Peter Franzen ponders whether our love for dogs has gone too far

As a nation of dog lovers, there is no doubt that our canine friends bring a lot of joy, comfort and companionship to millions of people.

The saying that a dog is man’s best friend was backed up by a close, now late friend of mine, who asserted that dogs were better friends than any human being because they were trustworthy and loyal for their entire lifetime.

Although we always had a family dog throughout my younger life, I have learned to live without one in later years, partly because my busy life did not give me time to look after one properly.

In those days the world wide web had not been invented so keeping an eye via webcam on the welfare of the “home alone dog” was just not possible. And anyway, such isolation for a dog for long periods of the day seemed a bit unfair and selfish.

Readers of this paper's letter pages will know that dog fouling of pavements and public spaces has long been a bone of contention and filled many column inches.

Nowadays, more often than not, dog walkers carry their own blue doggy bags to clean up after their pets. Of course, there are still some less responsible owners who do not, but it is far better than it used to be.

But where do you draw the line with dogs when it comes to restaurants and hotels? In recent times I seem to be encountering pooches in these places far more often.

Eating lunch in a North Norfolk hostelry recently, a couple arrived at the next table with two large dogs. The leads were tied to chair legs but this did not confine the animals sufficiently to prevent them disturbing other diners whose tables were in close proximity.

The couple did their best to admonish the dogs and keep them close to their table, but dogs will be dogs...

And speaking of that, while shopping in the soft furnishing department at Norwich’s John Lewis store, two ladies were hugely embarrassed when their accompanying pooch cocked its leg and relieved itself on one of the items for sale.

One grabbed a towel from the stand and tried to soak up the puddle, but a John Lewis assistant came to their rescue and politely took over the accident. It was obviously not an uncommon incident.

But I digress. Am I alone in thinking there are more dogs now being welcomed (with their owners) into hospitality venues?

I think I have found the answer – the scent of the Hound Pound

The website Restaurant claims that research shows the British hotel industry is potentially missing out on an additional £39m per night by not allowing pets to stay on the premises.

Apparently a fifth of dog owners would happily pay an extra £25 a night if they were allowed to bring their pet with them for the stay. Many said they felt the break was spoiled by unnecessarily worrying about the pets left behind.

If you log on to the internet searching for accommodation, you will find a plethora of hotels and pubs promoting the fact that it is a 'dog-friendly' establishment.

I don’t blame them for chasing the 'Hound Pound' as they try to recover from the Covid years of adversity that have blighted the hospitality industry, but I wonder if they have considered the number of guests that choose to avoid 'dog-friendly' venues.

To be honest, I would be reluctant to pay for a hotel room that had just been occupied by a canine and its owner. And many people have allergies to animal hair. I regret to say 'dog-friendly' establishments are “no go” areas for me.

There was a time when you could request a no-smoking room, so if this trend continues perhaps guest rooms could be designated dog-free for those who don’t want to share the accommodation with animal hairs, let alone any hygiene issues.

Almost gone are the days of 'spit and sawdust' country pubs with stone floors, bare wooden chairs and mongrels sitting beside mud-clad wellies. I have no problem with dogs in the bar, but perhaps they should not be allowed in the restaurant area.

I don’t blame the dogs, but the owners.

It appears they too often don’t seem to have any idea that their beloved pooch might not be everyone’s favourite companion – letting them roam around, sniffing for treats and looking soulfully at your steak and chips.

Let me finish by saying I like dogs (well most of them) and realise they are an important part of their owners’ lives, but I would prefer not to share a meal with them or sleep in a dog bed.