If you’re socializing a puppy, practicing with your dog around distractions, or training your own service dog, you may be looking for a dog-friendly option for training in public. Turns out there are lots of dog-friendly businesses in Central North Carolina!
Service Dogs and indicated Service Dogs In-Training are protected under The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but this does not extend to emotional support animals, therapy dogs, or companion animals. If your dog isn’t a working dog, their chances of coming in with you are slightly lower. But there are still plenty of places you can take your well-mannered dog.
Before we jump in, here are things to consider:
Is your puppy safe?
Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, it’s essential to consider the risk of illness when taking them to public spaces. Avoid areas highly trafficked by dogs of unknown vaccination or disease status. However, there are many options for your wee pup! Read about Puppy Socialization from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB).
Is your dog comfortable?
While some dogs are comfortable in crowds, others find it an anxiety-inducing experience. To see how your dog feels, take them on a walk in an area with heavy pedestrian traffic. This activity will let you see how your dog reacts without the added complication of store shelves.
Some worried dogs can learn to become more comfortable in public with gentle, gradual introductions while offering praise and treats and using good training techniques. But, if your dog is easily distracted or shows signs of stress, fear, or anxiety, it may be best to go home and try some other fun activity together instead.
Even social butterflies need time to acclimate to new surroundings. Training in public should be done gradually to set your dog up for success. Your first outings should be during low-traffic times. You may start with a little sniff walk outside the store. Know your dog’s limits and always have a plan to leave.
Follow your local leash laws.
Every community has a law requiring dogs to be leashed on public property. Dogs must be under their handler’s control at all times. Disregarding these laws puts the public’s safety and your dog at risk.
Use a leash no longer than six (6) feet and hold onto the slack so your dog doesn’t roam. Never use a Flexi-leash in a large crowd (or ever). The closer you keep your dog, the more control you have over them.
Be mindful of your dog.
Any dog in training will need your full attention. Browsing the racks while your dog is barking at passers-by or jumping on children will get you removed from a store. Keep a close eye on your dog to ensure they do not urine-mark in public spaces. It’s embarrassing for everyone except your dog.
Unruly dogs and their careless handlers will cause the management to reconsider their dog policy, which is a bummer for everyone.
Keep vaccination records handy.
Stores often require that dogs are up-to-date on their vaccinations. It’s helpful to have a copy of your dog’s vaccination records on your phone.
Pack water and lots of bite-sized treats in a bag that clips onto your belt for easy access. Don’t forget poop bags and clean-up supplies. Always pack more than you think you need (especially treats!). And make sure your dog has had adequate time to potty before going inside!
Even if a business is generally pet-friendly, it’s usually up to the manager to decide whether or not to allow non-working dogs in their store. So, policies can differ from one store to another or change when management changes. It’s safest to call ahead to the store and confirm their policy.
Assess the environment.
How difficult will it be for your dog to access the store? Ensure cool areas off the hot pavement for your dog to walk and relieve themselves. Consider snow, ice, and rock salt. Leaving your dog home when the weather is extreme may be a good idea.
Now, let’s talk about dog-friendly stores!
Almost any pet store will happily welcome your leashed dog, so there is no need to list them all. Be aware of the tendency to run into other dogs at the ends of the aisle.
Bonus: there are often treats at the register.
We encourage you to support your local small businesses. We love Howling at The Moon Bakery in Winston-Salem!
Home Depot has been happily welcoming dogs for ages. But the official pet policy of Home Depot is a little elusive. We recommend calling ahead.
Like Home Depot, Lowes has a policy based on the individual location. Call ahead unless you’re only going to the Outdoor Living section, which is generally dog-friendly everywhere.
Harbor Freight Tools
Like many hardware stores, Habor Freight is dog-friendly.
Tractor Supply Co.
Though it doesn’t have an official policy, this chain is dog-friendly at all of its locations. They allow all animals, so be sure your dog can handle seeing chickens and livestock in case you run into them, or it could get awkward.
THE MALL AND SUCH
Many of the following stores are located inside shopping malls that may not be dog-friendly, so double-check before you go.
LUSH is happy to welcome your dog. Note: These stores are typically crowded, have narrow aisles, and items stocked at tail-wag height. Your dog must always remain by your side. Also, be aware this store has dim lighting in some locations, making it difficult for other customers to see dogs on a leash.
This home goods chain often welcomes well-mannered dogs. Call ahead to confirm, but chances are you can bring your leashed or carried dog.
“Leashed, friendly dogs are welcome in the store.”
Dogs are allowed at some of their stores. Depending on the location, there may be restrictions beyond the chain’s control. Please get in
The Apple Store
The Apple Store is happy to allow well-behaved dogs on leashes in many locations. These stores are generally crowded, so extra care should be taken to keep your dog comfortable and safe.
SPORTS AND OUTDOOR RETAILERS
These stores are a natural fit for pet-friendly policies, as many like to take their dogs hiking, or camping, to name a few popular outdoor activities.
Academy Sports + Outdoors
They love leashed and well-behaved dogs at Academy! And these big stores have lots of places to train your dog away from the register crowds.
You better believe they love dogs! They have everything a dog could love, and your dog can come in the store and shop for themselves.
Sadly, REI does NOT typically allow dogs in the store. But REI- Asheville is an exception. Call ahead.
FREE-STANDING CHAIN STORES
TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Homegoods
These discount clothing and home goods chain is known for being dog-friendly. Like the other chains on this list, policies can vary by location, so double-check before you go.
Barnes & Noble
Spend time with a book and your dog. Many locations have cafes either inside the store or attached, which may limit your dog’s access to the rest of the bookstore.
Note: These stores have narrow aisles and expensive bottles of wine stocked at tail-wag height. Your dog must always remain by your side. Personally, I stick to the beer stacks.
Don’t dogs and crafting just seem to go together? Maybe it’s just me.
Most craft stores allow leashed and well-mannered dogs.
Many department stores connect to larger malls, which typically do not welcome non-working dogs. Always call ahead to inquire about the pet policy at your local store. Please take extra care to maintain control of your dog in these upper-end department stores, which do not tolerate any shenanigans.
This store is usually crowded, so your dog must always remain by your side. Also, be aware this store has dim lighting in some locations, making it difficult for other customers to see dogs on a leash.
Grocery stores and food-serving establishments
These establishments generally only allow service dogs indoors. If you want to take your dog to a restaurant, look for a location with a patio. Many restaurants welcome dogs in their outdoor spaces. Bring fresh water for your dog and skip the communal water bowl.
What to check to see if your favorite stores are dog-friendly? Calling, emailing, or stopping by without your dog to ask are the most thoughtful ways to ensure your dog won’t be turned away at the door.
If you know of any dog-friendly businesses in your area, let us know!
We’re always looking for new places to train our dogs (and yours!)