Why do dog owners need to take their pets everywhere with them? - Jayne Dowle

On a visit to Liverpool recently, my friend made an interesting observation. In a city home to almost half a million people, hardly anyone was shopping with a dog.

This sentence might have sounded preposterous even five years ago. But the pandemic has changed our perception of dog ownership.

Suddenly, with time on their hands, people decided that what their life was missing was a dog.

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And now, dogs are everywhere; pity the hotel or Airbnb host who would rather not welcome furry friends with paying guests. Pity also the dog-allergic person following such devoted canine parents – don’t you just hate that word, ‘furbaby’? – into the accommodation.

A dog asleep on a sofa at home. PIC: PA Photo/iStockA dog asleep on a sofa at home. PIC: PA Photo/iStock
A dog asleep on a sofa at home. PIC: PA Photo/iStock

According to the pet ownership website Dogster, using official figures, as of 2022, 13 million dogs live with people in the UK, making that around a third of all households.

After Germany, the UK has the second-largest dog population in Europe; dog ownership increased from 23 per cent in 2020 to 34 per cent in 2022. That’s a lot more dogs to contend with than at any point since records began.

And go to any town or village centre or public event, or visit a growing number of restaurants, pubs and bars, and there is no getting away from them. A fact which prompted the debate over the mysterious dearth of dogs in Liverpool city centre that Saturday afternoon.

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Could it be, I ventured bravely, that the right to tote your dog with you wherever you go has become yet another badge of middle-class privilege?

I once took my own dog to Norfolk, and let’s just say there was a fracas in the breakfast room with an entitled woman and her two (definitely furbaby) dachshunds. Our George has not been in a hotel since. Once (almost) bitten, twice wary, especially when you’re paying £25 a night for the privilege of having your pooch in your room.

Yet in a gritty city such as Liverpool, perhaps most folk have more on their mind than dragging a mutt through crowds and on and off public transport.

I was beginning to think my hard Northern cities theory might hold water until I went out for a pre-concert pizza in Leeds the other Friday night. As we all sat chatting and eating in a trendy city centre joint, out trotted a young couple with a spaniel on a red lead.

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Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a very devoted dog owner. My six-year-old rescue Staffie, George, never leaves my side. In the house, at least. And he does enjoy his walks and occasional day trips to the seaside, where we find a dog-friendly beach.

George is nervous around other dogs so he’s always on his lead, but that doesn’t stop other dog owners from allowing their own pets to come bounding up to him. Another case of owner-privilege perhaps? Whose fault would it be if, overwhelmed, George snapped at a dog on the loose?

I’ve had more than one such owner look at me askance, as if keeping my dog safe and feeling secure is animal cruelty.

Lucky them, I think, to have dogs with perfect recall. George’s start in life was horrific; he was found as a stray on the streets of Maltby in South Yorkshire, ending up in the police dog pound before being rescued by Yorkshire based-charity Good Life Dog Rescue.

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I have no idea about his early life, but I do know he hates brooms, mops and men shouting. I took him to watch my son play football a couple of times but the touchline banter was too stressful for him. He’d pant and pester to go back to the car. Now George stays at home, because although some dog owners might find this difficult to believe, dogs can be left.

Most veterinary experts agree that most dogs are okay to be home alone for between four and six hours, but obviously highly-nervous or incontinent dogs need more frequent human support.

Why then, when I’m at a craft fair or car boot sale, do I find myself knee-deep in other people’s dogs? Is it really strictly necessary to drag them along for the ride?

At Filey Food Festival the other weekend, I bumped into friends who have a house there. When I enquired after their two Border terriers, they admitted that they’re “a nuisance” at such events because they constantly pester for tit-bits and pull on the lead chasing up every delicious smell.

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So they’d left them tucked up in their baskets for a couple of hours.

I’ve heard that this summer that pets might even be allowed into music festivals as ‘emotional support dogs’ and there’s even a series of ‘pups and prosecco’ events at a bar in Sheffield, both of which sound far too much like murder on the dancefloor. Love your dog and he will repay you with devotion a million times, but for his sake, leave him at home.

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