Shortly before I left Toronto a cat café had opened. I never had the chance to visit (not a huge cat fan anyway) but it was certainly a popular spot. Dog cafes? Those were totally new to me.
Animal cafes are not unique here in Korea. While the animals you might find in said cafes range from cats to raccoons, this post will focus only on dog cafes.
Dog cafes in Korea are popular enough that I’ve found them in most cities I’ve been to. Including cities in Jeollanamdo like Suncheon, Yeosu, and Mokpo. I wanted to write a little about dog cafes since for many expats they might seem like a strange concept. For instance, I don’t think they would pass the health/safety laws in Canada (at least not easily). Anyways, I’m a big fan of dog cafes (at least in Korea) so let me tell you a little bit about why I like them.
What exactly is a dog café?
Glad you asked. Essentially, it’s just like a normal café except there are dogs running around everywhere. Instead of just getting a coffee or tea, you get the added benefit of interacting with some furry pals. Some of the cafes charge an entrance fee but all the ones I’ve been to just sell slightly overpriced drinks. But hey, I’ve never gone to a dog café just to have coffee!
(Typically, two drinks cost me around 12,000 won)
Where do the dogs come from?
All over! There are a few different types of dogs you will find in your average dog café.
Dogs with their owners
Dogs cafes in Korea serve a few purposes, but one of the most important ones (I think) is creating a space where dogs can interact with each other. Socializing dogs is not easy in Korea. In Canada, most cities are brimming with dog parks, providing enclosed (safe) spaces where dogs can run and socialize with other dogs, away from dangers like traffic. Korea unfortunately has not caught on to the usefulness of dog parks (yet). So, if you want your dog to run free and socialize it can sometimes seem impossible, especially if your dog isn’t incredibly obedient (and could run away).
So yes, you can bring your own dog to a dog café in Korea! You sit and enjoy a nice beverage while your dog runs around socializing with other dogs and humans. Most cafes have some rules however and it would be wise to check them out before showing up with your pup.
Things to think about:
Is your dog fully vaccinated? Could they run the risk of either a) catching something from another dog, or b) passing something along? I would personally make sure my dog was fully vaccinated and not at risk for catching something. The same logic would apply to an outdoor dog park too.
This seems obvious but is important. How does your dog behave? Are they at all aggressive towards other dogs? Children? If they can get a little aggressive or nervous I would slowly wean them into the world of dog cafes. Start with introducing them to one dog at a park (on leash) and make sure they are comfortable. There would be nothing worse than starting a huge dog fight at a dog cafe!
Also, there are always young children at dog cafes in Korea. Watch your dog extra close. I constantly see kids who have never been taught how to behave around animals and it makes me nervous. If you see someone interacting with your dog in a negative way just approach them. This is a social space where everyone should be on their best behaviour (dogs and humans)!
Is your dog spayed or neutered? From my observations spaying/neutering doesn’t seem to be as common in Korea (though many folks still do it). If your dog isn’t spayed or neutered I would be hesitant bringing them to a dog café. There also might be spaying/neutering restrictions in the rules of the dog café, so again check with the café before bringing your pup.
*I’ve noticed a lot of dog cafes make unneutered males where these things that look like diapers. It’s like a doggy Chasity belt. I totally thought they were diapers at first but after reading a café’s rules realized their true purpose.
Doggy Daycare Attendees
What’s cool about dog cafes is that many of them operate as doggy daycares. A space where you can pay a fee and drop your dog off for the day to socialize and play. So, if you notice the ratio of dogs to owners seems really off this could be why.
A lot of dog cafes also operate as boarding facilities. So again, if you see dogs without owners they might be there for a few days to weeks, depending on the facility. This is good news if you find a dog café that you and your dog really enjoy as it gives you an option should you need to board them!
I’ve heard that sometimes cafes partner with animal shelters and basically keep a few pups that are up for adoption. Enquire with your specific café as to whether this is something they do.
The Café Crew
Finally, most dog café owners have some pups of their own that will likely be hanging there during the day while they work. A great deal for the dog I’d say! I often visit a café in Namak that consistently has about 5-6 dogs that are always there, the OG crew I suppose.
I would recommend visiting a dog café first before bringing your dog in. This gives you a chance to check out the space, see how other dogs are behaving, how the café owners treat dogs, etc.
Are Dog Cafes Big Dog Friendly?
This will depend on your specific café. The café I visit in Namak, Dog Road, is big dog friendly which is fantastic! So, if you live in near Namak (close to Mokpo) and have a big dog it is a great spot. The owners of the café actually own several larger dogs themselves and really know how to interact with larger breeds. It seriously warms my heart.
I would say if the café seems small they might not be big dog friendly. Again, just ask. Maybe show the owners a picture of your dog and ask if he/she would be allowed to join. It also wouldn’t hurt to emphasize how friendly they are! If they say no don’t worry, more and more places are becoming big dog friendly. The small-dog-wearing-makeup-and-clothing culture is changing here, but know that many people still tend to be nervous around larger breeds.
Your dog is your responsibility
Always remember that you are bringing your pet into a shared space and although they are running around they remain your responsibility. If they attack another dog? You’re responsible. If they bite a child? You’re responsible. So, if you aren’t 100% confident in your dog’s behaviour then maybe consider alternative socialising.
A good start would be to make some friends who own dogs and introduce your dogs on leashes first. Also, if you’re worried about how they might interact with kids try to observe how they interact with one child first opposed to dropping them in a big room with 10.
Essentially, just make sure your dog is ready for a dog café in Korea. They are awesome spaces and I think most dogs would benefit from the socializing. However, not all dogs are dog café dogs and that’s totally ok too!
– Dog cafes in Korea provide a space for dogs to socialize
– Many dog cafes in Korea also operate as doggy daycares or boarding facilities
– Visit the dog café before brining your own dog there. Check with the café’s rules first.
– Some dog cafes are big dog friendly and some are not. Ask first!
Check out some pictures below from my visits to dog cafes in Korea!