. What are the key things that you look out for when it comes to dog-friendliness? What will make a pub stand out against the rest in choosing the National winner?
Providing bowls and food/water and toys makes a real difference, it becomes a reward for the dog once they get there, but probably most of all it’s about the kind of atmosphere that the staff and managers create – if they are hospitable to dogs and their owners and go above and beyond, then that sets the right tone.
This is your first time as a judge and we’re very excited to have you on our Judging Panel. What makes you proud to be part of the Rover Dog-friendly Pub Awards?
I’m really proud to be part of these awards! It’s helping to encourage warmth and community spirit and helps make pubs into proper civic assets that feel like a home to as many people as possible. A lot is said about how communities aren’t what they used to be, but small things like dog-friendly pubs can make a big difference in how people in a community engage with each other.
We definitely agree that community spirit is very important! So you’re in your perfect pub, what does it look like?
Oh wow, I’ve thought about this a lot! Definitely a dog for starters. Probably a cat too, if that’s not too controversial. Also a piano, for weekly singalongs, I like separate “bits” to a pub, so that it can accommodate lots of different types of punters, so a TV bit for sporty types, a quiet bit for quiet people, an outdoor bit too. Live music a few nights a week, as that’s quite rare now too. Where do I sign?!
And finally, if you were a pub dog, which breed would you pick and why?
Maybe a beagle?! They’re quite curious and always have their nose to the ground.
Voting has now closed in the Rover Dog-friendly Pub Awards. However, you can still explore the range of pubs we have on our website. Head to the dog-friendly pubs’ page to find your new friendly local and maybe add a few more to the list.