Dogs first became domesticated more than 10,000 years ago but until relatively recently – two or three centuries ago – most had to earn their keep by working as hunters or guardians of livestock and property or clearing vermin. Cultural differences also mean that keeping an animal merely as a pet, for pleasure and companionship rather than for work, is a less common practice in the Middle East.
All that said, it is possible for pets to live safe, contented lives in the UAE and many are doing so. Gradually, attitudes to animal welfare are changing – and this is extending to cafes, restaurants and even hotels which allow dogs to enjoy a bit of downtime with their humans.
As well as being popular with the clientele, accepting dogs can turn out to be a sound business move, simply because of the lack of competition.
Here’s where you can find places to take your dog to eat, play and even spend the night with you:
Doggie Adventures in Dubai has a list of dog-friendly places on its website, Facebook page and Instagram with videos and maps for locations in other emirates as well as Dubai.
Flopster is a platform (and an app) that connects animal-lovers with pet-friendly establishments and activities in the UAE, including places to eat, play and board as well as information about where to find a vet and essential pet supplies.
Hatta Fort Hotel, with a stunning mountain setting in the eastern part of Dubai emirate, began accepting canine guests two months ago and it is proving to be a great success. It currently has four rooms available for dogs accompanying human clients and has also turned part of its conference center into what is a real rarity in the UAE – a dog-friendly indoor restaurant.
The rooms are very spacious and the hotel also provides dog bowls and crates.
Dogs are allowed throughout the hotel’s extensive grounds and there is even a safe area where they can run around off-leash. General manager Deborah Thomson, who has a German shepherd and a doberman (both rescues), says the hotel also plans to add a doggie swimming pool.
The spectacular Hatta Dam is only 20 minutes away and dogs are allowed in kayaks and pedalos.
W Abu Dhabi, part of the Marriott group, is a five-star hotel located on the marina on Yas island and welcomes pets, but there is a weight limit of 18kg.
Golden Tulip Al Jazira Hotel and Resort is located at Ghantoot, slap bang in the middle between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and allows dogs in five of its villas, but reservations must be made direct with the hotel on 050 638 7722 and not through booking websites such as booking.com. Day passes for the beach and grounds are also available for Dh100.
Doggie Diners Facebook page lists places where your dog can join you for meals, with owners adding new information and photographs as they discover more pet-friendly cafes, parks and beaches.
Looking further afield, Bringfido is a website listing pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, activities, cafes, events and services not only in the UAE but all over the world. The list for the UAE also has Airbnb rentals in all seven emirates, as well as in specific towns such as Khorfakkan, Al Ain, Dibba, Jebel Ali and Masafi.
Anna Pukas has reported from all over the world as a foreign correspondent for British media. She is now an editor based in Abu Dhabi.