The Dominion Post
Kiwi cafes love our furry friends New Zealand cafes have gone to the dogs, in a truly marvellous way, writes Eleanor Black.
Dogs lolling beneath cafe tables while their owners sip lattes or glasses of pinot would have been unthinkable 30 years ago. Now it is just the way Kiwis roll, with dog-friendly dining options available throughout the country.
Dog owners love to take their animals to cafes and pubs, especially those near dog-exercising zones such as beaches and parks. But it takes more than a bowl of lukewarm water by the front door and a tolerance for four-legged patrons to make an eatery truly dog-friendly.
Some establishments have found their way into dog-lovers’ hearts by offering homemade dog biscuits and the ‘‘puppacino’’, a frothy treat (usually dairy-free) served in a small cup.
Starbucks is known for its off-menu puppacino, although its version uses whipped cream, which is not suitable for some dogs.
The Keg Room in Rototuna, north of Hamilton, has a full dog menu, featuring raw meatballs in tomato sauce, chicken popsicles, bacon heart biscuits, and a variety of dry chews.
For $4, your dog can enjoy a Bloodhound Mary (tomato juice and fish stock over ice), or $3.50 gets you a Wagging Tale Ale (beef stock and soda water).
‘‘Initially people laughed at us, they just thought we were absolutely nuts,’’ says the owner of The Keg Room, Melissa Renwick, who runs the
business with her partner Andrew Pietersz.
But that was three years ago and, this summer, they will launch the third iteration of their dog menu, featuring some yet-to-be-disclosed high-end treats.
While the intention was to simply add animal interaction to their days (this was before Malt, the pub dog, joined the family), the couple found that the dog menu was a money-spinner too, bringing new customers through the door and assuring return visits.
Now on a bright summer weekend, they will get between 30 and 40 dogs (with owners) through the door in a day. ‘‘If the [fur] kids are happy, the humans will be happy,’’ says Renwick.
She says ‘‘the dog movement’’ has grown significantly in the past five years in New Zealand.
‘‘People have become more European in their attitude.
‘‘[We treat dogs like] members of the family and want to take them everywhere.’’
This shift has been aided by the Food Act 2014, which came into force in 2016, giving business owners the option of allowing pets into food premises if they managed the potential risk to food safety. Owners must keep animals out of food preparation areas and away from food storage, for example.
In practical terms, this means that dogs are often invited to sit outside, and may even be given their own roaming zone under cover.
Stuff’s Four Legs Good columnist Nick Barnett says a dog-friendly cafe is one that provides more than outdoor tables, water bowls and leash hitching hooks.
‘‘A welcoming attitude is just as important. It’s more dog-friendly to tell dog owners, ‘We’ve got tables that are perfect for you and your dogs’ rather than, ‘OK, so long as they don’t come inside the restaurant.’
‘‘It’s a matter of whether the attitude is grudging or inclusive.
‘‘I like it when a server sees us take our seats with the dogs and brings over a water bowl without us asking – it makes us think they’re considering our needs.
‘‘And what about a little complimentary bowl of dry treats for the dogs? I don’t know of any eateries that do that, but it wouldn’t go unnoticed.’’
The SPCA published a list of dog-friendly cafes two years ago, highlighting those with generous outdoor space and dog-loving owners, but there are dozens more establishments where dogs are treated like valued customers.
Wellington’s Beach Babylon offers a ‘‘K9 menu’’, featuring dog biscuits, $8 ‘‘gourmet’’ mince, a