I gaze at the menu board in front of me, wondering whether to opt for sausages or chicken and veg. For drinks, there is a choice of beer or fizz and, as at any country pub, a scrumptious selection of ice creams for dessert.
But all this is not for me. I’m ordering for my dog, Wolfie the whippet. We’re at The Fox & Hounds in Theale, Berks, which last week was named Britain’s most dog-friendly boozer.
It has a dedicated menu board for its four-legged punters, with tasty specials and non-alcoholic tipples including Pawsecco and Bottom Sniffer Beer. Tucked away on a country road, the cosy interior seems nothing unusual.
But landlady Jayne Tisley and her partner Miles Teece have created a doggy utopia where canine customers are treated as well as the human locals.
Jayne says: “We have doggy beds in front of the fire, different sizes of water bowl to suit every breed, an outdoor dog paddling pool and towels if they arrive muddy from a walk.
“The pub also runs a Woofer of the Week competition where a dog is featured as the profile picture on our Facebook page. I have people coming in and asking for their dogs to be chosen – it’s a real honour.”
Jayne organises a dog show each summer, with proceeds going to welfare charity the Dogs Trust, and even hosts dog birthday parties.
One owner drives two hours so their pet can spend his special day there each year.
No size or shape of canine is off limits. In the space of five minutes Wolfie meets Bear, a drooling, 14 st St Bernard, and dainty Susie the papillon, who is asleep on one of the beds beside the fire.
Bear is a regular. Owners Chris and Kim Forbes have been coming to the pub for their weekly coffee with him for two and a half years. Kim, 52, says:
“It’s become a tradition. As he’s got bigger, we were worried we would have an issue, but he’s always welcome. “Every week we say he’s going to see his Auntie Jayne and he knows it means we’re going to the pub.”
Bear can join in all the activities on offer. His head is too big for the doggie photo-booth – a board they poke their head through to be in a picture of the pub’s sign, showing a huntsman and hounds.
But he loves the pub’s ice cream in summer and is a regular in the paddling pool. Wolfie is just right for the photo-booth, though, and jumps in for a go after Jayne’s French bulldog shows the way.
Other regulars include French bulldogs Debbie and Rodney, Jack Russell Nerys and Basset hound Arthur – and the place is so popular that a pet blogger visited from the US after hearing about it on social media.
But how does Jayne keep up with all the yappy customers?
“I often end up taking table bookings with dog names, not humans,” she says with a laugh, before turning to greet a new arrival with a gravy bone from the ‘snack’ jar on the bar.
As the lunchtime rush then builds, dogs from far and wide pass through the doors their number include Romanian rescue dog Vivian, breezy golden labrador Bob and nervous pup Poppy, who is guided in with a treat. All told, I count 15 dogs in the pub.
Poppy’s owner Melissa Nealon, 35, from Newbury, says: “We want her out with us all the time, so this pub is ideal.”
Meanwhile, Sarah Warwick, 46, and Mark Johnson 42, from Reading, are debating between chicken and sausage for their Jack Russell/Shih Tzu cross Cooper’s lunch. Sarah says:
“It’s his first time here and he loves it.” But it is not just mutts who have a ball – their owners get a warm welcome, too, and make friends with each other.
Brenda Sandilands, who owns papillon Susie, values the “personal touch”.
She says: “You won’t find it anywhere else -they remember names, orders and drinks.”
While I am impressed by the boozer, a better judge is Wolfie. Since we arrived, he hasn’t stopped excitedly sniffing around, and he has been showered with affection by staff and pub-goers.
He also tries out the indoor doggy tent, for hiding away if it is too noisy, sips a £3 bottle of Bottom Sniffer Beer and investigates the Woofer of the Week calendar, which show- cases the year’s stars.
While most of our visit was peaceful, one slight scuffle did break out near the door. But no problem – the bar staff weave in and out of the excitable dogs all the time, carrying plates of food with ease.
Mason, 18, who has worked at the pub for just over a month, says: “It can be a bit crazy, especially when all the dogs see each other. But I’ve always wanted to work with animals, so this is an environment to experience.”
Indeed, Jayne sees how her staff love their unusual daily duties. She says: “It’s a great incentive for the team, because they all love dogs. When you come to work and stroke a dog it sets off that happy feeling.”
Jayne’s and Miles’ inspiration for the pub grew out of their frustration around a lack of dog-friendly options on offer in the area. She says: “Dog- friendly is in the minority, so it’s important to take a stand and say you can run a good pub and be dog-friendly too.”
They won their prize as part of the fourth annual awards for pubs that welcome dogs, run by rover.com, a network of pet sitters and dog walkers.
Judges looked for selling points such as quiet spaces for pets, the number of water bowls, beds and a place for muddy boots and wet paws to be cleaned and dried.
But what about the most discerning judge of all? Full of beer and biscuits, Wolfie falls into a post-pub slumber on the train. The Fox & Hounds has another satisfied canine customer.
Other top dog-friendly pubs and hotels
The Four Seasons Hotel, Perthshire Scotland.
Escape to the Scottish Highlands with your pooch in hand and pay a visit to The Four Seasons hotel, equipped with stunning views over Loch Earn and even a resident pet butler. The dedicated pet concierge service is sure to make your dog feel like a VIP. From a specially created canine menu, to a pet-sitting and walking service and even a pooch parlour, it will definitely be a hit.
The Chequers Inn, Norfolk.
Situated on the beautiful Norfolk coast and surrounded by coastal walks, beaches and sand dunes your dog will be in heaven whilst staying at The Chequers Inn. With just a small extra fee to bring your furry friend, the Inn will even supply treats and loan you blankets to make your dog’s stay as comfortable as possible.
The Inn on the Lake, Lake District.
On the shores of Lake Ullswater, this Inn offers breath taking surroundings with an abundance of country walks for you and your pet to enjoy. The hotel also has a beautifully kept garden with sweeping lawns, perfect for your dog to enjoy the great outdoors and British weather.
No.15 Great Pulteney, Bath.
This quintessentially English boutique hotel in the heart of Bath could be great for a city break for you and your dog. They happily host up to two fairly small and well behaved dogs in a selection of their rooms, for just a small extra charge.
Talland Bay Hotel, Porthallow Cornwall.
Enjoy a luxury Cornish break at Talland Bay, situated only minute’s away from beautiful coastal walks and beaches you definitely won’t be short of walking routes to enjoy during your stay. Dogs are welcome in all of the rooms (bar two) and on-site cottages.
The King’s Arms, Gloucestershire.
Set in the quaint village of Didmarton, within the stunning Cotswold countryside, The King’s Arms welcomes dogs to stay free of charge. Beds, bowls and biscuits are all provided and your pooch can even make friends with the resident Jack Russell while enjoying a Snuffle Dog Beer. The Inn makes for a great base while you and your dog enjoy long walks throughout the countryside.
The Fish Hotel, Cotswolds.
With its impeccable design and ideal location in the Cotswolds, this hotel could be described as ‘the’ perfect place for a pet friendly getaway. For a small extra charge the hotel offers a stay for your dog in one of their eight cosy luxe rooms and two Hilly Huts. Beds, bowls, treats and dog towels are offered to all dog guests during their stay.
(Article source: Various)