More and more stores are answering yes to the question “Can I bring my dog?” and allowing dogs inside. Although many stores may not be pet friendly, the list of those that will continues to grow. Taking your pup on dog-friendly shopping trips can provide benefits for both you and for your pet.
One big perk of taking your dog shopping with you is that you get to spend more time with your dog. Additionally, your dog will have the opportunity to practice proper interactions with new people and new environments.
In addition to enabling you to continue spending time with your dog, taking your dog with you to a store might also be a matter of convenience: you do not need to worry about leaving your pup in the car or at home.
Here’s a guide to which stores allow dogs inside, and the best and safest ways to shop with your dog.
Call Before You Bring Your Dog to a Store
If you know which stores you are planning to visit before you leave, it is a good idea to call ahead to inquire about pet policies. Some stores may list pet-friendly policies online, but it is never a bad idea to double-check that that information is still up-to-date.
This is especially true for big businesses with many locations: some store managers may allow dogs, while others do not. Thus, it is a good idea to make sure your dog is allowed ahead of time, if possible.
Bringing another person who can stay with the dog while you shop may also be a good idea, especially if you cannot get in contact with a store or if you are unsure of which stores you will be visiting.
If the store has no signage prohibiting dogs, you should be able to bring your dog inside in order to ask whether or not they are allowed. If the manager or an employee says no, then the dog will be able to wait with your companion outside until you are done shopping.
Make Sure It’s a Good Fit for the Store and for the Dog
If you’ve never visited a particular store with your dog, it is important to first consider whether that type of store would welcome a non-service animal canine companion. For instance, a grocery store might be less likely to want to allow dogs than a souvenir shop.
Additionally, some stores may be more or less open to certain breeds or sizes of dogs. For instance, a small dog that could easily be carried (or is carried) while in the store may be less of a potential issue than a large, happy dog with a wildly wagging tail that might accidentally knock something over.
Similarly, it is important to consider how your dog react in this new environment. Is your dog skittish, or is it bold? Does it get along well with all types of people? For dogs that are shy or have experienced certain types of trauma, an unfamiliar enclosed space in which they may interact with strangers may not be a good fit.
If you dog is still very young, it may also be a good idea to wait or to find other ways to socialize your dog with new people and environments before taking them into a store. For your dog to put their best paw forward, they should be relatively comfortable with experiencing new environments.
A big box store is a good place for a young or socially inexperienced dog to learn in-store manners. The aisles are wide, the floors are concrete, and there’s not much around that is fragile. Compare that to, say, a small boutique china shop.
Emotional Support Dogs and Service Dogs
Although emotional support dogs can be a great boon to their owners, those pets are generally not allowed in stores with strict no-pet policies. In comparison with official service dogs, emotional support dogs do not have specialized training to assist their owners.
Service dogs are able to accompany their owners almost anywhere. In fact, according to the ADA, service animals are allowed in “all areas of public facilities and private businesses where members of the public, program participants, clients, customers, patrons, or invitees are allowed.”
To ascertain whether a dog is a service animal, businesses are allowed to ask two questions:
- “Is this animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has this animal been trained to perform?” (ADA)
There are some exceptions—such as in cases in which the service animal is not well-behaved or in locations with strict safety requirements—but otherwise, service animals are able to accompany and assist their owners even in locations that do not typically allow pets.
Make Sure Your Dog is Adequately Trained and Controlled
You should never just decide to bring your dog with you into a store if they haven’t been properly trained and socialized first. You wouldn’t suddenly bring a 10 year old child into a store who has never been in one before and expect them to know how to behave, and the same applies to a dog.
They should always be leashed and have basic training manners — not tugging at the leash, jumping on strangers, or nosing merchandise. Big box stores like Home Depot are good starting places to introduce your dog to the in-store shopping experience.
Bring water and a bowl if you’re going to be away from home for a while. Your dog shouldn’t have to suffer. The excitement of new places can tire a dog out quickly and also make them thirsty.
We also recommend keeping a copy of your dog’s vaccination record on your phone in case any issues arise, be it a request from a store manager or a negative interaction with another dog or shopper.
Bringing Dogs into Stores that Aren’t Officially Dog-Friendly
While bringing a dog into a store that isn’t dog-friendly may not lead to confrontation or forcible removal, there are reasons beyond legal ramifications that it is not generally a great idea to bring a dog into a store that isn’t dog-friendly.
