Last night, we were at Barkin’ Blends, the first dog cafe in the Philippines. Located in Katipunan, it sits right across Ateneo de Manila University. When you see Shakey’s just turn at the next street. It is the building on the right side (J&R building) on the second floor.
We really enjoyed the place. It’s a great way to introduce young kids to early pet ownership or simply to get them to love animals at an early age. Having been to a cathouse in Japan, we had high expectations for this new interactive cafe concept. And it did not disappoint.
Barkin’ Blends has two areas. The human area is the cafe part where one can order good food and drinks. They had pretty decent frappes and other coffee-based beverages. They also offered rice meals, pasta and sandwiches.
Then there’s the dog zone. The entrance is P180 per person but that already comes with a drink. You can bring your drinks and your stuff inside but these need to be kept on the tables. I love the decor of the dog zone. They had some witty framed pictures such as The Beagles (a pun on the Beatles), Marley, A Pug’s Life and more.
It’s also notable how clean the place was even with uncaged dogs. They were staffed well such that any doggie accidents were immediately mopped up. The dogs also smelled pretty good. The owners are big on sanitation — in fact, all visitors entering the dog zone are required to sanitize before entry and upon exit.
Barkin’ Blends has pretty straightforward and sensible rules to protect both the dogs and their human visitors but not everyone seems to follow these. For instance, they have a rule about not carry the dogs but we’ve seen some people do this for photos, even pulling the dogs towards them when they start to walk away. They also have a rule of no outside dogs — a think a pretty good rule given outside dogs might bring in diseases or parasites that could endanger the resident dogs.
They had several dog residents: Psyche the Beagle, 3 Golden Retrievers (Finn, Marley and Robin), Martha the Irish Setter, 3 Lhasa Apsos (Booster, Yoda and Vader), 2 Toy Poodles (Bonnie and Clyde), Ella the Chiweenie, Smile the Pug, Fiona the Chinese Sharpei, Skye the Siberian Husky, Piolo the Labrador Retriever. I loved Vader the most — so sweet and beautifully black. Smile the Pug, was of course, my daughter’s favorite given we’ve had a pug even before she was born.
We think that for a place that just opened last Sept. 9, they’re doing well. They’ve already gained traction from the dog-loving community. As a new business, they could take their cue from Japan’s cat cafes and consider the following points for improvement:
1. Have visitors sign a liability waiver. Dogs can get rowdy and moody and accidents can happen. Even if they are used to crowds and being touched by strangers, it is important to protect themselves from any legal liability. I noticed that despite having some very sensible rules
2. Create a better play environment for the dogs. A few chew toys or balls can make the interaction even better. Most of the dogs are still very young and were still teething (read: chewing on the Time Out cage).
3. Pipe in music. This has been a proven way to calm animals.
4. Do a quick orientation for new visitors. Remind them about the rules before they enter the dog zone.
5. Offer discounts for couples and family visitors to entice more people to try it out.
6. Have a better child policy. Maybe a discounted rate (with no drink) for kids below 3 feet? There was another toddler there and she didn’t enjoy petting dogs as much as my kid did.
7. Create a glassed-in quiet zone / sleeping zone for the dogs to avoid over handling. That way, people still get to see them but the dogs are protected from being touched too much.
Generally, this is a very interesting concept and is pretty good for children, especially those who already have previous exposure to animals. If this is a first petting experience for your child, it is best to take them to a zoo first or to a pet shop. It is also recommended that parents with toddlers strictly guide their children when inside the dog zone. Children tend to scream when the dogs bark, which may startle them. Kids also run about and may end up stepping on ears, paws or tails. Hurt or startled dogs may get defensive and bite.
It’s a great experience if your child is ready for it.