The Starbucks experience – for dogs

Puppy’s retreat

No, I’m not suggesting that you and your dog toddle off for a daily pumpkin spice latte. Although, if your local branch is dog-friendly and you like your hot beverages sugar-rather-than-coffee-based it’s as good a place to do some socialisation as any I’m sure (for more on the importance of socialisation watch this video).

Starbucks for dogs isn’t about Starbucks. It’s about creating the Starbucks (substitute your favourite cafe here) experience for your dog. In his / her crate.

Why Starbucks?

There’s the irony. I don’t even like the place. But one day I found myself on a too-early-morning motorway journey with some colleagues. We stopped at a motorway services (ugh) and the driver decided to get a coffee, from said beverage-retailer. We walked into the outlet, and I immediately felt at home. Relaxed. Welcome. The lighting was ambient, everything was exactly where it should be. Instead of being in a hideous, fluorescent-lit service station, I found myself in a beautifully-scented, warm and comforting environment. “Why?” I thought. “I don’t even like the place, why do I feel so calm?”


Knowing exactly what would happen at each step of the process. McDonald’s have been doing it for years: serving up the exact same food experience wherever you are in the world. Starbucks just do it better. Milky, oversized drinks and a delicious array of snacks. The enticement to linger, the creation of the “third space” – not work, not home. The “Central Perk” that we didn’t even know we needed until Friends introduced the concept (although, again, Cheers probably had that one down first. But somehow spending all day in a coffee shop seems more socially acceptable than a bar. Plus, we have actual pubs in the UK and they’re really good!). The promise of leaving all your cares at the door and just chilling out, alone.

Your dog needs this. Your dog needs a quiet, calm, rewarding place to retreat to when it all gets a bit too much. You just need to show him / her the way.

5 tips for bringing Starbucks to your dog

1. Use a crate. Dogs are ethologically programmed to seek out a den-type space to rest. The benefit to you of a crate over, for example, a cardboard box is that you can close the door (but do some crate training – don’t shut your dog in the first time or you will get panic and the opposite result of what you want).

2. Starbucks is not a social environment. It’s a retreat. If you look around, most people are on their own, reading, working on the laptop, napping. If your dog is in his / her space, don’t intrude. This applies to everyone: kids, adults, visitors. Giving your dog the opportunity to choose to have some personal space is one of the best tips ever for a happy relationship. Not unlike being married.

3. Food. All good things happen here. Feed stuffed Kongs in the crate (stuff a short piece of string in the little hole, tie a knot, attach to the crate bars). Your dog will lie there chowing down and self-rewarding for being in the crate. Drop some bits of kibble / treats into the crate several times a day when your dog isn’t looking – soon he / she will think manna falls from the roof and be checking in regularly to see if anything has landed. Ditto with chews, bones etc. The more good stuff happens in the crate space, the more your dog will love it.

4. Take it with you. How happy is the bemused American traveller in a foreign land to see the familiar green circular logo? (Very, apparently…!) It’s that familiarity again. Travelling with your dog’s crate is an easy way to help him / her acclimatize quickly to a change in environment. Yes, everything may be different – sounds, smells, the look of the place, but if the crate is available your dog knows where to go to relax. The perfect cue.

5. Lose the crate. Not literally. But you can’t take it everywhere (like out to lunch for example!). For portability, you can translate the attachment to a particular blanket. Keep it in the crate and then take it with you everywhere – the vets, puppy class, Starbucks (!), out to dinner, on a train etc. Your dog will choose being on the blanket over other options as that is where he / she feels most at home, which in turn helps them cope with any environmental stressors. Literally a security blanket for your dog. Without the sugar.

Deborah Colella – The Dog Nanny

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