Although it may not be a problem to bring your dog in so that you can inquire about the store’s policy, bringing a dog into a store in which it is not expected may lead to discomfort for other customers and employees. Some individuals may have had poor experiences with dogs in the past, and being confronted with a dog (even a friendly one) in an unexpected place may be frightening for them.
It is important to be respectful of those around you, and while it may not be intentional, forcing others to be around a dog in an environment in which they do not expect to encounter dogs is not fair to those individuals. Again, the best thing to do when you aren’t sure about a store’s dog policy is to reach out to the store before you get there, and even when stores are dog-friendly, make sure to follow all of their rules, including keeping dogs on leashes.
Don’t Argue with Employees!
Unless a store specifically states that they allow pets, don’t argue or create a scene if they don’t allow your dog inside. Retail employees don’t get paid much and are only following the policies that they have been taught. Being “that customer” does nobody any good. Be polite, take your dog back to the car, and spare your pup from being embarrassed by their owner. Consider any opportunity to shop with your dog a bonus, not a right.
Official Policies of Stores for Allowing Dogs
Here are the latest corporate policies of stores with regard to allowing dogs inside as well as the “word on the street” — our own observations and shared anecdotes regarding the policies these stores actually practice.
Ace Hardware stores may be dog-friendly, depending on the location. As independently run retailers, Ace Hardware stores may have different rules depending on local laws and manager preferences. Service animals would be allowed to be in the stores, but the most reliable way to find out whether or not other dogs would be allowed would be to contact the store ahead of time.
Word on the Street: Policy is on a store-by-store basis.
Barnes and Noble
Perusing books and magazines with your pooch can be a fun way to spend some time with them, and book retailer Barnes & Noble has some stores that may be able to make that happen for you.
Barnes & Noble’s website indicates that service animals are welcome and that other dogs may be allowed based on local health codes. Shoppers are unlikely to be able to take their dogs with them into Barnes & Noble stores with coffee shops or cafes due to rules concerning food preparation, but Barnes & Noble stores without those additions may be pet friendly.
Word on the Street: We see lots of dogs inside B&N, even ones that serve food. But as with other stores that are pet friendly or have some stores that are pet friendly, contacting the retailer ahead of time for verification is a good idea.
Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s
Outdoor recreation retailer Bass Pro Shops is dog-friendly except, as its website notes, where state or local laws forbid pets. Service animals are always welcome, though.
In addition to selling products in the categories of dog training, treats and toys, and bedding and shelters, some Bass Pro Shops have indoor or outdoor kennels customers can use for their dogs while they shop. To ensure that the location is pet-friendly and has a kennel (if you need one), contact the store ahead of time.
Cabela’s, an outdoor recreation store acquired by Bass Pro Shops in 2017, is also pet friendly, according to its website. As with Bass Pro Shops, kennels may be available for your dog to wait in while you shop.
Word on the Street: In our experience, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s are super dog friendly. No guarantees, but the odds are in your favor.
Another membership-based big-box warehouse club, Costco Wholesale does not allow dogs other than service animals in its stores. That said, the store carries a number of pet food, supplements, and pet care items, including options by Kirkland, Costco’s store brand.
Word on the Street: We’ve seen plenty of dogs inside Costco, both walking on leash and being carried. This is no guaranty of admission for your pet, but it’s worth checking with the manager or watching to see if other dogs are being admitted. One caveat is that these stores can get very busy and crowded, and your dog may not actually be comfortable in that kind of environment.
Big-box hardware and home improvement store Home Depot is, like Lowe’s, known for the dog-friendliness of many of its stores. However, also like Lowe’s, Home Depot does not have an explicitly outlined pet policy on its website.
Word on the Street: We see dogs in Home Depot all the time, so your odds of them allowing yours should be good. Though they do carry kennels, dog houses, dog beds, and other pet care items that would be fun to bring your pet to the store to explore, it’s definitely a good idea to call ahead to clarify whether non-service animal dogs may be brought into the store.
Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft
Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft stores are dog friendly and allow dogs in certain Jo-Ann stores. According to the company’s website, the guidelines that your dog will need to follow include having good manners, being up-to-date on vaccines, and being on a leash or in a carrier; owners are also responsible for cleaning up after their pets and being sensitive to allergic or uncomfortable shoppers.
Although not every location is dog-friendly, the stores page on the JoAnn website lists under “Store Features” whether or not specific locations allow you to bring your pooch. For the sake of accessibility, though, service animals are welcome in every store.
