Last year’s inaugural DogBuddy Dog-friendly Pub Awards saw some absolutely fantastic pooch-welcoming pubs. Our pack of judges certainly had their work cut out for them – they were tasked with picking one overall champion from our 12 regional winners. After some deliberation, the Hand in Hand, described by locals as a village pub within reach of central London, was named 2016’s DogBuddy Dog-friendly Pub of The Year.
We caught up with Christine Blackman, assistant manager and pup-cuddler in chief at the Hand in Hand to hear how winning has impacted life at the nation’s most dog-friendly pub.
DogBuddy: What difference has winning this award made to the Hand in Hand over the last year?
Christine Blackman: When people phone up to ask information about the pub or when making a booking they often ask if they can bring their dog, so we tell them we’re actually the best dog-friendly pub in the country! It’s been a great marketing tool for the pub. We use the DogBuddy Dog-friendly Pub Awards badge on social media and our website. We now stock Snuffle dog beer and all proceeds go to the Blue Cross. We’re definitely staying on our toes and trying to build on our dog-friendly credentials.
DB: What are your tips to any pub that wants to become more dog-friendly?
CB: Being dog-friendly can’t just be something you say, it’s got to be a real passion with the staff as a whole. After all, they’re the ones who greet dogs and their owners. That can be as simple as asking the owner what their dog’s name is. I’ve had all sorts of conversations with customers that have started because I asked them about their dog. Being dog-friendly is part of the business here.
DB: What difference does it make to a pub to have dogs inside the pub?
CB: I haven’t always worked at dog friendly pubs, in fact at a previous pub I worked at, the manager insisted that dogs stay outside. It was awful! But at the Hand in Hand, being dog-friendly gives us this country-village vibe, but with the benefit of being in London. Of course being right next to Wimbledon Common make it a perfect match for our doggy visitors and their owners.
We have customers who don’t have a dog who come here to dog spot, and enjoy a drink, of course! One lady in particular will go around to every table and make friends with every dog. Sometimes at the weekends there’s a dog at every table!
DB: What do you put your success in last year’s awards down to?
CB: We practically bombarded our customers to ask them to vote for us. We got posters designed and printed flyers to give to people, so there was no chance of anyone visiting the pub and not knowing that we wanted their vote!
ProTip: if you own or visit a pub and want to spread the word and get your locals and regulars voting, find out how DogBuddy can help you promote your pub and get more votes.
We also caught up with Hand in Hand regular Petra Torrington, who never visits the prize winning pub without her Springer Spaniel Barbara, to get the scoop on why Hand in Hand fans rate this pub so highly.
DogBuddy: What keeps you coming back?
Petra Torrington: I don’t live around here – it’s a good forty minute walk from home for me. The location is gorgeous, and it’s nice to visit a pub after a good walk.
I’ve never had a ‘local’ and so I visit the Hand in Hand more often than any other pub, and I’m never here if Barbara isn’t here with me!
Andrew, the landlord, and Christine the assistant manager are always welcoming to everyone, including everyone’s dogs. Andrew’s wife even makes homemade chicken liver treats – which of course Barbara loves!
DB: What advice would you have for a pub wanting to boost their chances in winning a dog-friendly award this year?
PT: Have a good supply of water bowls in the pub. Make sure owners know that not everyone is bonkers about dogs, it is a pub, and so it’s a place where people come to relax, have a drink have some food and it’s a ‘brucey bonus’ to have dogs here. The team here do a great job of building a sense of community with events like dog walks on the Common, it’s really powerful.
It’s fair to say that the Hand in Hand is a bone-a fide (ahem, sorry) dog-friendly pub. Spurred on by Christine and Andrew, the whole team do a fantastic job to make it a relaxed and welcoming environment to spend a few hours. The fun extras like community walks on the common, as well as Christine’s fundraising efforts (she’s preparing to run her fifth London Marathon!) are all part of what makes the Hand in Hand so special, and certainly impressed our judges.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on the London Leaderboard to watch how the competition heats up this year.
Know a dog-friendly pub that deserves the accolade of Dog-friendly Pub of The Year? Make sure it gets your vote.