Travel bites – visiting London with a dog
Dog friendly cities: London
As I am finally planning my first journey to Italy by train, with Amber of course (why else would I spend two days in the heat of August trying to reach the beaches of Southern Italy?), I found myself researching how dog friendly Paris is, as we’ll be spending a few hours lay over on the way down and a night on the way back.
As it turns out, Paris is not that dog friendly (and more of that in this blog once I get back from the trip), but it got me thinking… what about people wanting to visit London with their dogs from the continent of further afield? is London dogfriendly?
Hopefully I can share some useful info as I found it useful to read on dog friendly blogs from Paris.
I can rant as much as I want about London, but it is one of the greenest cities I’ve ever been to, with green spaces pretty much on every corner of every neighbourhood, from tiny little pocket parks to council estate gardens to the wide expanse of central London Royal Parks to the outer areas’ reserves with lakes and ponds.
Most of these spaces are dog friendly with very few exceptions. Dogs are usually not allowed in:
- Children’s playgrounds enclosures
- Sports playgrounds
- Private gardens squares
- Privately owns open spaces (for example Bernie Spain Gardens by ITV studios)
- Specific areas of open parks (for example southern end of Regents Park)
Most parks provide poo bags too, these are usually available to pick up from dispensers at the entrance of the parks or from the park office and are free. Bins are located within the parks or outside on pavements and some are solely for dog soil.
Depending on each borough, some parks mandate that dogs must be kept on a lead and that no more than a certain amount of dogs be walked by a single walker.
By comparison, it seems Paris sucks in terms of taking your dog on public transport. In London you can take your pooch on any form of transport with some basic, easy to follow rules. Below a round up; a more detailed guide is here.
- Passengers may take with them, free of charge and subject to conditions below, dogs, cats and other small animals (maximum two per passenger) provided they do not endanger or inconvenience passengers or staff.
- Dogs must be kept on a lead at all times unless contained in a basket.
More info on the National Rail website. We’ve taken Amber on short and long train journeys with not an issue; if the train is busy then it can get uncomfortable for her but we are not regular users so it’s been fine so far.
Famously, Eurostar does not accept animals other than guide dogs, which is in our humble view, absurd and makes going to Paris with Amber impossible.
Again, dogs can be taken on the tube. It’s your call on whether you want to take a dog on a packed train during rush hour as it can get pretty horrible for humans in there, especially in the warm season.
Dogs must be kept on a lead and have to be picked up on escalators, so again if you have a large size friend, you might wish to look for step free stations where you can take the lift, instead of doing the lifting! Muzzle is not mandatory here in the UK, but breeds considered dangerous, might need to wear one upon request (no idea how that is enforced!).
TFL have a map to step free stations, but, moving about with a pram for a year, it doesn’t necessarily means a smooth sailing.
Now, I don’t use UBER and cannot give a personal view on dogs on this transport system, although I believe it is at driver’s discretion. On black cabs, I have never had any problem with Amber, and always been accepted although occasionally you read in the news of cabbies refusing to allow a passenger with a dog in.
Amber is small, clean and friendly but I can imagine a muddy, wet or otherwise barking pooch might not be so welcome! There is no extra charge for the pet.
River boat services
I admit, shamefully I have not taken Amber on a boat yet! The small, private services that run between Richmond and nearby areas are dog friendly and we nearly went on one last year, but given we had a 5 months old baby with us, we thought best to avoid it.
TFL river boat with regular services is dog friendly so I would recommend my friend the Dogvine very helpful and fun post on how to travel on such service with a dog.
Restaurants & cafes
This is an interesting one at the moment. While there is no law in the UK that forbids the presence of dogs in cafes, restaurants and shops, until a few years ago the majority of establishments would deny entrance to anyone with a dog who was not an assistance animal.
Years ago we were welcomed in a famous historic pub by London bridge by one member of staff. They took our order for lunch in the empty venue then someone acting like a big boss (really?) came over and rudely said we had to leave. We got our money back, ensuring we took a sip of the newly served drinks and left. Horrible.
