It’s a sign of the times when a Friday at a popular community eatery like Reform Social & Grill in The Lakes is completely devoted to dogs.
Enter the March 5 Pooch A Palooza Kisses and Wiggle Fest, as advertised on Doggie Adventures Dubai, one of the growing number of social media accounts that keeps tabs on all the places dogs are welcome.
Pet adoption exploded when the UAE went into lockdown and as people have returned to restaurants, cafes and other public spaces, they are increasingly opening their terraces and even doors to friendly canines and their owners. This comes on the back of what already was an explosion of dog parks, both indoor and outdoor. Although slower to pick up on the trend, there are a number of hotels welcoming furry friends, too.
Naturally, there has also been an increase in events organized specifically for dogs and their owners.
Social media is the place dog owners turn to get up-to-date information on the latest pet-friendly establishments. Doggie Diners Facebook group was established in 2015 and has almost 5,300 members, many of whom actively share their experiences and photographs of visits to cafes, restaurants, beaches and parks. The group’s administrator keeps a master list of dog-friendly establishments.
Another page, Doggie Adventures in Dubai, was started by Dutch resident of four years, Yvonne Sendon.
“I was always taking my dog, Boefje, out with me to dinner or to parks or other public places where dogs are allowed,” she explains. “And when I spoke about it, people were surprised to hear that there are places in Dubai where you could take your dog.”
Cashing in on the desire of residents to spend time with their pets, Nasab private members club at KOA Canvas in Al Barari allows members to bring pets into the workspace and other public areas.
“We see the ability to bring pets to work having huge benefits in creating a positive, engaging and fun work environment,” said marketing communications director Ruthie Qadan after it opened in 2019. “Our members absolutely love it and we’ve had people join just for this reason. It’s created an amazing atmosphere.”
There is a short orientation process for dogs to ensure they are well-trained and socialised and owners are asked to bring their own necessities, including water and food.
One of the city’s newest dog-friendly venues is Unleashed, an outdoor dog park at Ripe Market, Academy Park, Umm Suqeim Road. Like all dog parks, it gives canines the freedom to burn off energy and socialise. The difference is that owners can relax with a coffee and snacks while supervising the dogs and other family members can stroll around the market, grab a bite to eat or romp in the playground.
Laura Hosford, founder of Howl & Growl pet accessories, established Unleashed after realizing it was much-needed by the community.
“While I know we are not Hyde Park, I do know that dogs don’t get an opportunity to play with their owners in this type of setting with other dogs, other people and even children around,” she says. “Their exposure to lots of stimulus stands them in good stead for the day.”
Burning off energy and socializing helps reduce potential behaviour problems in dogs, Hosford explains.
All dogs need to undergo an initial behaviour assessment at Spot daycare facility before they can enter Unleashed. They also need to be up-to-date with vaccinations.
Sendon, whose Doggie Adventures in Dubai has around 2,000 followers on both Instagram and Facebook, believes that while Dubai is becoming much more dog-friendly, dog owners still need to remember to be vigilant and responsible with their pets.
“We need to keep in mind that not everybody loves our dogs as much as we do,” she says. “Therefore, it’s very important we keep our dogs on a leash at all times, unless we are at a dedicated dog park where dogs are allowed off-leash. My dog is super friendly, but someone who is scared doesn’t know that.”
Amanda Tomlinson is an Australian journalist who has lived in the UAE for almost 11 years. She is still finding her feet in her new role as a mother to a 1-year-old boy, but believes that every misadventure is an opportunity for growth. When Amanda is not singing and dancing around the house with her son, she can be found working out with him, traveling the world with him and trying hard to get some work done.