Paws for thought |

6 mins

Paws for thought

The number of dog-friendly locations is on the rise, but should beauty businesses follow suit? Ellen Cummings explores whether you should allow pooches alongside pampering

From pubs and cafes to charity shops and clothes retailers, it’s not uncommon to see people accompanied by their furry friends. With over 30% of UK households owning a dog, it’s likely that quite a few of your clients have one – and as dog-friendly business are becoming increasingly popular, you might have already experienced one or two requests from clients to bring their four-legged friends along to appointments.

While the thought of this might fill some beauty business owners with dread, there are some who have made it work to their advantage.

Bridget Hannon, founder of Blush + Blow in Parsons Green, London, considers her beauty and hair salon to be dog-friendly. She explains how it came about: “When I opened Blush + Blow seven years ago, I got a cavalier King Charles spaniel the week after we opened. I was so excited to finally have my very own pooch that was able to come with me to work. He was such a hit with our clients and because we are located in leafy Parsons Green, a family-dense area of London, many of our clients had their own dogs too. A big part of our culture is to provide the services that we offer in a family-friendly environment and, therefore, if your doggies are part of your family, then they are welcome too.”

Kate Dearn, owner of Kate Dearn Beauty in Halesowen, West Midlands, also allows some dogs in her business. She says, “I work from home and seven years ago I got my first cocker spaniel puppy, Poppy. Some clients were just obsessed, asking ‘Where’s Poppy?’ and ‘Can I see the puppy?’ So, Poppy started making an appearance and she became the ‘meet and greeter’ and occasional snuggler while clients had lash lifts or pedicures.

“Then, as clients have got their own puppies, and knowing how important it is to socialise them, I’ve often invited them to bring them along. Clients will usually just double check that it’s OK before their appointment as a courtesy, but it’s not often that I’ll say no to seeing someone’s fur baby. As a dog mum myself, sometimes I know that life would be so much easier if I could just run my errands with the dogs in tow.”

Hygiene and safety

Naturally, some business owners are concerned about the implications for hygiene and safety in the salon. While Hannon’s spaniel, Pickles, may be on the smaller side, she says that they don’t discriminate between dog breeds – even allowing newfoundlands in the salon. However, for the safety of all visitors (two or four legged), she asks that clients keep their dogs on a leash at all times.

Dearn is a little more discerning as to what kind of dog she allows in because she runs a home-based business: “It can’t be a free-for-all, so it’s by invite only. Generally, I can only allow small dogs that are well behaved, aren’t stinky or slobbery and don’t leave a trail of hair and mess behind them.”

Neither Hannon nor Dearn think allowing dogs proposes a significant issue to hygiene. “Realistically, people come in with their shoes on, so a dog is no more unhygienic than that,” comments Dearn. Hannon adds, “We clean the salon professionally every day anyway, but we don’t allow the dogs in any of the treatment rooms or in The Skin Studio (the aesthetics side of the business). Our hygiene protocol has always been up to scratch and devised with our furry guests in mind.”

If you’re considering operating a dog-friendly salon, it’s crucial to consult with your insurance provider beforehand to ensure appropriate cover is in place in case of any circumstances involving our four-legged friends which may give rise to a claim.

Blush + Blow’s Bridget Hannon with her dog, Pickles
Pickles in the window of Blush + Blow

Client preference

Both Hannon and Dearn say that they’ve never experienced any issues with having dogs in their business – although Dearn admits she may have run late for the next client once or twice because she wants to give clients’ dogs some attention!

The only hiccup Hannon has had is with clients who are nervous of other clients’ dogs, but she says the salon is big enough to be able to keep the two clients far enough apart. “The vast majority of clients absolutely love it. We know our regular doggy visitors by name and have a tin of dog treats next to our sweet jar at reception that the regulars beg beneath – with great success!”

Dearn also believes that dogs can enhance the treatment experience, commenting, “I’ve had clients who say it’s like therapy when my dogs come for a cuddle. They love when they’re having a lash treatment and they get to snuggle.” She jokingly adds, “Clients can bring their dogs, but they are requested to leave their children at home!”

Assistance dogs

Regardless of your thoughts on furry friends in the salon, there may be times when you have to allow dogs in your business. In the case of blind and partially sighted people, the Equality Act says that they have the same right to access businesses and services as people who don’t have a vision impairment – meaning that it’s unlawful in all but the most exceptional circumstances to refuse access to a disabled person accompanied by a guide dog or other assistance dog.

Despite it being against the law, research from the charity Guide Dogs found that 81% of guide dog owners have been refused entry to a business or service because they were with their guide dog.

A spokesperson for Guide Dogs says, “It is also unlawful to provide an inferior level of service because of a guide dog – for example, excluding guide dog owners from parts of a business or service, or restricting them to an area where pet dogs may ordinarily be allowed. You are not allowed to impose additional charges because someone is accompanied by a guide dog.

“Therefore, our expectation would be that all businesses and services, including beauty salons, would make reasonable adjustments and every effort to accommodate guide dog owners. Beauty salons are not exempt under the Equality Act in terms of being able to turn away guide dogs or other assistance dogs – but we recognise that each business and service is unique and there may be some areas of a salon where a guide dog may not be suitable.

“Some salons will be able to find a solution where a member of staff is able to mind a guide dog while their owner receives a treatment. For businesses which are run from the business owner’s home this approach might not be suitable. We would encourage business owners to have a conversation with the guide dog owner to understand what reasonable adjustments can be made to ensure the guide dog owner feels confident and supported during their visit.”

If you’re concerned about potential hygiene issues, guide dog owners are given training on how to maintain the extremely high standards of grooming the dogs require, and the dogs are checked regularly by vets.

If a guide dog owner does visit your beauty business, there are ways to support them in order to make it a smoother process: displaying an “Open Doors” sticker from Guide Dogs, which states that your business welcomes assistance dogs, which you can get for free by contacting the charity; not distracting a working guide dog and checking with the owner before making contact with the dog; and not feeding the dog – because they’re working animals and are fed a specialist diet at regular times.

You can find out more about how you can assist a visually impaired customer on the Guide Dogs website.

It’s important to remember that a guide dog owner is no different from any other client; they should be treated with the same level of courtesy afforded to all other clients.

This article appears in October 2023

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October 2023
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