By ellieroseholmes

Treat your four-legged friend to a special day out in dog-friendly London

2020 has been a remarkable year for a multitude of reasons, but for millions of Brits it will be remembered as the (unofficial) Year of The Dog. From rescue mutts to designer crossbreeds, all manner of four-legged friends bounded into our lives leaving their muddy pawprints on our hearts and on our sofas. Canine companions are an antidote to the gloom and isolation of lockdown. They boost your mental health, they’re the ideal colleague for home-workers and they provide a perfect excuse to get out for some exercise. 

They bring us so much joy, so why not give a little back and treat them to a no-expense-spared day out in dog-friendly London?

Getting about
According to TfL’s Conditions of Carriage, dogs and ‘inoffensive animals’ may travel free of charge on London’s bus, Tube and rail network. They should be kept on a lead at all times and are not allowed to occupy a seat. You’re probably familiar with the edict ‘Dogs Must be Carried on Escalators’ but if you’re travelling with a St Bernard or a similarly large beast, TfL says you’re entitled to ask a member of staff to stop the escalator while Fido ascends. They are, or course, just as entitled to refuse so do be prepared to take the stairs. If your salty sea dog is happier on the water, they’ll be welcomed aboard by Uber Boats (formerly Thames Clippers) on all services from Woolwich to Putney. 

Pampered pooches
Start your day with a pampering session at Pet Pavilions, which has branches across London (most of them open seven days a week). Dogs of all shapes and sizes are catered for, from short-haired terriers to shag-haired sheepdogs. A quick wash and blow-dry or a full groom will ensure that even the stinkiest hound will emerge coiffed and fragrant, ready for their Dog Day Out. 

Cultured canines
From 19 September the Japan Centre hosts Architecture for Dogs, a free exhibition of furniture by celebrated architects that is designed to make both dogs and humans happy. Each piece is inspired by a different breed, from Boston terrier to poodle. Smallish dogs – defined as measuring no more than 18 inches from floor to shoulder (that’s a good-sized beagle to you and me) – are encouraged to interact with some of the exhibits, so long as they follow a few basic instructions including adherence to the 2m social-distancing rule. Blueprints for all exhibits can be downloaded, so if you’re handy with a workbench you can recreate these Japanese designs in your own home. 

The dog’s dinner
No longer consigned to waiting on the pavement outside, dogs can expect a warm welcome at some of London’s most salubrious establishments. Small- to medium-sized dogs (no bigger than a springer spaniel) can now enjoy lunch al fresco at J Sheekey Atlantic Bar’s Winter Terrace, provided they abide by the canine Code of Conduct. All breeds, large or small, are welcome at all times at M Grill’s award-winning steakhouses on Victoria Street and Threadneedle Street. Look out for their regular Doggy Brunch Days where, in addition to the steak sharing platter, games and entertainment are laid on for canine diners. 

Dog’s-eye view
Work off your lunch with riverside walk along the Thames. If you have a head for heights, make for Tower Bridge where dogs and humans can enjoy a unique view of London from the spectacular glass walkway. Yes, it’s access-all-areas for man’s best friend at this iconic landmark, from the Towers to the Engine Room and, fortunately, Tower Bridge’s last cat moved out in the 1980s.

If money is no object, and you want to make a weekend of it, check-in to the 5* Egerton House Hotel where a dedicated concierge will greet your Very Important Pet with a bottle of dog-friendly Champagne (or beer). Take afternoon tea together in the Drawing Room, and feast on a menu that includes meatloaf, dog biscuits and doggy ice cream for four-legged guests or the customary cucumber sandwiches for bi-peds. The hotel is a stone’s throw from Hyde Park, perfect for an evening stroll before you withdraw to your sumptuously appointed quarters where your VIP can indulge in a late-night snack from the 24-hour doggy room service before settling into their very own four-poster dog bed.