Described by landlady Laura as an “untraditional traditional pub”, last year’s winning pub in the North West region has something of a chequered history. Rescued from closure in 2013 thanks to the support of its local community and the vision of its landlady, The Caledonia previously had a history as a dive; a dying pub on its last legs. When Laura King took over in 2010 all that changed. Now, the pub is famed for its live music nights, a community library and, of course, its award-winning levels of dog-friendliness.
We caught up with Laura to find out what they’ve been up to since winning the title of dog-friendliest pub in the North West last year’s Dog-friendly Pub Awards.
DogBuddy: What difference has winning this award made to your pub over the last year?
Laura King: Visitors have commented on the Award and the DogBuddy plaque and we’ve welcomed more visitors from further afield, so being named dog-friendliest pub in the North West has definitely put us on the dog-friendly radar across the UK and beyond.
We definitely see even more dogs than before – we already had a strong canine contingent in the pub. People love visiting and enjoying the special treatment their pet gets. We now have two walls of fame featuring pictures of our regular pub pooches.
Telling visitors about our award cements in their mind a recognition for all the extra work we put in to make dogs welcome. Our pooch owners and staff members really appreciate the recognition and it keeps us moving forward trying to be better all the time.
DB: What do you put your success in last year’s awards down to?
LK: We campaigned for votes using our social media accounts and had information boards inside and outside the pub. The staff chatted with customers about the competition and showed them where to vote – right there and then!
Our team understand individual quirks of our dog guests, so if needed, we’ll take the time to help introduce visiting dogs to the two resident Dachshunds to help everyone stay calm and comfortable. Even the odd accident doesn’t phase the staff here, they still make dog owners comfortable and welcome in the pub.
Dogs are treated like real customers. Every dog that comes in is offered a free “pick’n’mix” bag of treats. There are water bowls available, even individual bowls for those extra-fussy pooches! We feature an “Inspirational Dog of the Week” on our Instagram. These pooches are all pub regulars that have done something to impress us, there’s plenty we humans can learn from dogs!
DB: What advice do you have for pubs who want to win this year?
LK: I see a pub as more than a place to eat, drink and be entertained. It’s more of a hub for the community and a patron’s pooches are absolutely part of that community experience. Being dog-friendly is more than just a sign on the door – though that helps! You have to really value dogs being in the pub. If you truly love your canine guests you’re 99.9% of the way there.
Don’t let being a city centre pub put you off entering these Awards or promoting your dog-friendly pub. People often associate the countryside with dog-friendly pubs. But we’re a vibrant city centre pub in the middle of a really diverse community, so winning this award alongside more rural pubs helps to remind people that dogs can be part of city life, too.
DB: Have you got anything special planned to attempt to retain your title this year?
LK: I’m happy to announce The Caledonia is going completely vegan in just a few week’s time! As well as being very dog-friendly, we love all animals and we hope this move will help to change people’s ideas and attitudes about where their food comes from.
We do a lot to support dogs, dog owners, animal charities and local doggie business already but I would love to bring everyone together for something special – perhaps a big community event… watch this space!
That’s it from Laura and the Caledonia – for now!
Keep your eyes peeled for action on the region’s Leaderboard The Caledonia is leading the pack of dog-friendly pubs! Know a pub in the region that deserves the title this year? Make sure it gets your vote! Or if you’re a fan of the ever charming Caledonia, give it a boost in the regional rankings.
Don’t forget to cast a vote for your favourite dog-friendly pub (or pubs!).