When I first decided to relocate to London, one of my biggest concerns was what would happen to Sammy. I stressed out about her move, especially after reading horror stories for brachycephalic dogs like frenchies. Thankfully, it turned out to be smooth and stress-free process. PetRelocation, a pet travel service based out of Austin, coordinated the entire move from door to door and kept us up-to-date every step of the way.
2 months into Sammy's new life in London, I'm happy to report that she loves it here, perhaps even more than I do! Compared to New York, London is a far friendlier city for pups. It's not perfect by any means (more about that later), but the city is generally a great place to raise big and small dogs alike. I'm just surprised to see noticeably fewer dogs here than I did in New York.
If you're a Londoner thinking about getting a dog, below are a few pros and cons to keep in mind:
Green Space: This is probably the best quality of London for dog owners. According to many reports, London is the "greenest" city of its size. Nearly 40% of the city is occupied by public green space (including parks and gardens) compared to just 20% for NYC. No matter what neighborhood you live in, you're likely in close walking distance to a pet-friendly park where you can let your pup run free. When I lived in New York, I never let Sammy off the leash. I've now gotten more comfortable letting her roam around, particularly in bigger parks with less foot traffic. Two of my favorite parks are Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill in NW London.
Getting Around: Almost all forms of public transportation in London are dog-friendly as long as they do not pose any risk to other passengers. This includes buses, trains and most taxis. I've taken Sammy on the Tube multiple times with no issue. It makes getting around the city extremely easy. Dogs are also allowed to ride on the National Rail for free. This means you can take your pup with you on a weekend getaway within the UK.
Pet-Friendly Businesses: If you're meeting friends down the street for a pint, you no longer have to leave your pup at home. More and more restaurants and pubs in the city are opening up their doors to dogs. Here's a great list of some of the top dog-friendly restaurants in London. You can also download the Doggie Pubs mobile app for a full list.
Weather: Compared to the seasonal extremes in New York, London weather is fairly moderate year round. Summers don't get too hot and winters don't get too cold. Even after a full day out playing in the park last weekend, Sammy was not overheated. Milder weather in the winter also makes it less of a hassle to wake up in the morning and take your dog out. This is all assuming your dog doesn't mind some rain :)
Friends: Although there aren't quite as many dogs in the city, you shouldn't have a hard time finding some four-legged friends. For french bulldog owners, there is a monthly frenchie meet-up in Regent's Park. It's a great time for the dogs as well as their owners to socialize with others. Check out Meetup.com for more groups.
Cost: Surprise! London is expensive. Very expensive. The cost of owning a dog is no exception. Pet insurance can easily run you over £150 per month if you want full coverage. The average price of a dog walker in London is between £15 and £25 per walk. That roughly equates to $30 USD per walk. If you're an American expat, you better learn to stop converting currencies in your head ASAP.
Dog-friendly Rentals: Finding a good rental property in London is hard enough. When you need to find a good, dog-friendly rental property, that task gets even harder. For various reasons, the vast majority of inventory on the market does not allow for dogs. If you're using online databases like Zoopla to look for flats, you might come up empty handed. Most properties don't indicate that they are pet-friendly upfront. Make sure to ask the sales agent for clarification. When you're getting ready to sign, don't proceed without written confirmation from the landlord.
Services: Dog stores and vets aren't quite as abundant in London as they are in New York. We were lucky to find a good vet a few blocks away from us, but getting the right dog food is still a challenge. There aren't that many premium dog food brands in the UK and all the brands are different from what we were accustomed to stateside. Check out www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk for a comprehensive guide to the best choices and where to buy them.