Word on the Street: Joanne’s makes their pet policy clear for each store, so just go with the flow. And remember, they may become just as bored as a child while they wait for you to pick out fabrics and patterns.
Home improvement and hardware retailer Lowe’s has a reputation for being dog-friendly, but the company does not list a pet policy on its website. Lowe’s maintains this reputation through its pet-related home décor, as well as products such as kennels, leashes, and agility course kits.
Word on the Street: Although it is not uncommon to see dogs accompanying their shopping owners to Lowe’s stores, it is a good idea to first call the Lowe’s location you are planning to visit to make sure that particular store does allow dogs.
Although its website does not indicate that it is pet friendly, the arts and crafts retailer Michaels may allow dogs in some of its stores. Michael’s stores can be pretty tight, so bringing big dogs might not be a great idea anyway.
Word on the Street: The location and managers’ preferences generally dictate whether or not dogs other than service animals are allowed, so you should contact the store before visiting to find out if your dog will be welcome.
Who would have known that department store Nordstrom allows dogs? They even have an Instagram hashtag: #dogsofnordstrom.
Old Navy is accommodating to service animals. However, on its website and its parent company Gap Inc.’s website, Old Navy does not list a policy about whether or not dogs are allowed in its stores.
Although its site does not list an explicit pet policy, Old Navy sells a “pet shop” line of dog clothes, toys, and leashes and is known to feature dogs in its commercials and as mannequins in its stores.
Word on the Street: Old Navy locations in outdoor malls and shopping centers are often pet-friendly, although different managers and stores will have different policies and preferences.
While service animals are always welcome, different managers will have different rules for each store, and you will save yourself the hassle of finding out your pooch isn’t allowed in the store by verifying that information early.
Petco / PetSmart
Both Petco and PetSmart, as well as just about every other pet store, allows dogs. In fact, they encourage them. So take advantage of the opportunity and let your pup pick out a new toy.
Although there is no official pet policy on their website, Pottery Barn is known for their dog-friendly stores. You should check first, but your dog is likely welcome at Pottery Barn stores and may even find a piece of furniture to sleep on for the next few years.
While Target does welcome service dogs, the general merchandise retailer does not allow emotional support dogs or other dogs in its stores.
Target’s mascot, the Bull Terrier named Bullseye, suggests that the store may be dog friendly—indeed, Target does carry pet food, pet care goods, and fun toys and clothes for your pooch, but if your dog isn’t a service animal, it would be best to leave them at home while you shop.
Word on the Street: Target seems to enforce these policies, although we hear of many small dogs in purses, etc. not being told to leave.
Tractor Supply stores are dog-friendly. Feel free to bring your dogs without worry!
Walmart and Sam’s Club
According to its website, Walmart does not allow dogs in its stores, although service dogs are an exception. The types of Walmart stores include Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets, and “regular” Walmart stores (discount department stores), none of which allow non-service-animal dogs.
Sam’s Club is a membership-based warehouse club that is also owned by Walmart Inc. Like Walmart stores, Sam’s Club allows service animals but does not allow other pets inside its stores.
Although Walmart and Sam’s Club do not allow dogs in their stores, both retailers carry many options for pet food and pet care items.
Word on the Street: It’s hit or miss for small dogs in purses or being carried.
A Final Caveat
Although many retail stores have policies stating that only service dogs are allowed (or do not address whether or not non-service animals are welcome), it may not be a bad idea to call a store you plan to visit to see whether or not that particular location is dog-friendly. Worst case scenario, you may need to leave the dog at home, with someone else, or in a climate-controlled car, but it is worth trying because you may find that some local stores have rules that do not fully match corporate policies.
Sometimes certain stores may also have signs near or on their entrances that specify whether or not pets are allowed; if you did not have the opportunity to check a pet policy ahead of your visit, you could look for a similar notice. If you cannot find one, you could bring your dog inside to find someone who can clarify the store’s rules, but be aware that the store may not be dog-friendly and you may need to leave with your pup.
Some store websites do list information about pet policies and exceptions to service-animal-only rules, but in many cases, you may need to call ahead or visit the store in-person to get clarification.
Although certain types of stores—such as those that involve food preparation—are less likely to welcome dogs, there are many retailers that do allows dogs or that have certain locations that are dog-friendly stores.
When in doubt, reach out for clarification of the rules, and if you find a store you can visit with your dog, enjoy the opportunity to spend time with your pooch in a new environment!