With lots of positive feedback on our last dog-friendly post (in Edinburgh), I thought it would be appropriate to do another one for Belgium. So, without further ado…our experience of dog-friendly Belgium:
Luna and I actually couchsurfed in Ghent, Belgium. That’s right, couchsurfed! Originally, I rented a flat in the city for the whole month of July, but, due to a burst pipe, a week before leaving Edinburgh I was scrambling for a new living situation. I put out a “Help! We have nowhere to stay!” post on couchsurfing and was amazed at the outpouring of support from the local community. More than one person offered me their spare room. And the dog? No problem. So, this is where I’ll offer up my gratitude for an amazing community here in Ghent. And it’s also where I’ll encourage anyone coming to the city (even if you are renting a hotel room or such) to reach out to the couchsurfing community and grab a coffee while you are here. They’re a rich source of information, incredibly caring, helpful people, and wonderful to wander the city with.
Pups on Trains
Taking Luna on the train was no problem and cost just a couple extra euros each trip.
Taking the ferry with your pup can be a little tricky. Luckily, the customer service staff at P&O Ferries are some of the nicest people ever. For the most part, you have two options when traveling with your pup in tow: 1) leave your dog in the car or 2) have your dog in a hard-sided kennel (which you must buy and bring, I believe) with water, pee pads, etc. If your dog is a service animal, it can stay in cabin with you. And for ESAs, even though Belgium and the UK do not have an ESA designation, they might also make an exception and let you keep your dog in cabin with you (as in our case). Whatever your situation, just talk to customer service. In my experience, they’ll do their best to help you out.
Eating Out & Shopping With Your Pooch
Have I mentioned that I love Belgium? On day one alone, Luna and I (with our new couchsurfing friends) went into at least four restaurants or bars. No one batted an eyelash. In fact, more than one person stopped over to pet her and coo to her in several different languages, offering her bowls of water and treats in the process.
Of the three cities I visited in Belgium, Ghent was (by far) the most dog friendly. I took Luna into every restaurant, every bar, every shop (including chocolate shops), and every cafe – and the staff in those places usually just cooed at her or offered dog biscuits and water.
The second most dog-friendly spot was Brugge. We did have to leave two chocolate shops and I did see a couple no-dogs-allowed signs, but just about everywhere was dog friendly.
The least dog-friendly of my three cities was Antwerp. A lot of the shops and restaurants had no-dogs-allowed signs, so going out in Antwerp with your pooch takes a little more planning. Call ahead to restaurants or take a friend shopping so that one of you can stay outside with the dog if you want to stop into a less-than-dog-friendly place.
We didn’t have to visit them (so I can’t speak to the experience), but the vet in my notebook (just in case) was the University Vet Services program. As far as I can tell from their website, they offer regular vet care, as well as emergency services. Contact info is:
Prof. Dr. Luc Van Ham
Address: Salisburylaan 133, 9820 Merelbeke
Tel: ++(32)(0)9 264 77 00
++(32)(0)9 264 76 75
weekend and after-hours.
Fax: ++(32)(0)9 264 77 91
Dog Treats & Supplies
We picked up our hypo-allergenic dog food and treats at Maxi Zoo, Ghent’s major pet supply retailer.
Our Favorite Walks
Downtown Ghent and Brugge top the list. While there are occasionally cars or buses, it’s generally just walkers, cobblestones, gorgeous architecture, and the occasional green space. Ghent has a slightly smaller downtown area with more graffiti and grit. Brugge is less car-ridden and has more green spaces.
Brugge also has a gorgeous, fairy-tale park just a couple minutes from its train station. Just head straight out of the train station (toward the main center of Brugge) and make a right into the park (green, tree-lined walkways to your right just over the little bridge – you can’t miss them). The whole thing is really quiet and lovely.
Things That Are Not Dog-Friendly
The Muslim neighborhood has lots of no-dogs-allowed signs (which makes sense, as the Koran calls them “unclean”), so don’t try to take your pooch inside any kebab shops. Dogs were also banned from the one or two churches we tried to go into.