More stores should make their premises dog-friendly because it can boost business. That’s the view of a leading garden centre but if you are going to attempt it, make sure you do it properly.
Carolyn Spray, of Pentland Plants in Midlothian, Scotland, says: “I keep seeing garden centres saying they are dog-friendly but in essence all they do is slightly tolerate dogs to look good! Our entire garden centre is dog friendly, not just certain areas.
“We allow dogs everywhere. We welcome dogs with a biscuit at the tills and have a large pet section filled with toys, treats, beds.”
Here Carolyn explains why her garden centre business takes a serious dog-friendly approach:
“I have had dogs all my life and get really annoyed that, although it’s improved, there are still far too few places you can take dogs in the UK. I spend my life looking for places to take my Beardies with me and I’m off on a motorhome tour on the North Coast 500 round the top of Scotland in October and will try to take the dogs as many places as possible!
“There is absolutely no reason you can’t take dogs into shops and cafes, it’s entirely up to the owners to make that decision.
“I think lots of garden centres and other shops don’t realise you can have dogs in restaurants and cafes, just not in places like kitchens where food is actually prepared.
In our garden centre and cafe we have lots of dogs visiting on a daily basis and we love it! In the cafe there is an area for dogs, a play area for kids and that leaves plenty of space for those who want to avoid either or both!
“We understand that some of our customers are a bit scared of dogs or even allergic so it’s only fair to have designated areas.
“We sell lots of things in the cafe for owners to treat their dogs and believe me they do! We have Snuffledog beer, Barking Bakery cakes and cookies, Kelso and Titch biscuits and Petface bone shaped biscuits, Frozzys frozen yoghurt and we sell loads! How could you bring your dog out with you to a cafe and not include a wee treat for them?
“Our pet area is quite large and is filled with lots of different biscuits, chews and treats, toys for outdoor and indoor play, beds, coats and all the accessories you need!
I guess a lot of what drives our pet department’s success is that I buy what I want and need for my dogs which is always a good way to run a business I think! If the owner/ buyer is passionate about a product it really shows! I’m sure that being dog friendly has increased our pet department over the years as it’s always second or third highest turnover in our gift department!
“We continually talk about being dog friendly on social media and a lot of our new customers are word of mouth, which is the best way to find new customers I think.
“We have festive dog photography at Christmas where we have a lovely doggy photographer called Nadia from Yellow Dog Photography, and we create a festive backdrop for people to have photos of their dogs taken in front of. It’s grown in popularity year on year! I think last year’s event was the best so I’ve not idea how to better it this year!
“We held a selection of pet events at the garden centre this spring including basic obedience, trick training, brain games, reactive dog and agility. They were all sold out very quickly and we have huge waiting lists!
“We don’t have signs up saying “please pick up after your dog” because surely people who take their dog into a shop shouldn’t need to be told. There are occasional accidents but it’s easy cleaned up!”