I am the proud and very besotted owner of Clara, a nearly eight-year-old Jack Russell. We adopted her from the DSPCA in September 2020 during one of the pandemic lulls, and three years later she’s a core part of the family. In fact, I’d even say she’s the centre of the family.
Clara goes out with us a lot, both for meals and drinks, and we are fortunate to live in Dublin 8 where there is a large number of dog-friendly venues. She’s a well-behaved dog generally, but it took quite a bit of effort – and a hell of a lot of dog treat bribery – to get to this point. Clara first needed several months to settle in fully with us after the DSPCA inspector handed her over, and then extra attention to get used to going places without barking up a storm.
Although I had grown up on a farm surrounded by working dogs (my father still proudly wields a picture of infant me asleep in my pram with a border collie curled up protectively alongside me), there’s a big difference between having a dog in the open countryside and managing an energetic Jack Russell in the urban environment.
With Clara, we mainly stick to the casual end of the market, such as cafes and pubs, which is where the bulk of dog-friendly hospitality is to be found. Bringing out a dog means always being on alert, and it’s often nice to leave the dog at home and enjoy our meal without that worry. However, Clara has occasionally ventured upmarket, including a highlight trip to Galway’s Michelin-starred Aniar, which has one table available for canine guests. I’m both relieved and glad to report that she didn’t make a holy show of us, and was even treated to some special dishes of her own from the kitchen.
This prompted me to think about dog-friendly hospitality around the island. Were my experiences with Clara typical? I contacted fellow dog lovers and asked them to share their experiences and thoughts. Based on the answers, it’s clear that there is a demand for more dog-friendly venues where four-legged guests are just as welcome as their humans, while also highlighting that people are very conscious of their duties as responsible dog owners when bringing their dogs out.
Jamie Vincent, Belfast
Jamie Vincent lives in Belfast with his husband and their two chihuahuas. At 14 years, Nacho is the elder statesman, having been with the couple since he was a pup. In recent times Nacho has been revitalised by the arrival of rescue dog Winnie, who Jamie estimates is three to four years old.
Jamie happily admits that the couple’s dining-out decisions are based on the dogs, who they consider to be a huge part of the family. “The hospitality industry in Northern Ireland is getting better all the time at welcoming dogs. Smart venues see the value in attracting visitors and families by allowing them to include their canine family members. They are moving with the times.”
There is an active community of dog owners in Northern Ireland who use social media to share their favourite spots and provide feedback. At last count, the Facebook group “Dog Friendly Everything Northern Ireland” had circa 26,400 members, and Jamie frequently uses it to source tips for their next trip.
When asked what makes a quality dog-friendly venue, Jamie says: “Venues that acknowledge the dog, as opposed to simply paying lip service. Places such as Ownies Bar and Bistro in Carrickfergus really go the extra distance by delivering bowls of water and little treats of roast beef or sausages to the dogs. We are loyal customers to venues that give us and the dogs a good experience.” Among the many spots in Northern Ireland that Jamie names are Pug Uglys Bar in Belfast, Saltwater Brig in Kircubbin and Hillside in Hillsborough.
Jamie’s top tip for eating out with your dog is: “Do your research. Know which venues allow dogs indoors versus outdoors. Choose environments that are welcoming to your dog.”
Sarah Hanrahan, Dublin
Sarah is a woman with a huge grá for bull breeds, having been the owner of beloved Stanley for years until his recent death. Along with her husband Sean, she made the decision to get another bull breed, this time choosing to rescue Staffy-cross Tony from a kill shelter in Northern Ireland, where he was scheduled for euthanisation. Initially nervous in his new home, Tony is now happily settled, although Sarah expects he will always be somewhat affected by his early experiences.
“My day is often planned around Tony, work permitting. Perhaps a coffee in a cafe, then a walk to Smithfield Market, followed by a cosy pint in one of our locals. Barber’s Bar in Grangegorman is extremely welcoming to dogs, even providing a doggy watering station with a tongue-in-cheek warning to ‘drink responsibly’.”
A firm advocate for our capital city, Sarah reckons that she has close to 200 dog-friendly Dublin venues listed on her Instagram account @i_come_undone. “I only list venues that allow dogs indoors. I don’t consider venues that are outdoors-only to be truly dog friendly, especially when uncovered.” She notes an increase in the number of places leaving treats or poop bags on the counter for dogs, or even going so far as to offer dog food menus. She rates venues such as the legendary Fumbally, the delicious Shouk in Drumcondra, Bonobo in Smithfield, the Vintage Inn in Irishtown and BrewDog in the Docks.
“There can be mixed attitudes to the bull breeds, with some people apprehensive, and others happy to see the breeds when well-controlled with responsible owners. If taking your dog out for the first time, my advice is to keep it casual and listen to your dog. Leave when they have had enough and be mindful of dog-on-dog etiquette. Not every dog wants to talk to every dog and human.”
Eamon Barrett, Waterford
Eamon is the owner of Nero, an eight-year-old French Bulldog, and Henry the Chihuahua. Nero’s sibling Louis died last Christmas after a short illness and Eamon is still feeling the loss. “Louis was a dream dog to take out and about, whereas Nero is more rambunctious, although he has quietened somewhat since the loss of Louis.”
In contrast to Jamie and Sarah, Eamon feels that the hospitality industry in Waterford and the south is not yet at the same level of dog friendliness as reported in Dublin and Belfast. “I mostly don’t try to bring the dogs out when eating due to limitations in choice. Loko in Ardkeen is one of the few local spots to offer a full indoor dining experience. Owners Jamie and Nichola are big dog lovers, and it shows in their welcoming attitude in Loko.” Also getting a good mention is the outdoor area at GIY Waterford, Arch Coffee, Wich+Brew Coffee and the 360 Cookhouse in Dungarvan.
