Chris Maclean: Big barking dogs scare me

By Chris Maclean

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dog

There wasn't a soul in the bar. Behind the bar was empty. Just me and, it later turned out, Bruno. Bruno is at my side barking and sniffing. Bruno...

There wasn't a soul in the bar. Behind the bar was empty.

Just me and, it later turned out, Bruno.

Bruno is at my side barking and sniffing.

Bruno is very scarey.

Moments later the landlady, arrived, laughed and reassured me Bruno was gentle and kind. "Look, he's lying down on his bed!" and "He wouldn't hurt a fly". I'm sorry, I disagree. Big barking dogs scare me.

A friend of mine had one. Every time I visited him I got bitten. I didn't like it. (I stopped visiting him). From this I do not consider it unreasonable to suggest that, if I have experience of being bitten by large barking dogs, I naturally conclude that this dog might bite me. It is exactly the same defence mechanism that convinced me not to pick up red hot coals, touch bare electrical wires or order the chicken phaal. That is what experience is supposed to teach us.

So I stood rock steady as Bruno circled me sniffing and growling. I didn't move a muscle. Gentle perspiration on my brow.

Waiting to be rescued.

The pub dog is a marvellous creature. It is an institution. If I am to be reincarnated I should wish it to be a pub dog (or even, perhaps, a pub cat). A wonderful lifestyle of attention and contentment. We have two dogs here.

My wife's six-year old border terrier and my one-year old border collie cross. Both dogs are gentle and affectionate. Neither is agressive and both get on well with other dogs, children and grown ups. This is reassuring for us and generally there are few problems. Even so there are customers who are genuinely scared of dogs and for whom the prospect of a cold wet nose is too frightening to contemplate.

Inevitably there will be those who hate dogs or who genuinely are alarmed to be close to them. I hope I respect that and move the dogs away.

But I love pub dogs. Those friendly creatures who crave affection. The ones who sense where they are welcome and where they are not.

I know there will be licensees who regard their right to let their dogs roam in the pub as a fundamental part of their lifestyle ~ it is, after all, their home. But, unlike a normal domestic dwelling, members of the public come and go and might be rightfully concerned at the prospect of confronting a dog. Not everyone responds to dogs the same way.

One licensee told me this morning about how, despite having a warning notice on his front door, a customer attempted to enter the pub with his dog on a lead. The first the licensee knew of the problem was when he realised his three staffordshire bull terriers were attempting to tear chunks out of this other dog.

The licensee waded in and rescued the dog; its owner seemed traumatised by the experience. The licensee drove the injured dog and its owner to the vets to have the 78 stitches put in. The licensee then had a substantial bill to pay. To compound it further the would-be customer had the temerity to complain to the dog warden about his dangerous dogs. The licensee felt angry. Why had the customer ignored the notice? I felt sorry for the customer.

When Bruno's owner got the dog to move away from me I was, again, reassured that dear Bruno was a gentle safe dog. However, I was advised, if I ever intended to visit the pub again with my dog I should notify them beforehand. Bruno, it seems, doesn't like other dogs with a passion. There could be tears, or worse, blood.

Is it unreasonable for me to believe that if I visit a pub I shouldn't feel threatened? And that if I am scared of dogs, even little terriers, I shouldn't be intimidated when I enter a pub? Can I reasonably expect that other dog owners, both customers and licensees, take responsibility for their dogs and their dog's actions? Will people recognise when others are uncomfortable about a situation?

Since getting Dexter, my border collie cross, I have discovered I now often make decisions based upon dog-friendly pubs. TI can remember te first place I tried which was the Fordwich Arms. I was allowed to eat lunch with the dogs under the table; it was a delight. I now regularly check websites to find where dogs are welcome and plan trips around them. Where to stay, where to eat and where to drink. Places where me and Dexter can feel comfortable. Places where Bruno doesn't rule the roost.

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