There are two new unique businesses coming to Asheville that represent the city's standing as one of the most dog friendly cities in the US. Bark and Barko lounge both plan on being establishments where an owner can come with their dog and let them socialize and play with other dogs while their owners drink and socialize themselves. This will be one more thing, along the lines of the recently added Pubsicle, that combine Asheville's other top ranking as a notable beer City with another quirky twist business concept. While I have no doubt that both of these new businesses will be extremely popular, I have to admit I have some concerns.
One of the biggest complaints that dog owners have about dog parks is the fact that some owners are not supervising their dog's behavior. As a result of some owners becoming distracted with social interactions and failing to observe or interrupt their dog's behavior, other dogs may be unpleasantly bullied or intimidated even buy a well-meaning precocious dog. I can't imagine that this complaint would be minimized in frequency when alcohol is involved and the owners are even less acutely aware of their dogs behavior as they socialize over beverages with each other.
In addition I am wondering about whether or not these businesses plan on serving any kind of food or snacks to the humans and how that might set the stage for some resource guarding behavior with the dogs present. Even without food being served, dogs could just as easily decide to guard spilled beer or even tables and chairs where their owners are seated. Also certain dogs that frequent these types of businesses with their owners who might otherwise be friendly with dogs in a neutral environment will potentially set up some type of territorial association with the location and could act undesirably towards newcomers as well as become increasingly competitive with other "regulars". With an outdoor area destined to be smaller than your average dog park the heat will be turned up on the social atmosphere for these dogs compared to a larger outdoor setting. Dog fights are neither unnatural nor unusual and certain sets of circumstances increase the likelihood that there will be friction.
Unfortunately I can see this being a perfect storm for many an altercation in this type of environment.
With the right management, supervision, and well-trained eye, these types of situations could be avoided. It could be taken as an opportunity for owners to further understand why some dogs would do better in this type of facility than others, as well as give them the chance to learn how to read and direct their dog's behavior when necessary.
I am hopeful that both of these new businesses will be staffed by individuals prepared to handle the unique combination of dogs, owners and alcohol consumption in a safe environment. With the right structure this could be an enjoyable and profitable business to be sure, and a wonderful asset to our incredibly dog friendly community. We will keep an eye on things as they develop and our fingers crossed that this becomes nothing but a positive for all involved, both willing and ready to help at any point along the way if necessary.
Read about Asheville's dog friendly places here.