In contrast, Eamon speaks about his experiences travelling around Europe, where hospitality is much more welcoming to “man’s best friend”. “I’ve seen a couple get up from their table at a high-end restaurant in Vienna followed by their husky emerging from under the table. He had been so well-behaved that I had had no idea he was there,” he says.
“The hospitality industry is missing a genuine opportunity. Many people consider their dog to be a core part of the family, and in some cases, people will have spent thousands of euro on a pup. They want that dog to be an integrated family member and to be able to more fully share the family experience when out and about. The casual end of the market is catching up, but the higher-value locations also need to figure out how they can capture some of the dog-friendly market.”
As a dog owner, Eamon is more than happy to compromise. “Some people are frightened of dogs, or have allergies, while venues also have to stay on the right side of food safety regulations. I completely understand that. Perhaps venues could dip their toes in the water by adopting a dog-friendly policy one night per week, and see how it goes.”
Dog lovers Sarah, Jamie and Eamon have shared their favourite spots, but here are 10 other great spots from around the island to share with your furry best friend.
30 Mallow Street, Limerick City; 061-312657, riftcoffee.com
This small independent coffee shop and wine bar is all about the quality and sustainable things in life, working with multiple coffee roasters to provide a rotating selection of blends. They’re also mad about dogs, welcoming them indoors with treats while their owners enjoy one of the speciality coffees or low-intervention wines.
1 Middle Street, Galway, Co Galway; 091-539884, cavarestaurant.ie
On occasion you will see beloved dog Sam pop up on the social media feed of Irish chef JP McMahon. But it’s a bit of a secret that dogs are welcome in both of his restaurants, Michelin-starred Aniar and the more casual Cava Bodega. Having recently celebrated its 15th birthday, Cava serves up classic and modern tapas, while well-behaved pooches will also get their own treats.
The Anglers Bar & Restaurant
Leemount, Carrigrohane, Cork, Co Cork; 021-2355699, theanglers.ie
Over the years, the Anglers has grown from a cosy pub close to the river Lee into a buzzing gastropub with lots of space, and even a gorgeous outdoor greenhouse room. Ever-popular with large groups for social events, it’s also very popular with dog owners, with dogs of all sizes welcome both inside and outside. Lucky pooches will even get their own doggy chair on which to relax after their walk along the riverbanks.
Centre Park Road, Cork, Co Cork; marinamarket.ie
Located in one of the old Ford factory buildings, Cork’s Marina Market is a vibrant mix of tasty food trucks, cafes and other vendors. The large space indoors and outdoors makes it extremely dog friendly, with plenty of room for all to stretch out. There are hydration stations dotted around, occasional dog events and even the odd doggy-wear vendor to help you fashionably kit out your dog.
Harbour Industrial Estate, Harbour Road, Bray, Co Wicklow; 01-2761795, dn8.ie
Chef Derek Blount wants to make everyone feel that they just experienced something special when they leave Dockyard, and that promise even extends to our four-legged friends. Serving a breakfast-and-brunch-style menu seven days a week, dogs are welcome in the well-covered outdoor space, perfect for a stop after a walk around the harbour.
Skinny Batch Food Co
Clay Cottage, Dublin Road, Lusk, Co Dublin; 01-8949197, skinnybatch.com
Skinny Batch cafe is all about the coffee cake. You don’t necessarily have to have coffee (sourced from Two Spots Coffee) or tea with your coffee cake, but it certainly helps. As well as delicious cakes, there’s an extensive breakfast and lunch menu, while dogs are warmly welcomed both indoors and outdoors.
The Lamppost Cafe
16 Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 3HT; 00 44 7493 829671, thelamppostcafe.com
With a whimsical CS Lewis theme, the quirky and fun Lamppost Cafe is a charming spot with an all-day menu, afternoon tea, delicious tray bakes and evening small plates menu, all served on vintage crockery. But of greater interest for us dog lovers is their doggy menu, which even offers a frozen yoghurt for those warmer days.
St George’s Market
12-20 East Bridge Street, Belfast BT1 3NQ; 00 44 28 90435704, belfastcity.gov.uk
Cork may have the English Market, but Belfast has St George’s Market, and unlike its Cork counterpart, it’s dog friendly. Dating from the 1890s, the market is open Friday to Sunday with a wide variety of stalls ranging from fish and food, to books, crafts and antiques. Dogs are welcome on a lead and water is available at the May Street entrance.
The Cheeky Piglet
Fumbally Square, Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8; 01-4544498, thecheekypiglet.com
Owners Clau and James are huge dog lovers, and right from the outset their cosy cafe has been geared equally towards dogs and humans. Dogs are greeted with water bowls, treats and scratches, while the large courtyard space means there’s plenty of room for a stretch and sniff. Clau’s sister is in the kitchen, bringing their native Brazilian influences to the tasty cafe-style menu.
536-538 South Circular Road, Rialto, Dublin 8; 01-5582489, thecircular.ie
Look out for the large stone eagle sitting atop the Circular, an old Dublin pub that has found a new stretch of life in recent years. With multiple bar areas of differing sizes, plus outdoor seating to the front and rear, there’s a seat for everyone and every dog. Lucky dogs get to stretch out on the comfortable pub seats, while owners get to enjoy craft beers, wines and even the ever-excellent Lucky’s pizza.