SCOTLAND digs dugs. That’s been so for centuries, from way back before Greyfriars Bobby’s statue became such a draw he almost had his neb rubbed off. Now, as The Herald on Sunday’s guide to dog-friendly Scotland shows, the country is littered with cafes, shops, bars, pubs, hotels, guest houses and tea rooms that are almost as fond of their canine customers as they are of the people.

We speak to two people who are leading the love-in

The guide

Among those who know just how dog-welcoming Scotland is Rhian Matthews, the founder of Dugs n’ Pubs, an online community that provides a guide to mutt-loving establishments.

Ten years ago, Matthews had just got a dog, a Lhasa Apso called Bailie, and was wondering where she could take him in the Stockbridge area in which she was living. But she couldn’t find a guide online that was helpful – so she decided to get out there and start compiling her own list, and then to put that on a blog, which went on to become the site Dugs n’ Pubs.

“It started off,” she says, “as a really small blog and it just grew from there.” Now, 10 years later, it is a popular app as well as website and, in Edinburgh alone, there are more than 1,000 of the “dugs welcome” stickers she sends out to businesses that want to advertise the fact that dogs may come in. Dugs n’ Pubs is a phenomenon that has spread so the site now covers not just Scotland, but parts of the rest of the UK.

What she has noticed over those 10 years is a shift in perception among businesses. “When I started, I worked really hard, locally, to get the word out to businesses that they could allow dogs in. Because a lot of businesses believed that they weren’t allowed to let dogs in everybody just used to say, ‘Oh it’s hygiene law’. I actually investigated that. The law was there to say you can allow dogs in – just not in a food preparation area. So I spent a lot of time letting businesses know that this is the law.”

Courting the pooch pound also seems to work for business. In Scotland, 22% of us own a dog, and all together, in the UK, we spend around £15.6 billion on dogs yearly. “What the businesses told me,” says Matthews, “was that when they let people in with dogs those people tend to stay, they tend to have lunch, they tend to come back. I think they have realised there’s a huge market there of people who will be regulars and will spend money. It came at a time when businesses really needed it.”

Matthews has been part of changing that culture.

“What a lot of dog owners have said is that it’s the stickers that have really helped them, because in the past they would have been hovering around outside going – will we? But a sticker lets them know we can go in and we’re welcome.”

For her, having dogs in pubs seems normal. “I grew up in one,” she says. “People in my family have always run pubs and dogs were always in the pubs and we always had dogs. So for me that was what a pub was. A pub had dogs in.”

Whenever she sends out the stickers she puts in a covering note saying: “This sticker you’re putting up is not about dog tolerance. It’s dogs welcomed – so dogs really do have to be welcomed in the pub, not just tolerated.”

She doesn’t like to reveal her favourites but says: “Because we lived in Stockbridge when we set it up, I do feel that if I was going to start out and I lived in Edinburgh and I wanted to go for a day out with my dog I’d probably start in Stockbridge. That was the heart of Dugs n’ Pubs. That was where it started.

“The other one that is really close to my heart is Leith Walk. There are just so many great places there. I feel a real kinship with Leith and especially what’s going on at the moment with Leith Walk, with the threat to it from developers. You want to support those areas.”

The blogger

THE holidays are upon us and staycations are all the rage. You’ve got your new Herald On Sunday dog-friendly guide in your pocket, but just how easy is it to take your dog with you as you travel around Scotland?

Someone who knows very well the answer to this question is Samantha Grant, the woman behind the popular blog about a West Highland Terrier’s travels around the country, The Wee White Dug. She and her dug, Casper, have travelled the length and breadth in a bid to tell a story of Scottish history.

They’ve taken the Jacobite steam train, stayed in a yurt, relaxed in five-star hotels, summited Munros, slept on the roof of a Land Rover in a tent on Skye, overnighted in a fishermen’s mission and visited the Neolithic tombs on Orkney. They’re even planning on staying on a fishing trawler. “All of it,” she says, “properly dog-friendly. I won’t take any special privileges. Casper has been a great front for me to share Scotland with the world but also show how dog-friendly it is. I try to show that travelling with a dog doesn’t hamper you in any way or form.”

Grant, an HR project manager, started out as an Instagrammer, taking photos of her travels around Scotland in which Casper would sometimes feature. She noticed that when he did, her followers rocketed up, and that “people seemed more interest in him than me”. When a friend suggested she blog, she tried it.

“It snowballed,” she recalls. “After a few months I was invited to run a competition for a whisky festival then a hotel got in touch asking if I would come and stay.

"At first these emails were dropping in my mailbox and I thought they think I’m somebody else – it was a bit of imposter syndrome. Then he just became a known character. It’s a wee bit surreal because he’s got a huge fanbase.”

Recently, he was recognised by a couple from South Carolina while they were coming back from Mull on a ferry. “People tend to recognise him from his natty Tweed bow ties.”

One of the most searched categories on the VisitScotland site is “pet friendly”, and the tourist organisation even has its own Ambassadog, George. But Grant thinks Scotland has always been dog-friendly. “It is just that people probably have more disposable income these days for going out and eating out and that kind of stuff, so it has become more of a thing for businesses.”

Many unexpected places, she notes, are very dog-friendly. For instance, she describes a visit to the Camera Obscura in Edinburgh, in which Casper got “really excited in the mirror maze, although his wee wet nose was smearing their mirrors”. The Westie also took a trip into the Tomb Of The Eagle on Orkney, riding on “a wee skateboard”. He’s been to Fingal’s Cave on Staffa, the Bass Rock and the steam ship Sir Walter Scott.

One of the most “amazing dog-friendly attractions”, she says, is the Jacobite steam train. “I have a picture of him standing in front if it which just went mad on social media. There’s never any time when I think it would be a lot easier if I didn’t travel with him.”

These days, she says, she makes money out of the blog – but it’s not about that. “It’s about the love of Scotland – that’s why I studied Scottish history and Scots literature. It’s great because if no-one really wants to listen to me banging on about Scottish history I can put this wee terrier in front of them and they’ll listen.”

She also loves the way the blog can inspire other people to get out and about with their dogs. “One woman who wrote to me, living on her own with a dog, said that she was really inspired by the blog and would have loved to do what I was doing but she was too frightened. I asked her why and encouraged her. In the end she took the dog camping and had an amazing trip and said it almost changed her life.”

The Puppy Pound

£21,000 – the average cost of owning a dog was around £21,000 over their lifetime, as calculated by Money Advice Service website last year

£33,000 – how much a large, pedigree dog could set you back over its lifetime, again from Money Advice Service.

£1,399 – Edinburgh dog-lovers spend the most in Scotland – this much, yearly, according to insurance services company Protectivity

£1,330 – Glasgow dog owners aren’t far behind and spend this much per year

Read more articles in our dog-friendly Scotland series:

The Herald:

​Dog-friendly cafes

The Herald:

Dog-friendly pubs

The Herald:

Dog-friendly hotels