Fast forward and for some reason, recently there’s been quite an awareness, should I say, of how lucrative it can be to open the doors, literally, to dogs (and their money spending owners). This can only be a good thing for us of course, and I have written quite a few posts on where we go with Amber: my favourite cafes in SE1, a selection of my top 10 places and a more comprehensive post by area.
I would however say it is safe to assume that a place is NOT dog friendly and always cautiously ask if it’s possible to go in with a well behaved dog. Some places might not have considered it as an option before, so it’s always worth letting them know and of course, ask permission.
With regards to grocery stores, this is more tricky. There’s hardly any that would let dogs in and usually it changes depending on who’s on shift on a particular day or the size of the dog. While we were in the past able to timidly bring Amber inside cheese shop and grocer La Fromagerie, a similar place in SE1 (Greensmith’s) doesn’t let her in ever, despite knowing her very well. I can only list one place in London which is a great specialty food store and is on the Kings Road: Prezzemolo & Vitale is Italian and that’s no coincidence as Italians are usually more open to having dogs around than British shop owners.
Now why would a dog not be allowed inside a clothes or shoe store? No idea, unless of course he / she is muddy / wet / annoying and so forth but then humans can be all that too.
In any case, we’ve had some interesting experiences, and as mentioned above, always assume the dog is not allowed in and simply ask. As per the pub above, we’ve been welcomed inside Mango in Covent Garden by one shop assistant who patted and cuddled Amber, only to be rudely kicked out by another assistant on a different floor.
it is really hard to list stores that will welcome you and those who won’t. Dept stores like Liberty’s and Selfridges will welcome small / medium size dogs while Peter Jones and John Lewis won’t. Zara in Kings Road allows dogs while Zara on Long Acre doesn’t.
Inconsistency is the key!
The city is full of markets, open air or semi open air. Most are ok with dogs, but the usual goes. If a market is particularly busy, it might not be the best idea to go with a dog, especially if small / short like Amber.
The famous Borough Market in fact, is NOT dog friendly and we’ve been told of for being inside (inside? It’s open air!) with her. Hence we no longer visit and only pass by to visit local, dog friendly establishments (a handful, of course).
Other food markets (Maltby Street, Flatiron Square, Broadway Market, Spitalfields market, Netil Market, Brockley Market to name a few) are dog friendly, but special events (Kerb, for example) are not necessarily dog friendly.
Now we’re talking. Finally a bit of shopping where dogs are more than welcome! Large chain Pets at Home has everything you could wish for, albeit more of a supermarket / big brands type. There are a few in London zone 2 (Battersea, Old Kent Road), usually located next to Halfords and have car parks, but not easy to get to by tube / public transport.
Smaller boutiques are local and lovely and also a bit more pricey of course. Below the ones I am familiar with and are worth a visit if in each area:
- Love my human (Chelsea – Kings Road)
- Holly & Lil (Bermondsey Street)
- Bow Wow (Covent Garden – Earlham Street)
- Fetch & Follow (Hackney – Gossamer Road)
For basic supplies (treats, food) most supermarkets, even smaller ones (such as Tesco Express) are a good option especially in an emergency.
Dog sitting & dog walking
Of course each area / borough has a few dog walkers and sitters; one can get to know them via local dog owners and word of mouth works wonders. I could recommend our two walkers in the Waterloo area but have no knowledge for other areas. Jackie walks our Amber and is also a dog trainer.
There is a website called Borrow My Doggy where people can join to find walkers, and viceversa, dogs to walk and it’s free to use (peer to peer).
Some dog boutiques offer grooming as well (for example Holly & Lil and Love my Human). Pets at home also have a grooming area, prebookable. Another well known grooming salon is Purple Bone (Notting Hill / Kings Road).
Some groomers come to yours with their van, and will do a full service for around £40, depending on the size of the dog.
Vets & emergencies
Hopefully not the case, but should you need to see a vet while in London, there are a few around. We use one of Goddard’s branches, in Kennington. While not the greatest, it is convenient and they have seen Amber since we got her. They also run two emergency care 24/7 pets’ hospitals (which sadly we had to use years ago).
Hopefully I have covered a few interesting and useful points, but please do let me know if I can add anything specific!