Spotted Dog sign, Brighton, September 2011

A pub in Brighton has recently changed its name from The Hop Poles to The Spotted Dog. The Spotted Dog was the pub’s original name. It used to be popular with a gay clientele until 1981 when the new licensee reportedly told one of the regulars ‘I don’t want your kind in here’ (see Rose Collis, Brighton Boozer: A History of the City’s Pub Culture [2005]).

The name change prompted me to think about pubs and dogs. It strikes me that very few pubs in Britainare dog-friendly. Why is this? Did publicans deem that dogs deter customers? Or might it be because of health and safety and/or food hygiene legislation? National differences also come into play. Based on my own observations, dogs seem welcome in French bars, cafés and restaurants. I remember once sitting in a bar in Pariswhen a man came in with his dog, bought a drink and placed it on the bar whereupon the dog stood on its hind legs, leaned on the bar and took the first sip. And although it doesn’t feature a boozing dog, Toulouse-Lautrec’s lithograph Au Hanneton (1898) suggests that dogs were tolerated, even welcomed, in some Parisian bars at the end of the nineteenth century (you can find the image on the Museum of Modern Art [MOMA] website).

Pubs weren’t always dog-free zones in Britain. At The George Inn in Lacock (Wiltshire) Turnspit dogs used to turn the spit in front of the fire (dogs were specially bred for this purpose). And Collis reports that dogs were once a feature of Brighton’s pubs. Back in the 1930s, the landlord of the Prince Alberttried to pull in the punters with his ‘Trickster Dog’ Peggy, a spaniel skilled in the art of laying a table and fetching drinks for her master. Bill Smith, landlord of the Waggon and Horses in the 1970s remembers when ‘it was a like a farmyard behind the pub. It smelled just like the countryside. At one time there were horses, a goat, chickens, dogs, cats, a sheep and some ducks’ (Collis, Brighton Boozer). Bins and a car park now inhabit the space behind the pub.

Britain’s pubs have largely cleared out the animals that once inhabited them. They have become predominatly human spaces. But all is not lost for those wishing to take their dog to the pub; websites, such as http://www.doggiepubs.co.uk, list dog friendly pubs. I wonder if the Spotted Dog will be appearing on them.