There’s only one thing worse than dogs: the arrogance of dog owners.
Dog owners not only believe the universe revolves around their pets but, also, that we all want to share in their puppy love.
Well, we don’t.
When I’m out to enjoy a cosy post-walk pub lunch, or to make the most of a weekend break at a British countryside hotel, then I don’t want their poorly trained pet making a dog’s dinner of my Sunday roast. Nor do I want my kids terrified by an out-of-control hound whose owner has no consideration for others. Has the hashtag #dogsoftwitter brainwashed us? The lack of respect for non-doggy-devotees is getting out of control.
“He’s just playing,” dog owners always say as the mud-splattered mutt tries to make off with my sausages. “He’s only being friendly,” they add as the pampered pooch starts sniffing my steak pie.
I’ve had enough of it. I’m not calling on pubs and hotels to ban dogs, and nobody disputes the vital role of assistance dogs, but I think they should put deluded dog owners back on the leash.
After all, if I wanted an animal humping my hiking boots, or panting over my pudding, then I’d pack a picnic and visit a safari park.
I know this is not a popular view. We are said to be a nation of dog lovers and The Kennel Club reports the coronavirus crisis has led to a surge in puppy ownership across the UK.
Indeed, around 26% of UK adults have a pet dog with 9.9m dogs forming part of UK households, according to the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report 2019 from the UK’s leading veterinary charity.
What’s more, dog-friendly breaks are big business. American Express research from 2018 suggests pet owners spend an average of £114 per pet per holiday, including clothing and dog treats, equating to an annual spend on dog holidays of around £228,000.
That’s why travel companies like Sykes Cottages and Forest Holidays are panting like Golden Retrievers to grab the puppy pound. Telegraph Travel features the best dog-friendly breaks in Britain.
But what about people like me who want to enjoy their weekend break without running the gauntlet of the self-righteous dog owners? Thankfully, not all tourism operators are blindsided by a wagging tail.
For example, Carr House Farm, a 16th-century farmhouse B&B set in James Herriot country on the edge of the North York Moors National Park, has a clear policy of not allowing dogs to stay. It would, say the owners, disturb the working gun dogs they breed and train on the farm. They do, however, encourage guests to take the farm’s well-trained dogs out for a walk in the nearby forest.
Others cite the issue of guest allergies. According to the management of the award-winning Edgar House Hotel and Restaurant Twenty2 in Chester: “We only receive assistance dogs in the restaurant and the hotel. Those dog owners have volunteered afterwards to pay for a deep clean of the bedroom to allow for the next guest having any allergies.”
The thing that grates most of all for me, personally, is not the dogs — many are well behaved and offer valuable companionship — but the vitriol that some dog owners heap upon families who dare to take small children out for lunch.
My daughters are now teenagers, but I still remember the under-doggy-breath tutting and drop-dead looks when a tired toddler threw a tantrum over the tiramisu.
The hysterical hypocrisy of dog owners can be quite staggering, sneering at kids while taking the high-handed view that waiters and fellow diners should all pander to every whim of their prized, pampered pooch. I’m not against dogs but I don’t want their owners forcing them upon me.
The situation is, I find, worse still in France. I love enjoying rustic French food in a backstreet bistro but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had my steak frites sullied by le petit chien slurping noisily from a bowl at the next-door table, or left to run amuck around the dining room while the owner sips a Kir Royale with a shrug of Gallic nonchalance.
Well, no more. Never mind the 10pm curfew. The moment has come to call time on doggy doting.
Leave the dogs outside the dining room and let me eat my lunch in peace. If your dog is sleeping in your room, then leave it there, not running around the reception or charging down the corridors. I say it’s time to muzzle the dog owners who can’t see beyond their own mollycoddled mutt.
A dog is for life. But not for hijacking our weekend breaks this autumn.
David Atkinson is a freelance writer based in Northwest England. He has no pets.